Thursday, February 25, 2010



That word has no business in modern day sports, which is exactly that: a business. People are saying that Z should spurn the Cavs, for the sole reason they dumped him at the trade deadline. They are morons. Forget the fact they gave him a 5 year $55 million contract, when everyone and their mother thought it ludicrous to give an aging center with chronic foot problems a contract that long. NBA teams have a responsibility to their paying customers, to put the best product on the floor as possible, in hopes to win a championship. Similarly, players have a responsibility to themselves and their families to put as much bread on the table as possible. And I am perfectly okay with this set up. Not long ago, the Boston Red Sox broke a ridiculously long championship drought. In the middle of what turned out to be their dream season, they traded their franchise golden child, Nomar Garciaparra, to solidify their chances of winning. People were quick to point out that Nomar deserved to be part of a Boston championship, because he was the face of the franchise, and put so much time and effort into making them a contender. Which is a fair point. But ultimately, he was shipped out and the team won. Some people were sad that he wasn't part of it, but the vast majority of Sox fans cared only about a championship.

I am not saying I don't want Z back, and I really do appreciate the effort and hard work he has put into the team and the city. But really, Clevelanders have been crushed time and time again by players bolting for greener pastures. Belle, Thome, Manny, Boozer, the list goes on. The underlying theme of this season, and for ESPN the go-to controversy starter, is Lebron bolting town this summer. Quite possibly the Cavs window of opportunity to win an NBA Championship is 3 months. It is widely known and accepted that Lebron was pushing the team to make a move prior to the deadline. I am pretty sure he was well aware that to make a move of any significance, the club would have to give up the expiring contract belonging to Z, or his personal project, JJ Hickson, or both. Which brings up quite a debate...

Where is the supposed loyalty due? On one hand, you have one of the longest single team tenured player in the league in Z. He's been through the rough times, he stuck around, he has reaped the benefits of the Cavs resurgence. On the other, you have the chosen one. He made Cleveland relevant (again?). He took a team of misfits to the NBA Finals virtually by himself. He has generated more money for the team, the city, and the state than any player in the history of Cleveland Sports (no official stats, just my educated guess).

If there is such a thing as loyalty in sports, I think Lebron wins out. He may leave after the season, he may not. I think he'll stay, but that's neither here nor there. The bottom line is, by pushing for this trade, Lebron ensured that even if he leaves, the Cavs will have a pretty good product to put out on the floor next year. The Cavs, meanwhile, have upheld their responsibility to the paying fans to put the best product on the floor as possible. And for all I know, and hope, this posturing by Z's agent is all a charade to make the league not investigate a pre-arranged deal for the center to come home. But the fact that some people are deeming this trade a karma killer for the Cavs is simply asinine.
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Mr. 500 Foot Bombs

A quick look through various posts on Cleveland sports blogs and websites seem to identify one thing. A collective look of puzzlement. People are moaning and groaning that Matt Laporta will now have to shift around the diamond to ensure Branyan will get the at bats he may have been promised. Others are nervous that this is a case of Shapiro signing a veteran free agent to "give more time" for Michael Brantley's development in AAA (reeking of signing Juan Gonzalez to play over Grady Sizemore, before Gonzalez inexplicably left his hamstring in the batter's box while running to first base, forcing Shapiro's and Wedge's interlocked hands). Some don't understand where the $2 mil to sign this guy is coming from (and rightly so, why spend money on a guy who will fortify a lineup that isn't supposed to compete anyways). However, I have a different take on this investment...

I don't propose to be an expert on player movement. I have a pretty good idea of the transaction wire, based on the fact I love baseball and have an above average memory. I don't study the boards, look very deep into statistics, or surf a million websites. But I do work in baseball, and being around it all the time helps one think about it all the time. Around the baseball trading deadline last season, I was coaching a high school travel team in a tournament in Missouri. One of our pitchers was getting recruited by Vanderbilt, and their assistant coach, Josh Holliday was their scouting. Josh's brother Matt had just been traded to the Cardinals from the A's. This got me thinking. Why would the A's, a traditional small market/low budget team decide to pick up a player like Holliday, and trade him mid year. Then I started thinking....

How have the A's built and maintained success? By drafting smart and trading their groomed stars for other team's prospects of course. In a game where, like it or not, statistics are so dominant, the players that put up the best statistics are going to win out time and time again. The reason why professional poker players play millions of hands is to make sure they play enough hands that the 63% chance they will win a hand, happens 63% of the time (the singular "bad beat" hands you see on television are the anomaly, whereas, if that hand played out enough times would produce the expected percentage results - quick little stats lesson for ya). But success breeds copy-cats, and Billy Beane's secrets to success were out. Couple that with the fact that large market teams were using those secrets, Beane went back to the drawing board.

Now this is only my opinion, and I could be way off but... I think Beane said, "well, I've got no star players of my own to trade anymore... so why don't I go and get someone else's star player to trade." He gave up one of his biggest name's in Street, and a couple of prospects whose ceilings were in the process of being lowered, for one of the best pure hitters in the game. Holliday came, Holliday didn't hit too well, and Holliday left. Even if he put up monster numbers, I am fairly certain he would still be shipped out of town. And their inlies the genius. He traded his prospects that weren't panning out, for other prospects who have tremendous upside... "Not only did the A's receive nearly four full months of service from Holliday, whom they acquired from the Rockies last November, but in trading him to St. Louis (along with $1.5 million), they received arguably a greater return than what they paid the Rockies last year. Landing Wallace alone could provide more value to Oakland than the combination of Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith ever will to the Rockies." .This year he signed Ben Sheets. I am fairly certain that, once again, he plans on shipping him out at the deadline for more young prospects.

This is where Shapiro/Antonetti come in. Even if Branyan hits 35 bombs, drives in 120 rbi, and cuts his strike out numbers in half, what value does he really bring to this club? A $5mil mutual option for next year?? Does that sound like something an owner would pickup who treats money as if it will never be printed again? Or, does that sound like a cheap price tag for a contending big market team to pick up for a guy who could potentially be a middle of the order guy?

I hope you see where I am going with this. Do not get all bent out of shape over this signing. Yet. Laporta needs some time to come back after the surgeries. He needs some time to learn how to play first base competently. He can do all of this while Branyan hopefully mashes, and brings in well more than $2mil worth of prospects at the trade deadline.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Browns still suck. Can we please throw the ball downfield. I'm sick of this 5 yard passing crap. I've seen Quinn throw downfield. He does it nicely. Why isn't he? Perhaps the receivers aren't getting open? That certainly wouldn't stop shit-for-brains DA from throwing downfield.

Certainly I don't want Quinn to force passes. But, seriously, this inability to throw downfield has to change. Now. Read the rest of this article

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'd still like another power forward

We signed Anthony Parker as a backup shooting guard. We signed Jamario Moon to an offer sheet as a backup small forward. I still want a backup power forward. As much as I hated drew gooden when he was last here he would be a steal at $2 million a year as a backup. I'd also take a waiver on Sean May for about the same price. I'm probably dreaming to get either of those guys at $2 million. Maybe May.

I'd just rather not go into the season with Jackson and Hickson as my only backup power forwards. Read the rest of this article

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cavs Re-Sign Varejao, Sign Parker

We'll have more coverage of this over the weekend but I wanted to post some immediate thoughts on these signings:


When I first heard that the deal was 6 years, $50 million, I almost started crying. We are just now crawling out of the deep dark Larry Hughes/Ben Wallace hole that Ferry dug for us 5 years ago. Why on earth would we jump right back into it? That was my first thought. I don't have any problems with Varejao as a player. He's big, he plays a position that's tough to fill, he doesn't usually disappear in big games against physical teams like some other key Cavs tend to do, and most importantly, Lebron likes to play with him. With that being said, if Fegan had actually pulled 6 years and $50 million out of the Cavs, he should've made Varejao sign it wearing a ski mask. In spite of all his hustle and grit, Varejao is still and always will be a very limited player best suited to be a sixth man. He'll probably never average more than 10 pts or 10 boards a game or have a PER over 15. I doesn't matter how much "energy" a guy brings . . . you don't give him 6 years and $50 million for those numbers. It's just too hard to make $8.5 million dollars worth of annual impact when you're virtually useless at one end of the floor.

So, now we know that Varejao's deal is really 6 years, $42 million, with the final year only partially guaranteed. If that's the case, in reality, it's a 5 year deal worth roughly $35 million with the final year allowing allowing the Cavs to cut bate or use Varejao as a very attractive trade piece. Is that still overpaying? Yes. In this market, $7 million a year is a little too much for a guy like Andy, and 5 years is way too long (keep in mind, guys like Artest are only getting a few years at the MLE this summer). Let me ask you this: Who was the last non-superstar that you can think of who signed for 5+ years and who ended up working out well for his team? Usually, long-term deals for non A-listers just don't end well. This could very well be the case with Varejao.

With all of that being said, there is still another side to the story. At this point in the offseason, they HAD to re-sign Varejao. There may not have truly been a market for his services, but if Ferry had called Fegan's bluff and been wrong . . . DISASTER. I highly doubt there were really any serious suitors out there offering any more than the MLE, but then again, it only takes one. We can bitch and moan about overpaying by a couple extra million a year, or giving him 5 years instead of 3 or 4, but how would we have felt if Fegan, out of spite, had inked Andy to a deal with a team like Oklahoma City? We would've all laughed at OKC's stupidity for signing a guy that can't really help them win, but at the same time, where would that leave us? With a bunch of frontcourt players that need oxygen tanks to move around, that's where. As much as we, and I include myself in this, love to play armchair negotiator, it's a lot more difficult when you're actually across the table staring at the prospect of having to make your title push with your youngest rotational big man being 34. Yes, the Cavs held most of the negotiating cards because there could've only been a couple of teams out there that could have even possibly given Varejao more than the MLE. Still, that doesn't change the fact that the Cavs had to be careful with this one. They could not lose Varejao for this year or it would've been ballgame for the Lebron era. Do I think Ferry overpaid given what the market is bearing these days? Yes. In a world where Ron Artest is only getting $5.8 million a year, Varejao can't really be worth $42 million. Still, the contract is a little bit more justifiable when you consider the way it's structured and the dangerous game that the Cavs were playing.
So, in conclusion, my feelings are that the deal is probably too long by a year, that the Cavs overpaid by about $1-$2 million a year, but that overall, I can live with it as opposed to the alternative.

One final thought: My buddy Rick once described Varejao's appearance as follows: "He looks like he should be waiting in line for a gang bang while trying to get a boner with a needle sticking out of his arm." Look at the picture for this post. Could there be a more perfect description of Varejao's physical appearance?

Anthony Parker:

Anthony Parker probably doesn't fulfill anyone's wildest dreams for the Cavs this offseason. He's a slightly long in the tooth wing that can shoot a little bit and can add some perimeter scoring but is not a great player on the defensive end. If given a real choice, I would've much rather had a player like Josh Childress, who can really shut down an opposing 2-guard or small-forward, than a guy who is merely serviceable on that end of the floor. Still, depending on what the Cavs gave Parker, as long as there's still enough left to sign another big man like Channing Frye, I can live with it. Keep in mind, this team won 66 games last year with the minutes that will now be played by Parker going to the likes of Sasha Pavlovic and Wally Szczerbiak's corpse. It may not be a gigantic upgade but at least the 09-10 Cavs will have the ability to insert a backcourt player who is over 6'1, moves better than a WNBA center, and is not basketball-retarded.

I'll talk more about this later, but there really isn't a single guy that was out there in free agency this year that the Cavs genuinely had a chance to sign that has signed elsewhere for an enviable dollar amount. Artest was never coming here so long as the Lakers would have him. Neither was Villanueva so long as he could get more than the MLE elsewhere. Trevor Ariza for 5 years at the full midlevel? I'll pass. Jason Kidd for three years, $25 million? I'm laughing. Diva Marion for five years at the full midlevel? Let me know how that works out for you Dallas.

I know in a sense, I'm trying to talk myself into this, but if the Cavs could somehow fill out their roster with Channing Frye, you might even be able to say that the they had a decent offseason, all things considered. I would've liked for them to have taken serious runs at some of the restricted guys like Marvin Williams, Millsap, and Childress, but my guess is that any offer sheet for those guys is getting matched anyway, and that's why other teams haven't been sniffing around (If one of those guys leaves for the MLE, I'm going to be very pissed).
One last thing: The Magic apparently just finegled themselves into the Marion deal so that they ended up getting a massive trade exception for Turkoglu. That's not good since apparently, Orlando is flush with all that pyramid scheme cash and prepared to pay a ton in luxury taxes if need be.

That's all for now. Time to go to work.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Keep Cliff Lee!

Poll voters overwhelmingly voted that they couldn't bear to lose Cliff Lee because he is one of the only Indians worth watching. I am stunned. Do any of you actually think to yourself, "Indians game. Is Cliff Lee pitching? If so, I'll actually make a point to watch this one tonight."

He may be one of the only Indians worth watching, but that doesn't mean he actually gets people to watch the games. If he doesn't do that, we need to trade him while his value is so high.

Please comment loyal readers. Explain yourselves.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

How to Resuscitate the Indians in 5 Easy Steps

It's easy to forget about the Indians. They're a lifeless last-place team with absolutely no personality. They play in a football town that also just so happens to be the main stage for the greatest basketball player on earth and a team that is potentially on the verge of a title. Their home is a somewhat dated looking ballpark that is, much like it's sole tenant, a decade past its prime. They play in front of crowds that long for the big bats and bigger personalities of the 90's. As Mike Tyson might say, the Indians are quietly fading into Bolivian.

For the most part, the death of the Indians has been little more than a footnote on this site. With enough stress and disappointment in our lives, it's just easier to talk about the Cavs than it is to dwell on the Tribe's downward spiral. Although we would all probably acknowledge that something has been missing from this summer, most of us are generally content to keep the Indians out of sight and out of mind. While I find it difficult to find compelling reasons even to get myself to care about this organization, before we write them off altogether, let me just remind you of something that drifted into my conscience while reading a piece (more on the content later) about the Indians on ESPN today: When the Indians are winning, they're probably the most fun of any of our three teams to root for. I know that this town would probably implode if the Browns ever reached a Superbowl, but just consider the following about the Indians: 1) They play 162 games a year, 2) the bulk of their season is played in the summer and fall when people in Northeast Ohio actually venture out and associate with others, 3) you can watch them from a good seat for $15 bucks, and 4) they play the sport that has the most thrilling postseason (baseball is my 3rd favorite sport to watch but NOTHING, and I mean nothing, comes close to October baseball. It's as good as it gets).

Bottom line: We should care about the Indians. Our parents and grandparents care about them because they remember the champions of the 40's and 50's. We care about them because they were the central part of Cleveland's renaissance in the 90's. As much as we try to forget about it, this team really matters to this town, or at least it used to. Go ask the Downtown businesses which team is most important to Cleveland's metropolitan revitalization. It's not even close. 40,000 fans 81 times a year dwarfs the economic impact that any other team or activity can have on this city. The point to be made here is that the Indians have turned into a crappy organization and this town can't afford to have them stay that way. So, without further ado, I bring you 5 easy steps to fix the Indians.

1. Fire Eric Wedge:

I think I speak for just about every Indians fan when I say that it will be a slap in the face to all of us if Wedge survives this season. I don't even need to go through every reason. In a nutshell, he doesn't develop players and he doesn't give the fans one god damn reason to care about the team. His stoic bullshit has run its course with all of us. At this point, every interview is just a disgusting, patronizing sham. If you're going to act like he does, you'd better make sure you're a winner. Wedge may have taken a team with two aces and two unhittable relievers to the brink in 2007, but everything that happened prior to that second-half run and everything that has happened since game 4 of that ALCS have proven that Wedge is not a winner. Get rid of him.

2. Trade all or some of the following: Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Rafael Betancourt, Carl Pavano, Kerry Wood, Ryan Garko, and Jhonny Peralta:

Lets take these one at a time:

Cliff Lee: His value is at an all time high. If the Indians traded him now with a full year and a half left on his reasonable contract, they could duplicate the haul they received for Sabbathia. Contenders are always willing to trade prospects for aces. What makes Lee unique is that the Indians could even have small market teams offering multiple top prospects if he is moved now because those teams be willing to give up more for what is beyond the traditional 3-month trade-deadline rental. Lee has inexplicably become one of the best pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately, by the time the Indians are ready to contend again, he will have almost definitely moved on anyway. Trade him now. Let the deals for him and CC become the cornerstones of the next Indians contender.

Victor Martinez: This is by far the toughest call to make because Victor is one of the last guys here that actually makes the fans care. Trade him and you might have a full-fledged fan mutiny on your hands. Here's the thing though: Trading him just makes too much baseball sense to ignore for cosmetic reasons. He's over 30. His contract will be up before the Indians can contend again. Teams would pay a ransom for a backstop with his bat. Finally, and most importantly, the Indians top prospect plays his position (Santana). I love Victor Martinez. He plays hard, he does it with personality and flair, and he has been nothing but good to the fans in this town. That said, we'd be doing him a favor by moving him to a contender. It's in everyone's best interests to trade him soon.

Rafael Betancourt: Teams are always willing to overpay for relievers at the deadline, even right-handers. Betancourt is too old (34) to contribute to the next Indians contender. Moving him is an easy call.

Carl Pavano: It's a miracle that he actually has value right now. The Indians should take advantage of it.

Kerry Wood: There obviously aren't many games to save. I'm not sure what we accomplish by paying him another $15 million over the life of his deal. Even given his rocky start, teams needing a setup man or closer will pay for his services at the deadline.

Ryan Garko: Slow, no pop, no position. This is exactly the type of player that has no future here. See what you can get for him and move on.

Jhonny Peralta: See Garko, Ryan. This isn't the type of guy you build a team around. Asdrubal is our SS of the present and future. Peralta is a disgusting player, and I never want to see him in an Indians uniform again.

If a player isn't on this list, it's either because he's both young and good (Sizemore, Cabrera, Choo, etc.), promising enough to potentially be a part of our future (Reyes, Carmona, Laffey, Lewis, etc.), worthless in trade (Francisco, Barfield, etc.), or just laughably overpaid to the point where it's not even worth trying to move him (Hafner). If a player isn't in one of these categories, he needs to be moved.

Now, I know what you're thinking: If you traded all of the guys on my list, the Indians would be a 55 win team that nobody would watch. Here's my question to you: Is that any worse than a 70-win team that nobody will watch? I mean honestly, what's the difference? The only difference I can think of is that our current 70-win team lacks the depth of top-level prospects to actually improve in the coming years. My hypothetical 55-win team is stocked with a handful of elite prospects and even more high-ceiling developmental players that could evolve into solid major-leaguers. As a fan, which team would you rather root for?

Here's what this really boils down to: When you're a small to mid-market team like the Indians, if you're going to build a perennial contender like we saw in the 90's, you either have to get extremely lucky through the draft and player development (obviously not the Indians forte), or you have to make enough timely moves to create a bumper crop of top prospects that can grow into a contender before they all reach free-agency. The Indians need to infuse their system with a glut of young talent in the mold of Santana, Brantley, and LaPorta. Holding on to veterans just for appeasement and appearances isn't going to help anyone. Still, I recognize that a massive fire sale is going to create even more resentment from the fans. Thus, I give you step 3 . . .

3. Hire Omar Vizquel or Mike Hargrove as Manager:

I know what you're thinking: I'm typing with my heart and not my head. Allow me to make my case: The Indians have two gigantic problems right now: 1) They stink and have no serious prospects for improvement; and 2) perhaps more importantly, they have NO connection with the fans anymore. There is not a single personality in that dugout, aside from maybe Martinez, who gives the fans a reason to care. They all carry on like robots. Even Sizemore, who I love as a player (and who under the right regime might actually become the top 5 player that he should be), is more of a bassist than a frontman. There is a huge disconnect between the Indians and their fans. That problem is only going to be exacerbated by the selloff that I'm calling for in step 2. There are only two men on Earth who harbor the potential to make the fans care again if this franchise goes into a full-blown rebuilding mode: Omar Vizquel and Mike Hargrove.
Vizquel is the better choice of the two here. The Indians would sell more tickets with a 50-win team managed by Vizquel than by continuing with their current operation headed by Mr. Personality. Vizquel is one of the most beloved athletes in the history of Cleveland sports, which is saying a lot for a career .273 hitter. What's more, I think he will eventually be a very good manager. He obviously has a high baseball IQ, he was well-liked as a teammate, his media skills are fantastic, and most of all, he understands how to connect with the fans. Some might argue that it's foolish to hire a guy without any coaching experience, let alone managerial experience, but honestly, how much of a risk are we really talking about here? First, you'd be handing him the keys to an operation with no chance of contending regardless of the manager. Second, he can't be any worse at developing players than our current manager. Third, we're talking about a baseball manager here. They're important but they're not football coaches or even coordinators for that matter. They make a difference but it's not as if the job couldn't be done by a novice, especially one who has been playing professionally for 20 years.

Vizquel + young talent is a package you could sell in this town. They'd still be bad and they still wouldn't be breaking any box office records, but I assure you, this town would embrace them. People would actually care about the Indians again. Vizquel could walk out of the dugout and simply wave his cap, Jimmy Dougan style, before every game, and it would still give fans more of a thrill than the outfit currently masquerading as the Indians. If you don't believe me then you didn't see the reception Vizquel got when he came back to Cleveland as a Giant. The word beloved doesn't do justice to the relationship between Vizquel and the fans here. He's the right guy to make this team matter again.
Would he take the job? It's hard to say. He's still under contract with the Rangers and probably wants to play as long as he has a job, but you could concieve of a scenario in which Wedge is fired, an interim manager is named, and then Vizquel is contacted about taking the job next year. The guy loves the Indians, loves the game, and probably wouldn't mind keeping a 7-figure salary for the foreseeable future. Who knows if he wants to manage, but there is at least some reason to believe that the Indians would have a shot.

If Omar won't take the job, the Indians would have no better option than Hargrove. I'm the first to admit that teams rarely go forward by looking backwards, but given the special circumstances surrounding the Indians right now (namely, that the fans hate the organization), a little nostalgia might go a long way. I saw a piece on ESPN yesterday about Hargrove (the one I referenced earlier) and I have to admit, it made me sad. I was never really a huge Hargove fan but I must concede that I miss the guy. Yes, 99% of those feelings are probably more about what Hargrove represents than what he actually brought to the table, but perception is every bit as important as reality. If the current Indians regime can make itself look a little bit more like the one that preceeded it, maybe the fans would be willing to give them a shot. You could sell Hargrove + a youth movement as the second coming of the 90's Indians. Plus, while Hargrove may not have been the best game manager in the league, he certainly oversaw the development of a lot of great young players, roids or no roids. He's currently managing a Summer League team in Kansas called the BJs (I swear I'm not making that up) and desperately wants back into the Majors. If called, he'd be on a plane before Dolan hung up the phone.
4. Sell Reality:

Cleveland fans are not as stupid as the current Indians regime might wish to believe. They can feed us heaping bowls of bullshit, and lord knows they try, about staying the course and sticking with what you've got, but we all know the truth: The Indians aren't going anywhere. They have a couple of stars, a handful of above-average players, a few talented prospects, and a bunch of crap. Yet, in spite of this painfully obvious reality, we can't ever seem to get an honest assessment from Wedge, Shapiro, or Dolan, about what's really happening to this team. When my plan takes full effect, and the Indians as we know them have been imploded and the team is led by Vizquel or Hargrove, ownership and the front office need to come clean. Tell the fans the truth: "Look, we weren't going anywhere so we traded all of our veterans and and decided to go into full-blown rebuilding mode. But, at the same time, we whacked the manager you all hated and replaced him with an icon that all of you love and who knows the game well enough to succeed. We want you to come along for the ride and grow with this team, because as you can see by all of our elite young talent, we're going to be special down the road." Give Cleveland fans some credit. It's not that we're afraid of losing . . . It's that we're afraid of never winning. Give us genuine hope and we'll buy into it, even if you tell us it's going to take a while.

5. Let the kids play:

If you're going to sell the youth movement, you've got to let the kids play. Aside from speeding along their development, this will also foster the type of player-fan connection that is so sorely lacking in the current state of affairs. Fans always have a greater connection to players that they watch grow up. That's part of the reason, along with the fact that they had all-stars at every position, that the mid-90's Indians meant so much to this town. So many of those guys made the leap as Indians. For my future team, the same thing needs to happen. No more Dave Delluccis, Carl Pavanos, or any other stopgap veterans brought in to make the team slightly less worse (and take away at-bats or innings from the prospects). It will be time to live, and more likely die, at least for a while, with the kids.

That's it. That's my plan. You may not like it, but I can assure you it's better than the road to nowhere we're currently traveling. How about it Tribe fans? What do you think?
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Thoughts on Shaq, Draft, Vince, Free Agency

Let me start by apologizing to the few but faithful readers who comprise CMCR nation for the lack of posts since the Cavs were bounced from the playoffs. To put it simply, it's summer, the Indians stink, it took awhile to be able to think about the Cavs, and there's not much to talk about with the Browns or Buckeyes until the start of fall camp (that is, unless you have a thing for felonies or civil litigation).

But now, it's time to talk Cavs again. We'll start with Shaq and go Terry Pluto style:

So Shaq's finally a Cavalier! Do you like the move?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean I can't say I'm blown away by it but I think it certainly makes the Cavs a better team heading into next season. Any time you trade pure cap relief for a guy who just averaged 17.8 points and 8.5 rebounds, I think you've definitely made yourself better. Shaq may not be an elite player at this point in his career, but I'd still challenge you to find five centers (not big 4's that play the 5) who you'd rather have on your team. This was a classic case of something for nothing. You may wonder if there were better deals to be had out there but it's hard to argue that this particular trade doesn't make the Cavs a tougher team.

But he's so old! How can the Cavs build around a guy who's 37 years old?

The most beautiful aspect of this trade is that given the circumstances, Shaq's age is completely irrelevant. As an expiring contract, in all probability, he's only going to be on the roster for one season. Thus, the only thing that we have to care about as fans is what Shaq is capable of doing in 2009-10. That snapshot is all that matters. If he has one more year of 15+ points and 8 boards left in him, then the Cavs just made a very good trade. If not, we're no worse off than we would have been witnessing the funeral processions of the careers of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic.

But this team was already too old up front. Don't we need to find a younger player to be a long-term solution in the middle?

Good luck with that. I don't know if you're aware of this but you won't find too many franchise centers in their 20's on the trade block of floating around in July looking to sign for the MLE. Yes, the Cavs are eventually going to have to get younger up front. Although Shaq doesn't fix that problem, he does allow the Cavs to be a better team next year without compromising their ability to sign longer-term solutions down the road. I'll say this again: He's an expiring contract. There is virtually no risk in this deal for the Cavs. The only thing it did was take away their ability to make a deal at next year's trade deadline. Given what we just went though (every attractive deadline deal falling through), did we really want to place all of our eggs in that basket again anyway?

What about Tyson Chandler? He's 26 year's old and could've been had for expiring money just like Shaq.

I actually had this thought about a week ago before the Shaq deal went through and before I even knew that Chandler was the Cavs' backup plan. There is some merit to the notion that the Cavs might have been better off trading for Chandler. He's younger by more than a decade and is certainly a better pick & roll defender. If you're looking for that final piece to win a title next year, however, do you really want to bank on a guy who averaged 8.8 pts and 8.7 rebounds in 32 minutes a game last year? Chandler's PER last year was 13.4. Shaq's was 22.3. Even considering the problems presented by Shaq's lack of mobility, he's going to be a far better player in 2009-10 than Chandler. For the Cavs, that's really all that matters.

But wouldn't it have been nice to have Chandler under contract for an extra year?

Um, no. If you consider Chandler's numbers, he's certainly not a guy you're dying to have on your books for 12.5 million in 2010-11. The Cavs are walking a very tight rope with Lebron right now. They absolutely must give him the best possible chance to win a title right now. At the same time, they've got to be in position to put a team around him that will contend for the next 3-5 years. Given the depth of the free agent class of 2010, the best way for the Cavs to address both needs is to take a one-year flyer on an impact player (Shaq) without giving up their ability to sign a top-level free agent to play with Lebron one he re-signs next summer. Now, some might argue that it's not going to matter because Lebron is leaving anyway, but I would certainly rather take my chances with a better title shot and cap space than on the possibility that Lebron would be really impressed by the fact that the Cavs had Ty Chandler under contract for 2010-11.

Ok, so Shaq was a better move than Chandler. How do you think he will play with Lebron?
I don't know, uh well? It makes me laugh to see all of these writers out there talking about how Shaq will clog the lane and interfere with Lebron's penetration. Keep in mind, we're talking about a 17-year veteran in Shaq and the guy with the highest basketball IQ on the planet in Lebron. I'm pretty sure that they'll find a way to make each other better. I also don't recall Shaq being too much of a hinderance to Wade when he was doing his kamikazee routine to the basket on every possession in the 06 finals. Trust me, I understand that Shaq will bring an extra defender into the paint. I also understand that the second that the extra defender slides over to help on Lebron, all hell is going to break loose and Lebron is either going to finish or Shaq is going to be sitting under the hoop without anyone on him to deny the pass or box out. Shaq might be old and slow but he's still gigantic and powerful. If his man is constantly being asked to be the help defender down low, that's going to cause a lot of problems for opposing teams. Shaq could end up averaging ten points a game on assisted dunks and uncontested putbacks alone.

Fine, Shaq and Lebron make sense together. I still don't know if that will be enough to beat the Magic.

First things first. Don't talk to me about beating the Magic. The idea of building your roster specifically to defeat one team is completely asinine, especially when said team is a one-hit wonder like Orlando. First of all, we shouldn't forget that the Cavs already tried this once. Last year's team was engineered for one purpose and one purpose only: Beat Boston. Of course, we all know how that played out. The Cavs were well equipped to hammer Boston in five games, except they forgot that they were completely helpless against bigger teams with shooters like Orlando and L.A. The rest is history. The truth is that in order to win a title, you're going to have to get through a least a couple of great teams, and chances are, those teams are going to play different styles of basketball. You can't just build a roster to beat one type of team. You have to build the best all-around basketball team that you can and hope that they're good enough to match up with anyone.
One more thing on this topic: Are people seriously just considering it a given that Orlando will be the team waiting for the Cavs if and when the Cavs return to the Eastern Conference Finals? Aren't we forgetting that a) Orlando almost lost to the Sixers, b) Orlando had to ride the most ridiculous wave of statistical anomalies in playoff history to make their run, and c) Orlando just basically gave up the chance to re-sign their best crunch time player to acquire the NBA equivalent of the Tin Man (more on that in a minute)?

I get it. We can't just assume that Orlando will be the team to beat next year. But what about Shaq's attitude? Hasn't be basically been run out of every town that he's played in?

I don't know if it's fair to say that he's been run out of town, but he certainly has a tendency to end things badly with his former employers. For the most part, however, the bad blood doesn't develop until he's already moved on to another team and begins to run his mouth a little bit. I can't really say that's much of a concern as it pertains to the Cavs. He's going to be here for one year. Anything that happens after that is inconsequential. Plus, I have to admit that I'm secretly excited to have a front-row seat for all of Shaq's antics. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he's one of the most colorful, innovative, and gregarious personalities in the history of the league...or of professional sports in general for that matter. As long as the Cavs are winning (and of course, everyone has forgotten that the Cavs were a 66 win team even without Shaq), it's going to be a lot of fun to watch Shaq and Lebron yuck it up every night. Plus, I love the idea that having Shaq, as pedestrian as he is at this point in his career, is going to take away from the "Lebron is the only relevant player in Cleveland" angle that the media holds so dear. There is now a second personality in town to absorb some of the spotlight. Maybe it's my own insecurities about Cleveland coming to the surface, but I'm comforted by the fact that at least for next year, Lebron won't be the only reason to talk about the Cavs.

So basically, you're happy that the Cavs traded for a media spectacle?

Shaq might enjoy running his mouth and seeing his name in print but don't ignore the fact that the guy has four rings and cares about the game. Shaq has always been a basketball player first and a personality second, just like Lebron. I have absolute confidence that he'll show up to camp in shape and focused on the task at hand. Think about it: Kobe just won his fourth ring. He probably has one or two more years left where he can carry a team by himself. His window is closing. You can't tell me that Shaq wouldn't just LOVE to have a hand in slamming the door closed on Kobe's career as an elite player, while at the same time, ensuring that he ends up with one more ring. I don't know for sure how much Shaq has left in the tank. What I do know though, is that whatever is still in there is going to be left out on the court during the 2009-10 season.

The Draft:

I've got to tell you how shocked I was at how much stock Cavs fans seemed to be puting into the draft last night. I understand that it's always exciting when you have the opportunity to change your roster, but really? You were holding your breath that the Cavs would move up into the middle of the first round? Who, exactly were they going to to get that might make a meaningful impact this season? By all accounts, this draft was atrocious. By most estimates, it had a couple of potential all-stars, a handful of quality starters, and then a bunch of borderline bench guys. I'm not exactly devasted that the Cavs essentially punted.

I know there are a lot of people out there who are upset about passing on Sam Young and Dejuan Blair. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't seen enough of either guy to have an intelligent opinion on one or the other (I don't watch a lot of college basketball these know, because it's become unwatchable for all but a month of the year). All I can say is that there seemed to be a pretty solid consensus around the league that neither guy warranted a high pick, and as it pertains to Blair, it seems like he has some serious medical red flags. With that being said, I would've liked to have seen the Cavs take Blair for his rebounding ability, but I understand that there are other issues to consider. First, when you're a luxury tax team, signing anyone, even a rookie, becomes an expensive endeavor. Obviously, that's not an issue if you're going to stash a guy overseas for a couple of years. Second, when you have the type of depth that the Cavs do, every roster spot becomes important. Consider: 1) Lebron, 2) Williams, 3) West, 4) Varejao*, 5) Shaq, 6) Z, 7) Hickson, 8) Gibson, 9) Kinsey, 10) Jackson. That's 10 guys right there that you pretty much know will be on the team next year. Now take into consideration the fact that the Cavs are almost assured of signing one or two guys with their MLE and you can see that the roster spots are quickly filling up. I'm not saying that the Cavs couldn't have made room for a guy like Blair (at the expense of perhaps a guy like Kinsey). I'm just saying that I can understand their reasons for passing on him.

I don't know the first thing about Christian Eyenga, although from the video footage, it looks like he's been selling out junior high schools across Europe for some time now. Apparently he's quite the athlete, but it's not even worth trying to discuss him. I'd say the odds of him ever suiting up for the Cavs are probably 1-4.

As for Danny Green, however, I have to admit that I'm a bit intrigued. 6'7, four-year player on the National Champions, all ACC-defender, decent shooter... It's always a long shot with second-rounders but there is at least some possibility, albeit remote, that he could step in and be the wing defender that the Cavs so desperately need. If you tell a guy that he can make your team if he just forgets about offense and plays tenacious defense, I think you have a legitimate shot of molding him into the specialist that you want him to be. I'm excited to see what he can bring to the table. If we could at least partially address our perimeter defense issues internally, that would be a huge plus.

Free Agency:

1. It's time to sign Sheed. I know, it makes me a little queezy too, but it's the right thing to do. If the Cavs had Lebron, Shaq, and Sheed, they would be a force to be reckoned with. I know, I know, for the last two guys on that list, it's not 2001, but still, they'd be a matchup nightmare. With Sheed stretching the floor at the four, they would be almost impossible to defend. People can bitch all they want about the guy's attitude, but there's nothing wrong with rooting for a guy who's a complete asshole, as long as he's your complete asshole. Sheed has a ring. You can win with him. He's going to be able to give the Cavs infinitely more at that position than any other guy available could. He can stretch the floor and defend guys like Garnett and Howard inside. It's time to swallow our pride and sign him.

2. It's too bad San Antonio had to take Dick Jefferson's contract off Milwaukee's books, all but assuring that they'll re-sign Charlie Villanueva, aka Chuck Newhouse. Newhouse will now re-sign with the Bucks and continue to be an inconsistent, frustrating player. Cavs fans will look at him and say, "See, it's a good things we didn't sign him to a big offer sheet. He still can't put it all together." Just remember, a player's development has a lot to do with his circumstances. If Villanueva came to an elite team like the Cavs, he would develop into a dominant 4 on both sides of the floor. He has all the tools and is right at the age where he could break out if playing for the right franchise. Unfortunately though, we'll just never get to see that scenario play out.

3. The Cavs will re-sign Varejao. I'm not worried about this in the least. They're smart enough to know that they can't go to war with every meaningful player up front being well into their 30's. It's just a question of how much cap space for 2010 they'll have to use up. My hope is that other teams are smart enough to realize that Varejao is nothing unless he's alonside an elite player like Lebron, so they won't stupidly dangle any unreasonable offers. Then again, it is the NBA so chances are some team like the Bobcats will throw out some ridiculous 5 year, $50 million offer.

4. Last but not least, congratulations to Orlando for killing the heart and sould of their team for no apparent reason. Anyone who watched the Magic in the playoffs last year knows that Turkoglu was the main reason they made the run that they did. He was their best crunch time scorer, ball-handler, and overall player. They just traded him for the Tin Man, Vince Carter, one of the few players in the league without any semblance of an actual hart. How do you decide to swap a blood, sweat, and tears guy like Hedo for the small-forward equivalent of Larry Hughes? Yes, I'm aware that Carter had a very good year in New Jersey last year, but I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that aside from Devin Harris, he really didn't have to share the ball. He could get his. Winning didn't matter. It's exactly the type of scenario in which he thrives. I'm sure Howard, Nelson, Lewis, and Van Gundy are just going to love him when he's jacking up 3's early in the shot clock in the 4th quarters of close games next year. Essentially, Orlando just traded Courney Lee and Hedo Turkoglu for a selfish, injury-prone, 32-year-old perimeter scorer. Way to build on that momentum fellas.

That's all for now. We'll have more as soon as the Cavs make their next move, the Indians move out of town, or another Brown kills someone.
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