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The Sunday Drive with Bynum, Ubaldo, JRam and Wendle

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Jose Ramirez (photo courtesy of Lianna Holub)

Jose Ramirez (photo courtesy of Lianna Holub)

I’m stuck in the holiday lull.

Christmas is over, and I feel like I’m in a holding pattern for New Year’s Eve. One group of family has left for home, and another group is heading North for more fun and spirits.

I’m in need of some meaningful sports, and I’m not talking about NBA theatrics with a known enigma like Andrew Bynum.

I’m talking about games that mean something. Perhaps there’s a rivalry game in which the Browns could knock the aforementioned rival out of the playoffs. Oh wait, the Browns have to lose that game.

Thanks goodness for Ohio State football, and that game this coming Friday against Clemson. Fortunately for the Tigers, Woody Hayes won’t be patrolling the sidelines. Unfortunately for Clemson Urban Meyer will be there in his stead.

The Buckeyes will be agitated. The Buckeyes will be angry. The Buckeyes will be set to make a statement. Clemson will score their points for sure, but I really think we’re going to see why Urban Meyer is the best coach in the country. Look for Carlos Hyde to have his best day as a Buckeye, and look for Braxton Miller to go over 100 yards rushing, and 200 yards passing.

The Bucks defense will be more than good enough.

What are my predictions for this game?

Ohio State 48, Clemson 24. I don’t know that it’ll be that close.

Next week, while basking in the victory, we’ll take a look at what the Buckeyes look like heading into 2014. They’ll be better than this year if Braxton Miller comes back, and they’ll have a chip on their shoulder….but for next week…

…for today…let’s get driving…
The most curious piece to the Andrew Bynum saga with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon isn’t what he did, but how the Cavaliers handled the situation. Andrew Bynum has always been a negative influence on every team that he’s played on. When the Cavaliers signed him to their low-risk deal, the two cons were his health and his attitude.

With regards to his health, regardless of his play of late, it’s safe to say that Bynum has been a pleasant surprise. He hadn’t played in a year, and if you talked to all the people “in the know,” most thought that there was a chance he’d never play again, let alone be effective. I personally questioned how much, if any, playing time he’d get in November. The fact that he played on opening night, then worked himself up to 20+ minutes a game, and even played in back-to-back nights, showcased just how healthy he was.

Now, keep in mind that we have no idea what that looked like behind the scenes. How much pain was Bynum truly in, and how frustrated was he about how much less of a player he was this year as opposed to his final years in Los Angeles?

We got some insight into that in early November when Brian Windhorst reported that Bynum was still pondering retirement because of his substantial knee pain.

“Retirement was a thought, it was a serious thought. It still is,” Bynum said. “It’s tough to enjoy the game because of how limited I am physically. I’m working through that. Every now and again I think about retirement…I’m a shell of myself on the court right now. I’m just struggling mentally.”

In an interview at on December 18th, Bynum discussed the difficulties of getting the ball when he’s getting fronted.

“What we can do is not hold the ball…there’s really only two ways, you can throw it over the top, or you can move the ball, and like I said, right now I think we should move the ball and use backside action.”

When asked if he was getting frustrated getting the ball, he was completely accountable, and also noted that he is likely at his peak health-wise, which may play into his overall frustration.

“I think it has more to do with me and how I’m moving on any given day. I think I’m at the best that I’m going to get. The things that are happening on the court aren’t really a matter of health, there’s just more a matter of being on the court, getting your timing back and getting your touch back.”

With regards to his attitude, up to this point, there have been no outwards signs that Bynum was doing anything other than toeing the line. When the Cavaliers had their players-only meeting earlier this season, Bynum’s name wasn’t even mentioned, which was shocking to me in that in the past, you would have expected Bynum to be directly in the mix.

Of course, there are reports coming out now from the media that he’s been “disruptive” in the locker room, but I have a hard time believe that those reports are substantiated. For those most part, players have described Bynum as keeping quiet in the locker room, and staying to himself.

Now, if you go back to that interview, he does discuss how the Cavs move the ball, and you could perceive that to be a knock on the offense, or even a knock on Kyrie Irving in particular, as well as Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack, but it’s certainly a passive comment, and something that I can’t fathom was a big deal at the time. Bynum was clearly not overtly agitated, he clearly took much of the blame himself, and he clearly wasn’t calling out anyone overtly or even passively, in my opinion.

Whatever happened, it appears fairly clear that the Cavaliers have burned their bridges with the big man by suspending him for conduct detrimental to the team. It seems an odd way to handle Bynum, unless there are clear issues that just aren’t being made clear as of yet. If the Cavaliers are looking to get rid of his contract, you would think they would want to keep Bynum’s potential attitude issues as hidden as possible.

That’s clearly not the case.

So what is the point of just burning that bridge by suspending him as opposed to just benching him to “rest his knees?”

Before I get there, let’s look at the past few days, so we can take a closer look at what may or may not have been happening behind the scenes.

Let’s start with Tyler Zeller. Prior to December 21, Zeller hadn’t played in the preceding four games, had played only two minutes in the six previous games, hadn’t played double-digit minutes since November 23, and had only played in four games with double digit minutes.

In that double-digit minute game on the 21st, Bynum was outstanding, scoring 19 points and grabbing seven boards, while Zeller scored a modest six points, with three boards.

On December 23, Zeller played in 14 minutes against the Detroit Pistons, scoring 13 points and grabbing four boards. Bynum went 0-11, didn’t score a point, and grabbed seven boards.

On December 26, Zeller played in 11 minutes and didn’t score in the double overtime affair. Bynum played in 18 minutes, but didn’t see the court after he was benched in the third quarter. That’s right, Bynum missed both overtimes.

Something had to be up, either with his play on the court, his offcourt behavior, or both. It could have been as simple as Mike Brown sending him a message that he had to play better and his knees had to cease being an excuse. I could even have been a situation that had Brown tinkering with Zeller as an option to help out his guards with regards to their movement with the ball.

Whatever the reason for Zeller playing more minutes, it must not have sat well with Andrew Bynum. There was an alleged incident that was either a big deal or not on Friday, that may or may not have included both Mike Brown and Chris Grant, and the rest, as we say, is history.

At the end of all of this, I have to imagine that Mike Brown and Chris Grant are clearly sending a message to the Cavs youthful team that they aren’t going to put up with any sort of garbage. A lot of people are knocking Grant and Brown, and to be honest, they deserve that to an extent.

At the same time, as I’ve mentioned 1,000 times prior, this is one of the youngest teams in the NBA, and just got younger. Mike Brown is a new coach, a stark contrast from Byron Scott, and still implementing his new mentality defensively to a team that wasn’t very good defensively.

Part of that strategy was working in a player like Bynum. Now, that’s gone, and things change again. This team needs time, and this team needs chemistry.

So let’s return to the original question. Why did the Cavaliers burn the Bynum bridge? It’s fairly simple. Bynum presented them with some options, and Mike Brown and Chris Grant provided a swift answer to those options. I’m sure Dan Gilbert has his hands in this as well.

Was it smart? Bynum’s value was fairly limited to begin with. Let’s not forget that there wasn’t a single other NBA team that wanted him for any type of risk prior to the season. Most of the reasoning was health. Some of the reasoning was the attitude. Put the two together, and you have a powder keg.

Now, health-wise, Bynum is clearly better than many thought, and had they have prognosticated his health to be what it is, there would have been more offers. Of course, what if they prognosticated the attitude?

His contract could provide a team with some value, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. The Cavs have until January 7th to release him so that his contract doesn’t become vested as a guaranteed contract, so they can try and work a trade for the next 10 days. Of course, NBA teams see the writing on the wall.

Will the Cavs ultimately release him?

That’s when this gets fun. This is Dan Gilbert we’re talking about, and rumors have already surfaced that this is a Bynum power-play to get him a contract with the Clippers or the Heat. Do you see Gilbert letting that happen? Let’s see if Chris Grant can spin Bynum into a draft pick, or even better, an expiring contract.

Bynum’s deal is cap friendly, so there is a chance that they could move Bynum to a team that needs to dump some salary. There are a lot of interesting options available, and has addressed these options very well.

Sam Vecenie mentions the Bulls (for Luol Deng and Erik Murphy), the Celtics (for Jeff Green and Courtney Lee), the Nets (for Paul Pierce) and the Lakers (for Pau Gasol) and the Clippers (no real trade fit) as possible trade partners, but follows up with a report from Sam Amico that says there is zero interest in Bynum, and that the Cavs will release him.

What will the Cavs do? Bet on the release. Who in their right mind would deal anything for Bynum, and how would they sell that to their fan base?

Hmmm, I wonder if Philadelphia is interested?

Check out my thoughts on what the Cavs should look like without Bynum in the lineup. The team may actually do better without him, especially if you take into account his dwindling defense, and can wrap yourself around the possibility that Tyler Zeller could manage to up his production a bit. I think it’s a distinct possibility.

The Cleveland Indians are heading into the New Year with an offense that seems to be set, a bullpen that seems to be set, and a rotation that I fear isn’t as good as people think. I’m really never bullish with regards to starting pitchers these days, because the elite are so few and far between, and the pitchers right below them seem to come and go like the wind.

Today over at our sister site,, I took a look at whether or not Danny Salazar was going to be an elite pitcher this year. I also pointed to two very interesting takes on whether or not he would be elite in 2014 and beyond.

For the record, I think he’s elite already, and only needs that body of work to prove it.

With that said, the first piece was by Jim Piascik over at IBI, who took a quick look at Danny Salazar‘s historical 2013 season. He takes a close look at the rarified air of Salazar’s season in that only seven total pitchers (including Salazar) since 1903 “have posted between 1.0 and 1.5 fWAR with the ERA to match this early in their careers. Then projects forward.

The second piece was by CSI/IBI’s resident sabermetrics guru Michael Hattery, who  tackled the Danny Salazar question in his Halloween edition of Trend Spotting, focusing on both his secondary offerings and tackling the fallacy that they aren’t plus pitches.

Here’s what I can tell you. Danny Salazar has been highly thought of by the upper levels of the Indians’ front office for the past four seasons, and they handled him that way from the start. When he returned from his Tommy John surgery in 2012 throwing close to 100 MPH, they knew that if they could keep him healthy, he could be the one thing that their system has been missing since CC Sabathia

…an ace.

To credit the Indians, they handled him exactly the right way, and it paid off last season. While everyone under the sun kept waiting for him to be shut down, the Indians internally had decided that they would have a soft innings limit per game, and would allow Salazar’s arm to be the deciding factor.

The Indians will handle him correctly in 2014 as well. They’ll make him their #4 starter to start the season, and while I could care a less about those #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5 designations, it will be a resounding statement to Salazar when he’s the fourth guy out of the dugout.

He’ll understand he doesn’t have to carry this team, and he’ll like be torqued about it. I like it when pitchers with the tenacious on-the-mound attitude like Salazar are agitated. It’s that ace mentality that says, “GIVE ME THE FREAKIN’ BALL” that I’m talking about.

It’s going to be fun to watch, and unfortunately, I think it will be necessary. The Indians need him to be better than Scott Kazmir, and while I don’t think many can match Ubaldo’s second half, I think that needs to be his ceiling. No, it’s not something the Indians will talk about, but I do think it’s something that they are hoping.

If Salazar can dominate and add at least 100 innings to his Major League amount last year, then the Indians have begun to replace the Kazmir/Jimenez void.

He’s the lynch-pin of the rotation.

By the end of the year, I think he’ll quiet those that doubt he can be an ace. Sure, I’m concerned about the home runs, but he’ll adjust. Trust me.

I don’t think Ubaldo Jimenez will be back in 2014. I want him back (did I just say that out loud?), but I don’t think that it’s going to happen. If you are one of the only people in Cleveland that didn’t read Steve Orbanek’s piece a week ago about why Ubaldo will be back with the Indians in 2014, make sure you read it. He’s the best writer at both IBI and CSI, and he poured it all out in this piece.

Steve notes that “teams do not want to commit millions of dollars and also have to sacrifice a draft pick and money from their signing pool to sign Jimenez.” He’s 100% correct, for the most part, but I’ll get into that in a second.

Steve then paints a very realistic picture of why Ubaldo can sustain his ace-like ascension in 2013 heading into 2014 and beyond. Thanks to the tinkerings of Mickey Callaway, Ubaldo was able to throw more strikes and decrease his walk rate.

He also talked about the Callaway effect, as well as the point that Ubaldo loved playing in Cleveland.

Orbs was dead on in his piece. He systematically listed all the reasons why letting him go (and Scott Kazmir, for that matter) would be idiotic.

Dead. On.

I think the Indians should sign Ubaldo. I think the Indians want to sign Ubaldo. I “think” the Indians have offered Ubaldo a contract already, to be honest.

I just don’t think Ubaldo going to ever sign it.

Here’s why.

Publically, the focus hasn’t been on Jimenez, but I can promise you that Ubie’s agent has been fielding daily phone calls about Jimenez and what he’s asking. It’s believed that his price is currently set at four-years and $80 million. I think he’d probably take four-years and $70 million. I don’t think anyone will offer him that much and those years, so it’s a waiting game right now.

What are teams waiting for?

Of course they are waiting for the price to drop, but it goes deeper than that. They’re waiting for Tanaka to sign, now that he’s posted. They’re waiting to see what happens with David Price, who the Rays are shopping, hoping to collect a windfall. They’re waiting to see what happens with Jeff Samardzija, who the Cubs are shopping, hoping to get more than market value.

Once those dominos start to fall, Ubaldo’s visibility will start to rise, especially with teams that have the money and the wherewithal not to care two cents about a #1 pick, or the compensatory money that goes along with it. Of course, I’m talking about the Yankees, who are likely going to land Tanaka, and were rumored today to be going after both Tanaka and Jimenez.

You could throw a bunch of other teams into that equation. My point here is that I think Ubaldo will get some decent change, and will land in a bigger market that can spend their way out of a poor draft position.

But, if the Indians can get Ubaldo for a three-year, $40 million deal, I’m all in. I’d pay more, to be honest. I’m not a Ubaldo fan, but I do think that Steve is dead on about his ceiling and ability to reach it going forward.

I just think other teams see him that way as well.

I’ll be screaming about Jose Ramirez and Joe Wendle all year long. I may end up looking like an idiot, but I don’t really care. It wouldn’t be a first.

Jose Ramirez has a chance to be something special in this league. I’m not going to sit here and comp him at this point, but I just don’t see him as a platoon guy, unless opportunity is taken away from him. He needs to be a regular, and while some minor league projects him as a league average shortstop, I think with time, he would be a phenomenal defensive shortstop.

I know what you’re thinking. What about Francisco Lindor.

Of course Lindor is the shortstop of the future. What I’m suggesting isn’t to put Ramirez there forever. What I’m suggesting is putting him there this year, and allowing Lindor the opportunity to earn his way to the big league club, and perhaps being the Ramirez of 2014.

You know…let him bounce up to the club at some point in August after playing well all season long in the minors.

What to do with Ramirez next year? Well, let’s get there first.

With regards to Wendle though, I’m dying to see what he does in Double A Akron. If he follows up his High A season with another something special, you are going to see someone traded, or you could see Wendle change positions.

CSI’s Michael Hattery pointed me to this piece over at fangraphs that I found extremely interesting. In the article, it’s noted that Joe Wendle was “a draft steal at $10,000 out of Division-II WestChester and can really handle the bat with a compact, lefthanded stroke.” I’ve been talking about this kid’s compact swing since I saw it in April. Of course, those that haven’t seen him have been blathering on-and-on about how long and loose it is.


Now back to Ramirez. Watch this video of his first major league hit. Watch what he does with that pitch, and listen to the commentary. Key in on what they say about Terry Francona and his thoughts on Ramirez. I have limited resources down here in Carolina, but those limited resources have been talking up Francona’s Ramirez love all season long.

They played some together in spring training, and if I can find some video, I’ll get it up on site ASAP. Lindor was playing short and leading off, and Ramirez was playing second and hitting ninth. They put on quite the display. From that point on, Ramirez was on Francona’s radar, if he wasn’t on it already. He called him up in August for a reason, and he’ll make this club again in 2014.

He’s really good, and that’s not an oversell by any stretch. It just is what it is.

In the rearviewmirror:

  • The Steelers are playing the Browns as we speak, and had this game had any sort of weight for the Browns, I woulda worked this piece out before or after the game. As it stands, I’m not even watching it. Why? Well, you know. The Browns need to lose in a game that could cost the Steelers the playoffs. I’ll just leave it there.
  • I can’t wait for Ohio State to play some Big 10 games. I’m absolutely sick of watching them play Division 8 teams.
  • Michigan lost last night and finished at 7-6. Brady Hoke is an overrated sack of bad, just like Rich Rod. I’ll look forward to watching the Buckeyes roll over him again in 2014, and watching him get fired again as well. Maybe Lloyd Carr is available.
  • If the Indians address their starting pitching and stay healthy, they’ll be in the playoffs next year, and in the World Series conversation. I am intrigued though with Tanaka. If the Yankees sign both Tanaka and Jimenez, on top of what they’ve already done, I’ll just have to agree to disagree with baseball. Fans are harsh on the front office for the misses in drafts, and this is exactly why. A small market team has to hit on everything, and when you miss on everything, it makes being successful against this overspending garbage nearly impossible.
  • Could the Andrew Bynum signing be any more Cleveland?

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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