Cleveland Sports Insiders

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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)


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


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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)


500 words or less…on signing Ubaldo Jimenez

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

The Cleveland Indians should sign Ubaldo Jimenez.

Jon Heyman reported on Monday’s MLB Tonight that Ubaldo had dropped his contract demands further and was seeking a three-year, $39 million dollar deal.

That puts Jimenez right in the Tribe’s money wheelhouse.

On October 9th, I speculated that Jimenez would have a floor of three years and $33 million, with a ceiling of three and $39. While there were more years and bigger numbers being discussed by his agent, money expectations for Jimenez had to be tempered a bit because of his overall body of work with the Indians. While he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball last August and September, he was far from it in his previous two seasons with the Tribe.

Jimenez is the pure definition of dichotomy as a starting pitcher. On one side of the coin, he is a flawed pitcher that struggles to throw strikes. On the flip-side, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball when everything is clicking, who works the zone, confuses hitters, and can carry a team. Continue reading

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500 words or less…on Ubaldo Jimenez and Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer (photo: AP)

Trevor Bauer (photo: AP)

Can Trevor Bauer rebound from his struggling 2013 season? columnist Steve Orbanek and I bantered about the numbers of Danny Salazar‘s 2012 minor league campaign with Cody Anderson‘s stat line in 2013. Steve makes a good case for Anderson’s future in Friday, January 17th‘s Orbiting Cleveland.

Salazar and Anderson are different styled pitchers, but are on a similar trajectory.

From there, I began a cursory look at Trevor Bauer, pondering his future compared to Salazar and Anderson because of his day-to-day struggles to find the strike zone. While Bauer, Salazar and Anderson all have had varied levels of success, comping them while Bauer is struggling seemed unfair.

While pondering a comparison-study, one name stood out to me in relationship to Bauer: Ubaldo Jimenez. I cherry-picked Jimenez’s final season at Triple A Colorado Springs, as-well-as Bauer’s 2013 season in Columbus. Continue reading

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500 words or less…on hiring the right football coach

1The Cleveland Browns can learn a lot from their AFC North adversaries when it comes to hiring a football coach. There are clearly differences in organizations, but both the Steelers and Ravens made dark-horse hires that ultimately won their teams Super Bowls.

In 2007, Bill Cowher resigned as Steelers coach after fifteen seasons. The Steelers interviewed five candidates for the job; Steelers OC Ken Whisenhunt; Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm; Bears DC Ron Rivera; Georgia Tech head football coach Chan Gailey; and Vikings DC Mike Tomlin.

Whisenhunt, Grimm, Rivera and Tomlin had never been a head coach, and Gailey had been the head coach in Dallas for two years, and was the current Georgia Tech head coach. The Steelers’ job was coveted, but the front office focused on names that were High-IQ “fits” for what a Steelers coach should be. The Steelers hired Tomlin, who had overwhelmed the front office in his two interviews as being an intense leader, with a clear picture of what it would take to win football games in the Steelers organization. Continue reading

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500 words or less…on the Browns and their upside

Could Bridgewater or Manziel be wearing a Browns jersey in 2014?

Could Bridgewater or Manziel be wearing a Browns jersey in 2014?

The Cleveland Browns have some upside.

According to, the Browns will have the most money under the cap than any other football team in the NFL. As of now, Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi will have nearly $25 million to spend this offseason on free agency. There’s also a significant chance that the $25 million could go with the release of several players, including Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell.

The Browns also have ten draft picks in the 2014 NFL draft, including two firsts, a second, two thirds, two fourths, and one each in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.

In other words, the Browns have a lot of money to spend, combined with seven picks in the first four rounds. A smart front office can do a lot of damage with that kind of room, and that kind of money.

The Browns also have Josh Gordon. While talk of Gordon being the best receiver in the NFL is slightly premature, a case could be made that he is, and that’s saying something. Continue reading

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500 Words or less…on great enigmas

Carlos Carrasco has increasingly become one of the great divides among Indians fans, however, this type of debate is not a particularly new one. Indeed, what we have are two distinct sides, with two reasonable arguments as to what his fate will be as a big league pitcher.

On the one side we have the people who are obsessed with Carrasco as a talent, they see the fastball that sits at 95 MPH and above as well as a good slider and other solid secondary offerings. Enamored with upside which is wholly understandable. This sort of confidence and positivity is derived not only from his “stuff” but also from his prospect pedigree.

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500 words or less…on the Cavs losing by 44

44, my favorite number

44, my favorite number

In an effort to provide new content every day, CSI has created a new daily column called 500 words or less. The point of this avant-garde work of art is to give our daily readers a quick thought or two on something topical in Cleveland sports, or really, anything that happens to pop into any of our writer’s minds at the time. The hope is that it’s daily. The hope is that it’s in the morning. The hope is that it’s worth five minutes of your time every day. How will it evolve? Who knows, but it sure is a start. Oh, and the italics doesn’t count in today’s post.

I can’t tell a lie, 44 is my favorite number. We all have strange reasons for our favorite numbers, but mine is straight forward. When I was nine, I read Hank Aaron‘s autobiography, Aaron. “The Hammer’s” wore 44, and that number has stayed with ever since. As a youngster, I wore 44 or 8 (or 4 in a pinch) in every sport I played, and it always finds its way onto my lottery tickets.

On Sunday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers got blasted by, you guessed it, 44 points.

The loss is a little bit historic, as 44 should be. Continue reading