Wednesday, December 31, 2008

DeRosa To Tribe?

Multiple sources are reporting that the Indians have completed a deal for Cubs jack-of-all-trades (but mostly 2nd baseman) Mark DeRosa. In exchange, the Tribe is reportedly set to deal minor league pitchers Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer, and John Gaub.

Last year DeRosa hit .285 for the Cubs with 21 HR, 87 RBI, an OBP of .376, and a .481 slugging percentage.

We'll have more on this story once it has been confirmed but the initial reaction among the CMCR staff is overwhelmingly positive.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Liberace was gay? No way!

Romeo is gone! We can finally bring Cowher back to Cleveland! Surely he will jump at the chance to return to the team where he spent his playing days and began his coaching career! One problem, though.  Nearly as soon as the Browns fired Romeo, Bill Cowher told Randy Lerner that he did not want to be the next Browns head coach.   

Memo to all those delusional Browns fans who actually thought there was a chance in H*ll of Cowher wanting to return to Cleveland:  just let me do all your thinking for you because you clearly haven't got a clue.  You are probably the same people who thought Derek Anderson was good after last season even after watching him play like poop for about 11 of his 15 starts.  You are probably also the same people who thought 2008 is gonna be the year we make the playoffs even though the schedule in 2008 was light years harder than in 2007.  

Why on earth would Bill Cowher want to come to Cleveland to coach the Browns.  Aside from possibly the Lions and the Bengals, and the Raiders, this has got to be the worst organization in the NFL.  Take a look at this list of Browns assets that come to mind in the next 30 seconds.

1) One playoff trip since the return
2) 8 billion cases of staff infection
3) A group of players that quit on their teammates
4) A locker room culture that allows for fights between linemen and quarterbacks

Sure Cowher might be able to turn it around for us.  Maybe his confrontational, no nonsense attitude would be just what this group of rag-tagged misfits needs to go to the promised land. But why on earth would he want to come? He coached the rival Steelers for 15 seasons. The man went to high school in Pittsburgh.  He is and always will be a Steeler.  At this point in his life he would never jump ship to the mortal enemy and become ostracized in his home town. Further, he wouldn't want to waste his time with a, lets face it Browns fans, loser organization when he has a championship ring and a cushy job in television.  

And even if you don't buy these arguments, those 2 minutes he spent every Sunday on the CBS NFL preview show bashing the Browns should have given us a clue that he wasn't coming.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Browns, Cavs Thoughts

1.  So Bill Cowher said no huh.  Honestly, I'm not so sure that's such a bad thing.  As much as I think Cowher is a very solid football coach, if you look at recent history, the whole coach/gm thing doesn't usually work out too well.  

2.  I don't profess to know the first thing about Scott Pioli.  However, I will say this:  I would much rather a guy coming from an NFL front office pick the next head coach than an owner who knows nothing about football and hasn't exactly shown any great ability to evaluate coaching or management talent (and yes, I'm well aware that Savage picked the last coach but Savage was also an evil villain sent here to destroy the Browns).

3.  I'm not in favor of keeping Chuds on as OC.  If you bring in a new GM, you have to let him pick his coach.  By the same token, if you hire a new coach, he has to be able to pick his staff.  It just isn't fair to handicap a new regime with leftovers from the one that just failed.  

3a.  By the way, if Chudzinski is fired, that's another $9 million that Lerner will be spending to pay a guy to go away.  Let this be a lesson to you Mr. Lerner and all other owners out there:  There is NO reason to give guys extensions when they're already under contract, especially when such extensions are based on one good year.  Nothing in sports makes less sense than the unspoken rule that coaches can't be asked to coach through the final year of their contracts before getting a new one.  I'm pretty sure making a guy coach for a new contract isn't going to scare off any recruits.

4.  Don't be surprised if the Cavs lose tomorrow night.  They're just in a rut right now with no offensive ball movement.  It's hard to watch but it happens.  They will snap out of it eventually but probably not before at least one more loss before Boston.  

5.  I laughed a little bit when I saw that the Celtics blew a lead to a Golden State team playing with about half of its already terrible roster, but then I realized that the Cavs just eeked out a victory at home over the Wiz.  Moreover, they are bound to lose a couple of road games to terrible teams this year.  The season is just too long to make it through all the cupcake games unscathed.  

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Savage Fired: Browns Fans Rejoice

Adios Phil,

The horrible reign of Phil Savage has finally come to an end according to the Plain Dealer and For the Browns, it's the first positive step the organization has taken in over a year. Tomorrow, we can expect the second domino to fall when Romeo gets his walking papers.

Credit Randy Lerner for putting friendship and money aside and doing what had to be done. You can't instill leadership or accountability in an organization when the man at the top of it displays neither.

The final grades on Savage are:

Draft: C-
Free Agency: C+
Coaching Hires: F
Media Relations: F
Player Management: F

He leaves quite the legacy.

I'm currently taking bets on whether or not the Browns will botch the Rooney Rules during the new coaching search process.
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Heads Will Roll ... But How Far?

As the Browns close out yet another sickening display of offensive ineptitude in a game which I'm admittedly only half watching because a) I value my time and b) I value my happiness, everyone knows that changes are coming - both at the head coaching position and possibly at GM. However, before Browns fans can sit back and delude themselves with the familiar comfort of "hope", this report has surfaced from ESPN and the Plain Dealer, indicating that both Crennel and Savage might return to the Browns next season in differing capacities.

According to varying reports, it's possible that Crennel may return next season as the defensive coordinator, whereas Savage might return in a scouting capacity. The fact that either could possibly return in any capacity evidences the problem with current Brown leadership. Cleaning house requires removing the "dirt." Hiding our dust under the rug doesn't solve anything - the problems caused by their lack of capabilities remain.

I know Crennel was supposedly a defensive mastermind while with the Patriots. But look at the Browns defense under his leadership:
  • In 2005, the Browns were 16th in yds allowed per game and 11th in pts allowed.
  • In 2006, the Browns were 27th in yds allowed per game and 22nd in pts allowed.
  • In 2007, the Browns were 30th in yds allowed per game and 21st in pts allowed.
  • This season, before the Steelers game, the Browns were 26th in yds allowed per game and 14t in pts allowed.
So Crennel, our defensive genius of a head football coach, has actually made our defense progressively worse, while being given better talent in his time here. And this is the individual we want to put in charge as defensive coordinator? Look, by all accounts Crennel is a nice guy, but he has obviously failed as a head coach and I don't want him around this Browns team in any capacity next season. I severely question his decision-making (running a 3-4 defense when we clearly lack the linebackers to do so), his clock management, and his ability to control the large personalities on this team.

Now, moving Savage into a scouting position would make some sense if I thought for a moment that he would accept such a reduced role. Let's face it, GMs all have egos - large ones. They control a team's destiny, and in the end, believe that they know what's the best course for success. As stated in the ESPN article, "Savage has said that power is the reason he came to Cleveland three years ago from Baltimore, where he was the Ravens' director of player personnel." I don't think Savage would be able or willing to swallow his pride, sit back, and allow someone else to take this team where he couldn't get it.

That, coupled with some questionable decisions made by Savage himself this season (the Winslow debacle, the e-mail debacle, and the failure to address a 3rd WR) would lead me to believe that Savage will be shown the door as well in the coming weeks. While Savage has made some shrewd moves in bringing in Shaun Rogers and improving the offensive line, he has also mortgaged some of our future draft picks to acquire the likes of Beau Bell and Martin Rucker, neither of who even saw meaningful playing time this season (though I hold out hope for both them). Savage appears on the cusp of being a capable GM, but I'm tired of suffering through the learning pains with him.

While I don't fault Randy Lerner for considering all his options, the writing has been on the wall for awhile here. Both Crennel and Savage failed in their jobs to bring a winner to Cleveland. Last January, Lerner gave Crennel an extension through the 2011 season, worth nearly $12 million, to reward him for the team's surprise performance of last season. Crennel promptly showed us that the turn around happened in spite of him, not because him. It's time for the Browns to cut their losses, admit their mistake and move on in a new direction. Browns fans, say it in unison with me now, "There's always next year."
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Knowing When to Cash In

Earlier this week on Mike and Mike, there was a discussion about knowing when to "cash in" on a player - trading him when his value was highest in the eyes of other teams, but right before his performance falls off the proverbial cliff. The discussion focused on the San Diego Chargers' decision to allow RB Michael Turner to leave as a free agent and sign with the Atlanta Falcons this season, in light of his superior performance to LaDainian Tomlinson. Also addressed was the New England Patriot's upcoming decision with super-sub Matt Cassel and the pending return of All-American dreamboat, Tom Brady.

While I detest the concept of dealing in hypotheticals, what-ifs and revisionary history, in light of the Browns Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn decision last year (rinse and repeat this offseason) and the Kellen Winslow/Martin Rucker situation brewing, I felt that this was something worth examining.

Initially, any argument that could have been made in keeping Turner and moving LT seems laughable at best. LaDainian had over 1900 total yds last season, averaged more than a touchdown per game, and was the consensus number one fantasy pick in almost every neighborhood draft. Turner, on the other hand, rushed for only a little more than 300 yds and 1 Td last year, mostly against defenses in the 4th quarter worn out from missing tackles against Tomlinson earlier in the game. To guess that Turner would do well this season wouldn't have been a stretch, but to predict that Turner would out-LT LT this season would have required Marty McFly's Gray's Sports Almanac from Back to the Future II. Not to mention that had Chargers GM A.J. Smith even entertained an idea of trading LaDainian prior to the season, he would have been torn to shreds by both the fans and the media. Though it has now become the trend, rather than the exception, for star running backs to start breaking down as soon as they hit 30, keeping LT and letting Turner walk was the right decision.

The Brady/Cassel situation is not so clear cut. The Patriots mantra to this point has been that no one player is bigger than the team. Gone are Deion Branch, Asante Samuel and Ty Law, all replaced with cheaper alternatives. But now that Tom Brady, face and leader of the Patriots, has been forced to the sidelines for the season with his knee injury, Matt Cassel has emerged from the shadows in a Bradyesque fashion. In fact, Cassel in his first season starting (3,615 yds, 21 tds and 11 ints through 15 games) has outperformed Brady in his first season (2,843 yds, 18 tds and 12 ints in 15 games). Granted, Brady did not have the benefit of throwing to Randy Moss and was taking over a vastly different team. But the question remains, would it make sense to try to move Brady for "hypothetically" two number first round draft picks, while signing Cassel to a contract at a much reduced rate than what Brady is currently getting?

Knowing that the same people who would chastise a GM for trading LT would be about ten times more upset for trading Brady, the idea of clearing cap space and filling several holes at once has
to appeal to a coach like Bill Belichick (who seems to believe he put any player into any role and have it succeed). While it's just as likely that Cassel is a product of the Patriots system (a la any Denver Broncos running back), and is more likely to turn out to be the next Scott Mitchell than Brady - GMs are paid to pull the trigger and make decisions in the best interest of the team winning both presently and in the future, even when potentially unpopular. Mark Shapiro knew this when he made the widely hated move to trade Bartolo Colon for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips - now considered to be the pinnacle acquisition of his career.

Phil Savage had the opportunity to make such a splash and cash in on Derek Anderson's success last season - trading him after his surprising performance and handing over the reigns to Brady Quinn. While the difference between Anderson and Quinn is not nearly as big as the difference between Brady and Cassel - Savage had the chance to move Anderson when his value was as high as it ever was going to be - filing several holes at once. Instead, Savage made the decision to keep Anderson (which I agreed with at the time - and still do to some extent - perhaps why I'm not the GM) forcing the Browns into uncomfortable situation of having gone from a team with two potential solid quarterbacks, to a team unaware of the full capabilities of either at the position.

Even worse, it has become almost impossible to move Anderson during this offseason unless the team is willing to receive 50 cents on the dollar, accepting a far inferior pick than what they would have received for Anderson last year. Essentially, Savage has taken his giant stack of chips, cut it an half and now has to decide if he's willing to go all-in and pick up Anderson's pricey $5 million dollar option in March.

Ironically, Savage has the opportunity to learn from his past mistake and move Kellen Winslow during the offseason (assuming Savage remains as GM). Despite playing below his Pro Bowl level of last season, Kellen remains an attractive option to other teams looking for a play maker at tight end. His value remains nearly as high as it ever has been. When healthy, Kellen has shown that he is among the leagues elite at the tight end position. Teams see the strife that has arisen between Winslow and the Browns and know that they have the potential to "steal" a quality player from us.

However, these teams might be blinded to the fact the Winslow might have already fallen off the cliff. With the combined effects of the motorcycle accident, the broken leg and this year's staph scare, one has to wonder how much longer Kellen has in him. Added with Kellen's desire to get a new contract - moving Winslow now might be the best thing for the team for the long term. Even if Kellen has one or two more standout years in him - the tight end position remains among the deepest on the Browns, with Heiden, Rucker and Dinkins. Turning Winslow's perceived value into several other valuable players benefits in the Browns more so in the long run. Especially if Rucker turns out to be the pass catching tight end he is advertised to be. (I also don't think the drop between Heiden and Winslow would be as drastic as some might think).

While, trading Winslow would not be as unpopular move as trading LT or Brady would be, it obviously could result in fan backlash (like during the Colon trade). Winslow plays hard whenever he's actually out on the field and he makes big receptions. However, if a team were willing to give us a second and a fifth rounder for Winslow, like the Saints gave up to acquire Shockey, I'd have to think long and hard about making such a move. While it might not be Sizemore and Lee - the Browns need to think about filing some holes on the defensive side of the ball.

In a league like an NFL, when stars turn into veterans who cannot latch on to a team in the span of a season (Shaun Alexander) and nobodies step up to become MVPs (Kurt Warner) - pulling the trigger at the right point can be the difference between a 10 win season and a 4 win season. Savage, or whoever is the GM of the Browns next season needs to maximize our stack - multiply our chips and make the moves to get us to the top.
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Cavs Thoughts

1. I'll save you from a detailed recap of what can only be described as a disgusting Cavs game. In a nutshell, the Cavs were gross, they did everything in their power to lose the game, and after they "won" as a result of what was clearly a "David Stern Special," I felt like I needed to take a shower. I've seen the replays and we got some absolute phantom calls down the stretch. Now, generally speaking, I'm fine with this. The Wizards are a deplorable bunch and lord knows that we've been on the wrong end of a few "Sterns" in our time as well. The larger issue, however, is why we needed a "Stern" to beat a 4-22 team in a nationally televised game at home. I'm not going to start sounding alarm bells after one crappy effort but there were a lot of things about this game that make me question whether Cleveland is really the 65 win team that I thought they could be.

2. Dear Cavs, don't take so many god damn 3's. We all know you're just being lazy. Stop it.

3. When you're playing a team that has NO frontcourt, maybe it would make sense to get Z involved.

4. There seems to be growing support out there for the notion that the Cavs shouldn't trade Wally because they don't want to screw up their current chemistry. I'm sorry but that's stupid. If the Cavs have a chance to improve at the deadline without completely destroying their '10 cap situation, they need to take it. I love it when people make the argument that the Cavs might be good enough as constructed to win a title. Oh really? And if we stand pat and you're wrong, are you going to be able to go back in time and change your answer? Listen, the Cavs are probably every bit as good as the Lakers or Celtics. But I would have a hard time saying that at this point, they're any better than either of those two. Luckily, by some dumb luck, we have a giant expiring contract at a time when 75% of the league is dying to shed salary. This is the perfect storm. The Cavs are the only one of the big 3 teams that has the right contract to make a move. I'm not saying they should just go for anything but if a decent deal materializes, they HAVE to pursue it. This type of opportunity comes around once in a blue moon. The Cavs can't squander it just because they have a 1-3 chance as currently constructed to win a title.

5. I'm starting to accept the fact that the Cavs are going to have to pay big dollars to Varejao this summer. Two years ago I would've said that doing so would be crazy. Now, it's the right thing to do. Our frontcourt is two years older and Varajeo's game has come a long way. The league isn't exactly crawling with young 6'11 guys that can run the floor, rebound like crazy, and defend three positions. Oh, and in case you missed it, 07 finals jokes aside, his offensive game is really developing to the point where it's almost feasible to put him and Wallace on the floor at the same time. In terms of dollars, I couldn't find a perfect analogy but I'd say he's worth somewhere between Shane Battier money ($6.5 million a year) and Tayshaun Prince money ($9.5 million a year). I know it seems like a lot but he's extremely valuable to this team and given the paucity of frontcourt options for the future, they can't afford to let him walk.

6. I'd say its 50-50 that the Cavs will be 30-4 when they play Boston on January 9th. That would be extremely exciting for the city. You can tell, given the type of year we've had on so many levels, that this town is just itching to go nuts for something.

7. I was all set to bash Craig Sager for the ass-clown tie he had on last night but then a funny thing happened: I read his Wikipedia page. The dude is married to a girl that's 21 years younger than he is. He has 2 kids with her and 3 from a previous marriage. He's 6'4. And finally, he has the following quote in his profile. "In a humorous, tongue-in-cheek interview with the Washington Post he claimed he had a "blonde fetish" and that the Hooter's in China was not up to his standards."

Well then...

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Quick Hitter Thoughts of the Day

Some days there just isn't anything that moves you to write an entire story. Still, I feel compelled to get a few things off my chest so we'll do this Peter King style.

Quick Hitter Thoughts of the Day:

1. Kudos to you Notre Dame. There are few things in this world that are more pathetic than going 14 years without a Bowl win. Beating a WAC team in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and then strutting around like you're hot shit is one of them. Well done gentlemen. I'm pretty sure touchdown jesus is blushing right now. This might be worse than Derek Anderson's "We got our swagger back" text message to Peter King after the first Cincinnati game this year.

2. Speaking of the WAC, I was looking at the standings and notice that Louisiana Tech is also in that conference. Maybe this has already been discussed somewhere but that blew my mind. Hawaii and La. Tech are in the same conference?! Those two schools are over 4,000 miles apart! I challenge anyone to come up with any two teams in any sport that are in the same conference that are farther apart than that.

3. Watched Boston and the Lakers today. I plan to write about this in a future column but the Celtics just don't intimidate me. They're good for sure, but this Cavs team could absolutely beat them, even without home court. As for the Lakers, obviously they can present matchup problems with two legit 7 footers to go with Kobe but they still have plenty of issues, namely that they just stop defending for long stretches.

4. The Lebron Six Chalks are awesome looking. It saddens me that once you're out of college, you can no longer wear hightops anywhere outside of a gym without looking like a complete douche.

5. I laugh every time I think about Abe Pollin crapping in his depends every time he has to sign a paycheck for Gilbert Arenas. Only 5 1/2 more seasons Abe and you're out from under that one! Seriously, could there be a better example of the notion that a fool and his money are not long for each other? What exactly was he thinking? "Hmm, what if I take the core of this perennial 40 win team and first round punching bag and give them all long-term deals for twice as much as they're currently making. That'll put us over the top for sure!" You know what though, it couldn't have happened to a worse bunch of guys. Every time we see this team they're pretending to be thugs and running their mouths. Enjoy the lottery Washington. You're going to be seeing a lot of it in the next few years.

6. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that Shaun Smith will not be back with the Browns next year.

7. I woke up way too early this morning and ended up watching Sportscenter (I know, how 1990's of me). Anyway, the show featured a heartwarming little puff piece featuring Steelers players reading a Christmas poem. ESPN is as much about sports these days as MTV is about music (I'm pretty sure I just sounded like a curmudgeon right there. These damn kids and their rock music). Oh, and in case you've not caught wind of it yet, ESPN would like you to know that KEVIN GARNETT IS INTENSE!

8. Brian Windhorst is an excellent journalist who just so happens to look like "Seth" from Superbad.

9. I was bored yesterday and actually stopped by the Indians team shop. The apparel collection is absolutely disgraceful for a professional sports team. I spent 20 minutes trying to find a decent T-shirt and couldn't do it and the polos were just laughable. I did get a good laugh out of the fact that the team is still designing new Travis Hafner gear. Apparently they didn't get the memo that he retired two years ago. On a brighter note, I did pick up a Sizemore alternate home jersey for 50% off (and yes, I'm perfectly aware of the fact that all grown men look ridiculous in jerseys).

10. The Cavs are currently in the process of affixing a nice little 42 center to the Washington game tonight. Nice to know they can still mail it in when they want to.

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Happy Holidays!

All of us here at CMCR wish you and your families the happiest and healthiest of holidays this season! Thank you for reading!
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy"

What do these immortal words from Bohemian Rhapsody have to do with Cleveland Sports? Well my friends, just sit back, relax, and allow me to explain.

The infallible braintrust that is the Major League Baseball owners have decided that the best way to run the sport is to allow teams to spend as much on players as their little hearts desire. As I assume most readers of this fine blog are avid sports fans, I will spare you the long-winded lecture about the impact that the absence of a salary cap has had on the game. Simply stated, there are "haves" and "have nots." Now, this may come as a shock to some of you Indians fans but we....gasp....are a "have not"... as in, " We regret to inform you that we 'have not' got the money to buy quality baseball players to play for your team."

The recent drunken sailor spending by the Yankees has only served to remind all of us small-market baseball fans that every offseason, we are destined to find a lump of coal, or worse yet, Dave Dellucci in our stocking. But do not feel sorry for yourselves Tribe fans, and all you other small-market loyalists as well, because after much thought, I have decided that I would much rather be a baseball "have not" than a "have." My reasoning is set forth below:

1. So, now that you've just spent the GDP of South America on these guys, how do you enjoy them?

As a sports fan, I've come to realize that winning is fun, but some types of winning are more enjoyable than others. There is no greater feeling in sports than pulling the upset...than exceeding expectations...than growing with your team and watching them go from irrelevant to championship contender (right Cavs fans?). If you're a Yankee fan and your team wins it all in 09, will you enjoy it? Of course you will but you will never experience the pure joy of watching your team succeed organically. You'll never get to experience the indescribable rush of an upset. For a team like the Yanks, every single year, it's World Series or bust . So, at best, the team can meet expectations, but never exceed them. Even though this might be a foreign concept to Cleveland fans, it's not difficult to understand how such inflated expectations might drain some of the fun out of the fan experience.

Moreover, if you're a Yankee fan and suddenly your team is dominant, doesn't it all seem a little premature? Your team went from being a mess to being the best in baseball with a few strokes of a pen. You never got to watch them develop. You never got the joy of realizing for the first time that the team was finally starting to learn how to win. It's almost like a mother that just wakes up one morning and is handed her child. She just skipped the pregnancy and all the bonding that comes with it. She'll never be able to relate to the child in the same way that she would have if she'd gone through the entire process. If I'm a Yankee fan and my team wins it all this year, a part of me would feel like I missed the best part of the journey.

2. Go Mercenaries!

As a fan, when a player makes his mark in the league with your organization, you always feel a special connection to that player for the rest of his career. Now, I'm not saying that a player has to come up through your minor league system to create that connection, but at the very least, his breakthrough moment has to come with your team. Can a Yankee fan ever feel the way about C.C., Burnett, or Teixeira the way we felt about guys like Ramirez or Thome in the 90's (remember, at that time we had no idea Ramirez was completely controlled by Jeff Moorad or that the MLB Players Union would threaten to kill Thome if he turned down the highest bidder), or even about Sizemore right now? The answer is no. Yankees fans can root for their new employees all they want but they'll never have that special fan/player connection.

3. Thank God Steinbrenner has to pay for these guys and not me! Wait? Are you serious?

Yeah, about that bill...See here's how it works. Greedy owner gets a ton of public financing and tax breaks to build a $1.3 billion dollar ballpark. Then, greedy owner claims that he needs a bunch of expensive new talent to justify the absurd ticket prices at said new ballpark. Then, somewhere down the line, greedy owner raises ticket prices again because he claims that he has to be able to afford all of his new toys.

For those of you who aren't finance majors out there, let me simplify that for you. These wonderful free agent signings mean that Yankee fans essentially get to bend over, grab their ankles, and take it in the...wallet. And keep in mind, this will all happen while they thank their lucky stars that they are fortunate enough to be Yankee fans.

4. Finally, the Yankees will be champions again! Really? Well then, um, finally, the Yankees will make the playoffs again!

Actually, about that....yeah, see as it turns out, baseball is a 162 game marathon followed by a complete crap shoot. The first round of the playoffs is 5 games! Think about how absurd that is. Because these series are so short, it basically means that you need three things to win in the playoffs: 1) talent, 2) luck, and 3) brass balls.

Signing big name guys can certainly help a team with element #1. As for element #2, I'm pretty sure that it's out of any team's control. And finally, as for #3, you can definitely improve your "clutchness" through free-agency but I'm not exactly sure that the Yankees have really done it.

C.C. is a notorious postseason pants pisser, and if he couldn't take the hill when it counted in Cleveland or Milwaukee, the urine is sure to be gushing down his legs come October in New York. Historically speaking, you'd be better off sending Paul Byrd out there to start a playoff game than C.C. I won't profess to know too much about Teixeira's clutchness but I'm pretty sure that he wasn't able to get a very talented Angles team over the hump last year. Combine these guys with A-Rod and you have a team that is built around guys that are destined to fail when it matters most.

So, back to Cleveland. As fans, we should be able to draw a few conclusions from this: 1) Combined, these signings will probably make the Yankees are very formidable team in the regular season. As such, they are probably going to make the playoffs. However, given that they're in the AL East, it would seem that Boston should be a lot more upset than we should. If anything, all New York's spending will do is make it a little less likely that the Central will have the wild card team. 2) We should all be thankful that if we are fortunate enough to make the playoffs and meet the Yankees, we'll probably get to go against C.C. at least twice. 3) We can take solace in the fact that even though our team lacks the sex appeal of a team like the Yankees, at least we'll never have to take out a second mortgage to afford a bleacher seat.

Go Tribe
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Why We Should No Longer Be Afraid of the Tyronn Lue's of the World

When I was asked to write for this blog, I thought to myself: that sounds fun but it will never happen. The blogging thing had a few things going against it: (A) I am too lazy to do it, and (B) writing is for English nerds and angst-ridden teenage girls. Additionally, I am not motivated by the need to inform. I am, however, fueled by hatred and an inferiority complex that could only be spawned in Northeast Ohio. In the spirit of the holidays, I would like to present the man who has driven me to hate once more: Tim Legler, ESPN commentator and apparently an ex-NBAer based on my recollection of my basketball card collection. In last night’s SportsCenter, he informs that Boston is beating teams by almost 11 points per game. Wow, 11 points. That certainly is a lot. This stat apparently shows that Boston does not play down to their competition, which according to Tim, distinguishes them from every other team in the league.

First of all, that last comment is obviously an insult to all Clevelanders. The Cavs are beating teams by 13 (i.e. a number greater than 11) points per game so if your whole point is that the Celtics are the only team that do not play down to their competition find some better stats. There are lots of statistics. You can make them point to anything. I bet you can find an obscure one deep on some website that no one cares about that completely ignores the big picture and obviously states that the Boston Celtics are the only team that never plays down to their competition. It is pretty easy to do. It’s kinda like when people ignore the big picture and choose one obscure passage from the (ed.: the rest of this paragraph has been censored).

Second of all and perhaps more intellectually stimulating (assuming this thought can beat not at all intellectually stimulating), the Cavaliers no longer play down to their competition. This is perhaps the surest sign that the Cavs are finally a legit Championship contender and is one of the biggest differences between this year’s team and other recent Cavs teams. Watching the Cavs these days, you never feel like the Cavs have totally lost control. They feel like a steady force. Can you feel it? (If not, an article about feelings may not be right for you. More into the hard sciences? Try this one from a few posts back. It may be better for you. It is about anatomy.)

Anyway, my point is that there are no longer the five minute droughts where the Cavs do not score and also no extended periods where a weak opponent (I’m looking at you Tyronn Lue) scores at will. There are no more droughts where you know you are watching the Cavs blow the game. There is no more (or at least less) watching Lebron hold the ball for 22 seconds on offense before chucking up a fadeaway jumper. Basically, the Cavs are playing like they are not from Cleveland. (Maybe this is why Lebron is trying to get everyone to focus on other cities.) They keep pushing ahead even with a big lead. For the most part, they have not only gotten rid of the dreadful 3rd quarters that have been extensively written about but also their less talked about dreadful mini 3rd quarters that occurred in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quarters. If you look at the number of points the Cavs are scoring per period, it is remarkably consistent: 27 in the first, 25 in the second, 25 in the third, and 25 in the fourth. If you look at the number of points the Cavs are giving up per quarter, it is remarkably consistent: 22 in the first, 22 in the second, 22 in the third, and a whopping 24 in the fourth against Tarence Kinsey. Over and over again, the defense is making quick adjustments and tightening the screws when the opponent puts together a small run. The offense, on the other hand, does not look like it needs to make many adjustments. It is so good that it can just keep beating on the door until it busts through for a 10-0 run. As long as they keep moving the ball and penetrating the defense, good things end up happening.

Last night’s game against Houston was a perfect example. The game was close until the Cavs opened up a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter. At this point, two things happened: the Cavs’ offense went a little cold, and the Rockets started pounding it inside with Yao. The Rockets started to catch up. Yao kept either getting to the line to make free throws or kicked the ball out for a three. They got within one. Then, something happened that rarely happened in previous years; the Cavs regained control of the game. The Cavs adjusted to Yao’s inside game. Z forced Yao to take a jumper. Then, the Cavs started doubling down hard on Yao. When Yao kicked it out to his shooters, the Cavs defense did an amazing job rotating to the first shooter on the left wing, then the second shooter on the right wing, and finally, the third shooter in the corner as the Rockets swiftly moved the ball around. In particular, Wally deserves praise. He was hustling to double Yao and then, hustling over to get in the face of the third shooter to contest the shot. With the adjustments and increased hustle on defense, the Cavs starting coming up with key stops. On offense, nothing much changed, but things started clicking again. Boobie nailed two huge three pointers to get the offense going, and you could feel that the tide had turned back toward the Cavs. Three minutes later, the Cavs had won by 9. They once again beat an opponent by remaining steady throughout the game. They did not let the Rocket’s physical play (which I have not discussed) or Yao’s brief dominance distract them. It certainly looked like the Cavs did not play down to their competition, and when you have to look down to be on Houston’s level, you know your team is pretty damn good.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Poll Results

Greeting folks. This is going to be a weekly post assessing this blog's poll after voting closes.

The poll this week asked what position the Browns should address first in the draft. Good arguments can be made for practically any position on the team. Heck, in a previous post I argued for drafting Tim Tebow and making him our new coach. In the end, the people have spoken. And the winner is...

Inside Linebacker: 15 votes (42%)

Sorry Andra Davis and D'Qwell Jackson, you just aren't cutting it. Inside linebackers are supposed to strike fear in opponents. It is the heart of the defense. Often one calling plays in the defensive huddle. The inside linebacker must be a leader, a warrior, and a monster. Think Ray Lewis. I know Ray Lewis. Andra and D'Qwell are no Ray Lewis. I suppose that is why the Browns drafted Beau Bell in the 4th round of the 2007 draft. Bell is supposedly a ferocious hitter. The kind of hitter that makes running backs cringe. The type of hitter an inside linebacker should be. Of course Romeo and Mel refused to play the rookie Bell and so I have no first hand knowledge if he actually possesses this quality. Maybe its for the best, since in the minimal playing time he received in the preseason and the regular season Bell got hurt twice, the second one putting him out for the year.

Fortunately, this problem can be solved at the 7 spot in the draft (our current position). No, its not A.J. Hawk wannabe James Laurinaitis. It's U.S.C. linebacker Rey Maualuga. One Mock Draft agrees. Maybe that is because Maualuga epitomizes what an inside linebacker should be, scary.

This begs the question, who does Maualuga replace in the starting lineup, Davis or Jackson? My money is on Davis.

Dline: 7 votes (20%)

Much to the chagrin of 20% of our voters, I don't think there is much chance of the Browns taking a Dlineman. There are a couple reasons for that. First, we already have huge dollars invested in two out of the three starters, Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers.

Second, there just isn't anyone good enough to take at the 7 pick, especially one big enough to play in the 3-4. Boston College lineman BJ Raji would have to be the pick if we were to reach for a replacement for Quinn-hater Shaun Smith.

RB: 5 votes (14%)

All year fans have been clamoring for Jerome Harrison to get more touches. I don't see how adding Beanie Wells to the mix helps accomplish this so I am guessing the fans who selected running back were more against Jamal Lewis than for Jerome Harrison.

Wells would look great returning home to northeast Ohio. Even after picking a back to back pro bowler two years ago in Joe Thomas, some fans are upset that we passed on super-stud Adrian Peterson. It would be devastating to let another one slip by.

If we were to take Beanie, it would probably mean the end of Jamal Lewis's time in Cleveland. The word on Lewis is that he needs carries to be effective. He has to wear down the defense and then blow over them in the 4th quarter. That didn't quite work out this year with the Browns being out of games in the 4th quarter this season. Of course it didn't work in the two games we blew double digit leads, either. The problem with drafting Beanie and dumping Lewis is that Lewis is due a $4 million roster bonus a month BEFORE the draft.

The Rest of the Bunch.

DB: 4 votes (11%)

OLB: 3 votes (8%)

WR: 1 vote (2%)
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The Anatomy of a Bullpen

You might have read recently that the Indians are in the running to sign free-agent reliever Joe Nelson. At first glance, Nelson’s stats from last year paint a nice image. An ERA of 2.00, a 1.185 WHIP, and 10 K/9 would look nice in any bullpen. However, looking deeper helps to explain why the Marlins would non-tender such a pitcher (aside from their obvious frugalness). Nelson will be 34 next season, has had issues with his command in the past, has been a member of seven different organizations, and has played only four seasons in the majors, none of which were consecutive (due to both performance and injuries). These caveats are precisely what would make signing Nelson so perfect for the low-budget Indians. Nelson is a pitcher who has a good chance to end up being a steal at a cheap price. Yet, the aforementioned red flags are enough to scare off the big boys (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston). Given the Tribe's relief depth, Nelson is a low-risk play because they can cut him loose if he struggles and have bodies ready to fill the spot. However, if he ends up pitching well, the team could really benefit. While chances are that Nelson will not sign with the Indians, this is indicative of the concerted efforts that Mark Shapiro is making to fix a bullpen that has long been an area of concern for the franchise.

One of the most valid criticisms of Shapiro is his handling of the bullpen. Since he became general manager following the departure of John Hart after the 2001 season, the bullpen has ranked 27th, 9th, 26th, 1st, 25th, 6th, and 29th out of the thirty teams. So basically, every year, the bullpen has alternated between being in the top 10, and ranking 25th or below. Besides meaning that next year will be a great season because it is an odd year, these stats show an unprecedented level of inconsistency. One possible cause for these discrepancies might be the lack of a shutdown reliever that can relied on to come in a get out of jams in the down years. For instance this is the list of the Indians top reliever by ERA (at least 40 games) in those years (Note: ERA+ is a statistic that adjusts a pitcher's ERA according to their league and ballpark, with an average ERA+ being 100):

2002. Mark Wohlers: 4.79 ERA (Bullpen: 27th) – 0 Relievers with ERA+ ≥ 150

2003. David Riske: 2.29 ERA (Bullpen: 9th) – 1 Reliever with ERA+ ≥ 150

2004. Matt Miller: 3.09 ERA (Bullpen: 26th) – 0 Relievers with ERA+ ≥ 150

2005. Arthur Rhodes: 2.08 ERA (Bullpen: 1st) – 4 Relievers with ERA+ ≥ 150

2006. Rafael Betancourt: 3.81 ERA (Bullpen: 25th) – 0 Relievers with ERA+ ≥ 150

2007. Betancourt: 1.47 ERA (Bullpen: 6th) – 3 Relievers with ERA+ ≥ 150

2008. Rafael Perez: 3.54 ERA (Bullpen: 29th) – 0 Relievers with ERA+ ≥ 150

This list shows a clear correlation between team and bullpen success, and the performance of the top relievers. Whether it shows causation is difficult to tell without analysis of specific games, but theoretical examples can be used. For instance, if the Indians were leading by one run in the 8th inning and used their best reliever, the 2008 Indians with Rafael Perez (who allowed runs in 27.4% of appearances) would be 1.5 times as likely to blow the lead than the 2007 Indians with Rafael Betancourt (who allowed runs in 18.8% of appearances). Spreading that over an entire season, if the top reliever is 1.5 times as likely to give up a run in the most critical of situations, that amounts to a vast difference in outcome. This doesn’t even account for the differences in inherited runners. Another interesting aspect of the list is that no closer has led the Indians’ relievers in ERA in the Shapiro era (which in my opinion is a good thing, as I am a proponent of the “relief ace” theory, in which the team’s best reliever comes in when the stakes are the highest, whether that is the 9th inning, or with the bases loaded and one out in the 6th inning). One outlier in the list that shows the correlation between top reliever and record is the 2003 campaign, but one mustn’t forget that the team was led by the killer B’s of Bard, Broussard, Blake, Bradley, and Burks.

From the alternating pattern of years in which the Indians’ bullpen was excellent or awful, one might fault Shapiro for being complacent with the bullpen after a poor year, expecting it to continue its success the following year. However, compare his activity with that of the Indians’ division rival and “sister team,” the Minnesota Twins. The Twins are often cited as one of the best teams and the example of how to build a bullpen, having had bullpen ERA rankings of 9th, 10th, 12th, 4th, 1st, 11th, and 10th starting with 2002. However, reviewing the rosters, in that time period, the Twins have given 20 different relievers the ball at least 30 times in a season. Contrast this to the Indians, who have had 28 different relievers have at least 30 appearances in a season over this time period (including Jack Cressend, Cliff Bartosh, Jason Boyd, and Jose “Worst non-Fausto Closer Ever” Jimenez). As a result, the Indians have actually had more turn-over in their bullpen over the years, indicating some bad luck for the Indians, or good luck for the Twins. It also illustrates how active Shapiro has been at acquiring bullpen arms over the years, as of the relievers who reached 30 appearances for the first time as an Indian after Shapiro took over, only Riske, Baez, Cabrera, Davis, Carmona, Perez, Lewis, Mastny, and Mujica came from our farm system. So if anything, not enough quality relief prospects coming up through the farm system that can aid the team is more at fault for the Indians’ woes than the myth of inactivity. For example, over the same period, Twins products Juan Rincon, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and Pat Neshek have anchored their bullpen. The presence of quality young relievers probably is a stabilizing factor for their bullpen.

Now that the Indians are getting quality relief prospects coming up through the system, some which are already helping (Perez and Lewis), and others on the way (Stevens, Adam Miller, and Meloan), they are building the bullpen the right way. Compare it to the 1995 Indians. They have the young Tavarez (Perez and Lewis), the newly acquired lefty-specialist Assenmacher (righty-specialist Smith), Plunk (Betancourt), the new closer Mesa (new closer Wood), and Poole (Nelson?). Masa is Gregg Olson in that his leash is incredibly short. But all in all, it appears that Shapiro has the tools he needs to build a steady bullpen: a core of young guys, specialists, and a relief ace. After all, there are so many quality arms with us that one is likely to emerge as the top reliever. For all we know, Rich Rundles will be that guy.
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Rationalizing My Buckeye Apathy

As we're now just a couple of weeks away from the OSU-Texas BCS clash, the staff here at Cry Me A Cuyahoga River will soon be rolling out its 09 Fiesta Bowl Previews. I, however, will probably pass on the opportunity. Like several of my fellow CMCR writers, I have at least one degree hanging on my wall from The Ohio State University, and at times in my life, I would've placed the Buckeyes right up there with the Browns, Cavs, and Indians among my greatest passions.

Yet, as another apparent shot at redemption approaches, I can't help but notice that I'm just not that in to the Buckeyes right now. It's like a marriage that has suddenly gone stale. Long past that hot steamy days of undefeated seasons and National Championships, the Buckeyes and I are now methodically passing the days, exchanging pleasantries, and sleeping in separate bedrooms. It's not that I don't love the Buckeyes anymore. I know the feelings are still in there somewhere. I'm just not IN love with the Buckeyes right now. Does that make sense?

The loyal OSU fan in me wants to scold myself for having these cold distant feelings toward my beloved team, and in all fairness, the argument for OSU is quite compelling. Ohio State is set to play in yet ANOTHER BCS Bowl game, they just won a share of their fourth straight Big Ten Title, and they have accomplished all of this with Freshman both under and playing center. Moreover, they are set to sign their second straight top 5 recruiting class. None of this should be taken for granted. And yet, they're just not doing it for me. I'm interested but I'm nowhere near my typical level of infatuation. So, this begets one simple question: Why? The answer has several components.

1. I'm weary from years of defending this team:

Just about every Ohio State fan knows what I'm talking about here. Since that fateful day in Glendale, every Buckeye fan has had to answer the onslaught of critics that just love to take shots at OSU and the Big Ten. I, like most loyal fans, have come up with every excuse under the sun to defend our team.

"OSU big-timed it against Florida. Our Heisman winning QB had put on 25 lbs on the banquet circuit by the time that game was played. Plus, we lost our downfield threat 15 seconds into the game."

"It's just not fair that Big Ten teams have such a long layoff before bowl games."

"Don't tell me we play an easy schedule. I don't see other school scheduling major nonconference games like Texas and USC every year."

"The Big Ten isn't as bad as you think. Hell, the team we lost to went to the Rose Bowl."

"Those SEC school oversign all their classes. That gives them an unfair recruiting advantage."

"Maybe if the SEC had to play every bowl game in the midwest, things would be a little different."

"Of course we lost to USC. We were missing our best player. Take Tebow away from Florida and see how well they play in the Coliseum."

Listen, some of these excuses might even have some merit but it doesn't matter anymore. I'm tired of making them. I want my dominant football team back. It's exhausting trying to defend a team that does nothing but shit the bed on the big stage. I can't carry the burden of defending them anymore. It's time for their play to speak for itself again.

2. More than a little doubt has crept into my mind:

Aside from the exhaustion I feel from having to fight off the critics, a lot of my apathy stems from the fact that I'm legitimately questioning aspects of the program myself these days. You listen to Ohio State insiders and they all say that OSU's offense is outdated...that the coaches are telegraphing the plays. You can see it on the field. Compare Ohio State's offensive scheme to Florida's or USC's. Are they comparable? I'd have to say no. Now, on the flip side, Ohio State is a much more disciplined and fundamentally sound team (hence the reason they don't lose to teams like Ole Miss and Stanford), but until they modernize their attack, they're going to get smoked in a lot of big games.

Also, the elephant in the corner of the room with Ohio State is that they are always getting manhandled on the offensive and defensive lines. For whatever reason, Ohio State can rarely match the talent of the other big programs in the trenches. In the coming years, that may change (Adams, Shugarts, Brewster, and Boren are all going to be studs on the offensive side alone) but until it does, I'm not exactly holding my breath for a breakthrough win.

3. College Football in general has lost some of its luster:

I know, I know, when you're playing for National Championships, you don't care that the BCS system is an indefensible money grab. You don't care that the sport you love has a month and a half break before its last game. You overlook the fact that big games are unwatchable because of the commercials (as my co-writer just discussed). But when you stop drinking the Kool-Aid for a moment, you see a seriously flawed game. I still love all the pageantry and grandeur of college football. I'm just not as enamored with all the politics and commercialism that have infiltrated the game anymore.

4. I'm hungover from the Pryor recruitment:

I dedicated the better part of my final year of law school to the recruitment of Terrelle Pryor. I was absolutely obsessed. When he finally signed with Ohio State, it was probably one of my 10 happiest days as a college football fan. But a funny thing has happened as a result of the way I approached the Pryor recruitment. The bar has been set too high for him. I don't care that he has led us to a BCS game as a freshman. I want more. I want the greatest college football player ever and I want him now. I want what I was promised, damnit. I don't care, as a friend recently reminded me, that Vince Young was atrocious as a redshirt freshman. Pryor was billed as a cross between Vince Young, Randall Cunningham, Mike Vick, Walter Payton, and Jesus. I don't have time for anything less.

5. I've had enough of some of these guys:

James Laurinaitis, thanks for your contributions but get the hell out of here. You're not as good as A.J. Hawk and whenever I see you, all I can think of is how many big game losses you've been a part of. Alex I'm tired of your choker ass too. The Brians, please move on. I like my Wide Receivers bigger, faster, and sexier than you guys.

Listen, I realize that the above paragraph is completely unfair. All of these guys have made great contributions to Ohio State. I'm just trying to explain why I feel so disenchanted with this program right now. It might not be fair and it might not be right, but for me, and I suspect a lot of other Buckeye fans out there, it's reality.

I'm sure as the Texas game grows closer, I will get geared up for another shot at redemption. Until then, while my co-writers are penning their game previews, I will sit here and sulk...left to reminisce about days long ago when Ohio State and I were hot, heavy, and on top of the college football world.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

The Business of Football

As I sit here watching this Monday Night Football game, my buddy calls me up and says he has an extra ticket to the Fiesta Bowl, and it could be mine if I want to meet him out there. He currently lives in Missouri, but grew up in Dallas, and is a huge UT fan. Normally I would jump at this opportunity, and still may, but I started to think...

Are live football games that enjoyable anymore? Bill Simmons from has touched on this in the past, whether going to a football game is that fun. He spoke about this in the context of the NFL, and I would like to expand on the lower levels. The last football game I went to was the Michigan drubbing this year. It was the first time I had ever been inside of the Horseshoe, and what a game it was to see. However there was an inordinate amount of standing around time. After just about every score, kickoff, and turnover there is a TV timeout. Which are fine if you are sitting on the couch and need to go to the bathroom. Or use the Microwave. Or change a diaper, let the dog out, etc. You get the picture. When your actually at the game, it is a little disconcerting to see the teams just standing there, and some donkey with a head set standing a quarter of the way onto the field with orange gloves on letting everyone know when it is OK to start the play clock again.

If you are lucky enough to go to a game in which your team completely and mercilessly obliterates their bitter rivals, there isn't much adrenaline manufactured. And at NCAA events they don't sell liquid warmth. So you are left standing in the late November day, trying to keep warm, while the players huddle before the huddle.

Previous to that, the last game I had gone to was another big time rivalry game. It was Don Bosco Prep vs St. Joes Montvale.Some local high school ball. Those of you who follow OHSAA football may recognize Boscoas the team that lost to Cincy St. X early on this year. Think of this game as Eds vs Ignatius(of course on a smaller scale, because NJ high school football leaves a lot to be desired compared to OH. and yes I will be taking various shots at NJ throughout my posts). And think of Boscoas the evil empire, as their recruiting budget and effort puts many mid major D1 colleges to shame. Well this game was being broadcast on CBS Sports' Scholastic network, which of course means TV timeouts. This did not sit well with me, as this is high school ball, they can bastardize this game as well?

I understand the cycle, and need for commercials throughout these games. I topically understand how the corporate world works. Schools need to make money from the advertisers to keep their programs top notch yada yada yada. However, I feel like there should be more structure to it. Somehow, someway make these games more enjoyable. Maybe they could structure it similar to college basketball, where every dead ball under 16, 12, 8, and 4 minutes remaining in the half is a TV timeout. Perhaps as technology advances, advertising agencies will realize a way to reach people in ways other than conventional commercials, where people do anything but pay attention to them. Whatever the solution may be, hopefully the powers that be find it in a timely fashion. Money, once again, is sucking the life out of the flow and rhythm of games that would only be enhanced by not having to be chopped up.

...So I told my buddy I have to think about it and get back to him, as a trip to Glendale to watch TPand Beanie stand around may not be that fun. (Image from
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Crying and Football

I hate to push the incredible news of Quinnette taking one on the chin down the blog, but I thought this post was worth sharing (especially after the way the Browns' season has turned out). I apologize for the source....

As I was leaving a frigid Texas Stadium after the game, I was walking right behind a Dad and his boy. The boy must have been 7 or 8 years old and was crying about the result. Some people might roll their eyes, but I knew how the boy felt. When you are young, and you love a sports team, you believe the games and the seasons will all have the happy endings of the Disney movies that you watch. Guess what, son, if you are going to pledge allegiance to a team as it appears you have with the Dallas Cowboys, I want to welcome you to the fellowship of the die-hards. Understand, that once you do, you are not allowed out of this commitment, and you should also understand that most seasons are going to end in tears. A favorite team is the only thing a male human feels the same about when he is 5 and when he is 45 and when he is 75. You will change your mind on everything else. Girls, money, hobbies. But, you will always still feel the adrenaline rush of a win, and the gutting sadness of a horrible loss. I didn’t say anything to the boy, as his Dad was handling it (and he might not have welcomed my advice) but I felt for him. Welcome to sports, young man. Someday, you may live to see a championship or five, but most years will end with your guts spilling onto the floor.,
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Don't Mean to Alarm You But . . .

Well it appears that Berea has taken one more giant step toward becoming the Chernobyl of the NFL today and it has nothing to do with the team's inspired effort on the field.


We got a tip this morning from a reader about a possible altercation in Cleveland. And so we started contacting some of our sources, and the current indication is that something indeed happened.

One source said that the rumor in the locker room is that one player hit another player with a weight, and that the player who was on the receiving end of said weight might have been quarterback Brady Quinn.

So let me get this straight. In the last few weeks, our General Manager has told a fan to fuck off, our star receiver has told the entire city that they think they're entitled to too much, and now, apparently, our potential franchise quarterback (and one of the few guys not yet covered with the heinous stench of this organization) has been hit in the face by another player with a weight. Soak that all in for a moment. That's some operation they're running over there isn't it? I can't wait to see what they have in store for us next. Maybe Joe Thomas can burn down the Cleveland Clinic while Josh Cribbs is inside getting treatment for a staph infection. At this point, if that happened, I would be mildly surprised. I might react by saying something like "Wow, I didn't see that one coming but I guess anything is possible with this group."

Obviously, this story has not been verified (I'm talking about the locker room skirmish, not my imaginary arson/homicide), but, if there is any remote amount of truth to it, even if the player on the business end of the blunt object was someone other than Quinn, it raises serious questions about every single member of the organization.

I knew when the Browns decided that it was a good idea to play out the season with a 61 year old lame duck head coach, they might have some player discipline problems but this is just downright impressive. It's almost as if the Browns aren't even attempting to keep things respectable. Is anyone guarding the henhouse right now? Obviously Romeo isn't but what about Savage? I was under the impression that he still thinks he's entitled to continue running the organization. Quite a case he's making for himself right now.

A month and a half ago, the Browns were a nice little fixer-upper. They obviously had some problems but there was still some talent in place for someone to come in and turn things around. Now?... I would characterize them as more of a radioactive wasteland. Before laying the first brick in the rebuilding process, the new regime is now going to have to come in with hazmat suits and clean this disaster up.

Happy Holidays Browns fans...if there are any of you left out there.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Extension? I'm Not Biting

In case you missed it tonight, the worldwide leader has taken time out of its busy "Lebron to New York" multimedia production schedule to drop a few lines about the possibility of King James signing an extension with the Cavs next summer. The story centered around some comments Lebron made to the Plain Dealer:

"You play out this season of course; I will consider it," James told the Plain Dealer on Saturday before the Cavs practiced at the Pepsi Center. "The direction we are headed is everything I expected and more." "I definitely want to keep an open mind, I will look at everything," James told the Plain Dealer. "[The extension] is a good point. I think me and my group have pretty much made good decisions so far and we'll look at the options and go from there."

Listen, before you all start writing "in your face" e-mails to every non-Cleveland fan you know, take a minute to consider the source. Lebron is a master of talking out of both sides of his head and telling various markets what they want to hear. Notice that he made these comments to the Plain Dealer. Had the same question been asked by some guy from the NY Times, I'm sure we would've heard some moderately ambiguous reference to the Summer of 2010.
All things considered, I think Lebron has done a solid job of managing his image and dealing with the media during his 5+ seasons in Cleveland. When you are fortunate enough to have a superstar on your team, especially one in a midsize market (AKA any place not named NY, LA, or Boston), dealing with your star saying stupid shit to the media just comes with the territory. First, every writer from a big market thinks he's going to get the player to badmouth his team and his city because said writer is probably convinced that deep down the player is just dying to flee for greener pastures. So, your star is always being provoked with loaded questions ("Lebron Lebron, what's your favorite borough in New York?").

Second, as I believe to be the case with Lebron, the player is usually predisposed to showing an often unsettling amount of love for other cities because he thinks that doing so will enhance his marketability. I used to think Lebron was just shitting at the mouth when he would say ridiculous things about his love for NY. Now, I realize that the best way for him to sell shoes and jerseys in big markets is to make the fans in those markets think he's headed their way. So, when Lebron says something about the Summer of 2010, Jay-Z, or loving NY, just remember that he's trying to make himself more marketable and more important than he would be if everyone just assumed he was staying home.The problem, however, is that the "don't believe what he says" rule has to apply to Lebron's pro-Cavs comments as well. Of course Lebron wants his home fans to think he's going to stay loyal to them. Why wouldn't he?
Whether you think he's being two-faced or just being a prudent businessman, remember that Lebron has a vested interest in pandering to each of the various audiances that receive his messages. Like I said, as much as I find this to be annoying, it comes with the territory. ESPN, Stephen A., and every other talking head can shove this garbage down our throats all they want as far as I'm concerned. It's a lot easier to tune it out when your team is thrashing the rest of the league and stalking a championship.
As for what Lebron is really thinking, I have no idea. My guess is that he doesn't really know either. Based on his association with Worldwide Wes, my thinking for most of the past few years has been that he will probably bolt. But now, things look a little different. The Cavs are a top 3 team. They have a 25 year-old borderline all-star PG locked up to a reasonable contract. They have Lebron's best friend on the team locked up to another very reasonable contract. They don't have a single bad contract on the books past 09....You get the point. If the Cavs are awesome next year, I think he will seriously consider staying. That's as much as I've thought about it.
Just don't fool yourself into thinking that we're going to know one way or the other any sooner than late next year and please, whatever you do, don't let yourself get so fixated on the future that you miss some of the best basketball that this city has ever seen.

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Is This the Best Team in Cleveland Sports (Recent) History?

In any context, the phrase "Best Ever" is always dubious in the respect that there is no real basis for comparing teams over the course of time, other than a person's subjective opinion. We see this all the time in college football with the talking heads spewing over USC's latest stars, this year especially as ESPN analysts were saying Joe McKnight and Mark Sanchez were more talented than Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart,and Carson Palmer (all of whom won Heisman Trophies remember). One fateful night in Oregon squelched those thoughts, but the sentiment was there.

An even more risque proposition is to compare teams' dominance or futility across sports. Can you compare a point guard to a quarterback? I suppose you can in the respect that the players who play both positions are counted on to make important decisions and create scoring opportunities for their respective teams. Is there a baseball equivalent to that position? Realistically no, in part because the defense always has the ball in baseball. Is there any position in any other sport that is of uber-importance the way a starting pitcher in baseball is? A player that sets the tone for the entire game, a player who can literally single handedly win a game for his team (think hitting pitchers in the National League)? I do not believe so.

The background you just read is the reason why I will tread carefully as I guide you through a discussion of whether or not the 2008-09 Cavaliers is the best Cleveland team in recent history (1970-present). Although the Browns teams in 1986 and 1987 were very, very good, the vast majority of fans remember these seasons with nothing but despair. John Elwayand Ernest Byner pretty much cemented the legacies of these seasons as painful failures, even though the regular seasons were phenomenal. 1986 saw the Browns post a 12-4 record under Bernie Kosar,a double overtime victory in the Divisional round of the playoffs over the Jets, and a seven point lead with two minutes until the Super Bowl. Objectively, this team can certainly be in the argument for the title of Best Cleveland Sports Team of the Recent Past (indoor soccer not withstanding).

Subjectively, however, there is only one team that can be in the same argument with the 2008-09 Cavaliers, and that is the 1995 Cleveland Indians. Why do I say this? First and foremost, each day, when these teams took the field/court, you were truly confident the Cleveland team would win. As Cleveland sports fans, we are typically not confident in anything. Each team had star power. Obviously the Cavs with Lebron, but the Indians had a host of big name players, both homegrown and free agent signees. And, among other things, both teams had the ability to turn what is historically a football city, into a baseball or basketball city. So which team is the best?

Of course the Cavs are just roughly a third of the way through the season, but they have been nothing short of dominant. Unbeaten at home. Four very tough, close road losses to the best the NBA has to offer. Stifling defense, and an offense firing on all cylinders. Ranked number one or two in just about every power rankings poll. The team is led by the best player in the league. The coach is not a flashy big name coach, but he has been phenomenal at getting the team to play the type of defense needed to win championships. The hot streak they have been riding has been remarkable. However the NBA is about as balanced as the national budget. There is an amazing number of crappy teams in the league, and the fact of the matter is the Cavs have been feasting on them. That is not a knock on the Wine and Gold, just a fact. They are doing what any dominant team would be doing versus the dregs of the league. They are incredibly fun to watch, and put on an excellent show at the Q. Quite a resume for the current Central Division leaders.

The 1995 Tribe was exactly what the city needed for the a baseball renaissance, specifically after the promising 94 season was cut short by the strike. Every time the Indians took the field you expected them to win. Even when they were losing 8-0 after three innings you expected them to come back and win. Even when they were down 5-3 going into the ninth inning vs. the all time leader in saves you expected them to win. The offense was absurd. The best leadoff hitter in the game. A pair of future 500homer guys hitting 6thand 7th. A mercurial 4 hitter, who, if given back the 18 games lost to the strike, may have preempted Mark McGwireand Sammy Sosa in the pursuit of the single season home run record. And not only did Albert Belle hit 50 homeruns, he also became the first player ever to pair that with hitting 50 doubles in the same season. He and Jim Thomesandwiched one of the few 3000 hit/500 homerun guys in history. I can go on. The pitching staff was led by a pair of aging starters who were dominant at times. They were aided by a homegrown talent who was surely happy to be along for the ride, and a midseason acquisition. The bullpen was anchored by an amazingly effective starter-turned-closer who went by the name Senior Smoke. The city was captivated by the Indians. They won the division just 8 days into September. They won their first playoff game in 41 years on a walkoff homerun at 2:30am by a lighthitting, elderly catcher. They went down 2-1 to the Mariners in the ALCS. Paul Assenmacher swept Griffey, Buhner, and Martinez away in the next three games, and Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel took care of Randy Johnson to send the Indians to the World Series. The Indians went on to help the Atlanta Braves shed their Buffalo Bills-like moniker by not hitting against the Braves superior pitching, and lost the series in six games.

You may ask yourself, what is the difference between the 1995 Indians results, and the 1986 Browns results? Neither team won a championship so who cares. While this is true, the Indians raised an American League Championship banner, and also played the very last game of the season, which is always pretty cool.

Now, obviously you can say a lot more about the 95 Indians than you can say about this season's Cavs. That Indian season is in the history books. The Cavsare just getting going. As the NBA season moves along, we will find out if this team compares to the 95 Indians, blows it out of the water, or fizzles out to the point that we no longer need to have this discussion. However it will be fun to see the Cavs, seemingly on a collision course with the Boston Celtics, play this season out, as they have enthralled the city, and its fan base. I have a feeling that Mo Williams might be quoting Kenny Lofton (Sept 8, 1995), when he helps raise a Central Division banner, "Cleveland, you ain't seen nothin yet..."
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The One

One of my favorite websites is Waiting For Next Year. Currently its poll question asks if the Cavs should make the rumored trade of Anderson Varejao and Wally Szczerbiak to Miami for Shawn Marion. It's a question I had been pondering since first hearing the rumor a week or two ago. Here are my thoughts.

1) The value of Andy and Wally to the Cavs is huge.

This season it seems like everyone on the team has improved dramatically. Delonte has been spectacular since moving off the ball. Ben has regained his intimidating defense after an offseason in the system (albeit in only 23.7 mpg).

Although not quite as spectacular as Delonte's improvement, Andy's and Wally's have been just as valuable. A career .497 shooter, Andy's average this season is at .568. His points per game at 8.9 is 2.7 points above his career average. And although Wally is only shooting .425 this season, it is a huge improvement on the .359 he shot with Cleveland last season after the trade.

The value these two provide is much more than numbers. On a team with few big men, Andy is crucial. The minutes he occupied while Z was injured were huge. He is more of a pick and roll guy than the pick and pop guy that Z is, but effect is nearly the same on the defense. Not to mention the obvious hustle and defense Andy provides at the center position.

Wally has been much better on defense this season when he is playing on the pf because he doesn't have to worry about getting blown past by a quicker player. And his shooting threat, although not as pronounced as it once was, still scares defenses.

2) Value of Shawn Marion is not as high for us as it would be for others.

His numbers have declined since leaving the fun and gun offense of the old Phoenix Suns. But Marion can still play. That said, even if he were still a complete stud, he wouldn't be right for Cleveland. Marion may have played some pf in Phoenix with Amare at the 5, but that was definitely out of position. He is only 6'7". We already have a small forward and LeBron be thy name.

3) Obvious Conclusion

No trade. The only thing that would make me consider this trade is the coinciding rumor that Wally would get bought out by his new team and come back here 30 days later for cheap. The problem is that we still lose Andy, a legit pf/c and replace him with a sf/pf. Our centers outside of Andy are ancient. Yes, Andy may want a big contract. The Cavs may not want to give it to him. But we need him. We need him now and we need him for the future. Now is the time for the Cavs to win the NBA title. Andy is an important part of that. Keep him here. Make it happen.
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Good Road Win in Denver

Game thoughts:

1. As a professional sports fans, most of the enjoyment that we get out of watching games comes from two sources. First, the competition. It's always exciting to watch teams and individuals compete hard against one another. Second, our individual team loyalties add the emotional component that really forces us to get invested in the games. Rarely does our enjoyment of the experience come from the pure aesthetic component of the sport itself. Perhaps that is the greatest compliment I can pay to this Cavs team so far this year. For the first time in my life as a sports fan, I find myself forgetting for brief moments during games where my loyalties lie and getting completely entranced by the beauty of the game of basketball the way the Cavs play it. When the Cavs are playing well, it just takes my breath away. The passing, the movement, the defensive's really moving. I've always enjoyed the NBA for the great rivalries and ridiculous personalities. Now, for the first time in my life, I'm enjoying it because I'm getting to watch the game of basketball played as if it were a form of art.

2. Its funny how no matter how many NBA Champions win with defense and good half-court offense, so many teams around the league still want to fly up and down the floor and shoot early in the shot clock. Go ask the 05 suns how well that works in the playoffs. Teams like that can beat you on any given night but rarely are they going to outlast a good physical team in a playoff series.

3. This Cavs team has helped me to understand the value of backcourt depth. Its amazing how consistent a team can be with multiple perimeter threats. I understand a lot of the offensive stability this team has found this year is a result of having a PG that can break teams down off the dribble and a 2-guard that can really play the game. But beyond that, the Cavs shooting depth just makes them so hard to beat on any given night. Between Delonte, Boobie, Szczerbiak, and Mo, the Cavs are almost guaranteed to have at least one guy shooting well from the outside on any given night. Shooting slumps are unavoidable but when you have so many guys that can stroke it, it's so much easier to play around them.

4. Its a shame that Sasha is the basketball equivalent of a special ed student. I mean seriously, his basketball IQ is just awful. Boobie Gibson is undersized and at this point in his career, he has a very limited range of skills but the drop off from him to Sasha in the guard rotation is staggering. I really would not want to see Pavlovic playing meaningful playoff minutes this year.

5. Delonte West makes 3.85 million this year and is signed for two more. That should make every single Cavs fan giddy. Incredible how much better he is playing off the ball.

6. Cleveland fans will never be able to fully appreciate Z until he retires and the franchise is stuck trying to scramble for one of the 5 or so quality centers that is usually playing in the league at any given time. 30 teams...maybe a half-dozen decent centers. Yet, there are still Cleveland fans out there that complain about Z's skill set. It's just insane.

7. Denver needs to ditch their current color scheme. For a team that used to have such great unis, I'm just not feeling it.

8. Anybody that puts Carmelo, Wade, or at this point, even Kobe in the same sentence with Lebron should not be taken seriously. It's like saying that Paddy Harrington and Phil Mickelson are comparable to Tiger. I realize I'm a homer but by every possible measure, Lebron is by far the best player in the league.

9. Glad to see Boston beating the Bulls at home was the first story on Sportscenter after the game. Clearly, that was the biggest story of the night. The Bulls are fantastic. What a rivalry.

10. The hardwood classic unis are my favorite unis of any Cleveland sports team....ever. I'm not even kidding. I think they are just the bees knees. They are vastly superior to the road blues (and the reds which are rarely worn anymore anyway).

That's all for tonight. I'll be back with more after we play the Thunder (WNBA?) on Sunday.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rock Bottom

For my first post on the new blog, I wanted to write something memorable. With that in mind, my logical first instinct was to opine on the Cavaliers' record setting start. But, after thinking about it, I realized two things: 1) Its the NBA in December...calm down there cowboy; and 2) the Cavs are a really good team that is in prime position to challenge for a title this year. Truthfully, there isn't that much more to be said about them right now. There will be plenty of time to talk about the Cavs when they hit a rough stretch or prepare to make a move at the deadline.

The Indians? Sure, there's plenty to talk about after some very good moves at the winter meetings; however, keeping in mind that my goal is to make my first post memorable, waxing poetic about minor league second basemen and 30 something closers doesn't seem like the right thing to do.

So, that leaves me with the Browns. Wait a minute, that can't be right. How can I write a memorable post about the most loathsome, disgusting, vomit-inducing team to hit Cleveland in the last decade? Well, after some thought, I have realized that now is the perfect time to write about the Browns. I think of this post as a time capsule. If I really explore my feelings about the Browns now, one day, long into the future when the Browns are a respectable organization, I will be able to go back to this post and remember just how bad things were and how much the good times shouldn't be taken for granted. So, here goes . . .

The Cleveland Browns are an embarrassing organization. And I'm not even just talking about the players. I'm talking about the entire organization, top to bottom. I'm talking about the entity.

When most people talk about the Browns, the begin by talking about the players or the coaching staff. To me, that's missing the point. When a business is failing, you don't look first to the employees or middle management. You go right to the top. The same rule should apply to the Browns. So, with that in mind, lets look from the top down.

The man at the very top is Randy Lerner. The cliche' thing to do when discussing Lerner would be to prattle on about English Football and spout off a bunch of platitudes about commitment and dedication. Truthfully, however, I'm not sure at this point that there is really that much blame that can be placed at Lerner's feet. He spends tons of money and he lets his football people run the organization. At most, he is guilty of being naive and putting his faith in the wrong people, or perhaps more specifically, the wrong person.

That's a nice transition into a discussion of the man that I view to be the main culprit in the continued atrociousness of the Browns: Mr. Phil Savage. I despise Savage. I think he's a smug little weasel. I think he rode into town on Ozzie Newsome's record and has done nothing but destroy the Browns ever since. But, when I say he's destroyed the Browns, I'm not even really talking about his crappy draft record or mostly disappointing free agent signings. I'm talking about his mismanagement of the people below him and the toxic culture he has fostered within the organization. Honestly, I have too many grievances with Savage to write in detail about all of them so I will just list a few of my favorites:

1. Allowing Romeo to retain Carthon 7 games into the 06 season;
2. Being a condescending little penis to the local media while pretending to be Jesus in front of national writers like Peter King;
3. Purposely antagonizing his tight end in the media because he was too childish to be the bigger man;
4. Mediocre overall drafts;
5. Mediocre overall free agent signings;
6. Extending an overmatched coach after one decent season against a bad schedule;
7. And last but not least, telling a Browns fan to fuck off and then letting his head coach handle the press conference discussing it.

Savage is a cancer. You can't build a great organization when the man running it is a self-aggrandizing unaccountable childish asshole. It just won't work, and that is why even though I don't directly fault Randy Lerner for this shitstorm, he takes some of the blame for Savage. He should've never extended Savage after last season. There is no rule written anywhere that says that coaches and GMs are not allowed to come close to the end of their contracts, especially when their performance has been a mixed bag at best. Then, even after extending Savage, Lerner should have fired him "for cause" the day he sent the now famous fan e-mail. If Lerner retains Savage after this season, my opinion of him will tank. It has been well documented that Lerner is fond of Savage, but if he lets that friendship prevent him from making a change that is absolutely necessary to improve the organization, he will essentially be telling the Cleveland fans to fuck off in his own subtle little way. Ok, enough on those two.

Romeo. Does anything even need to be said? In a way, it's funny that he's managed to coach this team for this long but in truth, it's just an embarrassment. The fans and the rest of the world have known he's a joke for several years. How the Browns have not yet figured this out is just beyond me. Either they're blind or they just don't care. Whatever the reason, it's not worth talking about anymore because he's out.

So, those are the figureheads of the Browns as an organization. It's pathetic. In the NFL, more than any other professional sport, it's the quality of the organization that really determines the number of wins and losses year in and year out. That's why teams like Indy, Pittsburgh, and New England are usually winners while bad organizations like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Arizona, and Oakland are usually terrible despite the fact that the draft should make things cyclical. A quality organization manages to field a quality team. If you have a bunch of hacks on the sidelines and in the front office, the product on the field will almost always bear a striking resemblance.

Last but not least, the players...and oh what a special day it is to talk about the players in light of Braylon's little rant today. Now listen, I'm not stupid enough to believe that you can't win titles with thugs and primadonnas on your team. Teams do it all the time. But, what I do believe is that you can't have these guys in key positions leading your team, and you have to have enough high character guys and a strong enough head coach to negate their impact (See Giants, New York). The Browns have amassed a nice little collection of turds, shitheads, and worst of all, mental midgets on this roster. Yet, that fact alone shouldn't be enough to make this team this bad. The problem is that not only are these people on the team, they actually "leading" it. That is a perfect recipe for the type of disaster that has taken place this year.

A few noteworthy individuals:

Braylon Edwards: The sad thing about Braylon is that he's going to have at least a few more great seasons before it's all said and done. The guy has too much talent to be bad forever. He's got the football version of the shanks right now but it won't always be that way. He's going to have more pro-bowl seasons, but unfortunately, my guess is they will be in another city. It's a shame that Braylon had to put the finishing touches on his master plan to get out of town after a season in which he had Browns fans pining for the sure hands of Dennis Northcutt. His has lost a significant amount of value. With his talent, he's probably still worth a late first rounder (Roy Williams anyone?) but this is just a huge blow to the future of the team. He's a cancer and they have to get rid of him but man, with the right head on his shoulders, he could've been a great piece for the new regime to build around.

Derek Anderson: Savage botched this one. He was scared that if he traded the Browns first "Pro Bowl" quarterback in forever and Quinn flopped, he'd be massacred. The truth is that the handwriting was on the wall last year when Anderson was terrible in the second half of the season. Instead of working out a trade with one of the numerous quarterback desperate teams this summer and giving the team to Quinn, Savage probably just took a first round pick and turned it into a 4th rounder and a nice little accellerated cap charge. Well done sir. As for Anderson himself, the guy can seriously blow me. Anyone who tells Peter King that the team "got its swagger back" after beating the Bengals is obviously a jackass. Worse, in spite of his laser arm, the fact that he's such a mental midget will prevent him from ever being an upper echelon starter. Anderson's favorite pastimes include disappearing from games in which he starts poorly and loses his confidence and crying to the media about being unloved. Ah, just what I'm looking for in my starting quarterback. Get him out of my life.

K2: I'm sorry....I know he plays hard but I want him out of my life too. He was 100% right in his war with Savage this season but I still want him gone. He can't keep his mouth shut, he doesn't block anyone, and he's got the body of a 50 year old. The Browns should move him while he still has value.

Overall, the Browns are just a sad sad organization in a city in which the fans live and die with their football team. The wounds these guys have inflicted on the fanbase this year will take a long time to heal. Its hard to believe that less than 4 months ago, I was thinking about playoff games after watching the team march down the field and score in their first preseason game. What a sad disgusting season. What a sad disgusting team. God, I want them all to disappear.
This completes my Browns time capsule post. I vow not to speak of them again until the draft.

Now, about those Cavs...
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