Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Oh Those 1986 Orange Jerseys - Happy Halloween!

Cavs tip time as I type this. Love seeing The Big Z with the shaved head. Loved seeing that Eastern Conference Champs banner being raised next to the Cavs 1976 Central Division banner on one side and Larra Nance's (what a talent) #22 retired jersey. (SIDE NOTE: I miss "Sweets" Chones" and his one word analysis.) Not so crazy about Drew Gooden's new full arm tat. Your Cleveland Cavaliers are in their 1986 throwback Orange jerseys. I am just soooooooo excited for the NBA regular season to get underway, I can hardly contain myself! I mean, who doesn't love six months of essentially meaningless basketball before the real season starts. When did the league become such a regular season bore? Was it always this way and I have just become older and more jaded? Does it have to do with my love of the college game? Could it be all of the years of mediocrity in Cleveland? Who knows. But away we go!

8:07 PM: Z tips the ball to Boobie Gibson

8:08 PM: Larry Hughes bricks his first jumper. First of many this year.

8:08 PM: Devin Harris drives right by Boobie for an easy layup.

8:09 PM: Z misses his first bunny of the year. First of many.

8:10 PM: Former Cavs lottery pick Lasagna Flop errrr Desagana Diop does a nice spin move half jump hook for two.

8:12 PM: Cavs 24 second violation.

8:12 PM Harris again blows right by Boobie as if this were Tony Parker all over again.

8:13 PM Harris feeds Flop for two. Timeout Cavs. 12-6 Mavericks four minutes in. This is not the defense Mike Brown wanted out of the gate.

You know something, this is the NBA regular season. Am I really gonna sit here and blog through the entire game? Not on your life! More importantly, this was my son's first Halloween. Granted, he is only eight months old, but he dressed up in his Cowboy outfit and we went to three houses trick or treating for some of MTAC's favorites (we love us some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kats, Peanut M&M's are the weak beav and a cop out).

8:19 PM: Lebron posts up Jerry Stackhouse and throws a sick behind the back dish to Drew for a throw-down.

8:21 PM: Hughes bricks another jumper, Jason Terry hits Dirk Nowitzki for a count-it and one. Cavs down 22-12.

8:22 PM: Damon Jones and his beautiful jumper enter the game for the first time. Women everywhere in Cleveland rejoice.

OK, I'm done, seriously. More good news, the high school kids didn't egg my house. Lets talk quickly about ESPN's studio team for NBA Shootaround. The man who loves to make himself laugh and everyone's favorite cartoon character Stuart Scott as the host. The man who loves to hear himself speak, resident ego-maniac Stephen A. Smith as an analyst. (SIDE NOTE: Since when does a guy who never played a second of NBA basketball a lead analyst? We are saved by the one and only Bill Walton, the only man who could make NBA pregame shows watchable. At the end of the show, Walton picked the Spurs over the Celtics in the Finals. Screamin' A follows up by picking the Celtics over the Nuggets. Walton follows up by laughing at "Steve" when he tries to describe how the Nuggets are loaded and will be the sleeper in the West. He threw out the name J.R. Smith as a key piece. Walton says "I know you didn't just say J.R. Smith. They would like to throw him off the team." Stu Scott sits there and giggles. That's some high quality TV right there. I'm sure Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley are quaking in their boots over at TNT.

8:28 PM: Scrub dog Devin Brown gets called for a carry the first time he touches the ball in a Cavs uniform. I put the odds at him being on this roster by February at 5%.

8:3o PM: On the floor at the same time: Ira Newble, Devin Brown, Damon Jones, Juan Jose Barea, Brandon Bass, and Trenton Hassell. Who says the NBA isn't Faaaaaantastic?

8:32 PM: Devin Brown tries to drive the ball and shoots a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer which hits the back iron. END OF ONE: Mavericks 29 Cavaliers 15.

Now, really, Im done. I promise...

Zeke and the Decline of The Knicks


Props out to loyal reader Mark P for finding us this fabulous timeline of the disaster that is the New York Knicks franchise, The Madison Square Garden Organization, Isiah Thomas, and his bed-mate till the end, owner James Dolan. I never thought I say "thank goodness for Larry Dolan" but the Tribe ended up with the smarter Dolan captaining its ship. On the eve of the 2007-08 NBA season, Sean Cunningham of Esquire Magazine inked this hilarious ride to the bottom with the one and only Isiah Thomas driving them right into the ground. Enjoy:

Wednesday's With Mitch

Many of you Mitch Albom from his work on the Sports Reporters Sunday morning's on ESPN. Others know him as the Detroit Free Press columnist. Some know his by his 1975 hair-over the ears hair-style. The majority of main stream America would know him as the author of the best seller "Tuesdays With Morrie," the story of his former dying professor and the meaning of life.

I'd like to start off by saying I read that book and thought it was amazing. And that is all the nice things I am going to say about Mitch. Let the rip session begin. For those who don't know, Mitch is all about Mitch. On Sunday, he wrote
a 10 year anniversary column in the Free Press that was about as self-serving and ego-maniacal as a piece could have possibly been. The article was supposed to be about how Morrie's teaching still resonate today. Instead it was more about Mitch and his success with the book. The column started with Mitch patting himself on the back as his agent told him that nobody would read this book. He followed with this:

People read the book. Oh, not at first. At first, you couldn't find it. The story of my beloved old college teacher, Morrie Schwartz, who was dying from ALS, was something I wrote to help pay his medical bills. A labor of love. And initially it was published that way. About 20,000 books were printed -- total -- and I had visions of giving them away from the trunk of my car. Today, there are 14 million copies in print around the world.

First off, does anybody buy the statement that he wrote the book "to help pay his medical bills?" Come on dude, you wrote the book because it was a great story you thought would sell and make money for you. The rest of the column was essentially re-telling the story of the book. Hey Mitch, have no material so you figured you'd try to catch some buzz and sell more books maybe? Maybe I am way off base, but I don't think so.

He has no material because this "sportswriter" DOESN'T ATTEND GAMES. I'm sorry, he is seen at Lions home games from time to time, mostly because there are only eight. My Detroit insiders tell me that when he does actually attend a Lions game, he sits off by himself, acting aloof and as if he is better than everyone else in the press box.

At least he goes to see the Lions.

The next time you see him at a Pistons, Red Wings, or Tigers game that isn't opening day, a playoff game, or a meaningful late-season regular season game, it will be the first. Remember the infamous Michigan State Final Four story, in which he spoke of former Spartans Jason Richardson and Mateen Cleaves jumping up and down in their MSU Green? Great stuff right? Except neither attended the game. You can't find that story anywhere on the net anymore.
Albom was killed for it nationally and rightfully so.

From time to time, Mitch will write columns critical of his local teams, which is his right to do. I do it in my blog and he is much more qualified than I am. But I don't get paid for this, unfortunately. He does. So he can criticize without attending games or practices? A prominent pro sports GM has told me on several occasions he has no respect for any local columnist or reporter who isn't around his team, attends practices, etc. You think "the great" Mitch Albom would attend a practice in the middle of a season? Not on your life. He is too big for that.

Why attack Mitch Albom? I don't know. I'm bored. Bottom line, the guy is one helluva writer, both fiction and non-fiction and after I read that column on Sunday I almost lost much lunch amongst the self-serving crap that column was.

Opening Night in C-Town!


When we last left our Cleveland Cavaliers, they were being exposed by the Varsity conference champions and the closest thing to a dynasty their is the NBA since MJ retired from the Bulls the second time. Ah, but those Junior Varsity...errrr... Eastern Conference playoffs sure were fun, weren't they? Donyell's big game in the clincher against the Nets on the road; Lebron's god-like performance in Game Five scoring 48 points including 29 of the Cavs last 30 points; The Boobie Gibson coming out party capped off by his five three's and 31 points in the series clinching Game Six in Cleveland.

So we move to Opening Night 2007 with the Dallas Mavericks coming to town. There will be plenty to watch tonight. A team in Cleveland actually raising any kind of banner, this one representing an Eastern Conference Championship. You will see if all is forgotten by Cleveland fans with Lebron and the Yankee hat incident. Most importantly, you will get to see major minutes from the great Dwayne Jones, who the ABJ's Brian Windhorst described on the More Sports and Les Levine TV show as "one of the bottom five offense players in the NBA."

What you won't see tonight is Mavericks All Star Josh Howard who is serving a suspension for instigating a fight in the preseason. You also won't see Juwan Howard in a Cavaliers uniform. Howard
opted to sign with Dallas, spurning the Cavs and Boston, his other two suitors. Howard will get instant minutes in the frontcourt in Dallas with starting Center Erick Dampier out with an injury.

On the Cavaliers side, you won't see freshly signed Sasha Pavlovic in uniform either. He will most likely be arriving in Cleveland this morning to finalize and sign the deal. According to
Windhorst this morning, The contract is for three years averaging between $4 million and $5 million per. Patrick McManamon followed up with a solid piece stating the Pavlovic holdout hurt both Sasha and The Cavs. Terry Pluto, the best writer in this town by leaps and bounds and one of the best sportswriters in America, penned a column this morning worth a look talking about "The Disease of Me."

Now with Pavlovic back in the fold, the Cavaliers won't be forced to give extra minutes to the human turnover Shannon Brown and the prettiest man in the NBA, Damon Jones. It is still going to be a struggle for the Cavs to start. The early season schedule has been well documented. After home games with Dallas and New York, the Cavs head out West for a six game road trip, and it looks like that trip will be without Varajao.

The good news is that they have Lebron James. Speaking of the King, lets give you all something good to peep to start the 2007-08 season. Relive the best of Lebron in Game 5 against Detroit.



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BREAKING CAVS NEWS

Sasha Pavlovic, a holdout all of training camp, has agreed to terms on a three year contract with the Cavaliers according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon-Journal. Vintage that the PD has nothing other than "sources say" and Windhorst has quotes from Sasha's agent Marc Cornstein: ‘‘Great strides were made in the last 48 hours to come to an agreement," Cornstein said. "It was a long negotiating process, but I think it worked out well in the end."

This is a good sign for the Cavs for the upcoming season. I cannot imagine Sasha being active tomorrow night for the opener against Dallas; he has been overseas during his entire holdout. Now GM Danny Ferry can move his full attention to the free agent that really matters, Power Forward/Center Anderson Varajao. The sooner Varajao signs, the better. They will not survive with Dwayne Jones and Cedric Simmons getting big minutes at the 4 and 5 spots. Expect Anthony Tolliver, the undrafted Rookie Center out of Creighton to be cut to make room for Sasha.

Separated at Birth?



Mr Intense Jonathon Papelbon and the Ultimate Cheese-dick Spencer Pratt of The Hills? Two people I currently despise. Pap is one intense M'fer, but his act of going insane after every save is getting tired. At keast he can back it up, unlike Carlos Zambrano. As for Spencer, he is the worst. A despicable human being who cannot possibly be liked by anyone. Anyone who tips of the paparazzi about where he and his fiancee (equally as despicable) Heidi Montag are at all times should be taken out back and put out of their misery. See how bored I can be when the Tribe season is over, the Cavs and KU haven't started, and the Browns don't play for another five days?

Lebron Speaks Out

Many experts are killing the Cavaliers this offseason. Me included, yet I'm no expert. They say GM Danny Ferry did nothing this offseason to improve the team. True. They say without Anderson Varajao and Sasha Pavlovic, the depth is non-existant. Also true. They say the Cavaliers got a gift draw to the NBA Finals. Uh, True again. They say to get ready for a step backwards. Again, I can't say that I disagree.

Lebron James has other ideas.

The King himself, fresh off a world tour playing basketball and attempting to become the "global icon" he intends to be, told the press yesterday that he doesn't intend to back down to all the negativity surrounding his teams 1-6 preseason. As told to
the Akron Beacon-Journal's Brian Windhorst, Lebron wasn't bashful:

''I am a great leader and I believe our team is going to win games because of who I am,'' James said after practice Monday as the Cavs got ready for the season opener Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks. "I'm not going to allow our team not to play well. I won't let those guys not work hard in practice or not work hard in games. I want to win, that's the reason I'm here.''

"I am a great leader." Wow. That is a confident man right there. You gotta respect it, even though my respect level for Lebron has dropped significantly since he showed up at Jacobs Field for a Tribe playoff game wearing a Yankees hat. I have no doubt that his game will be even better this year. The problem is still the fact that his supporting cast is still very suspect. The team is full of question marks.

How many more years can Zydrunas Illgauskas stay injury free? Talk about someone who is so due for an injury list stint. Can Drew Gooden stay consistent instead of his a few good games, a few bad games routine? Can Larry Hughes' outside shot appear and can he actually play a full season? Was Boobie Gibson's postseason an aberration or was this the guy we will see all year? How much does Donyell Marshall have left? Can Damon Jones' defense hold up enough for him to stay on the floor? Is Shannon Brown going to contribute anything or is he a bust?

Meanwhile, after yesterday's report of the Cavs looking into signing Juwan Howard, my sources tell me he is going to end up with Dallas. It makes way more sense if you are Juwan to go to Dallas. They have a much better shot of winning a title and are always on the lookout for veteran frontcourt help. Once Varajao signs, where would his minutes come from? I hope i'm wrong.

Sheed Loves a Good Conspiracy Theory

Detroit Pistons Power Forward and resident blowhard Rasheed Wallace loves to hear himself talk. There was seriously nothing better than his "both teams player real hard, man" press conference after a Trail Blazers playoff loss years back. Thank the lord for youtube:



In his latest, Sheed is yacking away about his meltdown during last year's Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Cavs. You remember don't you? When we last left our pal, he was busy getting two technicals and screaming at the officials with the full intentions of getting tossed when the game out of hand. Had the Pistons made a miraculous comeback, Sheed would have been suspended for Game Seven as he received his seventh playoff techinical, signalling an automatic suspension. Now he wants us all to know the truth; well, the truth according to Sheed in this Detroit News article:

"I still don't think they (Cavaliers) beat us, we beat ourselves," Wallace said. "And I think we also fell victim to that personal NBA thing where they are trying to make it a world game and get (television) ratings. They wanted to put their darling in there (the NBA Finals) and they did, and look what ended up happening.

Classic Bitterman. Is there a bigger disgrace going in the NBA right now? Just for more fun, lets take a look at another classic Sheed meltdown moment caught on tape, after the Cavs took down the Pistons in Game Four:


The NBA....Its awful

Just received the entire NBA roster grid and we were shocked to see just how low this league can stoop. Can we talk contraction please? Take a look at some of these names that have now graced "The League." Being a college hoop junkie, I can sit back and laugh.

Darryl Watkins - The man who invented the phrase "five fouls in 10 minutes" at Syracuse.

Courtney Sims - Stick thin and Charmin-soft. The guy couldn't get any Big Ten love, yet he is in the NBA? Ah, to be a 7-footer.

Penny Hardaway - This is 2007 right, not 1994?

Joel Anthony - who? Evidently, he went to UNLV and played two seasons averaging a whopping 5.2 PPG last season.

Shavlik Randolph - if Sixers GM Billy King didn't go to Duke and was a Coach K suck boy, you think this scrub would have ever made the league?

Darius Washington - I can't stand the fact that he has made the league; the Spurs no-less. He bolted Memphis early, a giant mistake, a screwed John Calipari in the process.

Maceo Baston - Seriously, this guy is still hanging around? He has been a perpetual inactive for 10 years. He must have naked pictures of David Stern.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Juwan? I Smell Desparation


According to the great Branson Wright of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Power Forward Juwan Howard have agreed to a contract buyout. Rumor has it this could signal Howard moving a little south and a little more East to Cleveland. While this move reeks of despiration, even a semi-washed up Juwan would be an improvement in the front-court over current scrub-dog 4th options Dwyane Jones and Cedric Simmons. Whether it happens or not remains to be seen. My insiders insist the Mavericks and Celtics are in the mix as well. The Cavs did make one move today that should definitely put them over the top, however; they claimed former Syracuse shooting guard Demetris Nichols

Who would have thought that on the 15 year anniversary of the Fab Five at Michigan, Juwan would be the last man standing. C Webb is a stand-still jump-shooting statue who was so badly exposed during the playoffs last year that he has not caught on with any team this season. He still sits at home wishing Pistons GM Joe Dumars would call. That ain't happenin'. Jalen Rose has successfully turned himself into an NBA analyst for ESPN. As for Jimmy King, according to his
wikipedia page, In a phone interview on the Jim Rome Show on November 30, 2006, Jimmy stated he was currently working as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street. Ray Jackson, according to Wikipedia, Jackson now lives in Austin, Texas where he runs a moving company and Rise Up Inc., a not-for-profit organization that assists children socially, educationally and on the basketball court.

In other Cavaliers news, they still have no real point guard, Anderson Varajao and Sasha Pavlovic are still holding out, the sky is blue and water is wet.

More Reason For Tribe Fans To Puke

Big News Indians fans! One of your least favorite opposing players will now be facing you 19 times next year. According to my sources, the Detroit Tigers have just announced that they have acquired the well traveled Edgar Renteria from Atlanta for #1 pitching prospect Jair Jurrjens and top OF prospect Gorkys Hernandez. This moves allows the Tigers to do what they had talked about after their season ended over a month ago (haha, too bad, so sad); move Carlos "the statue" Guillen to first base full time. This also most likely signals the end of The Mayor Sean Casey's run in the motor city.

Renteria has a history of killing the Indians, but of course the most painful of all was his 1997 Workd Series 11th inning Game Seven single to win the title for the Marlins (I literally just threw up in my mouth). To this day, I have still never see the ball go through. If the highlight comes on, I turn the channel or turn my head. In 97, the minute it got past Charlie Nagy's glove, I went into my room and didn't come out until the ceiling started spinning and I began to yack. True story, unfortunately for me.

There must be something wrong with this guy, as he has become almost the Larry Brown of infielders. He hits over .310 seemingly every year and plays an above average short, yet the Tigers will be his fourth team in five years; The Cardinals had him in 2004 before the Red Sox signed him to the big deal. He never could handle the pressure of Boston and they dealt him to Atlanta for a man near and dear to our hearts, a one time phenom, prospect named Andy Marte! Now, the Braves have gotten two top tier prospects for him. Remember, Jurrjens shut down the Tribe in his second Major League start in August. He is a future ace if he can overcome his elbow problems.

GM Dave Dombrowski is doing his best to re-create the 97 Marlins. Who's next Dave, Bobby Bonilla? Al Leiter? Alex Fernandez? Maybe Jim Eisenreich is available. “Edgar is a premier major league player that is a great fit for our club,” Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said. “I have a great history with him and I’m looking forward to being reunited with him.”

Watch Peter Bury A-Rod and Bor-Ass

God Bless Peter Gammons. The man loves his Red Sox and hates him some Scott Boras:

Man...These Monday's are Rough

ah, an Au mauge to the great Richard Christy of the Howard Stern show; one of the greatest prank callers of all time. We're gonna go all across the board this morning.

I emailed this weekend with the creator of the pre-eminent sports blog in the business,
The Big Lead. I asked for advice on how to get the buzz out there and how to get my readers to keep interested in what I have to say. His advice: "In a word? Dedication....I don't know if a blog can be successful if you just do one post a day.....You have to keep people coming back for more. You need updates to keep them coming back." So I will do my best to update as much as I can in smaller pieces rather than a long article per day. We will see if time permits me to keep this format going.

The Browns are 4-3, a game over .500 and now the national press in climbing aboard. I think it is still a little premature to do so, given the state of the defense. Lets be honest, this may be the worst defense in the NFL. The 0-8 Rams, with THREE third-string offensive lineman yesterday, gained close to 400 yards of offense. Cornerback Leigh Bodden was atrocious or as the
Cleveland Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi described it "bordering on awful." The pass rush is as existant as me at Temple on Sunday mornings. But it is an offensive league, and the Browns are a juggernaut. Did you know that Derek Anderson's 17 TD passes is second in the NFL to Tom Brady's 30? That's right, DA has more TD passes than Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, et all. SI.com's Peter King in his Monday Morning QB column lists the Browns at #11 in his "Fine Fifteen." Foxsports.com's John Czarnecki gives Anderson more props this morning as well.

Just think out loud, but..... if the Browns continue their success with Anderson at QB and he has say, a Pro Bowl season, does Phil Savage consider trading the Savior himself Brady Quinn? The argument for says that Anderson is now ready to explode onto the scene, he has a year as a starter under his belt, has a cannon arm, and great chemistry with Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, and Joe Jurevicius. Quinn's contract isn't nearly as bad as it could be, since he was drafted #23 overall and has a ton of incentives in it. Teams like Chicago, Jacksonville, and Miami would LOVE a do-over with the chance to get their hands on Brady. Nobody knows how he will be in the NFL yet, and this can only be a good thing for the Browns brass. His value will never be higher.

The argument against is that Derek Anderson could be nothing more than Kelly Holcomb, the former Browns QB who had a cup of coffee as a starter and showed a great touch and ability to move the team. But when the defenses figured him out, he went right back to being the backup he really was. Everyone knows that you need two good QB's these days in the NFL. Other than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre, every QB seems to get hurt at some point. Trading Quinn who you just traded a first round pick to get would be conceding that Phil Savage and his staff made a mistake by not giving DA the job from day one and sticking with him. Plus, you wasted a first round pick, which is sacred these days int he NFL.

Big shocker that the Red Sox completed the sweep of the Rockies last night. I am proud to say I managed not to watch more than 10 pitches the entire series. Like I want to see Jonathon Papelbon go jump and down in celebration, or those morons wearing goggles in the clubhouse to shield their eyes from the champagne. The insufferable group that is the Red Sox nation is all over the net today. Tribe fans, if you enjoy throwing up,
Click here and scroll down, Boston Dirt Dogs have covered the celebration to to bottom. The only good thing I can say about the Red Sox at this point is that cancer survivor Jon Lester pitched 5 2/3rd of shutout ball. Good for you Jon, you deserve it. Hey, Rockies. thanks for playing!

What is worse? The National League, The NFC, or the NBA Eastern Conference? I begged the question the other day, but it definitely should be looked into. ESPN's Peter Gammons said before the playoff started that the AL East's third place team, the Toronto Blue Jays, would be the class of the National League. Seriously, as hot as the Rockies were, did anyone take a playoff rotation of Jeff Francis, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Fogg, Aaron Cook, and Franklyn Morales seriously? The Red Sox needed to come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Indians, who had disposed of the $200 million Yankees in four games, yet never trailed the Rockies the entire series. What does this say about the Arizona Diamondbacks? You know, the only 90 win team in the National League?

We'll have more later...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Over .500! Never thought I'd See the Day


Yes ladies and gentleman, your Cleveland Browns are officially over.500 at 4-3. The boys from Berea struggled with those tough 0-8 St. Louis Rams, but ended up on the right side of a 27-20 game, thanks to what is looking like a Pro Bowl combination of Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards.

I will never use the "P" word with this team, but the offense is virtually unstoppable since DA took over the reigns. Its amazing what a good offensive line will do for you. You think Tim Couch would have liked to have had this line blocking for him? The good news for Timmy, he is retired with at least $40 million in the bank and he is married to former Playmate of the Year
Heather Kozar. Anyways, with all of that time to throw, DA once again showed off his cannon arm to the tune of 248 yards and three TD passes. The key was no interceptions. He hit Edwards on several big plays; eight of the 18 completions went Braylon's way. Jamal Lewis seemingly went for five yards a pop. Jerome Harrison and Jason Wright were great changes of pace backing up Jamal. Joe Jurevicius is finally being used they way he should be; three of his five receptions were on third downs that extended drives. Even Josh Cribbs showed up in Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski's game plan, gaining 18 yards on a customized run.

That was the good news.

The bad news is that the other side of the ball is still a major problem. The Rams came in averaging a league worst 11.4 points per game. RB Steven Jackson ran all over the pathetic Browns D for the first two series of the game before leaving with a re-aggravated groin injury. That was the best thing that could have happened to the Todd Grantham's D. Jackson carried eight times for 41 yards. His backup, Rookie Brian Leonard more than doubled the carries (15) and gained only 33. The Pass defense was even worse. The lack of pass rush gets more and more magnified every week; this week more than others, since the Rams have the worst offensive line in the league. Mark Bulger easily torched the lackluster secondary for 310 yards on 24-36. Yet, somehow everytime the Rams got into the Red zone after Jackson went out, the offense sputtered.

Browns fans, coaches, and players can all thank Rams coach Scott Linehan for that. His play calling on third and fourth downs was about as smart as Joel Skinner holding Kenny Lofton at third. Twice in the fourth quarter, the Rams had a chance to tie the game. Twice on fourth down they failed. Linehan's "Leonard up the middle" failed once. It was so miserable that given a second chance with less than three minutes to go, he tried it again, this time with the Browns loading up the box with nine men. Memo to Linehan and Bulger, its called an audible, You should try it sometime.

Browns cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Eric Wright hadn't stopped Torry Holt, Drew Bennett, and Isaac Bruce all day long, yet twice Linehan went with Leonard. Great call! Hey, this was a nice road win for the Browns, something they haven't been able to do all year. They also won back to back games for the first time seemingly since the Eisenhower administration. But any halfway decent team finishes that game. The Rams aren't even close to halfway decent. The fact that they had three chances to win the game against one of the worst defenses in the league and still couldn't get it done speaks volumes about them.

But it also says a lot of the Browns who in the past would have for sure blown a game like this. There is a lot to like about the offense. Derek Anderson has thrown for three TD's in back to back games, something that hasn't been done since Brian Sipe in 1983. Edwards is a star about to emerge. If he could only hang on to the easy ones and keep his head. (SIDE NOTE: He must be called to the carpet for his ridiculous tauting penalty for taking his helmet off after a big first down catch, that's NFL 101 Braylon. He also dropped about what could have been the game-clinching ball from Anderson late in the 4th quarter. Right in his hands. It was vintage Braylon; made the spectacular catches all day and dropped the easiest one of them all in the biggest spot.) Kellen Winslow is playing at 60% and is still at the top of his position. The line blocks astonishingly well for both the run and the pass. Nobody even mentions Brady Quinn anymore. Music to all of our ears.

So Berea is 4-3. With a charmin-soft schedule remaining (Houston, Buffalo, San Francisco at home, Arizona, NY Jets, Cincinnati on the road) 9-7 is not out of the question. How many of you had that at the beginning of the year? I know I didn't. My 5-11 at best call is looking real bad. But i'm more than happy to be wrong in this case.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sick Dude....Sick

Even though I refuse to watch the World Series, I can not help but notice the Red Sox tire marks all over the Rockies collective backs. As I type this, the Red Sox lead 6-0 in the 4th. What a friggin joke! The National League should battle the NBA Eastern Conference for the junior varsity supremecy. The Rockies sent Josh Fogg out to pitch Game Three of the World Series. Josh Fogg - the same Josh Fogg who was non-tendered by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The same Josh Fogg who's seven year career record is 60-60 with a 4.90 ERA. The Red Sox countered with Daisuke Matsuzaka - the $102 million dollar man. The whole thing makes me sick.

This should be OUR year. I've said it before, this set up so well for the Indians. A 3-1 lead with 19-game winners C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona set to pitch. Home Field advantage for the World Series against a team who has had nine days off to think about how good they are. Yet, this is Cleveland and we always manage to screw this up somehow. Looking at how badly the Rockies have performed, this was it for us. Naturally though, instead of enjoying this week, I am blogging bitterly about it. Ah, the joys of growing up a Clevelander.

Though I am not an Ohio State fan, its time to give them the props they deserve. They have just gone into a very hostile Beaver Stadium at Penn State, a sea of White no less, and literally owned the Nittany Lions. At this moment, its 34-10 and it isn't even that close. Lets call a spade to spade - Jim Tressel can flat out coach. He is at the top of his profession with Urban Meyer and Les Miles. First year starter Todd Boeckmann has done very little wrong at QB. He manages the game well, makes few mistakes, and seems to thrive throwing the deep ball to stud WR Brian Robiske. Oh, and that defense - it may just be the best in the country. I fully expect and undefeated Buckeye team to take the field in Ann Arbor in three short weeks. How much fun is that game going to be?

I've been silent long enough, the Kansas FOOTBALL Jayhawks are for real. Ok, so they played three out of conference cupcakes to start the season. They still haven't had to play a ranked team. Oklahoma and Texas are not on the schedule. But you cannot argue with 8-0 start, a defense that is shutting everybody down and an offense that can score on anybody. They won at Colorado, something Oklahoma couldn't do. They won at Kansas State, something Texas couldn't do on its own home field. Tonight, they won at Texas A&M's Kyle Field, home of the vaunted 12th man. Lastly, have you seen coach Mark Mangino? The man is big. Very big. Big on talent. His "Donnie Brasco" sweatsuit tonight was the stuff of legend. I've posted a pic above. The guy is intense. Here are two of his classic meltdowns:










The Browns head to St. Louis tomorrow to play the 0-7 Rams. What are the odds that CBS actually puts this game in HD? I'd say slim to none. Jamal Lewis is still a gametime decision.

This SEC is something else. So Florida rips Tennessee. LSU beats Florida. Kentucky beats LSU. South Carolina beats Kentucky and Georgia. Vanderbilt beats South Carolina. Mississippi State beats Auburn and Kentucky. Auburn beats Florida in the Swamp. Georgia beats Florida and Alabama. Alabama beats Tennessee. Tennessee beats South Carolina. WOW. Oh my goodness, I know South Carolina doesn't really have a player named Captain Munnerlyn, do they? That may be the name of the year.

There's Weak, and Then There's the Cavs Preseason

Not like preseason NBA means anything, or is even worth discussing 99.9% of the time, but the 2007-08 Cleveland Cavaliers are looking like a disaster. Now I never watch preseason sporting events (other than KU games), but tonight's Cavs/Celtics game was on ESPN and with my lame life thanks to my eight month old son, I was home tonight and wanted to see if everything I've read about this preseason was true. Judging by what I saw tonight, its all true, and maybe even worse than I imagined.

Last night, The Cavs were disgraced by Toronto 111-78 after trailing at half by only five. No big deal right? Well when you follow it up with a 114-89 loss to Boston to finish your preseason at 1-6, its a concern. Especially when said team is coming off an Eastern Conference Championship. Lets start with the fact that Boobie Gibson is out with a hamstring injury. Eric Snow is out with his injured knee, and the much publicized pair of holdouts Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varajao are still MIA overseas with no return date in sight. That leaves Lebron without little talent beside him and essentially no depth.

What I watched tonight was pathetic. Dwayne Jones, Ira Newble and Devin Brown are playing the roles of The Wild Thing and Sasha? Ugh. Damon Jones in the starting lineup and being counted on for a large role? Scary. Newble hit 4-5 shots for 10 points and DJ buried all three of his triples, but Newble is supposed to be helping in the post - he had as many rebounds as I did tonight. Amon Jones once again lived up to his nickname - "No D." While he admired his jumpers on one end, C's point guard Rajon Rondo was busy running circles around him, penetrating and dishing to KG, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Eddie House, and even Big Baby Davis. The Cavs double teams were as slow as the security line at O'Hare on a Friday afternoon. Last year, Newble was inactive at least 50% of the season and when he was active, he was the 12th man. DJ was the 11th man. Devin Brown - what did he have to offer? A suspect J, four turnovers, and five fouls in 18 minutes.

The "new" offense looks like the same old Cavs, four guys standing and watching while Lebron dribbles around and tries to make something happen. Drew Gooden had one of his in and out games, scoring just six points with six rebounds in 32 minutes. Without Andy backing him up, he cannot take nights off the way he seemed to do tonight. Z was Z. Larry Hughes actually looked decent, hitting 7-17 shots for 18 points, but running the team is still not his forte. Jason Kidd, he ain't - four assists and five turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Celtics looked revitalized with The Big Three. Experts say they don't have enough surrounding them, but Rondo is a keeper at the point as long as he keeps defending the way he does and can limit his turnovers. Twinsburg native James Posey is a solid role player off the bench who can do a little of everything. Kendrick Perkins is still a work on progress in the middle, but I think Cavs GM Danny Ferry would be delighted to have him over Jones and Cedric Simmons any day of the week. Big Baby Davis was a steal in the second round and will be a solid 10 year pro - mark it down.

I know, this is a typical Cleveland "the sky is falling after the preseason" view, but you can't argue the fact that the Cavs stood pat this offseason, got a year older, and are sitting idly by while two of its key cogs are holding out for money they will never see. To me, getting out of the first round in the East will be a chore, even with Lebron James on the squad. Boston is better. Toronto is better. Orlando is better. The Bulls are better. The Pistons still have Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and company. Yet the Cavs seem worse. It's not just me. I linked this article yesterday, but it bears another look. Other than former Clevelander (and Cavs honk) Chris Broussard, nobody at ESPN is picking the Cavs to repeat or even come close.
The average consensus is between 4th and 5th.

I can't say I disagree. Make sure you read
this Brian Windhorst piece about the Varajao contract dispute and his agent, Dan Fegan. Windhorst, of the Akron Beacon-Journal, is the only source for Cavaliers inside scoop. Here's another solid piece by Windhorst about the alleged Cavaliers "new offense." Windhorst makes the PD's Branson Wright look like an amateur (well, lets call it what it is).

RANDOM SPORTS THOUGHTS:

1. Big Ohio State/Penn State game tomorrow night on ABC in primetime. People here are really jocking this team, but I ain't buying it. Their defense is National title caliber, but they have yet to play real competition (sorry, winning at Purdue and at Washington - the 8th best team in the PAC-10 doesn't count). I don't know if Penn State is real competition either. Their best win was over perhaps the biggest fraud in the country, Wisconsin. The Buckeyes next four games will show who they really are: at Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and at Michigan. If they win Saturday, I bet they go to Ann Arbor undefeated for another shot at the BCS title game in what will most likely be Lloyd Carr's swan song. Can you imagine that drama?

2. Red Sox manager Terry Francona has decided to go with David Ortiz over Kevin Youkilis at first base in game three in Colorado. Youkilis killed the Indians in the ALCS and is hitting .396 with 12 RBI this postseason and hasn't made an error at first in over a year. I don't care how clutch Big Papi is, this will prove to be a mistake when he butchers balls in the field tomorrow night. You know what, what do I care?

3. Kansas has been listed at #4 in ESPN/USA Today's preseason college basketball poll. Preseason polls mean as much to me as this year's World Series, but it's nice to see us back in the top five. I'll give you my top five without my research right now - this is subject to change:

1. Tennessee - Nobody believes, but I do. Bruce Pearl is my guy.
2. North Carolina - Roy's squad is loaded
3. Memphis - I'm drinking the Derrick Rose kool-aid
4. UCLA - They took us down last year and only lost the extremely overrated Arron Afflalo
5. Kansas - Memo to Bill Self: Final Four or bust. Your talent well dries up in 200 days.

4. Friday Night Lights - The best show on TV bar none.

5. The Red Sox nation has officially become insufferable. It was cute for years, the whole curse of the Bambino and all, but now, it's just tired. They have become what they despised all of those years; they are as arrogant as the Yankee fans (Seth, you aren't included). Jimmy Kimmel had a hilarious take on this. Peep it below.



6. You want to know why I love Jayhawk basketball? What this eight minute tribute. To quote my boy The Danimal after watching this: "One word - Chills." Fast forward to
the 2:29 mark.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Laziness Spawns Links


As I stated earlier, I refused to watch one pitch of the World Series last night. I didn't even bother checking the score. You want to know what I did last night? I watched Gossip Girl on the CW; who isn't down with some solid teen angst featuring the lives of fictional over-privileged Manhattan high school kids? I fell asleep in the mid-10 o'clock hour watching Dirty Sexy Money on ABC. Never once did I know what was going on in the game until I woke up this morning to find out that the Red Sox pounded the Rockies 13-1. Immediately, the Cleveland-inferiority complex inside of me raged "this is so typical. That should be us!" The worst possible thing that can happen to a team as hot as the Rockies was an eight day layoff. Talk about a massive momentum killer to a team that won 21 of 22.

Anyways, the lazy man approach is in full effect. I stumbled across some solid reading material on my beloved teams that I thought I should share with you. After all, we are sitting around in C-Town awaiting Sunday at this point with the Cavaliers season still a week away (Oct 31 vs. Dallas) and my KU Jayhawks first preseason is the day after (Nov 1 vs Pittsburg St.) We can discuss how dumb Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varajao are for holding out when they have no leverage. We can talk about dumbass Rams Tight End Randy McMichael guaranteeing a win this Sunday in St. Louis over the Browns. Love smack talk from a Tight End on an 0-7 team. We can always talk about the Tribe's 2008 schedule which was just released. Nothing like starting at home on March 31st. Lock that one of the first three games is snowed out. What about the fact that the Red Sox and Yankees each come to the Jake only once - both in April. The Padres play as many games at the Jake as the Yankees do. That sounds right, doesn't it. Interleague Play is weak....LAST WEEK.

Anderson Seizing his Opportunity - Jeffrey Chadiha, espn.com

Collins, Kansas Shooting for a Better Ending - Lindsay Willhite, USA Today

What Indians Fans Don't Want to Hear - Jeff Kallman, Sports Central

Daily Dime - Cavaliers Preview - espn.com

Indians Release 2008 Schedule - Anthony Castrovince, mlb.com

Two Rams Guarantee Victory - Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Tribe's Offseason Moves Already Hinted At - Sheldon Ocker, Akron Beacon-Journal

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

George Mitchell = Fraud

The MLB top men, Bud Selig included, have been much maligned over the years. But with baseball's attendance setting records and steroid cheaters being busted, things have been looking up for Bud. The elephant in the room continues to be the lack of a test for HGH. Two years ago, Selig hired former Senator George Mitchell as an "independent investigator" to look into the steroid controversy. For the most part, nobody cooperated with Mitchell's investigation, other than Yankees First Baseman Jason Giambi and former Diamondbacks Pitcher Jason Grimsley. Both only spoke to Mitchell because they essentially had no other choice. Giambi admitted taking steroids in the press, stating he wished he hadn't "taken that stuff." Grimsley's house was raided after he received and signed for a package containing two kits of HGH worth over $3200. That was the tip of the iceberg for Grimsley.

But I digress.

Selig hired his buddy Mitchell to oversee this investigation, but since nobody will talk, all he has to work with are the book Game of Shadows, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, and anything he can get his hands on from FBI reports. Recently, names have come out - Scott Schoeneweis of the Mets, Jay Gibbons of the Orioles, fringe guys like this. Still no stars though. Another you would consider a "fringe" guy was outed on Sunday by the Chronicle. His name is Paul Byrd and he pitches for the Cleveland Indians.

How is this different than Gibbons and Schoeneweis? Well, Byrd is a member of the Indians, the team that on Sunday was about to play a one game, winner take all game for the right to go to the World Series. Byrd was expected to be the first guy out of the bullpen if their was early trouble. What day was this story leaked? Sunday - The SAME DAY AS GAME SEVEN. As if the Indians weren't distracted enough by losing a two game lead in the ALCS, now they had to listen to questions about Byrd's alleged HGH usage.

Again, what am I getting at here? Former Senator Mitchell, a man of "integrity" also happens to have a current affiliation as Director of the front office for a Major League team. What team is that you ask? The Boston Red Sox. The same Red Sox team that was about to play game seven against the Indians.

Do you think this is a coincidence that on this particular day, the story about Byrd was leaked? Mitchell claimed it was. Yet, he felt the need to make the following statement to defend himself on Monday: "Neither I nor any member of my investigative staff had anything whatsoever to do with the publication of the allegations about Mr. Byrd," the statement said. "We had no prior knowledge of those allegations, and we first learned of them, along with the rest of the public, through news accounts."

Ken Rosenthal on foxsports.com
wrote this excellent piece and replied to Mitchell's statement by stating "If Mitchell had no prior knowledge of these allegations, then you have to wonder just how well his investigation is going. But the perception of bias might be an even bigger problem." Well done, Ken.

He couldn't be more right on. I'm not saying Mitchell leaked the story, but how does that come out the day of Game Seven? How does Selig appoint an "independent investigator" who isn't independent. He is listed right on the
Red Sox Website as "Director." Could Uncle Buddy really be that short sighted and NOT see this is a GIGANTIC conflict of interest? Just when baseball is ready to take a step forward, it once again shoots itself in the foot and takes two steps back.

In closing, I say this: What a fool and a fraud George Mitchell is. The man that Bud Selig put in charge of investigating steroid use in baseball is lying today. He says he did not leak the Paul Byrd HGH story to the SF Chronicle. Oh, ok George.. so who did then? Scribes around MLB have said it for months that leaks have come out of Mitchell's office when players like Troy Glaus and Gary Matthews Jr. have been named as HGH users. Now, Byrd gets fingered the DAY OF GAME 7 and all of the sudden Mitchell has to backtrack and say he knows nothing? Hmmm. Mitchell is a part-owner and Director of.... THE RED SOX!!! Same team that Byrd's Indians were facing Sunday in Game 7. How come Mitchell has had to backtrack today and come out and deny it? Because he has been BUSTED!! Another great move by Selig-- to appoint a man who is a Red Sox homer and slappy and part-owner. Yeah, that is fair. have any Sox been named as steroid or HGH users or buyers? Of course not. Mitchell would never let that happen. He's covering his own ass as a member of the team. Sick dude. Hey, still doesn't change the outcome, Red Sox beat the Tribe fair and square. But Sunday's report was Horse bleep.

What a Day This Should Have Been - Midweek Wrap Up

Today should be the day. We should be unable to work, too excited to concentrate on our jobs. We should be thinking about Jeff Francis, Matt Holliday, and Todd Helton. Instead, I'm still fixated on Joel Skinner's stop sign, Casey Blake's double pay and error, and the mysterious disappearance of Travis Hafner's bat at the worst possible time. As the great Frank Costanza once said: "Serenity Now." The good news - I won't miss my son's first Halloween.

So now that our baseball season has come to a sad end, the Browns, Cavaliers, and Kansas Jayhawks will be getting the majority of the focus, but you can bet I will be talking Tribe offseason and do a wrap up at some point soon. I have pretty much neglected my other teams since October 1st, but the Tribe will always be at the top of my list. Lets start this morning by going around the horn.

Browns - The bye week actually came at a pretty good time for Browns fans, so they could give their full focus to the Tribe, but now, the eyes of Cleveland are focused back on Berea. At 3-3, the Browns unbelievably are only a game out of first place thanks to the Steelers loss at Denver Sunday night (not like any of us watched a second of that game as it was on at the same time as Game Seven.) With the winless Rams on the schedule this week, can the Browns actually put together back to back wins for the first time in four plus years? With the offense rolling the way it is, anything is possible. It also helps that the Rams are maybe the worst team in the NFL right now and has an offensive line that si.com's
Peter King calls "one of the worst in recent NFL history. Maybe in all of NFL history."

Will Jamal Lewis' foot give him the opportunity to play this week in the dome? Both Lewis and the Browns would love that (as would I as I am working on a trade for him for my fantasy team); the Rams are 24th in the NFL against the run, allowing 129.6 yards per game. Expect the Browns offense to keep on their staggering pace; The Rams defense allows over 27 points per game. Under QB Derek Anderson, the Clowns offense has averaged over 32 points per game, including 41 points in their last game, a win over Miami.

With the Rams up next, a very winnable game, followed by a home date with Seattle, all of a sudden, the November 11th meeting with Pittsburgh looks like it could be a battle for first place. Did I really just type that? I shouldn't have. Knowing this franchise, the Rams could get their first win, the Seahawks could come into to Cleveland and knock them off, and then the Steelers could manhandle them in Pittsburgh. Just like that, the season could unravel. That is why this week's game is so important. Look at what happened in Oakland in week three. A blocked field goal is what is standing between the Browns and a 4-2 first place record. In the NFL, anything is possible and anyone can beat anyone; unless you are playing the New England Patriots.

Cavaliers - Well the season starts a week from tomorrow with Dallas coming to town. The Cavaliers will raise their Eastern Conference Champions banner to the currently empty rafters at The Q. Halloween night most likely won't be a treat for Lebron James and his depleted crew. As flawed as last year's team was, they still had enough to get to the Finals. Three key pieces of the rotation won't be on the floor next Thursday for a team that had a short rotation to begin with. PF/C Anderson Varajao, SG Sasha Pavlovic, and PG Eric Snow all won't be uniform.

Varajao and Pavlovic's contract situations have been well documented and both are currently holding out; a practice which is rarely done in the NBA. 99 out of 100 times a restricted free agent who cannot get a long-term deal finalized, signs a one-year "tender" offer which allows them to play and become an unrestricted free agent at season's end. Varajao's agent Dan Fegan has been described as the "Scott Boras of the NBA," not a good sign if you are a Cavaliers fan. He is much more important to the Cavaliers success than Pavlovic. Right now, Mike Brown has only three big men he can trust, Zydrunus Illgauskas, Drew Gooden, and Donyell Marshall. Z is always a threat to get hurt and is at his best when he doesn't have to play over 30-35 minutes a night. Gooden is solid, but isn't half the defender "The Wild Thing" is. Marshall isn't getting any younger and like Z, is better when his minutes are limited. Let's hope his three-point shot returns this year as well. He started to look old last year, but still is an excellent rebounder.

Sasha is a different story. I don't know what he is doing here. He should have taken the tender offer and played his way into a big free agent deal. Sasha also has an inflated view of himself. To quote my stat guru Matt G "There are a million Sasha Pavlovic's out there." Sasha sitting also give the Cavs brass a chance to give extended minutes to last year's first round pick Shannon Brown. If Brown can step up to meet his potential, Sasha becomes expendable and the Cavs can save much needed cap space. They also have veteran Devin Brown in the fold.

Eric Snow, who is a key veteran presence on this young team, is out indefinitely after having knee surgery. Mike Brown always knew if need be, he could sit Snow for games at a time, but if called upon, would be ready. The beautiful one, Damon Jones, will be the beneficiary of the Snow injury and the Pavlovic holdout. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. All I know is that the Cavs rotation does not look the one of a title contender. Take a look:

Starters

SF Lebron James

PF Drew Gooden

C Zydrunas Illgauskas

SG Daniel Gibson

PG Larry Hughes

Bench

PF Donyell Marshall

SG Shannon Brown

PG Damon Jones

SG Devin Brown

C Dwayne Jones

PF Cedric Simmons

SF Ira Newble

Look at that bench....all I can say is YIKES. With the season starting with Dallas and New York at home, followed by a west coast trip to Utah, Golden State, Phoenix, the Clippers, Denver and Sacramento. Again. YIKES.

Kansas Basketball - I'll get into the current team in a few days, but the early signing period is really starting to heat up. As I stated in an earlier blog, Bill Self is going through his worst recruiting run since coming to Kansas at the worst possible time. Even with gobs of playing time available, his top targets have all passed him by. Greg Monroe committed to Georgetown. Romero Osby and Terrance Henry chose Ole Miss. DeAndre Liggins who looked like a shoe-in to continue the Chicago-pipeline to Lawrence, spurned Self for Kentucky.

Yesterday though, Self received some good news in the form of a commitment 6'8, 235 PF Quintrell Thomas out of Elizabeth, N.J. He is a solid rebounder and shot blocker who should be able to get minutes right away with the departures of Seniors Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson, along with the expected NBA bolt by Sophomore Darrell Arthur. “I’m going to one of the best programs in the country. I’m really excited. There’s an opportunity for a lot of playing time. I like the players and coaches. Pretty much it’s quiet there, but you can also have fun when you want to,” Thomas said.

The good news for Self is that he got a commitment of any kind from a front-court player; His other two signees for the 08-09 season are 6'4 SG Travis Releford out of Kansas City and 6'5 JUCO SF Mario Little who played his High School ball in Chicago. The bad news is that Thomas was not even ranked in the top 150 by the Rivals.com scouting service. When KU is getting a guy whose other finalists were UNLV and Rutgers, it may be danger time, especially considering the fact that this year's team has five seniors and expect to lose Arthur and Brandon Rush to the NBA. The frontcourt rotation will be wide open with prized Freshman Cole Aldrich the only lock to get major PT.

Another issue Self may have is how the Thomas commitment affect the recruitment of the Morris Twins, Markieff and Marcus. The Philly kids visited KU two weeks ago and are making their last visit this weekend to Villanova, a school they should already be pretty familiar with seeing as though they are from the same city. KU and 'Nova ar their final two. Marcus is the more highly thought of player, ranked #37 by Rivals. Markieff is no slouch at #74. Then there is top 25 big man J'Mison "Bobo" Morgan, who will announce his intentions on November 2nd - his 18th birthday. Self has worked the hardest on Morgan by a mile. Losing him would be devastating. Rumors have been flying about Morgan over the last couple of weeks. One day, KU is out and Alabama and LSU are the top two. A week later, he is visiting Cincinnati and KU, and UCLA are at the top. Morgan told the Baton Rouge Advocate a few weeks prior he has a top three of KU, LSU and UCLA, though no school has been eliminated.

Isn't recruiting fun?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Commenting on the Collapse


I'll tell you what, it's been a long day of rehashing and second-guessing. Once Dustin Pedroia hit that bases-clearing double in the eighth, I was done. I didn't watch the end of the game and I haven't seen any highlights. I won't. I never will. I never want to have to see Joel Skinner putting up the stop sign to Kenny Lofton from five different angles. I don't want to see Casey Blake reverting back to the guy is despised for the last three years by killing the rally with an inning-ending double play, then making the error that would open up the flood gates even more about two minutes later. All I can say is thank goodness for the Howard Stern show. Otherwise I would have been listening to sports talk all day.

I read the Cleveland papers and some of the national articles, and it seemed that Skinner got off lightly. As did Blake. You cannot deny that Skinner's gaffe completely changed the complexion of the game. Had Lofton scored, the momentum would have turned to the Indians. Maybe Hideki Okajima pitches differently to Blake. Maybe Blake takes a strike instead of swinging at that first pitch. Maybe Blake isn't so distraught over his 5-4-3 double play, that he has his head together and makes that routine play he booted to start the bottom of the seventh off of the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury. If, If, If. Yeah, and if my grandma had balls, she'd be my grandpa. The bottom line is that the Red Sox are going on, the Indians are going home, and a city had to live through yet another in a series of misfortunes that we will not soon forget.

SIDE NOTES:

1. Nobody was talking about it today, but the Fox coverage last night was disgustingly pro-Boston. You can understand why. The Rockies/Diamondbacks series average a 2.3 TV rating. Last night's Indians/Red Sox game seven delivered over an 11 rating. Trust me, it wasn't because the Indians were playing. I don't know when it happened, but Boston has become America's team.

2. To that point, announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were brutal. I marked down three references that were painful:

-In the first inning, right after Manny Ramirez's ball hit the spot where the dirt meets the grass and skips over Jhonny Peralta's head, Buck and McCarver scoffed at it as if it were no big thing. Had the ball not hit the lip, its a tailor made double play ball to end the inning. McCarver made the statement two minutes later "another two out RBI by Ramirez." IT WAS A DOUBLE PLAY BALL!!!! They gave no credence to the fact that it was a fluky bounce.

-Kenny Lofton lines one off the wall in the fifth that Manny Ramirez played perfectly and threw to second base. Lofton was called out by umpire Brian Gorman. All replays showed he was clearly safe, as does the picture above (props to Brian Kuntz of the Plain Dealer). Yet after the Indians followed with two more hits, McCarver asked the rhetorical question "how big is the defensive play by Ramirez now?" How about "How big was the blown call by Brian Gorman now?" On three other occasions, Buck and McCarver mentioned the "great defensive play by Ramirez."

-When Victor Martinez took a 3-1 pitch from Okajima that was clearly high, it was called a strike. Buck and McCarver sat silent. The Fox Pitch Trax replay showed the ball a good 10-12 inches out of the strike zone, yet didn't comment.

3. The national media seemed overly giddy that the Red Sox pulled it out. I tried to avoid it at all costs, but I did see parts of Around The Horn and PTI on ESPN. Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times, ever the negative nelly, brought up the Cleveland Curse and said Joel Skinner will go down with Earnest Byner, Craig Ehlo, and Jose Mesa in the pantheon of Cleveland sports goats. Worst of all, typically unknowledgeable Mariotti, said "Ryan Garko's quote before game six that 'the champagne tastes better on the road' was posted in every Red Sox locker and was a mistake to say." Guess what Jay - do your research - Garko made that statement AFTER THE YANKEES SERIES when the Tribe won game four on the road.

Michael Wilbon of PTI was one of the few who agreed with me that Skinner's blunder changed the entire complexity of the game. Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio made this statement to start the show: "Yes, I picked the Indians to win the series, but I was rooting for the Red Sox, because they just are much more interesting." He also stated the obvious that MLB clearly wanted the Sox to win and that the Sox and Yankees are a must every year for ratings sake.

4. Lets talk about Paul Byrd - The Byrd saga was leaked Sunday morning. The San Francisco Chronicle showed credit card statements that Byrd spent over $25,000 on HGH from a Florida Pharmacy, which has had its license suspended for shady practices. Do you think it was a coincidence that this story happened to be leaked the day of game seven? The Former Senator George Mitchell-led steroid investigation is popping up new names almost weekly. Byrd says he had taken HGH under a doctor's supervision for a growth on his pituitary gland from 2002-2005. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but the point is that this story could have been printed next week or three weeks ago, yet it came out the day of game seven. FYI - George Mitchell is the listed on the Red Sox website in the front office as the "Director." He has also been in John Henry's owners box for every game.

5. If you want to play the blame game for the series, it must go to four men - Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Fausto Carmona, and C.C. Sabathia. Sizemore went 3-17 with two RBI. The straw that stirs the Indians drink was a complete non-factor. Pronk's horrible series was well chronicled; 4-27 with 12 K's. From Game Three on, he went 1-19 skid with 11 K's. His three pitch strike out to Jonathon Papelbon in the eighth inning representing the tying run said it all. He couldn't touch three straight fastballs. Carmona and Sabathia were supposed to be the X-factors in the series. Oh they were allright, but because of what they didn't do. Here's a chart for you to look at that says it all. C.C. and Fausto Regular Season vs. ALCS:

2007 - 38-15, 3.14 ERA, Hits per 9 innings 8.6, Walks per 9 innings 1.9
ALCS - 0-3, 12.67 ERA, Hits per 9 innings 14.9, Walks per 9 innings 8.8

That's four of your five best players who didn't show up when the lights were the brightest. Yet with all of that said, the Indians were just one win away from making it to the World Series. Pretty Amazing.

LINKS:

Skinner Explains Giving Lofton the Stop Sign - Joe Maxse, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Wait Continues for the Indians and Their Fans - Bud Shaw, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Walks Defined Starting Pitcher - Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Collossal Collapse - Sheldon Ocker, Akron Beacon-Journal

Game Seven Flukes Not the Problem - Patrick McManamon, Akron Beacon-Journal

Indians Finish Off a Complete Collapse - Howard Bryant, espn.com

They'll be Back - Joe Lemire, si.com

Indians Reflect on Series Gone Wrong - Albert Chen, si.com

Mitchell Denies he Leaker Byrd Story - Associated Press

The Stop Sign

You've heard of The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, and Jose Mesa. Now you've just seen "The Stop Sign." This one hurts as much (OK, maybe not as much as Jose Mesa's meltdown in 97). It was all there for the taking - A 3-1 series lead with the twin 19-game winners going back to back, home field advantage in the World Series against an expansion team again, a chance at redemption, and a chance to end the Cleveland Curse once and for all. That all went by the boards in a 60 second flash. Kenny Lofton was the tying run at second base thanks to Julio Lugo's dropped pop-up - the break the Indians had been awaiting all game long. Now with one out in the seventh and the Indians trailing by one measly run, Franklyn Gutierrez lined a smash just over the bag at third that caromed toward the grass between short and left field. Inexplicably, soon to be ex-Third Base coach Joel Skinner held Lofton as he was rounding third. At the time, Manny Ramirez was still running for the ball. Lofton would have scored if he had my grandmother's wheels - she is 94 years old. That left first and third with one out for noted rally-killer Casey Blake, who already had two hits in the game.

Like we didn't know what was coming next.

As if we couldn't have seen this one coming from a mile away, Blake swings at the first pitch and grounds into a 5-4-3 inning ending double play that essentially out a stake into the heart of Tribe fans everywhere. As if things weren't bad enough, Blake then booted Julio Lugo's ground ball to start the bottom of the seventh. Dustin Pedroia made sure that error would be costly as he deposited a Rafael Betancourt offering over the Green Monster, the put the Red Sox ahead 5-2 - a seemingly insurmountable lead with Jonathon Papelbon ready and waiting to pitch the final two innings. Remember how I said I was off Casey Blake for good? Yeah, that's over. Joel Skinner, a rock solid guy and a loyal member of the organization for years, will now go down in infamy as a goat, the same way Mesa has.

As dejected as the Tribe nation was, the top of the eight provided another shot to make things right. Hideki Okajima was left in to face the top if the Tribe order. Back to back singles from Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera chased the lefty in favor of Papelbon. The lights-out closer blew away Travis Hafner on three straight fastballs, the kind the 2004-2006 Pronk would have crushed. Victor Martinez had his shot and grounded out. With two out and two men still on, Ryan Garko had his shot. He battled and then crushed a fastball to deep right center. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Jacoby Ellsbury ran it down about five feet from the wall. The Garko drive was a microcosm of the Cleveland Sports phenomenon - so close, yet so far away.

How many more bad breaks can one team get? Lets make a quick list of the Game Seven breaks and blunders so we can all see them together:

1. In the first inning, Jake Westbrook was essentially out of the inning unscathed as Manny Ramirez hit a ground ball right at shortstop Jhonny Peralta. The ball just so happens to hit the spot where the grass meets the dirt and skips over Peralta's head causing one run to score.

2. Kenny Lofton leads off the fifth inning by driving one off the Green Monster, Ramirez comes up with it and throws a strike to second where Lofton is called out. Replays show he is clearly safe. The next two Indians deliver hits and instead of scoring twice, the Tribe only gets one. if these two breaks go the Indians way, the score at that point is 3-2 Tribe instead of the other way around.

3. Joel Skinner holds Lofton at third when he clearly scores the tying run in the seventh, a blunder of mass proportions. Blake proceeds to ground into an inning ending double play on the next pitch.

4. Blake boots an easy grounder to start the bottom of the seventh allowing Lugo to reach base. Pedroia, the next batter, hits a two run homer.

5. Blake and Peralta crash into each other on a pop-up in the bottom of the eighth, allowing another runner to reach base. With two out and the score now 6-2, Pedroia again delivers a base-clearing double to put the game officially out of reach at 9-2. The play was 100% Peralta's to make and Blake got in his way.

All of this added up to an 11-2 Game Seven loss. Nice huh? It is such a shame for this group who battled all year long. For guys like Jake Westbrook who sacked up big-time in Game Seven, going Six strong innings and keeping the Indians alive until the game unraveled in the seventh. The kids like Garko, Rafael Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Gutierrez who had to fight their way onto the roster and made the most of it by becoming integral parts of the team. Without these four kids, no way the Indians are in the playoffs, let alone one game from the World Series. The veterans like Trot Nixon and Joe Borowski who came to Cleveland for a shot at the big prize, were maligned all year but came up big in October when called upon. Mostly, its a shame for manager Eric Wedge who became a man this year, proving all the doubters (including me) wrong who said he couldn't manage this team to the playoffs. He stayed the course all year and kept this team focused and ready.

Lastly, its a shame for real Tribe fans like yours truly, who devoted so much time to this team this year. To watch it all go up in smoke is so disappointing. If I feel this way, I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be a player on the team. I'm so proud of this team, However. Almost nobody (outside of espn.com's Buster Olney) picked this team to go deep in the playoffs. Very few in this city believed (check the attendance numbers - the Indians barely drew 2.5 million). But the guys in that clubhouse did. And I'm proud of each and every one of them. I guess even you, Casey Blake.

The Cleveland Curse is alive and well. Sweet.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Here We Go Again

This is sickening. A 3-1 series lead with your pair of 19 game winners going back to back and now its all tied up, going to Game Seven. Fausto Carmona failed to show for the second time this series, going only two innings, allowing six hits, four walks, and seven earned runs. He had his chance to get out of trouble in the first after he loaded the bases with two out. He managed to get past Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell unscathed. The came J.D. Drew. His first pitch looked to be right down the middle, but Carmona was squeezed by home plate umpire Dana Dimuth. He got behind once again 3-0. On a 3-1 pitch, Drew took Fausto deep to center for the back-breaking, series-changing Grand Slam. I received a call from one of closest confidants right after the Drew at-bat who said "with that one swing, the series completely changed and it's over." Well it's not over, but Clevelanders have that old sinking feeling. After tonight's 12-2 loss, instead of "we are one win away from the World Series" it feels closer to "we are one loss away from a classic Cleveland collapse of epic proportions."

Lets take a look at the culprits:

Fausto Carmona and C.C. Sabathia - The twin 19 game winners pitched like two guys who are completely frazzled and out of gas. In four starts, they have allowed 23 runs in 16 1/3 innings pitched. They have walked 16 Red Sox hitters, and caused tax to the Indians bullpen. If you would have told me that CC and Fausto would have these kind of numbers, I'd have told you the Red Sox would have the series wrapped up by now.

Travis Hafner - Where have you gone, Mr. Pronk? After taking the collar again (0-4, 2 K's), his ALCS hitless streak stands at 15 with nine punch outs. He's hitting just .158 for the series and is looking bad doing so. His strike three swing in his third at-bat was the most disturbing. Hafner swung at ball four up around his eyes. He is clearly pressing and couldn't have picked a worse time to do so.

Grady Sizemore - Exactly what has the heart throb done this series other than hit a solo pizza in Game Two? Nada. Zilch. His 0-4 has him at .208 with only one RBI. He also continues to leave runners stranded and not moving them over when need be.

Rafael Perez - Has the man Peter Gammons called "the best left-handed reliver on the planet" hit the wall? It sure seems like it. The Red Sox right handed bats have completely worn him out. In three games, Perez has a 45.00 ERA, allowing six earned runs in one full inning of work.

There was so much not to like about tonight, but really only a couple of things stick in my craw. One was the decision to go to Perez in the third inning after Carmona failed so miserably. I was thinking Eric Wedge figured he needed to stay afloat for a few innings and keep the Sox off the board, giving time to get back into the game. Perez failed miserably, allowing three runs in the third and putting four of the five men he faced on base. By the time long man Aaron Laffey came in, it was 10-1 and the game was already out of hand. Props to Laffey for pitching 4 2/3 scoreless relief and saving the Tribe pen for Game Seven tomorrow night. Had Wedge gone to him right away, maybe the game gets closer. Who knows.

Lastly, Hafner and Sizemore must wake up or the Indians are doomed. The third inning sums up their entire series thus far. Trot Nixon and Casey Blake lead off with singles. You figure a rally to get back into the game was at hand with the top of the order coming up. Negative. Sizemore popped out to shallow right, not even advancing Nixon to third. Asdrubal Cabrera then hit what would have been a sacrifice fly to deep right center. The Pronk weakly grounded to first to end the inning. The Sox scored six in the home half. Game over.

Im sick over this. All we need is one more, and it's our third try tomorrow night. Lets see what kind of stones this team has. It's all on Eric Wedge now.