Saturday, June 30, 2007

Indians Game Notes

If you nose around the Tribe's website a little, you'll find a link to a page on MLB's main site that will provide you with access to the game notes that the team issues to the media before every game. These things are a source of endless fascination. For example, if you looked at last night's sheet for the Indians, you'd have learned that:

  • Victor Martinez has thrown out 14 of 51 baserunners (27.5%), which places him third among AL catchers. He's thrown out 6 of 17 baserunners (36%) in the month of June. By way of comparison, last year at this time, Martinez had thrown out only 5 out of 58 baserunners (8.9%).
  • Victor Martinez also leads all Major League catchers in home runs with 12 and RBIs with 54.
  • The Tribe ranks first in the AL in comeback wins, with 23 so far this season. They have 11 wins when tied or trailing after seven innings--they had only 12 such wins during the entire 2006 season.
  • Grady Sizemore has played in 274 consecutive games, which is the second longest active streak in Major League Baseball. Juan Pierre is first with a 351 game streak.
  • Grady's 22 stolen bases so far this season are a career high.
  • The Tribe's bullpen ERA is 3.95, which ranks 7th in the AL. Over the last 20 games, however, the bullpen's ERA is 2.90. Last year at this time, the Indians had 12 blown saves and only 11 saves. (This year, the Indians have managed 22 saves out of 27 save opportunities).
  • The Indians have allowed the fewest walks in the Majors with 193.
  • The Indians are 42-12 when they score four or more runs. They are 4-20 when they score three or fewer runs (make that 5-20 thanks to Ben Francisco).
There are lots more tidbits for those of you who can't get enough of this kind of stuff. Here's a link to the page on the website where you can download the game notes.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Charlie Frye Is Still the Guy

According to this article in Thursday's Beacon Journal, Brady Quinn is apparently going to be very disappointed if he isn't in the starting lineup for the Browns this season. There's nothing wrong with a little competitive fire, and I'm glad that's how Quinn feels. Nevertheless, I'm going to be very disappointed if he is the starting QB this season. That's because I don't think he'll give the team as much chance to win as a guy that a lot of fans consider yesterday's news. Yes, I'm talking about Charlie Frye.

I know that most fans are ready to consign Frye to the ash heap of Cleveland Browns history, but I think that it's way too soon to pull the plug on him. Sure, his stats were pretty unimpressive last year, and his decision making left a lot to be desired, but the guy is mobile, tough, and a leader. Let's also not forget that we're passing judgment on him based upon his performance with the steaming pile of manure that he was given to lead last season due to bad luck and the ineptitude of the Browns' front office and coaching staff.

We all know about the bad luck. It started with the LeCharles Bentley situation and went downhill from there. The offensive line, which was no great shakes to start with, was decimated by injuries. The running game was nonexistent, and for the first half of the season, Frye was saddled with implementing the brilliant schemes of offensive genius Maurice Carthon, better known as the "Father of the Fullback Option Pass."

Not only that, but thanks largely to Carthon, the team also lost Trent Dilfer, the guy who was expected to serve as a mentor to Frye. Instead, Frye had to rely on Ken Dorsey, a guy whose only possible value as a mentor was that he was slightly less likely than Charlie to get carded when buying a six pack of beer.

So, Charlie Frye was thrown to the wolves last season in just about every way imaginable, and it showed in how he played. Frye was asked to do too much, and he responded by trying to do just that. Frye is a gamer who never gives up on a play. That kind of tenacity is a fine quality, but it was also Frye's greatest weakness. Crushing fourth quarter turnovers and overall poor decision making became the guy's trademark. As a result, a lot of people are ready to throw in the towel on Frye. In fact, going into training camp, there are some in the national and local media who say that the QB job is Derek Anderson's to lose.

In a sense, who can blame the Browns for looking elsewhere? I mean, the numbers for the guy's first two seasons as a pro speak for themselves:

                              G   Comp   Att   PCT    YD    Y/A  TD  INT 
Rookie year 11 155 293 52.9 1749 6.0 9 18
Second year 15 226 399 56.6 2579 6.5 11 18

The bottom line is that there's nothing in those numbers to suggest that Charlie Frye is going to develop to a quality NFL QB, so why waste another season on him? Those numbers for his first two seasons are pretty hard to argue with, except for one thing -- they aren't his numbers.

They're Troy Aikman's numbers for his first two years with the Cowboys. Here are Frye's statistics:
          G    Comp   Att   PCT    YD    Y/A    TD      INT
2005 7 98 164 59.8 1002 6.1 4 6
14 252 392 64.3 2454 6.3 10 17

Am I saying that Charlie Frye is the next Troy Aikman? No, all I'm saying is that not every guy who turns out to be a decent QB takes the NFL by storm early in his career -- particularly when he's playing for a team that's flat out terrible. Aikman's far from the only example I could cite. Take a look at the numbers on guys like Dan Fouts or Terry Bradshaw. They each have a bust in Canton, but for the first few years of their careers, they just looked like busts, period.

Charlie Frye made the best of a terrible situation last year. He took unrelenting punishment on almost every passing play and never once complained about it. He has a decent arm, and has shown some ability to escape the rush and to run with the ball. I think his decision making will improve when he has better protection and a viable enough running game to keep defenses from bringing the house every time he drops back to pass. I also think that he's got the respect of his teammates and has the potential to be a leader on a team that desperately needs one. Finally, he has more NFL starts under his belt than any other QB on the roster, and I think that experience matters a lot.

Am I rooting for him? You're damn right I am. I think he gives the Browns the best chance to win.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

There Are No Fans Like Browns Fans

Check this out. It's been 13 seasons since the Cleveland Browns last home playoff game. They've had one winning season since coming back to town and have a record of 19-45 over the past four years, yet when the Pro Football Hall of Fame holds a meet and greet for this year's draft class, they are so overwhelmed by the turnout that they feel compelled to apologize to fans and offer compensation.

There are no better fans anywhere. Period.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Ten Days That May Shake The Tribe's World

By dropping two of three to the dreadful Washington Nationals this weekend, the Indians have put themselves in a position where they must either snap out of their offensive funk right now, or face the prospect of putting their whole season in jeopardy.

Before I tell you why I think that's the case, I feel a need to spew some bile about this weekend. Want to know just how bad it was? Take a look at the future Hall of Famers who held the lndians to a grand total of five runs in three games.

  • On Friday, the Indians faced the "ace" of the Nationals' staff, Micah Bowie. Bowie has been a starting pitcher for all of a month, having made his first start since 1999 in May of this year. He threw over 100 pitches against the Indians in just 4 1/3 innings, but still allowed just one run. Bowie has a lifetime ERA of 5.73, and the remaining 23 pitchers that the Nats used to shut the Indians down on Friday night have similar pedigrees.
  • Saturday, it was the immortal Matt Chico who held the Indians to one run in six innings. Chico currently sports a 5.08 ERA, and last year at this time, he was playing Single A ball in the California league. Thank God for Victor Martinez.
  • Yesterday, it was the turn of five time Cy Young Award winner Jason Simontacchi to stymie Tribe bats. Simontacchi, who sports a 5.81 ERA, held the Indians to one run on four hits in six innings of work.
Now that I've gotten that off my chest, here's why I think that what happens over the next 10 days may determine the rest of the Tribe's season. First, let's take a look at the Tribe's schedule itself. Thanks to MLB's insane scheduling, the Indians start a four game set with Oakland tonight without any rest, and once they finish that, they get to jet back across the country, again with no rest, to start a home series against Tampa Bay [Update: Jeez, I'm a moron. They're at home all week]. The team then hits the road again for series against the Tigers and Blue Jays before heading to the All-Star break.

Off days? Forget it. Last Thursday was the final off day for the Indians before the break.

That means that the four remaining games on this road trip come against the team with the best pitching in the American League. Add in the jet lag factor to the series against the Devil Rays [see prior reference to me being a moron] and the fact that the blazing hot Tigers and surging Blue Jays await next week, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the Indians could dig themselves a hole over the course of the next 10 days that they might find it pretty hard to dig out of after the break.

For the first time in years, the Indians made it through April without shooting themselves in the foot, but with a 10-11 record going into the last week of the month, it looks like we're staring our old nemesis, the June Swoon, right in the face.

Does this come as a surprise to Tribe fans? Given the attendance this year, my guess is that we've all been waiting for the wheels to come off all season long. I mean, how excited do the Indians expect fans to get when they try to convince us they've addressed the holes on this team with acquisitions like Joe Borowski, Roberto Hernandez, David Delluci and Trot Nixon?

A lot of true believers are counting on the Indians battling it out with the Tigers for the rest of the summer. I hope they're right, but I'm starting to have my doubts. One thing's for sure--for better or worse, we'll know a lot more by the All-Star break.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

America's Basketball Malaise

Based on this morning's column, it looks like Terry Pluto agrees with me about the mindless noisemaking at NBA games. I really think a lot of it has to do with a lack of confidence in the quality of the product that the league puts out. All the noise is a huge distraction from the game itself, and perhaps that's intentional. A lot of people think the quality of play in the league has declined over the last decade, and some of those people may even own basketball teams.

I think there are a lot of reasons for the decline in the NBA's quality, but a big part of it has to be the fact that the NBA's apprenticeship system has weakened significantly over the past couple of decades. Until fairly recently, virtually every player had four years of college ball under his belt before he played in his first pro game. The first inroads on that system were made back in the 197os by guys like Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone, but what started as a trickle eventually became a flood of guys who either bypassed college basketball or played at most a season or two.

Given the NCAA's plantation mentality, it's hard to blame the players for skipping out on some eligibility or avoiding college hoops altogether in order to play professionally. There are also those rare players who really are ready to play straight out of high school. Guys like LeBron James are true basketball prodigies, but they are also exceedingly rare. The flood of players entering the draft with little or no college experience has left the NBA with the problem of figuring out what to do with guys who have all the physical tools in the world, but poor fundamentals and a knowledge of the game that's pretty limited. That's not a problem that the NBA (or any major league sport for that matter) is set up to deal with, and it shows in the product they put on the court.

The NBA has taken small steps to try to stem the flood of increasingly raw players, like the D league and provisions in the collective bargaining agreement postponing draft eligibility for a year. But as Bobby Knight pointed out last season, all that the CBA's eligibility provisions are likely to accomplish is to make the term "student athlete" even more of a joke.

What bothers me most about the way that the NBA has eaten its seed corn in recent years is the effect that it's had on the United States performance in international competition. Now, I ordinarily couldn't care less about the Olympics, and I don't consider myself to be a raving nationalist when it comes to sports, but I HATE losing to other countries in basketball. I'm sure that watching the Russians and the referees steal the 1972 Olympic gold medal has a lot to do with it, but whatever the reason, I don't just want to beat foreign countries in basketball, I want to annihilate them.

That hasn't happened in several years, and the US team that was once so dominant been humiliated in both the 2004 Olympics and last year's World Championship. When we hear about the US losing to somebody like Greece, we quickly invent lame excuses usually centering on the superstars who weren't on the roster and could've made a big difference. Those excuses are starting to ring a little hollow.

The fundamental problem is that the US has allowed its basketball developmental infrastructure to deteriorate from the top down, and that foreign nations have caught up. As a quick look at any NBA roster (and especially the roster of the San Antonio Spurs) will show you, European and Latin American nations play some pretty darn good basketball. If the US wants to compete internationally, it simply has to a better job of making its most elite athletes fundamentally sound and court-smart basketball players.

The bottom line is that the NBA, and US basketball in general, have a problem that even 150 decibels of non-stop noise can't drown out. We invented basketball, but the system by which our most elite players become experts at the game is falling apart. If the NBA wants fans to make noise about something, they ought to make noise about that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Yinzers Sopranos Parody

As much as I hate to give Pittsburgh credit for anything, I thought this Pittsburgh Pirates parody of The Sopranos finale was kind of funny. According to Deadspin, they're showing it on the Jumbotron at PNC Park, and it's certainly a couple of notches above sausage races.

Speaking of The Sopranos, I hate David Chase -- no, not for the ending, which I thought was brilliant in an "F--- All of You" kind of way. My problem with the guy is that over the course of the last two weeks of the show, he made William Butler Yeats seem trite and ├╝ber-cretin Steve Perry seem profound. As far as I'm concerned any effort to rehabilitate Perry is practically a crime against humanity.

To make things worse, that simply idiotic song's been getting stuck in my head for over a week now. I don't care how many times the REOStyxJourneywagon front man tells me otherwise, there's still no such place as South Detroit.

I'm a Grumpy Old Man

I knew how it would turn out, and I knew that I'd regret it, but I still had to see it. So, I bought a ticket to Game 4 of the NBA Finals for $75 at StubHub and cheered our lost cause on so loudly that I'm just now getting back my voice.

As you might imagine, $75 doesn't get you the best of seats, even in a Finals where even the play of the team that won in four straight was often listless and uninspiring. I was up in the cheap seats--the sections that the Cavs marketing department has christened "Loudville," but could more accurately be referred to as "Rafterville." I did, however, get a lot of free trinkets for my $75. In addition to the XL tee shirt that I have no illusions that I'll ever fit into, I got one of the annoying strobe light necklaces that I think almost gave me a seizure, and the obligatory "rally towel," which came in handy as a crying towel at the end of the game.

I also saw a wicked good fight in the seats right in front of me, which drew blood and everything. This provoked the line of the night. When the security guards strolled up to investigate the situation, they asked the guys who were sitting next to the one of the combatants if they saw anything. On cue, a leather-lunged guy three rows back cried out "We Are All Witnesses!"


This is the first time I've ever seen a fight at a Cavs game. In contrast to my experiences at Browns games, where everybody involved in an altercation gets tossed, they actually take the time to administer some justice at the Q. To my surprise, one set of combatants was allowed to return to their seats, while the other guys presumably ended up in the back of a police cruiser. The funny thing is, it was the guys who went running to the police in the first place who ended up in cuffs. Just goes to show you that there's a lot to be said for the whole omerta thing.

So much for the highlights of the evening. The game itself was the usual mess of missed opportunities and uncharacteristic mistakes that plagued the Cavs the entire series. From a fan's perspective, it was punctuated by far too many and far too lengthy stoppages in play. These television driven interruptions are a fact of life in other sports as well, but what makes them so intolerable at NBA games is the frenetic blur of non-basketball antics that the teams feel compelled to break out in order to "entertain" us. These antics are annoying enough in the regular season, but they become so manic in the Finals that I can only conclude that they really are afraid that we all might get up and leave.

I must admit that I did like the Chinese unicycle lady at halftime who tossed about 50 bowls into a neat stack on her head with one foot while pedaling her unicycle with another. That's entertainment!

Then there's the whole organized cheering thing. As you know, fans can't be relied upon to cheer the Cavs on their own, even though they waited 37 seasons to see them get this far, so instead we get an unstopping stream of high-decibel exhortations to GET LOUD! or TWIRL YOUR TOWELS! or GET CLEVELAND LOUD! This little slice of totalitarianism is all delivered with a hip-hop beat -- sort of Triumph of the Will meets Straight Outta Compton.

A lot of this sounds like sour grapes, and it is. Hey, the NBA is what it is, but putting that aside, there's nobody who does more than Dan Gilbert to make the games as enjoyable as possible from a fan's perspective. Had they won, I'd undoubtedly have run straight home and blogged about the details of every possession and the incredible energy at the Q. They didn't, so instead, I took a week to get around to writing this grumpy screed about everything but the game.

I am so friggin' tired of losing. Losing just sucks.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Game 68----Tribe wins to avoid the sweep.

I just got home from the Tribe game. It was a good one. Today's game was my Father's Day gift. It couldn't have been better. The good guys won 5-2. Fausto Carmona stymied the Braves through seven innings. It won't show up in the box score, but first Jason Michaels and then Grady Sizemore made great catches to rob Brian McCann and Jeff Francouer, respectively, of hits in the seventh. Then, Michaels made another diving catch in the eighth to rob Chippper Jones of a hit. Joe Borowski trotted out. Put two runners on and scratched out another save---his 20th.

The Tribe achieved a couple of milestones today. Casey Blake extended his major league leading hitting streak to 26 games, and today's save was Borowski's 100th. Franklin Gutierrez saw some action in RF. He had a hit, laid down a perfect bunt which turned into a hit, and stole his first base. I like that kid. He's loaded with tools. He just has to hit enough to stay around.

After the game, kids got to play catch with their dads on the field. As promotions go, that was a great idea. What wasn't so great is that alligator arms Dolan had to make a buck on it. He charged $15 per person, including for each kid, to get on the field. A few hundred people went out. Larry was it worth it to stick your fans for the extra 5 grand or so you pocketed?

Yeah. My question was really rhetorical. I know you think it was worth it. You were probably in the owner's box giggling that whiny little laugh of yours as you thought about the cartons of extra suppositories you can buy with that dough.

Larry's cheapness didn't really dampen my day, but I had to mention it.

Nice day. Nice game.

Happy Father's Day to our readers who admit it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tribe signs top pick Beau Mills.

In an announcement that surprised no one, the Indians have finalized a deal with top pick, Beau Mills. To some, the alacrity with which the Tribe signed their guy had to have been stunning. After all, they'd just picked him last week.

That should have surprised no one who follows the Tribe.

That was what made Mills so attractive to the Indians. He'd spent the month before the draft telling every scout that he wouldn't be a hold out and that he'd sign quickly because he's ready to play ball. While those are admirable sentiments, I'm afraid that they were the real statistics that mattered to Larry Dolan and his son, Paul, the president.

Now, I 'm not dogging Mills. He's a legitimate first round pick. He's got some serious home run power, and he definitely knows the game. I'm just tired of safe first round picks in lieu of extreme upside talent. When a team picks thirteenth, it has to get the best talent out there. The Tribe didn't do that.

Sorry about the ambivalence. The Tribe got their guy. He could be good. But, they really passed on someone who could be great.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Heck, The Red Sox Did It

The Boston Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS before rallying to win that series. I guess if they can do it, we ought to have some faint glimmer of hope for the Cavs. The good news is that the Sox aren't the only team in pro sports history to lose the first three games but still win a playoff series, but the bad news is that the list of other teams that have accomplished that feat is very, very short. In fact, here it is, in its entirety:

The 1975 New York Islanders - The Islanders came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins and Win the Wales Conference. You think the Cavs have played poorly? The Islanders never even had a lead in the first three games of that series. The Red Sox notwithstanding, some consider this to be the greatest best of seven comeback in sports history.

The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs - The 1942 Leafs remain the only professional team in North America to lose the first three games of a championship series and still win the title. Their victim was the Detroit Red Wings.

The list of teams who have been down 3-0 and have rebounded to force a Game 7 is a little bit longer. In addition to the Leafs and Islanders, the 2003 Trail Blazers, the 1994 Nuggets and the 1951 Knicks all forced NBA Game 7s, while over in the NHL, those pesky 1975 Islanders almost did the same thing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup finals that they did to the Penguins in the semis. The 1945 Detroit Red Wings and the 1939 New York Rangers also pushed their playoff series to the limit. (You can find the list of these teams in this article).

The Cavs admittedly face very long odds, but the Spurs still have one more game to win. What we need now is for Mike Brown to shed his Shooter Flatch persona and substitute Ferdinand Foch. Now, you may well ask just exactly who the hell is Ferdinand Foch? Well, he was a French Field Marshall during World War I.

The Cavs are supposed to follow the example of a French general...?? Yeah, I know. Work with me on this, okay?

In August of 1914, the Germans were rolling through France on what seemed to be an unstoppable advance toward Paris. Almost miraculously, the Germans were stopped at the First Battle of the Marne. Foch played a pivotal role in that victory, and at the height of the battle, when things seemed to be at their worst, he sent the following dispatch back to headquarters:

“My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack!”

Hey, if you want to beat a team led by a Frenchman, maybe it's not a bad idea to take advice from one. On the other hand, maybe it's more inspirational to remember the immortal words of John Blutarsky: "It isn't over until WE say it's over...Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? NO!!"

Either way, at this point, the Cavs have nothing to lose. All they have to gain is immortality.

The City by the Lake gets more baseball love.

"To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying."


Monday, June 11, 2007

Mike Brown and Shooter Flatch: Separated at Birth?

The Cavs have really created a mess for themselves with last night's performance in San Antonio. Being down 2-0 in the NBA Finals is something that only three teams in NBA history have ever overcome (1969 Celtics, 1977 Blazers and last year's Heat). But as Miami's recent example proves, it is something that can be done.

It would help, of course, if the Cavs' opponent wasn't so good--or at least if the Cavs didn't think that they were so good. This team is intimidated by the Spurs, and it starts with Mike Brown, who appears about as confident in his decision making on the bench as Shooter Flatch did in Hoosiers.

How does Brown let Larry Hughes hobble up and down the court for 20 minutes? Hell, if no offense and no defense are what you want, put me in coach, I'm ready to play. For that matter, why not take a chance with LeBron and two fouls, instead of just passively watching the game slip away in the first quarter while your franchise sits on the bench nibbling on his nails? You can be damn sure that Jimmy Chitwood would've played against South Bend Central with two fouls.

As you can tell by now, most of what I know about basketball I learned from Hoosiers. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong. Mike, run the ol' Picket Fence if you have to, but do something!

It was bad.

The CAVS were brutalized last night. It seems no one knows how to cover Tony Parker. It's not bad enough that a skinny Frenchman scores one of the hottest babes on TV, but when he shreds the hometown team, that's simply too much. (Okay---One more time). Once again, the bad only got worse when the third quarter rolled around. I guess, at halftime, the other teams go to their locker rooms and get a plan on X's and O's or maybe they get a Knute Rockne or John Wooden speech. I don't know, but I do know the CAVS certainly don't respond. Maybe they play Sudoku. It's been a season-long CAVS tradition that they tend to receive a vicious spanking in the third quarter and spend the fourth scrambling to make up for it. Last night was no different. The CAVS spent the fourth quarter climbing out of an insurmountable ditch. It only looked like they were moderately successful because the Spurs were bored and knew they could put away the CAVS on a whim, and did. The only one who had a worse finish last night was Phil Leotardo.

That means after days of the locals predicting that the CAVS would win in 5, they've had to re-adjust their thinking. Now, people are simply hoping that the thing goes five.
Here's my take: they can't win a thing if they can't stop Parker.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Browns Odds and Ends

There is Browns news out there, but you do have to look for it. Of course, since the Tribe's perched in first place in the AL Central and the Cavs are in the NBA Finals, a lot of people might wonder why anyone would bother to look. Hey, what can I say--an obsession is an obsession.

  • Let's start this off on a potentially positive note. The Yinzers are implementing a new scheme that won't allow the offense to know the defense's alignment until right before the snap, and they couldn't be prouder of themselves. Remember when the 1999 Browns did that with their "UFO Defense"? It was a desperation move then, and I wonder if a gimmick like this suggests that LeBeau's not exactly brimming with confidence over the state of his Joey Porter-less defense.
  • The Sporting News gave the Browns a B+ grade for their off season additions. That was tops in the AFC North, but it still wasn't enough to impress Peter Schrager of, who put the Browns dead last in the NFL in the first edition of his power rankings that came out last week.
  • The Orange and Brown Report has an article by Lane Adkins looking at the changes made to the Browns defensive line.
  • On the offensive side of the ball, Tony Grossi talks about talks about Seth McKinney, and also notes that Jerome Harrison has managed to put on 17 lbs. of muscle during the offseason.
  • Finally, seeing as how tonight's the last episode of The Sopranos, it's probably appropriate to close with this item, which indicates that former Brown Joe DeLamielleure is afraid that Players Union boss Gene Upshaw may have him whacked.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Don't Be Just Happy to Be Here

Surveying the responses to the Cavs' Game 1 loss to San Antonio, I sense a familiar reaction among many fans and members of the media. When it comes to the Finals, we are treating the Cavaliers like a youth tee-ball team in terms of expectations. A lot of fans can't believe the team has made it this far, and many of us are just enjoying the ride. Some people seem to have adopted the attitude that anything the Cavs get from here on out is gravy.

After 37 years of waiting, there's no reason why fans shouldn't enjoy the ride. It's great to be in the NBA Finals, and the Cavs have given us more joy in the last month than any other Cleveland team has given us in the last decade. The problem is, there are no guarantees the Cavs will ever find themselves in this position again. Yes, they look like a franchise on the rise, and yes, LeBron James and the Cavs only look like they'll get better-- but then again, so did the 1995 Indians.

That's what bothers me, because I had that same feeling about the 1995 Tribe when they made it to the World Series that a lot of people have about this year's Cavaliers. Surely, if ever there was a team that would contend for a decade, and have multiple rings to show for their trouble, the 1995 Indians were it. Yeah, the Braves beat them in the Series, but so what? Nobody ever clobbered a baseball the way those guys did, and once they solidified their pitching rotation, who was going to stop them?

Unfortunately, every year for the next six years, the answer was "somebody." The irony of the late 1990s Indians is that perhaps their two best teams were the 1996 team, which couldn't get past the Orioles, and the 2000 team, which couldn't overcome a slow start and ended up missing the postseason altogether. Meanwhile, the 1997 team, which was barely above average for most of the season, caught lightening in a bottle during the last month of the season and road a hot streak all the way to within one out of a World Series Championship.

But that was as close as they ever got. Yes, the Indians contended for years, and yes, it was great to watch a team loaded with future Hall of Famers play in front of packed houses year after year, and boy, did we ever have some great Octobers. Still, when the ride was over, the big prize still eluded them, and eluded us.

I think the relationship between teams and their cities is more complicated, and more of a two-way street, than a lot of people realize. Players draw energy from their fans, and I think that, to a certain extent, they internalize their fans' expectations. For example, look at the Browns' reactions to LeCharles Bentley's injury last year. That season was over before it began, and not just because of Bentley's injury, but because of how the organization reacted to it. Let's face it, they reacted like their fans did -- even going so far as to mutter under their breath about being cursed.

That's why I'm begging everybody to demand more from the Cavaliers. From what I saw in Game 1, the Cavs are acting a bit like a team that's just happy to find itself in the Finals. But from what I saw of their opponent, I think the Cavaliers have more than a puncher's chance to win this thing. There's no doubt that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are great players, but the Spurs might even be more smug and complacent than the Pistons were before the Cavs knocked them off.

The Cavs have a chance to become NBA champions right now. Yes, they are decided underdogs, but it's taken them 37 years to get to this point, and this still may turn out to be the best chance they ever have. Don't let them off the hook!

Friday, June 08, 2007

MLB Draft---Indians

The Tribe continued its MO for high draft picks: they passed on extreme high-end talent to grab a good player, who might be ready more quickly, but more importantly, who's easy to sign. The extreme talent was Rick Porcello, a New Jersey high school RHP. Most scouts had him rated as the best righthander in the draft. He was clearly the best high school pitcher. He's 6-5 and weighs about a buck ninety. His fastball usually sits around 94-95, but he dials it up to 98 when he needs an out. He has four strong pitches, was the # 2 ranked prospect before the draft, has been compared to The Tribe's own Adam Miller, and should move very quickly through the Tigers' system. The Tigers? The got him at # 27 near the end of the first round. How the hell did that happen? I'll tell you. He's represented by Satan's disciple, Scott Boras. That means he'll get a better bonus than the $1.1 Million recommended by the Commissioner's office. Twenty-six other teams (really 25 because Tampa Bay doesn't count---they were locked on David Price of Vanderbilt, who was the best talent in the draft) passed on him because of Boras. Thanks Larry Dolan.

Now, the guy the Indians did take isn't chopped pastrami, or whatever. Beau Mills is a big boy. He's 6'3 and 220 pounds. He played 3B in college. He may have been the best power hitter in the draft. He's the son of Brad Mills, the Red Sox bench coach. So, he's been around the sport and understands it. He started out at Fresno State and hit pretty well there for his first two years. Then, he basically flunked out and transferred to Lewis-Clark State. He murdered the ball on the much smaller stage and was ridiculously better than everyone else in the NAIA. There's no question that Mills can pound a baseball.

Although he was a decent fielding 3B, he's probably destined for 1B. His arm is weak, and his range at third is only adequate. While I'm happy the Tribe got another big bat, he sounds eerily similar to Ryan Garko and Kevin Kouzmanoff and Michael Aubrey (without the big power) and Stephen Head and Nick Welgarz. All of those guys were high draft choices who could hit but were limited in the field. My point is that the Shapiro/Dolan team always takes big, one dimensional hitters rather than 5-tool athletes. It's all due to money. The hitters are easier and safer to project because they generally are what they look like. You really don't have to do much of a projection to know what you're getting. The problem is that that's all you get. If you look at Cleveland's farm system, you have to ask: Where are the middle infielders? Where are the base stealers ? Where are the athletes?

So, now the Indians have another big guy who plays 1B and hits homers. I'm not knocking having a guy who has big power, but guys you need to mix it up a little.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

America's Team

Hey, they like us. They really like us. Actually, I think they just pity us, but I'll take it.

Predictably, the national media is all over the 0 for 43 years and counting aspect of the Cavs' trip to the NBA finals. Michael Wilbon hosts a pity party for Cleveland in his Washington Post column this morning. John Romano holds one of his own in The St. Petersburg Times (and, I might add, gives some love to our friends at Bitterfans, The Disappointment Zone and God Hates Cleveland Sports in the process). Finally, just to show you that the pity party extends from sea to shining sea, here's the Tacoma News-Tribune's take on the whole Cleveland thing.

Guys, thanks for making the Cavs the feel good sports story of 2007, but I think some of you, and Michael Wilbon in particular, are a little over the top. Seriously, read this and try to come up with a reason not to kill yourself:

Cleveland didn't just shrink during the last 50-plus years, it shriveled. It was the nation's fifth-largest city in 1920 and remained in the top 10 through the 1970 census, but after a decades-long exodus it was the 39th-largest city in America in 2005, down from almost 915,000 residents in 1950 to 452,208. Nearly 180,000 people left in the 1970s alone, and the city reportedly lost 150,000 manufacturing jobs. Now, the median household income is 97th among the top 100 cities. The exodus, the 1968 riots and the city defaulting in 1978 led to a heap of ridicule, to the moniker "Mistake by the Lake." In 1972, as local legend has it, Mayor Ralph Perk's wife declined a dinner with President Richard M. Nixon because it interfered with her bowling night.

Yikes. Well, at least he didn't mention the burning river. That's okay though, because USA Today's John Saraceno made sure that nobody forgot about that little incident in his column.

It's tough here, but we aren't quite America's version of Bangladesh just yet. I mean, we even have indoor plumbing and everything. On the other hand, if you'd like to contribute to us, I'll set up a Paypal account and you can donate right here. I promise I'll put your money to good use. I swear I will.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Good Omen

As much as I hate to admit even guarded optimism about a Cleveland sports team, I'll concede that the Sports Gods have smiled on the Cavaliers ever since they improbably clinched the second seed in the East on the last day of the season. Nevertheless, my official position is that Cleveland remains doomed. Yes, the Cavs' good fortune has been accompanied by some spectacular performances, but come on, we're talking about the San Antonio Spurs, a team that's won three out of the last eight NBA championships.

I know, I know -- the Cavs appear to have captured lightening in a bottle this year. But you know, over the years, we've had plenty of teams that seemed to be destiny's darlings, and we've still got nothing to show for it. So, it's going to take a lot more than that to break me out of my glass is half empty funk. Like I said when we started this blog, "if a Cleveland team looks like destiny’s darlings, Brian Sipe will throw an interception, Jim Chones will break his foot or Jose Mesa will decide to throw sliders."

In retrospect, it's funny that I should've mentioned Jose Mesa, because if--unlike me-- you think the glass is half full, and if you're looking for a sign that this just may be the year, you might find that sign in the timing of the Detroit Tigers' decision to release Cleveland's Public Enemy #2 on Sunday.

Think about it. If the Gods wanted to send a message telling us that our years of wandering in the sports wilderness were just about at an end, can you imagine a better way of sending it than by having Jose Mesa's career end the day after the Cavs' became the first Cleveland team since his 1997 Indians to play for a championship? Okay, so some more mean spirited fans might suggest another sign that they'd find more convincing, but the timing of Mesa's release is pretty auspicious.

Personally, I'd prefer to see Tim Duncan sprain his ankle or Tony Parker have his green card revoked, but as omens go, I guess we could do worse than seeing Joe Table get his walking papers just as the Cavs get set to tip off in their first ever NBA Finals.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers

By God, I LOVE the title of this post! The Cleveland Cavaliers are Eastern Conference Champions! The CLEVELAND Cavaliers are Eastern Conference CHAMPIONS!! How often do you see the words "Cleveland" and "Champion" in the same sentence?

Hot damn! The Cavs are going to the NBA FINALS!!!

Not only are the Cavs' conference champs, but they did it at home and with style. After a hard fought three quarters, the Cavaliers' gave us the LeBron & Boobie show and simply ran the Pistons off the court (and put Rasheed in a straitjacket) in the fourth quarter. I still don't think Detroit knows exactly what hit them. I'm not sure that I do either.

I do know that it's about 12:30 a.m., and I've crashed my internet connection three times trying to get into the Cavs' website so I can throw money at them. (Looks like I'm not the only guy in Cleveland with a need to do that right about now). After all, I don't want to be the only fat middle aged guy on my block who isn't wearing an Eastern Conference Champions hat and tee shirt.

About all I can do right now is wander around saying incredibly insightful stuff like "oh, boy, is this GREAT!" I'm going to bed, gang. I'll try to be more coherent tomorrow.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tribe Game 53---Don't look but they pulled one out they should have lost.

Wow! The city of Detroit must be reeling. I guess I know that a few residents there are because a buddy of mine from up north emailed me and compared LeBron's rampage on Thursday night to a fisting for the Pistons. If you don't know what that is, you shouldn't ask your mom.

Anyway, they've got to be really pissed after how the Injuns came back in the ninth last night. Down 4, things didn't look good when Grady grounded out. But things started looking up when Blake singled and Hafner walked. Victor Martinez has been one of the hottest hitters in the bigs, and last night, he wasn't going to go softly into the night. He banged his second homer of the day to leave the Tribe with a one-run deficit. That guy's bat is just smokin' hot right now.

Jhonny followed the bomb with a big double, putting the tying run at second. Garko K'ed. So, the tying run was at second with two out, and Trot Nixon at the plate. What would you have done? Nixon represented the winning run and conventional wisdom is that you don't put it on base late in the game. Jim Leyland, who might be the best manager in MLB right now, had his closer, Todd Jones, intentionally walk Nixon to get to Barfield. Maybe he looked at Barfield's low average and struggles with the Tribe, but Barfield was 6 for his last 21. That's a very nice .285 average.

Barfield came through with a clean single to right. Then David Dellucci lined another single into center. The rest of the guys mobbed him. Game over. TRIBE WINS! TRIBE WINS! TRIBE WINS!

How do you like those apples?

Don't worry.

According to two of Cleveland's radio talkers, the series is over. The Pistons have already lost, and the CAVS should start planning to handle Tim Duncan.

Oh. Huh. Then why's there a game scheduled for tonight at the Q? They still need to play. I don't get it. I heard two talk show hosts talking about San Antonio. I guess it makes sense that they're so confident. After all, the trophy cases of all the Cleveland franchises are chock full of the last 50 years' worth of championship hardware--- banners, trophies, cups and photos of all those memorable moments.

With a proud history like that, I can understand why everyone knows this one's in the bag.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Cavs 109 Pistons 107

Um... wow.

Detroit, the next time he gets like this, you might want to try kryptonite.