Cleveland Sports Insiders

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The Sunday Drive with winning, losing, dysfunction and Brantley

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Michael Brantley (photo: AP)

Michael Brantley (photo: AP)

The Sunday Drive is a bit late today, as all things tend to be in this crazy week leading up to the holidays. It’s also going to be a bit short, as time is running out on the day, and I don’t want to start making this thing a Sunday or Monday Drive.

Here are some really quick thoughts about Cleveland sports, and we’ll get back to a full edition next weekend.

Let’s get driving:

What does being a Browns’ fan entail these days? It’s entirely a Catch-22. The top priority is getting an all-important high draft pick in next year’s draft. Of course, you can’t follow a football team and not root for them to win, right? In a perfect world, the only thing a football fan should be worrying about heading into the final week of the season is either how long to play the starters because the team has already clinched, or how important it is to win to actually clinch.

That’s rarely the case for the Cleveland Browns. Instead, the only thing that matters from year-to-year is how many games the Browns can lose, and because of that, how high up the draft board they can move up.

Talk about dysfunctional.

Ultimately, it’s a good thing that the Browns lost to the Jets, and for all I know, that was the ultimate end-game for this team. I know there isn’t a coach in the country, or a front office for that matter, that will ever admit to tanking a game, but it most definitely happens. The Browns looked like garbage today, so perhaps that’s what happened today.

The Jets just aren’t a good team.

No matter what my mind tells me, the Browns losing to the Jets and that oaf Rex Ryan is hard to swallow. There’s something that goes completely against the grain when you look at the 24-13 final score against the Jets, and think, “I’m so glad we lost.”

Rex Ryan…ugh.

That’s really all I have to say about today’s football game. Alright, I do need to mention that Josh Gordon is a freak. I know it’s a trend here for the Sunday drive, but he stands out so much in that putrid offense, that I won’t stop mentioning it until there’s at least one other player that can steal his thunder.

Greg Little is abysmal, and needs to be released, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Davone Bess may rank as one of the worst signings in the NFL this season. He was supposed to be a dependable possession receiver, making Gordon all the better. Instead, he’s dropped nine balls, while making 42 catches. He’s dropped 10.5% of his catches.


The Browns need to address the #2 receiver position next year, whether it be through the draft or through free agency. There are some interesting players that will be available next year. Players such as Eric Decker and Julian Edelman and Hakeem Nicks will be unrestricted free agents, to just name a few.

It’s too early to make predictions there though.

I’m just sick of an offense that has essentially one player that’s worth a hill of beans at a skill position. Talk about an abysmal draft strategy over the years. No, I haven’t forgotten about Jordan Cameron. Things are certainly looking up for the tight end, but he didn’t play today.

To bring things full circle, I don’t know how many will feel about playing the Pittsburgh Steelers next week. The Steelers are clinging to a thread of hope that they could make the playoffs, and of course, it would be brilliant to knock them out on the last game of the season.

The Catch-22 to that conversation is that the Browns enter the game at 4-11, currently tied with three other teams, and with one other team sitting at 4-10-1. What does that mean? If the Browns lose next week, it should lock in place a top six pick.

A victory could drop them to eighth.

Does anyone want the Browns with an eighth pick? It’s bad enough that the Browns may have won one game too many, keeping them from grabbing the franchise quarterback they want, but dropping down to eight could leave them ripe to lose out on any other QB that they may want to grab after Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel go.

Of course, who goes early is still up for debate, and who I think the Browns should grab is inconsequential at this point.

The point is that the Browns need the best pick possible.

But the Steelers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are such a dysfunctional team right now, but I’d really like to avoid talking about that too much in this piece. Let me just say this: I can’t figure out a thing with regards to this team. Some days, it looks like the team is going to work through Bynum. Some days it looks like Kyrie is going to take over the entire game. Some days Dion is filtering through as the star. Tristan fits into the equation, as does Anderson Varejao.

They win some…they lose some…they look good and they look bad.

There’s just no swing to this team from game-to-game.

Obviously, having a young team, and having a new coach plays into this.

Obviously, having two injury-prone centers who have life in their legs one night, and nothing the next, plays a part in all this.

Obviously, this team remains a project of mammoth proportions, that will be intertwined in trade rumors until the deadline, and will continue to have the LeBron question looming over them the entire season.

The bigger question, though, is whether or not the Cavaliers are a playoff team. I think they are, but boy do I wish they could figure out a way to land in the lottery this season. There are going to be some very, very good players available.

Who is Kyrie Irving? Is he a legit point guard that can lead this team into the playoffs and to their first championship in years? Is he best suited to playing without the ball, as a hybrid two-guard, that can run defenders all over the place, and can put the ball in the basket at will? Can he become a defender?

The answer for the Cavaliers front office, of course, is that Kyrie is the leader of this team, but I’m so intrigued with the idea of having Dion Waiters running the point for the Cavaliers.

I know, most don’t believe that the two can play together on the same floor, but I don’t see it that way at all. Waiters can take bad shots, but he can be such a phenomenal facilitator at times, and he’s playing his best when he has the ball at the top of the arc, ready to attack.

I’m not taking anything away from Irving here. He’s a phenomenal player, but my curiosity has admittedly gotten the best of me.

I also think Waiters is the better defender, and will be over time.

Kyrie has special qualities, but I’ve always seen him as a score-first player. I see Waiters in that same role at times, but do believe that he can facilitate the team as well.

There’s been a lot of conversation about Michael Bourn as the lead-off hitter in 2014, and while I think that he will most likely remain the lead-off hitter next year, I’d love to see the other Michael running the show from the point position. Brantley is the ultimate IQ player, and is the type of hitter that gets better when he’s given a role and can study that role over time.

Brantley has been a mixed bag from year-to-year as a lead-off hitter, but last year, showcased some solid statistics there, albeit over a short period of time. Still, he was able to hit .327, with a .383 OBP and an .802 OPS in the lead-off slot. Now, it was in a small sample size, but I still think it’s worth taking a look at.

All of this would be predicated on Bourn being moved out of the lead-off position, and I only see that happening if he gets hurt or if he’s SO bad that Francona has to make a move.

I like Jason Kipnis there as well, because he’s performed well there in the past, as a minor leaguer. The catch with Kipnis is that he has the type of bat that can be utilized in many different spots in the heart of the line-up.

I firmly believe that Brantley could bring a .370-ish OBP to that lead-off position and provide the Indians with a spark at the front-end of the line-up that’s a bit more consistent than they’ve seen in the past couple of years.

At some point, we’ll be taking a look at the ultimate 2007 batting order for this lineup. Kipnis and Santana are such lynch-pins. My father recently mentioned the idea of Kipnis hitting clean-up, with Santana batting third, with Brantley hitting second, and Bourn first.

That’s intriguing to me on several levels, but I’m just not there yet.

As we turn the corner into 2014, the boys here at C.S.I. will take a look a lot closer at the line-up.

I don’t care about salary, or about what the experts are saying, I don’t think that the Indians are even remotely close to being done with their movement for their 2014 season. They will address their rotation again, I think will get another closer option, and may still pull off a trade or two.

It could get fun.

In the rearviewmirror:

  • The Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team was down eight with under a minute, and won the game by three. They scored 14 points over the final fifty seconds. This is an interesting team in a year that seems to have a black hole at the top of the rankings. There are a bunch of good teams this year, and the defensive-laden Buckeyes may be better than many think. Here’s the thing though…they shouldn’t be mixing it up with teams like Notre Dame. They should be dominating. Let’s hope it was a learning experience.
  • How good is Aaron Craft? The quick answer? Really, really good.

Author: Jim Pete

Jim KNOWS that Albert Belle deserved the MVP, and that the false prophet, Mo Vaughn did not. He thinks that Mike and Greg Pruitt are truly related, because, c'mon, what are the chances? He cries at least once a day, watching videos of LeBron's block, followed by Kyrie's shot. He loves miracles at Richfield, Ron Harper, parking at Gate D, Alex Cole park dimensions, and the glorious Kenny Lofton, who is the REAL Alex Cole. When he isn't writing or talking Cleveland sports for EHC, he moonlights as a husband, father, coach, teacher, Twitter screamer, golfer, runner, and lover of spaghetti carbonara. He also commutes from Raleigh to the North Coast, because it builds character

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