Cleveland Sports Insiders

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The Sunday Drive with Santana, Salazar, Bauer and LeBron James

With Mother’s Day and Easter behind us, and with the Indians’ locomotive heading towards Father’s Day and the hopeful heat of summer, it’s time for me to dust off the trusty old Smith-Corona PWP 5000 Word Processor (look that one up) and start writing about Cleveland Sports again. With the off-season Cavs and Browns actually becoming more interesting than the in season Indians, there’s plenty to talk about in this week’s Sunday Drive.

I really don’t know where to begin with the Cleveland Indians, so I suppose I’ll start with Carlos Santana.  I was all for the Santana experiment when it started. I was excited even more to see Santana start there when the Tribe announced early in Spring Training that he was going to be the starter.

I’m less excited now.

This is when I wish I utilized my brain for my decision-making skills, and not my heart. Look. We all knew that learning the third base position at the major league level starting in December was a long-shot at best. Hell, I would even go so far as to say that it was an impossible shot, from December through March.

Instead, my trust for Francona-decisions allowed my sense and sensibilities to get thrown out the window. Instead, I kept thinking to myself, “Boy, if he gets out from behind the plate, his offense will improve.”

Think about that. On one hand, Santana won’t be catching all those games, so his legs should be fresh. Of course, he’s learning a new position…and third base to boot. I did talk about one offsetting the other, but my blind belief that he could overcome this without physically seeing him or talking with him was simply idiotic. Continue reading



Initial thoughts on the Browns 2014 NFL Draft


Gilbert and Manziel (photo:

There really isn’t anything like the NFL draft if you are an NFL fan. It’s the one day when all teams are truly on an even playing field, and it’s one of those rarified days that could seem like a bust by the end of the weekend, and turn into a goldmine if that fifth round pick pans out.

This year’s draft for Browns fans was something special.

The Johnny Manziel talk had been circulating for nearly a year, and for what seemed like eternity. Would the Browns take him with their #4 pick, as many speculated? We all know how important that franchise quarterback is, and Manziel had the moxie of one, but did he have the skill?

The Browns also had their “Major League” moment, when Kevin Costner’s ‘Draft Day’ came out a month ago, that had the Browns trading up, down and all around to get all the players that they wanted.

It all created buzz that hadn’t been around this team for years.

The Browns even stole the news-worthy stories when Josh Gordon‘s alleged pot outpouring was unearthed on Friday night, Day 2 of the NFL draft.

The Browns, who needed a receiver anyways, now perhaps needed two.

In the middle of this firestorm was Ray Farmer, a well-respected football mind who was running the draft for the first time. Continue reading

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Indians sign All-Star Jason Kipnis to long-term deal

1aThe Cleveland Indians announced this morning that they signed second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year contract extension through the 2019 season worth $52.5 million, with a club option for 2020. The deal, according to Jordan Bastian, is worth $52.5 million, and if the Indians nab that seventh-year option, it will wrap up Kipnis through three years of free agency.

That’s moderately shocking.

Bastian and several others reported the news earlier this morning, and throngs of Indians fans on twitter and across Indians message boards and in radio drive time were treated to the added bonus of the signing. It certainly wasn’t a surprise in the grand scheme of things. Most had speculated that the Indians would pull of this deal when they came home for several weeks, and I had even mentioned the deal almost a month ago, complete with the parameters for a potential deal.

Obviously the groundwork had been laid out by the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, who built similar deals for similar players. Kipnis, who is likely a higher value player than both, signed a deal very similar to Matt Carpenter’s six-year deal with the Cardinals, complete with a seventh year added to the team in the form of a team option.

Just a great move by the Indians, who have continued to show their commitment to building a winner since the firing of Manny Acta in September of 2012.

Enter Terry Francona, and if that sound like ‘Enter the Dragon,’ that’s exactly what I meant.

You can argue that Jason Kipnis is a top five second baseman in the league right now. Think about this: he led the Indians runs, hits, RBI and steals, and was top ten in walks and steals in the league. What the Indians are banking on for Kipnis is his tremendous upside. Continue reading

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Salazar and Kipnis at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Progressive FieldSomething is afoot here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and for once I’m not talking about March Madness, fired coaches, former players returning for retirement parties, or anything that’s remotely close to happening at the Circle K.

The 2014 season is officially underway, and I’m as giddy as a school-girl.

The Indians started off the season with a 2-0 victory against the Oakland A’s, and while it’s only one game in the grand scheme of 162, it’s always good to set things off on the right foot.

What does that one game tell us? If we’re to use it as a blue-print, not a whole lot, to be honest.

Justin Masterson looked fantastic in his first start, and it does leave us to ponder whether or not our staff “ace” is about fully entering his prime with a chip on his shoulder. No, I don’t think he has a ceiling that Cliff Lee had, but I do believe there is more than just a “two-pitch” pitcher with no plus offerings. He understands the game, and when he is slotting that arm in a repetitive manner, he can be pretty special because of the way he can move the ball in the strike zone. If he had a solid fielding infield, he could be that much more special. Continue reading

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Mock Drafts

Jeff Ellis, our resident Draft Expert will be creating the mock draft portion of our website, and you may also see some of us foray into it as well. Every time we update the Mock, we’ll throw up a quick post to let you know. You can find them by clicking the Mock Draft drop-down menu at the top of the page.

Right now, we currently have posted Jeff’s current NFL Mock. We will update as Jeff updates!

You can find his first Mock Draft here:

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CSI 75: The end of the Spring Training soap box

It’s a special day in the land of Cleveland Indians’ baseball.

It’s Opening Day eve, and the Cleveland Indians are rolling into San Francisco in preparation for their opening day tilt against the Oakland Athletics, a game in which we’ll get to see our old friend Scott Kazmir in his first official start with the A’s. While we can start looking forward to the interesting match-ups on a day-to-day basis, the CSI crew got together for the first time in weeks to talk about some of the Spring Training news, and began to look forward at the season, as well as at the Indians signing philosophy after they allowed two starters to walk away, then passed on extending Justin Masterson.

Two hours after we recorded the pod, the Indians then signed Yan Gomes to a long-term deal out of the blue. While we didn’t discuss that specific deal, we did talk about the Indians plan going forward.

Here’s the rundown:

2:40–The concern of the starting rotation

3:15–Carlos Carrasco has concerns, regardless of your belief in his upside

6:00–While there’s a body of work, there are questions about each spot in the rotation, especially Carrasco and McAllister (his label forever–upside)

7:10–Mike seems to have a moderate fanboy crush on…

7:40–Francona made some definitive statements about Carrasco

8:30–Carrasco has no foundation to support folks that talk massive upside

9:20–The #5 starter will be fluid

9:50–Carlos Santana moves to third base, and Steve’s face is frozen

12:50–Mike talks Santana concerns, especially considering the weak defense

14:45–Lonnie Chisenhall is now just a back-up

18:00–Carlos Santana has so much offensive plus

22:30–Steve begins his 2014 predictions: Can he match 2013?

26:15–A lot of talk about Francisco Lindor

32:45–Francona has earned the type of trust to move Lindor in the lineup without an injury

36:50–Lindor could play his way onto this team

38:12–David Murphy—get excited

40:00–Steve hates on Murphy and makes everyone sad

41:45–David Murphy or Eddie Murphy?

At this point…Orbanek goes off…Marco Polo…Rob Lowe and Eddie Murphy…

45:15–Mike loves right field, even though it’s not as sexy as Rob Lowe

48:15–The Indians model of signing free agents, and the issues.

52:00–Masterson would have been an investment

55:00–Jake Westbrook Rule

55:30–The Indians need to lock up young pitchers to long-term deals, and players in general…like John Hart

59:00–Salazar needs signed long-term

1:02–Mike the narcissist, and Jim gets him to say pooh-pooh

1:08:40–Mike talks Trevor Bauer and his new, moderate man-crush, and an old fanboy discussion on middle infielders

1:10–Michael Bourn watch

1:10:55–The plugs



Kipnis signs at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Progressive FieldIt’s truly a good time to be a sports’ fan here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Sure, I could wax poetic about Spring Training once again, but it goes far beyond that. NFL free agency is upon us (with the Browns major players), and by this time next week, we’ll be on the eve of the 2014 NCAA basketball tournament. The tournament, for me, has always been the bridge to the opening day of baseball, a sure sign that spring is here, and meaningful baseball is on its way.

It’s truly funny how the tournament has changed since I was a kid. Initially, the tournament seedings were a fairly hidden process, without much fanfare. As a kid, I didn’t pay attention to the brackets until they came out in the middle of a Sports’ Illustrated magazine, with the teams already printed. That segued into the blank newspaper brackets, and selection Sunday, which I would spend writing down every team as fast as I could, always missing one, but going back to the tapes for the random unknown teams such as Middle Tennessee State or LaSalle. That turned into the college poster board brackets, which I would meticulously measure out every bracket just so, and color code all of the teams with their respective ranking, seed and side of the bracket. Of course, these were the centerpiece to some “friendly wagers,” as the quest for yearly bragging rights began every mid-March.

Today, I still create the poster board brackets, and they are still the centerpiece of many “friendly wagers,” but the next week will be swarmed with paid professionals who deem themselves as “bracketologists.” Imagine that, paid professionals who do nothing but build brackets for a living. I distinctly recall my mother saying, “If you put that much effort in school, you’d get a good job.” I remember thinking, “If only they had big money job that involved brackets.”

Little did I know.

While much of our next few weeks will be swallowed up from the opening tips of the conference tournaments to the now clichéd “One Shining Moment” on Monday, April 7th, the Indians will be putting together their final pieces in what hopes to be the next step to a World Series run. In 19 days, the Tribe will kick off their 2014 season in Oakland, and there are many interesting questions heading into the season.

With all of that said, let’s grab our Shamrock Shakes and our posterboard brackets and take a look at some of those questions and expectations that are flying in from the Arizona desert. Continue reading

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CSI 73: Post-Combine Draft talk

Mike and Jeff roll out talk about the recently completed NFL combine, and take a look at the rising and falling stock on several players on the draft board. Jeff and Mike discuss the following:

  • Winners of the NFL Combine
  • Has the combine shaken up the top ten, if at all
  • How did certain players performances affect the Brown position?
  • What would be an ideal outcome for the Browns first three picks
  • Other notes and delusions which may or may not be worth a listen
  • A little MLB draft talk before technology fights us to a close

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Bourn and late signings at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Life is truly boring here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario. With the Super Bowl over and draft rumblings beginning in Berea for the Browns; and with the season essentially over at Quicken Arena with a Cavaliers team that plays as though basketball is a secondary calling, I’m ecstatic that this will be my final Corner column written without actual Cleveland Indians’ players officially reporting to camp. A week from now, the Hot Stove season will officially come to a close, and while there will still be players to sign and remnants of offseason maneuvering, we should have actual player reports to discuss.

In the meantime, the Indians appear to be heading to Goodyear with a team that looks much like the team that headed to Goodyear last season. Of course, it was in this column last year at this time that I reported with certainty that “Bourn wasn’t coming to Cleveland unless there was some sort of insane collusion amongst teams to ensure the Indians get him. In the end, there’s no real need, and likely, no real money.”

Five days later, Bourn was sitting at a podium at Progressive Field announcing his signing. While there wasn’t any Major League collusion, the structure of baseball’s Qualifying Offers and the refusal of teams to give up their slotted first round money in the draft allowed the Indians to sign Bourn to what amounted to a massive bargain in comparison to market value. This was re-asserted in December in a Trend Spotting here at IBI that supported that his contract remains a bargain in comparison to today’s market, even though the Indians could have likely allotted the money to different areas of the team.

The move cemented the Indians as a team that was using all of its resources to improve, and really supported the hiring of Terry Francona as the team’s centerpiece moving forward.

While we can argue the validity of the Indians’ signings last season using our rearviewmirror, it’s hard to argue the net results. To coin a couple of songs from Pearl Jam, the team went from a 68-win ‘Nothing Man’ to a 92-win “Better Man.” While the numbers of the signings that came after January may have not been as stellar as fans and Tribe brass predicted, the sudden drive to improve in the offseason, combined with a monumental effort from collective offense and the starting rotation drove the team through a final month that will be hard to match by any team, let alone this Indians team.

…but I keep coming back to that Bourn move.

There had been public speculation all offseason long that the Indians could be players for Bourn, and in the end, that turned out to be true. Not only was he willing to come to Cleveland, but the Indians were willing to give him a substantial amount of money. Yes, it was under market value (still is, relative to other centerfielders in the league considered “elite”), but for the Indians it was far beyond what many thought they would pay for any free agent, let alone a second major free agent signing.

Which brings me to my question of the day: Could Michael Bourn the Indians major signing for the 2014 season? Continue reading