Cleveland Sports Insiders

Ernie Camacho's favorite blog…


Leave a comment

500 words or more…on LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

LeBron and Z during the good ole' days (Tony Dejak/AP)

LeBron and Z during the good ole’ days (Tony Dejak/AP)

Hero-Worship.

It’s a phrase that’s often uttered in reference to our favorite sports players.

To some, it’s more hyperbole than anything else.

To others, it’s a right of fan-dom. If there’s a player you love, you treat him above all else.

In Cleveland, nobody had epitomized the term hero-worship more than LeBron James.

If you’re reading this, there’s no reason to go into too much detail with regards to LeBron’s history. He grew up in Akron, less than an hour from Cleveland. He led his high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary’s to three state championships and one national championship. He declared for the NBA draft, and when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the right to the first pick that year, words such as Kismet and Destiny were uttered more than once.

His career in Cleveland was special, but certainly not perfect. Yet, Cleveland Cavaliers fans realized that for perhaps the first time in many, many years, the best player in the world in a major sport played for a team with Cleveland stitched on the front. Continue reading

Advertisements


Leave a comment

State of the Union at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Progressive FieldPitchers and Catchers have reported to Goodyear, and of course, many, if not all position players are either already there or on their way. No, it’s not spring yet, as I sit at home in the midst of a rare Carolina snowstorm, but it’s time for hope to spring eternal. The Cleveland Indians are about to embark on a curious season. It’s a season in which they are building off a surprise run to the playoffs with a rather rag-tag group of players. Many think they can’t match, and on paper, there are major questions.

But, it’s time for optimism.

It’s time to ponder what could happen if it all clicks together…you know…like it did in September last year.

What happens if Terry Francona figures everything out, and what happens if some players reach their upside, and what happens if last year really wasn’t an aberration, but a spring-board?

It’s time to ponder one more time before the facts and faces of a new season take over. It’s time to be a politician and campaign for this team.

It’s time for the State of the Union Address from right here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario…

Mr. Dolan, Mr. Antonetti, members of the Indians front office, field management and fellow Tribe fans, today at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, we take a close look at a team that has spent the past 18 months trying to create a roster that is balanced, cost-effective, and built to win in the future. This team, in less than a year, went from a laughingstock to a playoff spot. A manager returned to the game of baseball and spent time with a team who needed it, and that manager did his part to lift the Indians’ to its highest levels in six seasons.

An Ohio boy, or should I say, a “BrO-hio” boy flipped the switch on the belief that no free agents would come to Cleveland, and that the Indians wouldn’t spend money on free agents. No, that free agent didn’t have his best season, and he struggled at times, but he showcased that blue-collar attitude that Cleveland fans loved. He gave the team a leader in the clubhouse, something that this team hasn’t had since the 2007 team was dismantled.

A youngster started the season off as a limited-innings starter in Akron in April, and ended up the one-game playoff starter for the Indians in October. This young man struck out seven in his first six-inning start in July, but saved his best for his next chance in August. He returned against the first place Tigers, and while he ultimately gave up the game-winning home run to their offensive-savant, Miguel Cabrera, he had previously struck that same player out three times on his way to ten K’s in 7 2/3 innings. This kid looked special in his first season with the Tribe, and we may have only touched the tip of the iceberg.

An unassuming leftfielder who “just does his job” made his nickname, Dr. Smooth, seem an understatement on his way to a four-year, $25 million dollar contract. He “only” hit .284 with 10 homers and 73 RBI. At one point or another, he hit in every spot but the ninth spot in the line-up. He hasn’t committed an error in almost two full seasons. He hit .345 during the Indians’ magic run in September, while hitting .375 with runners in scoring position and .364 with two outs and RISP. In other words, he does a little bit of everything, and when he’s clicking, he does a little bit of everything really well. He may be the smartest offensive player on the team.

One quiet catcher started the year as an afterthought in Columbus. He was an afterthought in a trade for a utility infielder. He was an afterthought as a prospect. He was an afterthought as an everyday catcher defensively because of what turned out to be a simple lack of exposure. Today, he is the starting catcher for the Cleveland Indians, considered a plus-defender, and may have more upside offensively than anyone could have dreamt. The other quiet catcher started the year having to catch because most said that was the one place in which his statistics translated to “star-power.” Well, he once again had one of those monstrously solid seasons that underwhelmed the 90’s-era power fans, but overwhelmed the majority who actually pay attention to the game of baseball. Oh, and he got bumped from catching duties, and now looks like he may be the everyday third baseman.

Today, the day after pitchers and catchers have reported to Goodyear, Arizona to kick off the 2014 season, the Cleveland Indians begin another drive for the playoffs with one voice, the voice of arguably the best manager in baseball, Terry Francona. Francona knows the game of baseball, but so do a lot of guys. What makes him special is that he has a keen intuitive feel for the game that many others don’t. That can frustrate fans at times, because it doesn’t always work, but for Francona, it works more often than not.

This is a manager that has built the kind of trust in the Indians’ clubhouse, and with the Indians’ management, and with the Indians’ ownership, and with the Indians’ fans that is often elusive for many years for most, and never happens for many. Everyone always knows where they stand, and they trust the decisions that are made. In other words, Francona runs a tight ship. This team had no business making it to the playoffs, but make no mistakes about it, the groundwork was laid down by Francona.

While most believed the Indians were just trying to right the ship in 2013, Francona had his sights set on the playoffs. Never bet against Francona.

And here are the results of Francona’s efforts: the Indians have momentum that they haven’t had in years. Their on the field management all returns with players they are now familiar with. Their starting rotation returns after their best season since the days of Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, and while they are shorthanded with Ubaldo Jimenez andScott Kazmir both moving on (well, one of them for sure, the other likely), there’s reason to believe they could be even better than last year. Their offense returns intact from a top ten offensive team, and appear to have some upside to give. The bullpen added by subtracting, then added by adding. While you can’t point to one thing, on paper, that’s exceptionally better than at the end of last season, there is one thing that I firmly believe is different.

The Cleveland Indians are pointing themselves towards the 2014 World Series. That’s undoubtedly Terry Francona’s goal. No, my fellow IBI readers, I’m not saying it in the way that you are thinking. You know, that clichéd “everyone plays for the World Series” garbage. I mean, this manager believes the Indians can not only make it to the World Series, but I really believe that he thinks he can win it.

Whether or not you believe that, it’s now time to re-invest in these Cleveland Indians. It’s time to stop comparing them to the teams of the past. No, they aren’t the Indians of the 1990’s. No, they aren’t even the Indians of 2005 & 2007. These Indians aren’t centered around the offensive juggernaut that Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome wrought. These Indians aren’t dependent on the Cy Young pitching of CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Cliff Lee. These Indians are built around two words: team and trust. They play like a team, and they trust what the other guys will do.

That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for the Indians. After a season of grit and determined effort, this franchise is better-positioned for 2014 and beyond than any other team has been here on the North Coast in many, many years.

There are many questions for everyone here at IBI and here in Cleveland. Can the Indians break the trend of having one good season, followed by a season of regression. For several years now, the Indians struggled just to find talent after their 2007 playoff team was dismantled. Now, with Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn signed for three more seasons; and with Carlos SantanaMichael BrantleyYan GomesJason KipnisDanny SalazarCorey Kluber and Zach McAllister, to name a few, anchoring this team for the foreseeable future, the Indians look to be building something more than a no-hit wonder.

Now, as a fairly-biased writer, I’m ready to be bullish on Cleveland finally take it to the next level and helping to rebuild a fan-base and market that is desperate for a winner. I’m ready to watch Terry Francona take a team that is likely an 82 or 83-win team right now, and build them into something more. I’m ready for ownership to hold their chips until the right player comes along, and firmly believe they will.

Let’s start with the rotation. Please understand, the Cleveland Indians had an incredible starting rotation last season. Many can argue the merits of the players that were in this rotation, but you can make a case that they all carried this team at one point or another. Two of those players are gone.

That leaves the Indians with some questions that they really have to answer. Justin Masterson is the only starter guaranteed to make the five-man rotation that has completed an entire season in the major leagues as a starter at the big league level. There are many that still argue his merit as an “ace,” but on this “team,” that’s not necessarily relevant in the grand scheme of things. He’s certainly the leader of the team, and believe in many ways that the 2013 rotation was partially a result of Masterson. He’s the type of personality that people gravitate towards, and I believe there was a group of guys that fed off of it in a domino-sort of way. They build upon each other throughout the year. Masterson gave way to McAllister who gave way to Kluber who gave way back to Masterson and then to Kazmir, who shared with Salazar.

Ubaldo then took the ball that Francona snatched away from him…and the final piece clicked for that rotation.

Masterson is back, and while many are focused on whether or not he signs a long-term deal, the reality is that he’s here now, and for this coming season. Whether or not the Indians sign him long-term is up in the air, but there’s no doubt that the reliable Masterson will provide the leadership for a rotation that could round out into something interesting, if all stay healthy.

Taking Ubaldo’s spot as the #2 starter is Danny Salazar. Again, there are arguments brewing over whether or not Salazar is special, or should be expected to be special. I’ve run through the numbers over-and-over here at the Corner, and I would rather be liberal with my take, then the conservative views that seem to purvey. When healthy, Salazar has dominant, special stuff. He’ll be healthy this year. While some are concerned that he gave up far too many homers, and comment on his lack of movement, and perhaps lack of pitches, don’t weigh those comments too highly. Salazar is a worker, and has a really good IQ. That will change in 2014.

The rotation hinges on the #3 slot that belongs to Corey Kluber. If he returns to the form that made him borderline special up until his injury last year, then this rotation has a chance to be better than last year. Again, there’s a stigma around Kluber like there is around Masterson that he’s not an “ace,” but I really wonder about that. He’s always had the stuff, and with two new pitches that were working well in his arsenal last year, we may have only seen the beginning of a metamorphosis of sorts for Kluber. If he’s special, with Masterson and Salazar, I’d put our top three up with anyone.

Now, Zach McAllister is the #4, and I do have some hopes for him. The difference between McAllister and the other three is that he really lacks one pitch that can get him out of jams. It’s burned him as teams have figured out his stuff throughout a game, and it’s going to be hard to overcome. Still, he was lights out for a stretch in late April in May, and while I don’t expect THAT pitcher all the time, if he’s healthy, and can weave in and out of that, he is the perfect #4.

The #5 slot is open for discussion, and I do believe the Indians will wrap up another starter to fill this hole prior to the season. If they don’t, look for the Indians to piece-meal a fifth starter throughout the year until someone takes it (Bauer) full time because of injury or just being that good.

Oh, and I’m going to follow up the much respected Senator from McKean, Steve Orbanek, and say that if everything goes well with Cody Anderson’s development, and if injuries creap into this rotation, he will make his name known before September. A lot would have to happen for THAT to happen, but who outside of this column thought Salazar was going to start for the Indians last year?

The key to this is the Indians’ health plan. Can they keep the top four healthy all season long. If they can mimic the Tigers with regards to health, than it almost doesn’t matter who that #5 candidate is. They’ll have their work cut out.

In the bullpen, we no longer have to worry about the alleged “doggy drug trade” that the former Indians’ closer was a part of. With Chris Antonetti adding a new closer in John Axford, the Indians immediately take on a different look. Yes, there are lots of questions about Axford going forward, but if the stories are true and his tipping pitches problems are truly over, the Indians may have a diamond in the rough. What a difference that would make, to have a closer that can shut people down. I’m not sold on that though, but the Indians have plenty in place to help supplement Axford should they need it.

One of those guys is Cody Allen. He’s young, but he’s far-and-away the best reliever on this team right now. He struggled last year at times, but that’s to be expected from a guy that a year before, was pitching in Carolina. His rubber-band has snapped back now, and you can almost look at him as a veteran in the pen. His stuff is special, and so is his psyche.

Past Allen are guys like Bryan Shaw, CC Lee, Mark Rzepczynski and Josh Outman, who should improve this pen by a lot heading into the season. The wildcard is Vinnie Pestano. The trends are disconcerting with the fireballing righty, but if it was a 1-year, injury slip, he could take the pen to the next level.

The pen will be a work in progress, as most are, but I firmly believe Mickey Callaway and Terry Francona will manage this pen throughout the season so that it’s ready for another stretch run, and into the playoffs. It may have been their biggest accomplishment last year…when the pen went from bad to solid after Pestano was sent down in August.

That’s what trust does. It gives a team a pillow when things go wrong. Pestano’s demise could have been demoralizing. Instead, the Indians’ pen springboarded from that point on.

The pitchers have questions, but the foundation is strong, and the management team knows what they are doing.

I’m extremely pleased with the offense on this team, and think that it won’t take much to make it better than their feast-or-famine offense of last year. Let’s be honest. While we love the fact that we scored a bunch of runs, we all know that it wasn’t a prototypical team that scores a lot. There were games…weeks really…when this team struggled to find their bats.

That will change.

It starts with Jason Kipnis, who played his first full season in which he didn’t have to carry an entire major league team on his shoulders. His numbers were good, but much of that came from a subliminal June in which he was the player of the month. This is the year he stops being the guy that’s up and down, and starts being the guy that everyone expects him to be. Kipnis plays hard, and I really believe he will harness that this year. Yes, he can hit 20 homers. Yes, he can drive in 100 runs. Yes, he can score 100. Yes, he can steal 25-30 bases. I don’t know that Indians fans understand what his ceiling is. Sure, I’m critical of how he’s struggled at times, but I was bemused a bit by the scuttlebutt last year that he might get sent down when he struggled in April.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

I love that Carlos Santana isn’t playing catcher, and could care a less whether or not his plays first or third or DH’s. I get weighing players by what they do at certain positions. There’s tons of validity to that. Of course, what drives me bonkers is when people look at a move in a bubble. If you move Santana to first and his a top-25 hitter in baseball…he’s still a top-25 hitter in baseball. The move may make him better, since he’s not behind the plate. You then have to balance the guy that replaces him at catcher. To me, you can counterbalance value if the right players fit the opening he leaves. Yan Gomes will do that. I’ll get to him in a second.

While I don’t care if Santana improves, I think there’s plenty of upside there. I don’t need a prototypical home run hitter, but I do think that Santana can be one playing just the way he plays. He has these moments and stretches in which offensively, he is unstoppable. The question is whether or not he can do that over longer stretches. If there’s ever been a season to do it, it’s this season. I’m not sure about the third base trial, but I’ve said for two months that the Indians aren’t going to have him playing third in winter league play if this was just shot-in-the-dark. I think he’s your starting third baseman. I worry about his offense with a new position, and worry about his defense to. I’m curious, but would likely prefer him at first.

In the end…I’m just glad he’s an Indian.

Now Gomes should regress. The projections say it. The peripherals show it. My brain tells me that being the regular catcher in your second season in a league that has a ton of video means you are going to regress. But what if he doesn’t. What if everyone had it wrong this year, the same way that everyone had it wrong last year. What if just playing catcher finally allowed the utility-ish player to focus on one area. What if Yan Gomes is a budding star, in the mold of say…I don’t know…Santana. Oh, except as a plus defender. Now, I believe in Hope, but I also believe in reality. The worse-case scenario here is Gomes is a great defender with an iffy stick. I’ll take that…because he can handle a staff, and he has an attitude that screams captain to me.

I’ve already described Michael Brantley, and he’s not a guy I worry about having a contract-lull. When I look at Brantley, I think IQ. This is a guy that attacks pitches he knows. He is a guy that is becoming more analytical as he goes, and is so efficient with the bat, that I don’t know how good he could be. Is he a 20-homer guy in the end? Maybe. A lot will depend on where he hits. I think he’s the type of player that alters his swing dependent on what’s going on around him. He’s that good, and better than people think. The Indians did right by signing him up for four years with the potential for five.

I’m not going to spend a lot of our time on Michael Bourn, and I’m going to ignore the analytics, and many good politicians do. I’m just going to go on a hunch and say that I think Bourn has one more good season in him. I don’t know if it was because he was hurt. I don’t know if it was because he was in a new league. I don’t know if it was because he was regressing. What I’m hoping is that it’s just one of those years, and Bourn is a magical lead-off hitter. Call it my magic-centerfielder-theory. There isn’t one metric backing me up.

I believe in dominoes falling, and Francona has a knack for lining up those dominos.

Nick Swisher will regress. I believe that. What does that mean though? He’ll still hit 20 homers. He’ll still get timely hits. He’ll still be the captain of this team. If he stays healthy, he may regress and have better numbers than last year. I know, more politician talk. Swisher’s importance to this team is so far beyond his offense though.

I love the Murphy/Raburn platoon in right, if that is what it truly is. I do believe Murphy gets the bulk of the time there, and that Francona manages Raburn in the same manner in which he did last year. Murphy is set to rebound, and is a plus defender. I can’t wait to see him play, and to see how that domino helps the rest of the team.

Mike Aviles is solid, and they’ll find pieces to fill in the rest of the roster.

Watch for Jose Ramirez. I’m consistently told he doesn’t have a place to play, and I begrudgingly admit that he’ll never get a shot at second or short as long as Asdrubal Cabrera and Francisco Lindor are at short, and Jason Kipnis is at second. But if there’s ever an opening, or if the Indians pull a trade, watch out for him. He has plus-plus speed. He is magic with the bat. He’s better than people think. If he gets a window, he could be a massive surprise.

Lindor will be heard from, and could force the issue. Jesus Aguilar might be heard from. Several others from the minors might be worth mentioning as well. That may be the major difference in this team from the past. There’s help, both in players and potential trade candidates.

This team has the ability to replenish.

Now I realize that I paint a rosy picture here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, but there comes a time in our lives when we have to give in to the expectations of people who know a lot more than we do.

Terry Francona is that guy.

Trust me when I say this: he believes this team can get to and win the World Series. They may have to maneuver. They may have to scrape. They may make a trade or two. They may have to work through injury.

But this team could be special. The youth is a year older. The old players aren’t really that old. It will be difficult. The Tigers are still good. The Royals seemingly improved. The Yankees bought have the league. The Angels should rebound. The Rangers continue to make moves to be better. There are other good managers and other good teams that believe it’s their time and their town.

But for 65 seasons, our town has not-so-patiently waited for someone to take this team on their collective shoulder to win that World Series trophy. For lifetimes, we’ve waited for the right mix and right pieces to come together to create a winning culture that had the ability to take that final step. Those great teams of the 90’s couldn’t do it. Those great teams of the Aughts couldn’t do it.

The Cleveland Indians won’t be respected, not by the national media, and likely not by many other major league organizations. But sometimes when all the dominoes fall into the right place with their feet planted firmly in today, a World Series is within reach.

Believe it.


Leave a comment

500 words or less…on Jim Harbaugh and Terry Francona

Happy Harbaugh says no (Photo: Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports)

Happy Harbaugh says no (Photo: Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports)

The Cleveland Indians made a bold move at the tail end of the 2012 MLB season. With Manny Acta losing control of a team with a dearth of talent and depth, Indians’ GM Chris Antonetti fired his first official coaching hire and went for a home run. In his sight was a good friend who just happened to be a former two-time World Champion manager, Terry Francona.

Mark Shapiro will never admit to this, but I firmly believed then (and now) that had Antonetti missed on Francona, he would have followed Manny Acta out the door in quick fashion. I know there are conflicting reports, but you don’t have to use your heads to much to realize just how true it likely was.

Francona signed with the Indians, and the rest is history. The Indians front office went from a local joke to garnering more respect, free agents were signed, and the Indians righted the ship in quick fashion.

Fast Forward to 2013. Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi made a bold move at the tail end of the 2013 NFL season. With Rob Chudzinski reportedly losing control of the Browns’ locker room, the team president and general manager fired their first official coaching hire and apparently went for a home run. In their sight was a coach who had back-to-back trips to the NFC Championship game to go along with a trip to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, Jim Harbaugh.

The deal was more complicated, since Harbaugh still had two seasons left on his contract, and the Browns would have had to offer draft pick compensation, but the theory was still the same. Go out and sign a big name coach, bring respectability on the field to a team that has looked like the Keystone Cops of the NFL, and in turn, save a couple of jobs.

It explains so much.

It explains the firing.

It explains the lag time.

It explains the “patience” from the front office.

Seriously, it was likely Harbaugh or a permanent vacation. There weren’t any other home runs out there to be had, so this was their Terry Francona.

In the end, Harbaugh said no. You can insert 100 reasons why he wouldn’t want to change teams, but it likely started with front office stability (saving Banner and Lombardi meant working for them), ownership stability and a team that will again be knocking on the door of the Super Bowl next season.

Banner and Lombardi likely held on to finish the job of hiring the best coach that would take it, then were relieved of their duties after another failure.

In the end, Pettine was a solid choice, but leave it to the Browns to add this sort of wrinkle and miss into the equation.

But how fun would that have been? Coaching the Browns: Jim Harbaugh. Coaching the Ravens: John Harbaugh. How long would it have been before both were having a sibling throwdown at the fifty-yard line at FirstEnergy Stadium?

We can only dream…

(498 Words)


Leave a comment

CSI 72: The Browns and the NFL Draft

For once, regular CSI host Jim Pete gets a night off. Mike Hattery and Jeff Ellis grab the reigns of CSI: the Podcast for the first time, and talk NFL draft, and how and what the Browns might do with their top draft picks, as well as some sleepers as draft weekend progresses. Join Mike and Jeff with what promises to be a regular weekly draft podcast in the coming months.


Leave a comment

CSI 71: Browns upheavel, Masterson guidelines and Cavs at the deadline

Mike and Jim watched their “only Browns” podcast get hijacked by the news that the Reds’ starting pitcher Hunter Bailey is on the verge of signing a reported six-year, $100 million contract. Listen as they try and make sense of the Browns’ moves in the front office, as well as looking forward to their potential moves in the upcoming draft. They also discuss Masterson’s potential windfall should Bailey sign his long-term deal with the other Ohio team, then end with what the Cavs may do at the deadline with Luol Deng and Kyrie Irving.


2 Comments

500 words or less…the Cleveland Browns making me mean

(Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

(Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

I get it.

It’s Valentine’s Day.

I should be talking about Love and Wonder and Happy-Happy, Joy-Joy…

Not today.

The Browns make me mean. I love dogs and sunshine and spending time with my kids. I smile a lot, am fairly laid back, and I like to joke around.

Then mention the Browns and things change quickly.

Watching the Browns’ are akin to choosing to boil your hands in a pot of 300 degree water.

They have a great receiver and a fantastic tight end. Their offensive line is better than most. They have a really good set of defensive players. They had five pro-bowlers for crying out loud!!!

THEY SHOULD WIN, but they don’t.

The off-the-field Browns, though, make the on-the-field “Browns” look like perennial Super Bowl contenders.

You want to talk about making me surly?

Mention Jimmy Haslam and this wrecking-ball approach that he’s taken in his 18 months at the helm. He’s already fired two front offices and two coaching staffs.

What do you do with that?

Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur begat Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi and Rob Chudzinski who begat Alec Scheiner, Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine. Think about that. In 18 months, the Browns have had three head football coaches and five different people running Browns’ operations and personnel, or both.

The Browns have been dysfunctional since 1999, but this is the pure definition of epic?

What are they going to do next, sign Tim Tebow and trade away all their draft picks to move up two spots and take a wide receiver?

Apparently, following the Browns is akin to Bastille Day, every day.

My good friend Brian called me a couple of days ago. He’d been in France, ironically enough, for two months working with his tech firm, and I was truly happy to hear from him. We talked holidays, family, and before three minutes were up, he said, “What are the Browns doing?”

I went blind with rage.

By the fifth minute of our conversation I had used enough unintelligible profanity to make Ozzy Osbourne blush, and in the sixth minute, after Brian had joined me in the obscenity-laden tirade, he said, “Why do we do this every year?”

Why indeed.

But I grabbed control.

The Browns now have a well-respected president in Alec Scheiner, who will take over business operations. The Browns now have a well-respected General Manager in Ray Farmer, who will take over personnel decisions. The Browns now have a well-respected coach in Mike Pettine, who’s a blue-collar work-a-holic and seems to fit this town. The Browns now have about 100 picks in the first four rounds, and have a deep roster that may be ready to win sooner than people think.

Farmer and Scheiner were already with the organization, and if they pan out, it shows that Haslam isn’t a complete imbecile when it comes to hiring NFL executives.

This time, it really feels like an owner trying to get it right…right?

Yeah, I know, where’s the pot of boiling water.


Leave a comment

CSI 70: Chris Grant, Mike Brown, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett

CSI will be back and better than ever this week with new content, new pods and new discussions heading to the Cavaliers All-Star break, the Browns 2014 draft, and the Indians spring training. Also look for our podcasts to take off with daily content from Steve, Mike and I, as well as our newcomer, Jeff Ellis, who will begin posting original draft content here starting with a piece for tomorrow!

Today’s podcast is focusing on Chris Grant and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and what they can do to turn things around during the 2013-2014 season, and what they should do with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Luol Deng, Anderson Varejao and Anthony Bennett heading into the offseason and beyond. This team is as hard to figure out as any Cavaliers’ team in the past 20 seasons, and with David Griffin taking over, can they turn things around, and do they even want to?

Here’s the show: Continue reading


Leave a comment

The future of Kyrie Irving in Cleveland

1It was bound to happen.

At one point or another, someone was bound to report that Kyrie Irving wanted to leave Cleveland. If you want to be honest about it, someone already did report that Kyrie Irving was going to leave Cleveland long before Chad Ford made his flippant comment yesterday in his online chat. I seem to recall CBS Radio’s Brandon Tierney saying the same thing.

The point is that at the end of every season, when Cavaliers’ fans take stock of the team, the first question everyone asks is, “Is he going to leave?”

It’s habit.

It’s what happens when the greatest basketball player in all the land grows up an hour from Cleveland, gets drafted by his “hometown” Cavs, nearly leads them to the Promised Land, then toys with the fans for year before taking his talents to South Beach.

I don’t blame LeBron for leaving. That was his right. But Cleveland fans are now gun-shy with their meaningful basketball players.

Kyrie Irving isn’t LeBron James. He’s not the best basketball player on the planet, nor is he going to be. He likely is the best basketball player in Cleveland though, and nearly from the time he was drafted with that #1 pick in June of 2011, Cleveland fans have been wondering:

“Is he going to leave?” Continue reading


Leave a comment

Ubaldo Jimenez won’t leave the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

1

Of course, Jimenez may be a part of Cleveland’s past in a few days, so perhaps I ended up where I wanted to go to begin with.

Now I’m not fan of Ubaldo, and I don’t think that I ever will be. He was dominant in August and September, but I still found it hard to watch him pitch, preferring to listen to Hamilton instead. It’s a repercussion from the previous 18 months in an Indians uniform that did it, and I am nothing if not stubborn. I’m a firm believer in “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

So he’s gone, and I should be good with that…but…

…the Indians and how they spend their money always intrigues me, and this offseason has been no exception. Last season saw a new direction for the Indians, as they laid out two relatively major deals to two former all-stars to take their talents to Cleveland. Many thought it was a sign of things to come.

The loyal Indians’ followers that really paid attention realized that this wasn’t really the case.

The Indians were dealing with a money window of sorts, taking advantage of some quirks in a new system that would affect teams’ abilities to sign players thanks to money allotments in the rookie draft. The front office also realized that a new TV deal would send salaries through the roof in 2014, and needed to jump before they couldn’t afford to.

Where the rubber meets the road though is when a team legitimately thinks they can contend for a World Series. How far will they go to do it? Continue reading


Leave a comment

Cleveland Cavaliers finger-pointing

1aaThe Cleveland Cavaliers are a team that truly seems rudderless. They play well over long stretches , only to get blown out by 44. They take big leads in games, only to give them up as though 25-point leads are close games.

When you stare at the Cavs for any length of time, you see a team that lacks leaders, consistency and direction.

Throughout the season, you can point to several different issues that have been or are at root with the struggles of this team. Dan Gilbert, Chris Grant, Mike Brown and nearly every member of the team has, at one point or another, been at the center of finger-pointing, and you can take that phrase at face value, because I’m not always pointing the same finger.

The frustration is that this isn’t a bad basketball team talent-wise. Kyrie Irving has talent. Dion Waiters has talent. Tristan Thompson has talent. Yeah, even Anthony Bennett has talent. The problem? Well, if there were one, things wouldn’t be where they are right now. The Cavs are 16-29. They were 13-32 last year, but were 17-28 two seasons ago. In other words, they aren’t any better…yet.

As the Cavaliers head to New York tonight after a 1-4 road trip, you can’t help but feel this is a make-or-break road trip. Can they be a good basketball team? Do we even want them to be?

Let’s point some fingers…and feel free to use whichever finger you see fit: Continue reading