Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cleveland Indians Continue to Sink to New Lows

Make that six losses in a row. Swept by the Cincinnati Reds. Swept by the Chicago White Sox. 0-6 on the 6 game road trip. It's the same script it has been every game in 2008 for the Cleveland Indians.

Aaron Laffey pitched brilliantly for 7+ innings, only to be saddled with the loss because the bullpen couldn't keep the game tied. Tonight's culprit was Masa Kobayashi. After Laffey left a 1-1 game with a runner on first and no outs in the 8th, Kobayashi got the first two hitters he faced out.

But some laziness by Grady Sizemore on the second, deep, fly out allowed pinch-runner Brian Anderson advance to second. With the Tribe offense, those are the mistakes they can't afford. In burned them right away as the next two hitters followed with two-out singles to make it 3-1 White Sox after eight. You already know how the Indians hitters fared in the ninth.

If last night's 2 run, 7 hit performance gave you hope following the 1 run, 4 hit effort in the first game of the series then shame on you. The Indians put together a solid 1 run, 2 hit game with one of the hits a slow roller by Ben Francisco that hit the third base bag.

Grady Sizemore had the only "hit" of the night, a double off the left field wall. It followed two, one-out walks to tie the score at 1. Runners on second an third with one out is an automatic zero runs for the Tribe as it was the only threat they mounted the whole game.

The team continues to sink and sink fast. As June approaches, concern continues to increase over the defending AL Central Champions. It's the same in day in and day out. There is no way to sugarcoat it. It's bad baseball, very bad baseball.

And with Joe Borowski, Memorial Day Weekend and Grady Sizemore Gold Glove Bobblehead Day as the only signs of hope, it's not looking good for the Erie Warriors. Just when you think the only way to go is up, the Indians show you there are ways to sink even lower.

Cleveland Browns Off-Season Injury Bug Bites

The Cleveland Browns started OTAs last week and were bitten by the injury bug right off the bat. Corner back Daven Holly suffered what has been characterized a "blown out knee" and has already been put on the Injured Reserve for the 2008 season.

At first glance one might say it's only Daven Holly but it's easily forgotten that one of last year's starters, Leigh Bodden, was dealt to the Detroit Lions in the Shaun Rogers trade. Couple that with the release of nine-year veteran Kenny Wright, due to his run in with the police in Texas, and the Browns are left very thin at the corner position.

Yes, they have second year man and starter, Eric Wright, but Easy E in still young, raw and will make mistakes. Last year's other rookie surprise, 5th Round draft pick Brandon McDonald, showed promise in the second half of last year but it may be too much to ask of him to start.

The plan was to have Holly and Easy E start and and then have B-Mac come in for Nickel Packages. Holly would cover the slot receiver which is considered the tougher assignment while B-Mac would line-up on the outside. Now the Browns are faced with a noticeable gap in their defense.

As a precautionary move the club re-signed Jereme Perry who played with the Browns in 2006 and the Miami Dolphins last season. Gary Baxter is still too much of a question mark after his double patella tendon surgery 2 seasons ago and still has not been cleared for contact. The coaching staff is high on A. J. Davis a 2007 Lions draft pick who was waived at the end of training camp and spent all of 2007 on the Browns' Practice Squad. To count on any of them in such a crucial role may be too much to ask.

The Browns also have a number of undrafted rookie CBs in camp. Mil'von James of UNLV, Damon Jenkins of of Fresno State, Gerard Lawson of Oregon State, and Darnell Terrell of Michigan are all in camp with the Brownies this summer. The Browns did strike gold with Holly who was a "street" free agent and Bodden who was an undrafted one, but to count on that happening again in unrealistic.

What the Browns do from here will be interested. They have already stated Ty Law is out of their price range. Do they sign a veteran retread looking for work? Do they trade a 2009 draft pick on a proven veteran when they are already without 3rd and 5th Round picks? Do they roll the dice with the unproven core they have now? Phil Savage gambled by trading away Bodden to strengthen the Front Seven, but is now is faced with the conundrum of a very inexperienced secondary. Phil has done pretty well so far, but this may be his toughest challenge to date.

The Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi is proclaiming mass hysteria, cats and dogs living together... but I will wait to see how it plays out.

In other injury news, Ryan Tucker's surgery to repair a hip fracture was deemed a success by doctors. He is expected to be back by the regular season barring a staph infection which seems to be the norm for Browns coming off surgery. I will admit I raised an eyebrow when I saw this due to "The Tuckster" being suspended for steroid use at the end of 2006. I hope it has nothing to do with that and was just a freak occurrence. The Tuckster has admitting he made a mistake by juicing and did overcome a mental disorder to become one of the pleasant surprises of 2007 with his play at right guard.

This was the reason the Browns signed Rex Hadnot and he is expected to step in until The Tuckster is healthy. With Seth McKinney (everybody loves a fat, redheaded guy!) and National Jewish Sports Hall of Famer Lennie Friedman resigned the Browns have plenty of depth at the interior line on offense.

On a tangent I still can't get the "Who the F#$% Are These Guys?!?" scene out of my head whenever I see Lennie Friedman's name... Rick Vaughn? Willie Hayes? Lennie Friedman? Who the f#$% are these guys?!?

We might actually have an Isaac Sowells sighting as The Tuckster was the back up tackle to Joe Thomas and the Human Parking Cone Kevin Shaffer in addition to being starting right guard.

Mum is still the word on tight ends Kellen Winslow and Steve Heiden. Although Winslow is attending mandatory June mini-camp according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus. As long as he shows up, is healthy and says the right things I think K2 will be just fine. If he de-evolves into "The Soul-jah" then there may be issues. But he has behaved himself since his motorcycle accident so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

Heiden is recovering from off-season back surgery and was not cleared for contact in OTAs. Backs are funny so I am a little nervous about this one. Heiden's contribution as the blocking TE last season was often overlooked and the Browns lose a valuable cog without him. If not for Phil Dawson, Heiden would be the best player the Browns have had to date since their reincarnation in 1999.

Other than that, LeCharles Bentley is still a mystery and until he passes a physical I am counting on him for nothing. Sorry to be harsh on LeChuck, I hope he makes it back, but the chances are slim, IMHO. Joe Jurevicius is recovering from a staph infection but is expected to be fine.

It may have been a bad couple of days of news, but it's nice to look forward to football season in May for the first time in many years for Browns fans. The Browns face a tough 2008 ahead of them, let's see how they handle the hurdles and expectations.

Go Browns! Believeland.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cleveland Indians - Putting Me To Bed Early

This is how bad it's gotten. I have DirecTV and get the MLB Extra Innings package. This year, DirecTV actually started offering both the home and away broadcasts of each game. But there are only so many channels, so occasionally you only get one broadcast of the game.

Of course today was a long day of work, followed by an even longer run after that, and when I hunkered down with a snack and a beverage to watch the game and saw there was only one broadcast of the Indians-White Sox game I turned pale. For the couple of minutes before 8 PM with the blank screen starring at me I prepared for the worst... The Hawk.

Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson, one of the most biased, unbearable, annoying homers ever known. Maybe he does it for you, but not for me. I want the game called, I want some excitement and I expect a little home team rah-rah but to say The Hawk is over the top is the understatement of the millennium. To say I was relieved when the SportsTime Ohio logo flashed across my screen wouldn't do me justice. Unfortunately, it was the highlight of the night.

I say this because I have had the MLB Extra Innings package since 2002. Obviously, 2002 to 2006 were not "prime years" for the Indians. But I stuck with them. If they had a weekday afternoon game or a West Coast tilt and it was impossible for me to watch I would DVR it and watch the highlights when I could. If the game was an extra inning affair or an 8 PM EST start time I would always finish up watching the game. Always. The Nationals were not in DC when I first moved here and the Orioles are in the AL, too far away and I ain't rooting for the Rat Capital of the USA, Baltimore. (It IS the Rat Capital of the USA, FYI.)

But for the first time ever, I turned off the game and went to bed. On back-to-back nights no less. That is how bad of baseball the Tribe is playing right now. It's not just that they are losing, you can play an entertaining game and lose or play well and simply come out on the short end, but they are losing in such weak and meager ways there was no doubt in my mind that the game was over when I shut my TV off.

The script is still the same. Inept offense hangs the starting pitching out to dry wasting an excellent effort that 32 of 32 MLB teams would die for. And the offense is so ugly it's not just that they aren't scoring runs, they aren't even getting hits to threaten to score a run. Maybe they do get a hit but it's not usually for extra bases. If they do get extra bases, unless Casey Blake is up, the runner stands there helplessly. And if they do must up a home run odds are it is a solo shot. Thanks, Michael Aubrey! Double plays are the norm. Throw in a runner getting thrown out at the plate or getting caught too far off second base and there is a scoring opportunity squandered routinely.

But the starting pitching is SO good somehow the Indians remain with a chance in the game. But the bullpen can't keep a small led small or a tied game tied or a close game close lately. It started at home against Toronto with Rafael Betancourt and worked its way to Masa Kobayashi in Cincinnati. Jensen Lewis made me turn off the TV last night in the bottom of the 8th for the first time ever. Jorge Julio outdid him tonight when he failed to keep the game close in the 5th and looked like he wanted to fight Victor Martinez on the mound shortly thereafter. The TV was off once again.

This team has no fire, no spark, no life when they are at bat and it makes them difficult to watch. Right now, at no point do you feel good about any at bat unless it is Ben Francisco. Everyone wants to blame Eric Wedge and Derek Shelton, but honestly, there are so many players horrendously under performing I don't know what else they can do.

I am not defending Derek Shelton, he may need to go, but what happened when Eddie Murray was cast aside and Shelton was hired is not the norm. The Tribe hitters from top to bottom are so incapable of putting together a good plate appearance right now that it really doesn't matter who the hitting coach is. And even with good hitters, turning it completely around was a statistical anomaly.

I am neither an Eric Wedge supporter nor a detractor. But you have to give him credit for trying. He has tried everyone possible in the #2 hole. He moved Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta, Franklin Gutierrez and everyone else up, down and around to try and wake them from their slumber. He's given guys days off who were slumping. He's benched guys for poor approach at the plate. He's spot started some of his reserves, minus Andy Marte, to try and shake things up. But when not a soul is producing, it doesn't matter what Uncle Eric does, it's not going to work.

So we are 46 games into 2008 and it already feels like the Cleveland Indians are Dead Men Walking. I have no faith they can get more than 2 runs a game. No faith they can get more than 6 hits a game. No faith the bullpen can keep them in the game. And yet they still sit only 3 1/2 games out of the AL Central lead after losing 5 in a row.

If they want to be the contender that they have the potential to be they need to do something to wake themselves up. Whatever it is they need to do it quickly. Why? Because they are putting me, and a lot of other frustrated Tribe fans, to be early each and every night... and it's not even Memorial Day.

Monday, May 19, 2008

2008 Cleveland Cavaliers Cut List

Every year after my beloved Cleveland Browns finish up their season, I come up with a satirical look at the roster. Who I'd like to see stay, who I'd like to go and who I'd like to be hit by an oncoming 18 wheeler (you're still on that list Dennis Northcutt). Some reason are performance related, some as obscure and some are just plain asinine, but hey, it's my list.

Well over the past few years I have actually started caring about the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time since the days at the old Richfield Coliseum that featured Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty and Mark Price. So at the request of one of my pals let's take a shot at the first ever Cleveland Cavaliers Cut List.

Now the NBA works a little different than the NFL in the way contracts area handled so for clarification purposes, if I declare someone CUT, I realize that it probably would be better served if they or their expiring contract would be used in a trade. But, quite frankly, just to make it easier on me I am just going to declare them cut.

Is it lazy? Yes. But I'm writing the damn list, not you. So deal with it, please and thank you.

Without further ado...

The 2008 Cleveland Cavaliers Cut List

#23 - LeBron James - 6'-8" - F/G
I think you're safe, Bron Bron. But since I've got you here... You're really good. Like really, really good. But there are a number of things that are lacking in your game that could really put you over the top, because honestly, you are no where near as good as Kobe. Maybe if you worked on some facets of your game like your mid-range jumper, or developing some post moves, or (going out on a limb here) free throw shooting. Also, the acting is a little over the top. I know you are getting hit, jabbed, poked and bumped multiple times each play. But if you get hit in the scrotum and you grab your face NO ONE IS GOING TO BUY IT. Grab your scrotum if you get hit in the scrotum. Maybe you've been following the NHL and are emulating Sydney Crosby. Talent wise that is great, acting and diving not so much. Plus he's a douche bag who plays in Pittsburgh. That should tell you enough right there. Also, be nice to Mom, she popped your 6'-8" butt out of her hoo-ha which is amazing in of itself. Don't get me wrong, LeBron, you are amazing, but you could be epic. You just need to focus on it and work at it.

#11 - Zydrunas Ilgauskas - 7'-3" - C
You did the one thing you really needed to do to take your game to the next level this year. Shaving the dome. It actually makes you look respectable... and like a monster in an horror film, but hey it works for you. Seriously, there are not many talented big men and we are fortunate to have you. After all those foot surgeries you've had an above average career. If anything you are not utilized enough as you seem to be the forgotten man on offense for periods or games at a time.

#41 - Lance Allred - 6'-11" - C
You are the first legally deaf player in NBA history, Caucasian and your name is Lance. Lance! An NBA player named Lance! Who would have thunk it?!? I can't cut the partially deaf guy.

#33 - Devin Brown - 6'-5" - G
You were actually a nice, pleasant surprise this season and then you disappeared in to Mike Brown's doghouse, never to be seen again. I mean you were productive, played good defense and hustled. Those are all things Mike Brown likes, what happened? The only thing I can think of is when Marv Albert has his off-court "issues" he would sign into hotels under an assumed name. Steve Albert, his bother! Maybe you were doing some freaky-deaky S&M stuff at the Downtown Sheraton and signed in as Mike Brown. I don't know I can't figure it out. You are not signed for next season, I'd like to see you back.

#1 - Daniel Gibson - 6'-2" - G
You were money in the 2007 playoffs and I wonder how you would have been this year if you hadn't have gotten hurt mid-season and again in the play-offs. You desperately need to work on your ball handling skills but have shown you can hit some big shots. It was only your second year. We need you to continue to develop. Plus your nickname IS Boobie. Hee hee!

#19 - Damon Jones - 6'-3" - G
You have no D and no J hence you are Amon Ones. An oldie but a goodie. And it still fits. Mike Brown doesn't like you as you seem to find your way into his doghouse annually. I actually find you quite entertaining on the bench and before the game but you do have a $4.4M expiring contract next season! Plus you wear #19 and are ruining it for Bob Feller, Bernie Kosar and Lenny Wilkins.

#27 - Dwayne Jones - 6'-11" - C/F
You don't play. When you do it's uninspiring. You don't have a contract next season. Do the math.

#3 - Aleksandar "Sasha" Pavolvic - 6'-7" - G/F
I am going to come out and say it... you are my Dennis Northcutt. I cringe when you check into the game. I cringe when you get the ball. You actually started to "get it" last season and you showed flashes of breaking out. And then you held out. You. Sasha F'N Pavlovic. Then you got hurt, probably because you weren't in playing shape, and floundered the entire season. Somehow you worked your way back into the rotation for the playoffs and were so awful that it was like watching a monkey try to (expletive deleted) a football. You have 2 year at $4.5M left on your new contract. I hope you are shipped out of here well before that.

#32 - Joe Smith - 6'-10" - F
You were an effective role player after the big trade and you can actually hit a mid-range jump shot. You are going to be 33 next season but I think bringing you back on a short term deal could be an asset. People often bash you for being a #1 overall pick, but you didn't pick yourself, you're a solid vet and this team could use a few of those.

#20 - Eric Snow - 6'-3" - G
Kudos for being the hometown boy who came home to play. Kudos for playing through an injury and I hope it doesn't hinder your life after basketball. You do tons of stuff for the C-Town community and I hope that continues. But, in the eyes of The Cut List, all you are is a $7.3M expiring contract.

#10 - Wally Szczerbiak - 6'-7" - F
You were a hired gun. You fired blanks. Especially in Game 7 against Boston when you scored 0 points. 0 points. Your last three games against the Celtics: 3-8, 2-11, 0-3. The 0-3 tells me you were afraid to put the ball up or your teammates were afraid to pass it to you. Not good for a shooter. Maybe you need a year to get accustomed to the team or maybe your gun is empty. You are $13M expiring contract, however.

#12 - Billy Thomas - 6'-5" - G
You hit a 3 in the Playoffs against the Wizards but have bounced around the NBA for 3 years. I haven't seen anything to warrant keeping you around. Maybe you'll surprise me.

#17 - Anderson Varejao - 6'-10" - C/F
Are you Brazilian or retarded? Seriously, if I see you try to drive the lane off the dribble one more time I might bash my head through the kitchen cabinets. It's THAT BAD of a move. And the flopping continues to get worse and worse. I personally get embarrassed when you do it so imagine how Dan Gilbert, Danny Ferry, Mike Brown, LeBron and everybody else feel. You may have had the most poorly thought out hold-out in the history of sports, too. What were you thinking? You used to be one of my favorite players but now you just gnaw and gnaw at me with each passing flop and turnover. It would not surprise me that you think they speak Spanish and not Portuguese in Brazil, and you are from Brazil. That's how stupid I think you are. But that $5.8M contact next year with a player option the next may look tasty to somebody else.

#4 - Ben Wallace - 6'-9" - C/F
We have you for 2 more years at $14M/year so I don't think anyone is going to want to take you off our hands. You have games here and there where you look like the defensive force you were in Detroit. Maybe the karma in Chicago put you in a funk and you haven't shaken it off yet. But you need to. You could play a huge role for the team if you can just get motivated and focus on what you do best, play defense and rebound.

#13 - Delonte West - 6'-3" - G
You too showed flashes of brilliance here and there and maybe playing with LBJ can bring out the best of you. But for the love of Pete, STOP DRIBBLING THE BALL OFF YOUR FRIGGIN' FOOT. Seriously, you do it 2 or 3 times a game. Listen, I could do that. You should not. It's your 4th year, you're a restricted free agent and I think you could form a nice rotation with Boobie. We need you to continue to get better, especially with the dribbling.

So that's all she wrote. LeBron work on your game. Mike Brown PLEASE hire an offensive consultant. Danny Ferry please use expiring contracts, anyone but LeBron and anything you can to get LBJ some much needed help. And Cavs Fans stay strong, keep the faith and get ready to Rise Up in 2008-2009.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Indians Fall Flat On Their Face in Cincinnati

All the good work that the Tribe put together last week to climb to three games over .500 at 22-19 and vault into 1st Place in the AL Central was undone in one weekend in Cincinnati. The Reds swept away the Indians in three straight in the first Interleague weekend of the season. The Reds came into the series 17-23, dead last in the NL Central.

Once again the dormant Cleveland offense proved fatal as it spoiled excellent outings Friday and Saturday by Jeremy Sowers and Fausto Carmona, respectively. Sunday the offense managed to put a few more runs on the board but continued to struggle with runners in scoring position. They could not pick up starter Cliff Lee who got knocked around for the first time all season.

The bullpen inconsistency reared it's ugly head as Jensen Lewis walked in the winning run on Friday night and Masa Kobayashi blew his first save opportunity of 2008 when he gave up a 3-run bomb to Adam Dunn on Saturday night. Both winnable games that the Indians managed to blow by failing to score more than 4 runs, failing to keep a game tied or failing to hold a late lead.

So the Indians, after winning 8 of 10 games against the Yankees, Blue Jays and Athletics, are back at .500, sitting at 22-22, once again searching for answers for what ails them.
Some interesting notes from the series:
  • The Indians failed to win the series opener for the first time in four series.
  • The Indians have scored 3 runs or less in 23 of 44 games. Their record in those games... 6-17.
  • The Indians started the Reds series 0 for 22 with RISP until Casey Blake hit an RBI single in the 4th Inning of Game 3. They got a couple more hits later in game but it was too little too late.
  • The Reds trotted out three right-handed starting pitchers for the series and Travis Hafner did not start any of the three games. Are his rumored shoulder problems more than the Indians' are letting on?

The only player on offense who really stood out was Ben Francisco. 5-11, 2 R, 1 HR and 1 RBI. Kudos to Ben, but when your offensive force scores 2 runs and only has 1 RBI, you have a problem. Michael Aubrey also deserves some props for getting his first ML hit, a home run no less, in Sunday's game. Other than than, nothing much positive on the offensive end.

The Indians play 9 of their next 12 games against AL Central foes Chicago and Kansas City, so it would be a nice time to starting playing like the defending Division Champions and put some distance between themselves and the rest of their neighbors. Whether or not they are capable of that is yet to been seen.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.