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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Friday, June 19, 2009


Yao? No way. Way? Could Yao Ming end up in Cleveland along Lebron James in 2010? The best big we could hope for in the 2010 free agent class had been Amare or Bosh. But they aren't true centers. Yao being "available" in 2010 would be huge. A young legit center who can shoot and defend is exactly what we (and every other team) needs. We could actually stop Dwight Howard.

Now, realistically, this is all rumor and speculation based probably on nothing more than Cleveland having a new bunch of Chinese investors. But that does give this rumor the possibility of truth.

Why would Yao give up the extra money to sign with Cleveland instead of resigning with Houston? Sure a championship ring with Cleveland would be nice. But I bet he would actually make more money signing with Cleveland. These Chinese investors would throw money at Yao to advertise. Can you imagine the Yao and LeBron commercials. It makes me giddy thinking of the possibilites.

Clearly this is nothing more than pure speculation. But this is the offseason. It is our time to dream.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

LeBron snub?

The Cavs just got upset in the Eastern Conference Finals. The magical (no pun intended) season was over. And what is the story that refuses to go away? LeBron leaving the arena without congratulating Orlando or speaking to the media. Give me a frickin' break.

This isn't youth sports where you have to lineup and shake hands after the game. This is the NBA. Let's not get our panties in a bunch because someone didn't want to talk to you in his moment of disappointment. Now David Stern wants to speak to LeBron about it. How is this a story?

Be a good sport and gracious in defeat, they say. Give me a break. What makes someone great is the unstoppable desire to win. T0 put winning above all else (without resorting to performance enhancing drugs or otherwise cheating). Just a few years ago we were bashing Larry Hughes for not caring about the team and putting himself first. I, for one, am glad LeBron was so pissed about the loss that he had to leave without congratulating Orlando or speaking to the media. I wish the whole team was that pissed. They should be. I want players who care about winning that much. And I don't want players who are so sensitive that they would feel slighted if the opposing team didn't shake hands with them after a crushing loss.

Bad sportsmanship is going to the other team after the loss and picking a fight. It's talking sh*t and making excuses after a loss. What LeBron did is not bad sportsmanship. But the oh so petty media insists on getting its interviews. Especially with the big stars in the league. And if that star spurns them, the media is compelled to lash out with this stupid story. Heaven help all those sports fans out there who are agreeing with the media and buying this "story."

Until next time, this is Barry Lakin, sayin' all the world is schlach.
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Death of the 2009 Cavaliers and Hope for the Future

I'm supposed to be beside myself right now. How does a veteran 66 win team with an indestructible player just go catatonic in the Eastern Conference Finals and lay down to a gimmicky team from a crappy sports town like Orlando. This wasn't supposed to happen. We were supposed to at least have the opportunity to give the Lakers our best shot. This team had been different all year. They played together, they outhustled people, they never panicked, they cheered for each other from the bench . . . where did all of that go?
Given the ride that we've all been on with this team for the last 8 or so months, it's hard to rationalize what just happened. Based on the comments I've seen and heard so far, the most common reaction that people seem to be having having is a desire to label this collapse as another classic Cleveland choke. They're pointing fingers at Lebron, Mike Brown, Mo Williams . . . pretty much anyone who could possibly be made to take the fall for this heartbreak. In a way, people seem to want to pull the covers of their heads, curl up in a ball, and wallow in the familiar and strangely comforting misery that is Cleveland fandom.

Listen, I'm as hurt as anyone right now. The greatest season since the 95 Indians just ended with a thud. We basically have nothing to look forward to as fans for another 12 months or so when the Cavs will possibly have a chance to avenge this loss. All we can do now is mope around and stare out into Cleveland sports abyss. For a lot of people, myself included, who depend on our teams to be a source of entertainment and happiness, the situation that we are presently facing is daunting to say the least.

With that in mind, if you just can't stomach any Cavs analysis right now, I encourage you to stop reading. What I am about to say might piss some people off but after a great deal of thought, I'm comfortable that it's an accurate statement: THE CAVS DID NOT CHOKE. The Cavs were a fatally flawed group that came up short against a team that was playing exceptionally good basketball and beat them straight up in six games. That's what happened. Yes, the Cavs blew some close games. Yes, the officiating was atrocious, but equally so on both sides. Yes, certain players (I'm looking at you Mo) played poorly throughout the series. Yes, Orlando had some guys play way above their heads. Still, if you consider the Cavs' full body of work this year, I don't think you can call what they just did a choke job.

Against both Orlando and the Lakers this year, teams that can play both inside and out, the Cavs were pretty helpless. Their ancient frontcourt combined with an undersized backcourt made it impossible to match up. It's not like the Cavs weren't aware of this throughout the season either. It's exactly why they were considering taking on Shaq's ungodly contract at the deadline. In the end, they decided to roll the dice and play with what they had. I don't want to come off like I'm second guessing that decision. At the time it was made, given the players available and the financial ramifications involved, it was perfectly defensible. At the same time, there is a chance that it just cost the Cavs the title.

I know that the Cavs won 66 games. I know that they swept the first two rounds of the playoffs. I know about the MVP, coach of the year, second all-star on the roster . . . I know. It doesn't change the fact that the Cavs had an elephant in the room all year that we all just collectively decided that there was nothing we could do about so we just left it alone in the hope that it wouldn't be our undoing. Well, it was. And even if we'd survived Orlando, it probably would've been our undoing against L.A. You can't go 6'1 and 6'2 in the backcourt if you only have one viable frontcourt defender. Lebron can make a lot of deficiencies disappear but against a team like Orlando, even he can't overcome the problem. It was just physically impossible to match up. If you double Howard, they'll shoot right over top of your small guards. If you don't double Howard, he'll just eat you alive. Solve that one for me.  What exactly were the Cavs supposed to do? Orlando made the shots that the Cavs had to give them. It's as simple as that.

I don't want to dwell on this. It's going to take some time but eventually, we're going to have to just let it be and look ahead. It's hard to think about it now but the Cavs are in really good position to address their deficiencies this offseason. Between re-signing Varejao and getting rid of Szczerbiak, they won't free up all that much money (they're over the cap anyway but I'm sure they'd prefer to lower the payroll a bit) but they will still have Ben Wallace as a major trading chip (If he's going to retire, they could trade him and let another team buy him out) in an environment where plenty of teams will be looking to shed payroll. I think if the Cavs can add one of the following three things this summer, they will be the prohibitive favorite to win it next year:

1. Lengthy wing defender: Hopefully a two-way player but if not, maybe someone like Dahntay Jones. Basically I'm looking for a non-retarted Sasha Pavolvic.

2. Big body down low: See Perkins, Kendrick. We need one of those.  They're hard to find.  This could be a problem.  

3. Second fiddle: Sorry Mo but you came up small when it mattered most. You're a nice complementary player but everyone out there that told us all year that you weren't the real Robin was right. If he's out there, the Cavs need to use Ben Wallace's contract to acquire another reliable scorer.  Oddly enough, given the current economic climate of the NBA, it will probably be easier to add this piece that to find a reliable low-post defender.

That's all I've got for now. Keep your heads up everyone. I hear the Browns are going to be really good this year.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

It happened, We're Over It, We're Moving On

Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. The sky is not falling . . . .

I attended game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals last night expecting to be treated to another 48 minutes of Cavalier poetry. Needless to say, 24 of those minutes fell a bit short of my expectations. I left the Q hoarse, angry, and exhausted.

I'm not going to recap the game. I'm not going to point out all of the obvious and ridiculous things that the Cavs botched, both in their execution and strategy in the second half. All I'm going to do is offer a few suggestions that I think might help the Cavs handle a team that they just don't match up with particularly well; and yes, I'm well aware that "don't stand around on offense" is probably near the top of the list of adjustments that need to be made, but we're going for a few things that are a little more subtle:

1. Take 75% of Szczerbiak and Gibson's minutes and give them to Sasha. Keep in mind, I am not a Pavlovic fan. But I just don't see how you can justify playing a guy a) whose feet are glued to the floor, or b) who is undersized and brings nothing to the table right now, over a guy who is 6'7, agile, and can also put the ball on the floor on the offensive end. Listen, I'm well aware of Sasha's deficiencies. I just think that with both Lewis and Turkoglu out on the floor, when the Cavs decide to change things up by going to the bench, the should do it by bringing out a big perimeter player who can bother Orlando's shooters a little bit.

2. Increase Lebron's minutes. I know, this sounds a little bit ridiculous since he only sat about 90 seconds in the 4th quarter but part of what has made the Cavs such a tough playoff out for the last couple of years is that the team becomes significantly better when Lebron is playing 48 minutes. I thought it was a costly mistake to put him on the bench to start the 4th last night. Playoff leads are too hard to build. It is senseless to have a guy work all game to build and maintain a lead just to let it slip away so that he can get a quick blow. There are no back-to-backs in the playoffs. The TV timeouts are endless. Lebron can go 48 minutes without a problem. Let him do it. At the very least, eliminate the rest at the start of the 4th. The Cavs can't afford to take him off of the floor for defensive reasons, let alone offense.

3. Give Andy a crack at Howard. I completely agreed with the strategy of forcing Howard to beat single defenders to win the game. Boiled down to its simplest form, in a pure pissing contest between Howard and Lebron, Howard loses 99 times out of 100. He just doesn't have the offensive arsenal to score every time down the floor like Lebron does. That said, having Z guard him all game is making things a little too easy. At least Andy might be able to stay in front of him and draw a cheap charge or two. I'm not saying the Cavs should do it all game because they can't afford to have Varejeo in foul trouble but he definitely needs to spend a little more time on Howard, if only to force him to make a few more baby hooks. Obviously, if the Cavs do this, it means more time for Wallace and Joe Smith because one of them is going to have to guard Rashard Lewis. I'm fine with that (assuming they stop screwing up the switch-offs on the sideline pick and roll). I love Z but unless the Cavs are going to run offensive set through him in the low post (which they won't as long as Howard is down there), then there isn't much reason to have him out there all game.

4. Stick Lebron on Alston and leave him there until somebody else gets hot. I'm not sure why the Cavs switched the assignment last night when Orlando's perimeter players were quiet in the first half. Plus, having Lebron on Alston gives him a little more flexibility to be a helpside defender down low. I'm not saying he can just go roam and block shots, but it's not like Turkoglu or Lewis where helping equals instant death.

5. Stop making Z show on screens 30 feet from the basket.

6. Push the perimeter defense out even further out. I know, it sounds absurd but Orlando can't win games with 2 point shots. On that last possession, I wished Varejao had just waved Rashard Lewis by him and made him make an uncontested 8 footer. I know, putting guys in a position to beat you off the dribble forces defenders to help and causes things to break down. Still, I'd rather take my chances with that than allow Lewis and Turkoglue to get good looks at the rim all game. The Cavs defenders need to be up in Lewis and Turkoglu's chests swatting at the ball trying to make their lives difficult and disrupt their shooting motions.

Aside from the aforementioned, there are a host of other obvious adjustments that need to be made (e.g. Mike Brown not doing his best S.V.G. impression by pissing his pants and overreacting to his opponent's play by abandoning his gameplan) but I have confidence that the Cavs will make them. The Cavs are a 66 win team. The Magic are a team that is built to succeed one night and fail the next. The sky is not falling. The Cavs have spent 8 months convincing us that they're the best team in the league. One bad half doesn't change that. Keep the faith everyone. This series is going to be a roller-coaster but I still believe the Cavs will prevail.
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Monday, May 18, 2009

A Guide to the Josh Cribbs Contract Saga

Time to take on the Josh Cribbs contract situation through some Q&A:

Another selfish athlete who just can't seem to live on a million bucks a year. Don't we deserve to be outraged?!

Well, you can be outraged if you'd like but don't be mad at Cribbs. Think about this: He may make $1 million a year but he's an NFL kick and punt returner who also serves as a special-teams gunner on the kick coverage teams. Basically, aside from kamikaze pilot, he's got about the most dangerous and physically destructive job you can think of. He'll turn 26 next month which means he has maybe three or four more good years left in him. Basically, the money he makes over the next few years is going to have to last him for about the next 50. Yes, I understand he has a Kent State degree but without sounding too . . . I don't know, condescending, I have my doubts about Cribbs' ability to add substantially to his fortune in any post-football business endeavors (unless of course one of the major networks decides to syndicate "Josh's Cribbs," which is highly likely). So, while you may bitch about your 40k a year, remember that you can probably continue to earn that for the rest of your life. Cribbs, on the other hand, has to make bank now or deal with the very real possibility that the money is going to run out some day. $1 million a year is a lot of money but when you can only make it for a few years and then you have to live on it and support your family on it for decades, it isn't quite as much as it seems.

But Cribbs willfully signed his contract! Nobody forced him to sign for six years!

A fair point, and in any other sport, that would be the end of the argument. In football, however, it isn't quite that simple. For the most part, football deals are what the law calls "illusory" contracts. They contain virtually no mutuality of obligation. Most NFL players, aside from the select few that get gobs in signing bonuses and guaranteed money, are at-will employees. The franchises, on the other hand, can control players' rights for years without really promising anything other than a set salary contingent upon the individual team's desire to have the particular player on the roster for that year. It's a very one-sided way of negotiating which is why you don't see it in the other major sports.

So then we should feel bad for Cribbs for being forced to sign this contract of adhesion?

Nope. NFL players have nobody to blame but themselves for being stuck in situations like this. If they don't like the way the current system works, then they need to get a better union. Everything that happens to a player like Cribbs is a product of the collective bargaining efforts of the NFL Players Union. Unfortunately for Cribbs and many others like him, the NFLPA is by far the worst union of any of the three major professional sports. That's why even though football players subject themselves to the most occupational danger, they're the only ones without guaranteed contracts. It's also why rookies make 100x more than valuable veterans and aging players don't have adequate health coverage or decent pensions. For years, the Union was run by guys like Gene Upshaw, who cared more about backroom handshake agreements with player-agents than about protecting the interests of the players who really make the game special. If NFL players don't like their current predicament . . . if they're tired of a system that pays Matthew Stafford about $41 million more in guaranteed money than a pro-bowl player like Josh Cribbs, then they need to get off of their asses and elect better Union leadership.

Ok, I get it: The NFLPA is horrible. But with that aside, didn't Randy Lerner promise Cribbs more money?

Who knows, but it certainly sounds like a very convenient thing to say when you're trying to get gain the public's support to put pressure on the owner. Randy Lerner throws around millions of dollar on free agents every year without even batting an eye. He knows he's already on thin ice with the fans and media in Cleveland so do you really think that now of all times, he would decide to renege on a promise to one of his best and most liked players for the sake of saving a little cash? It's not out of the question but I highly doubt it. And I also doubt that Mangini and Kokinis showed up and told Lerner not to pay the man. Again, it's not out of the question but it certainly sounds farfetched.

So what should the Browns do to resolve the situation?

Well, there are two competing forces that deserve consideration here. Force 1 - Leverage: Simply put, the Browns have all of it. As stated, the clock is ticking on Cribbs as a valuable NFL player. Once his speed goes or his body starts to break down, it's over. He can't afford to sit on the sideline all year and miss 16 game checks. What's more, unlike a player on the cusp of free agency, he can't just hold out for 10 games and then play the last six to get credit for the year. Basically, he's stuck. The Browns hold all of the cards. Now, I know some of you are probably thinking, "Well sure, the Browns can turn this into a standoff but then they'll risk being without one of their best and most popular players." I understand this argument, but unfortunately, it doesn't really matter. The Browns are going to be bad with Cribbs or worse without him. What exactly are they risking by having him hold out? Going 5-11 as opposed to 6-10? It's not exactly like we're gearing up for a Super Bowl run this year. As for Cribbs' popularity with the fan base, if you haven't figured it out by now, Randy Lerner could go around taking dumps on the front stoops of the homes of every single Browns fan and it wouldn't deter them from spending money to support the team. Demand for the Browns, as insane as it seems, is completely inelastic. They'll sell tickets and merchandise with or without Cribbs.

Force 2 - Goodwill: NFL teams don't usually get very far by alienating their own players. As an organization, you have to strike a delicate balance between holding players to the letters of their contracts and taking care of your own. Cribbs' market value is certainly more than what he's getting paid and god knows the Browns waste tens of millions of dollars every year on carpetbagging manslaughterers like Donte' Stallworth. Would it really kill them to take care of Cribbs? No, it wouldn't. It would make Cribbs happy, it would make the fans happy, it would improve the team's image, and it would preserve the peace within the organization.

I'll ask again: What should the Browns do to resolve the situation?

Well when you weigh the two aforementioned forces against each other, I think the answer becomes that the Browns should seek a middle ground with Cribbs. He's going to show up and ask for Devin Hester money at the very least: 4 years, $40 million, $15 million guaranteed. The Browns, rightfully, should laugh at the demand given that they have ALL of the bargaining power. At the same time, an olive branch in the neighborhood of a couple million dollars a year in extra base compensation would probably be appropriate. Cribbs and his agent may put on a tough face and continue to hold out, but in the end, he has no choice but to accept the offer. He can either have a year in the prime of his career where he makes $0 or he can show up for work and make 2 or 3 times what he initially thought he would be earning. He wouldn't be completely satisfied, but at the very least, he could return to the team without completely losing face. In the end, I think this is probably the best solution for all parties involved.

So now that we know what the Browns should do, what do you think they will do?

Based on the front office's response today, it seems like they're going to go the route of publicly calling Cribbs a liar, refusing to negotiate with him, and making the organization look completely foolish yet again. They wouldn't be the Browns if they didn't turn ever morsal of discontent into a full blown public relations debacle. Hopefully, they'll come to their senses and reach a compromise with Cribbs, but for some reason, and by some reason I mean everything I've come to know about the Browns, I just don't see them resolving this one peacefully.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's Orlando: The Road to the Finals Just Got Harder

And so ends the reign of the Celtics . . .

I can't help but feel a little disappointed. There were so many reasons to want the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals: The inflated media hype they generate, the cliche' "team of destiny" storylines that would've inevitably developed, the fact that they're completely finished and would've probably been pounded by the Cavs in 5 games, the revenge factor associated with embarrassing an aging and decimated Celtics team . . . It would've been a lot of fun.

With that said, I guess I can appreciate the silver lining in the Celtics' defeat: This was absolutely the end for them. Garnett may come back but he's never going to be the defensive enforcer that he used to be. Paul Pierce has crested the hill and is rapidly crashing back toward earth. Did you see him trying to take guys off the dribble in these playoffs? He looked like he was running in sand the entire time. Ray Allen? Entering the Reggie Miller "I can only contribute on a great team that can create wide open looks for me" phase of his career. The Celtics are done . . . for a while. Of course, when their cap situation improves, they are bound to land a marquee free agent or two. Players are always going to want to play in Boston. It's a decent town that gets a ton of media attention and the Celtics have a fantastic basketball tradition. But before the Celtics rebuild, they're going to have to pay the bill for the Championship they (along with Kevin McHale) won last year.
Another silver lining from the Celtics' failure: With Garnett going down, Glen Davis got to show just enough for someone (hopefully the Celtics) to wildly overpay for him this Summer. As a Cavs fan, you have to appreciate that. Sure, we may have our own bill coming due with Varejao but at least he's a legit 6'11 and can play center when called upon. The Celtics are genuinely screwed. Seriously, they're probably a 50-55 win team next year. It's our time now.

Bring On Orlando:

Before I can start breaking down the Magic as a team, I have to address a major subplot to this upcoming series that the networks are sure to miss. You may not have known this but Magic Center Dwight Howard has a real thing for porn stars; and not just any porn stars. He likes porn stars that poop in hot tubs. The sight of a floater cruising along in a steaming whirlpool really turns him on. Don't believe me? Follow the link below:

Some highlights:

-Howard invited his porn star friend to a Magic game but insulted her by giving her crappy tickets.
-The object of Howard's affection seems to enjoy defecating and menstruating in hot tubs.
-Howard cornered Ms. Carey in a bathroom and whipped it out.
-Howard is a devout Christian.

You stay classy Superman.

Ok, so I've been waiting to post that for about, oh, I don't know, two years. Now that I've gotten it out of my system, lets talk basketball. Just for fun, we'll break down this matchup Terry Pluto style:

Can the Magic beat the Cavs?

Yes. Orlando is extremely dangerous but very little of that has to do with Dwight Howard. Howard may be able to protect the rim and hammer the glass but there's only so much damage he can do by himself. Rather, it's Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu that really present the problem for the Cavs. Both are 6'10 and can be extremely dangerous from the outside. If one or both of them get hot, there won't be a ton that the Cavs can do about it. When you're giving up that much size on the perimeter, closing out on a shooter will only protect you to a certain degree. The Cavs' defense thrives on packing the paint and making teams beat them with jump shots. Orlando is one of the few teams in the league that can actually win that way (hence the reason they were able to beat the Cavs twice by double-digits this year).

Can the Cavs pound Orlando like they did Detroit and Atlanta?

Yes. Here's the thing about Orlando: They may punch harder than Boston, and they may present a greater danger of knocking us down (aka, winning at the Q) but they don't have Boston's jaw. If we hit them hard in the mouth early in the series, they might just hit the canvas for good. This is a team that is a) inexperienced, b) built around the 3-point shot, and c) coached by a guy who is prone to freaking out in big moments. If the Cavs had taken games one and two at the Q against Boston, the Celtics would've come back and fought hard at home. However, if the Cavs really take it to Orlando Wednesday and Friday, the series might be over early. Orlando may have more talent than Boston but they don't have the Celtics' leadership, experience, or intestinal fortitude.

So what's the game plan?

Well, I'm sure with as much time as they've had off, Mike Brown and his staff know exactly how they're going to handle the Magic. If it were me, I'd make it my number one priority to contest EVERYTHING from the outside and take my chances with Howard. If nothing else, the Cavs have enough big men in Z, Varejao, Wallace, and Smith that they can just foul the shit out of him and make him beat them from the line. I'll take my chances with Howard shooting lots of jump hooks and free throws.

The Magic will win if:

They have an absolute lights out shooting night in either games 1 or 2 and steal one from a stunned Cavs team at the Q. Then, they go back home, take advantage of their crowd, and beat a still somewhat bewildered Cavs team twice more to go up 3-1. Then, they come back to Orlando for game 6 and finish it.

The Cavs will win if:

They can keep Orlando from penetrating. It sounds counter intuitive to worry about penetration when you're talking about a team with a dominant center and a bunch of 3-point shooters but realistically, it would be tough for the Cavs to lose 4 times unless they're getting beat off of the dribble. Howard might be good for one Orlando win on his own. Turkoglu and Lewis could win two more with hot shooting nights. Still, I don't see Orlando getting to 4 unless Alston and the other perimeter guys can break down the Cavs' defense allowing Howard to dominate the glass and get easy second-chance points. If the Cavs can stay in front of their men, I like them to win the series.

The good news for Orlando is:

The Cavs might have to rely heavily on Sasha Pavlovic in this series. Aside from Lebron, he's the only guy with both the size and quickness to bother Orlando's big shooters.

The good news for Cleveland is:

Lebron might just assassinate Orlando by himself. This isn't the same player we've seen in years past. He is now good enough not only to win games by himself, but to win entire series by himself. Then again, even if he doesn't, the great thing about having the home court is that you can count on your complimentary players to show up for at least 4 games in the series.

More good news for Cleveland:

Orlando's point guard is Rafter Alston. He is, uh . . . let's just say unreliable.


If you're betting against the Cavs at this point then you're insane. Orlando is capable of giving the Cavs a very tough series, and even capable of beating them if everything breaks just right for them. Still, if you're playing the odds, the Cavs have to be a pretty good favorite in this series. I'd say with the homecourt and the extended rest, they could probably beat Orlando in 7 series out of 10. That's why for my prediction, I'm going with Cavs in 6.

Wednesday can't arrive soon enough.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Power Rankings: Make Way For Intangibles

As the Cavs continue their throat slitting tour through the Eastern Conference and the Indians continue to "fade into Bolivian," it seems like an appropriate time to reshuffle the Power Rankings a bit. My first inclination, and one that has been supported by a few members of the CMRC faithful, is to automatically ban all Indians from this list for trying to ruin summer in Cleveland.

As much as I would've liked to act on this impulse out of spite and pettiness, in all fairness, I couldn't do it. Is Sizemore off to a pathetic start hitting .227? Yes. But the power rankings are supposed to be a reflection of the comprehensive feelings that fans have on a daily basis about the players in this city. Cleveland fans might be upset with Grady right now because he strikes out every time he comes to bat, but they still love him, they still haven't forgotten how good he can be, and he's still the second most famous athlete in Cleveland. Similarly, Victor Martinez may be on the verge of irrelevance (at least until we hear his name start popping up in trade rumors), but he's still beloved in this town and he's still hitting at an absurd .374 clip. The fact that he was moved down in the power rankings is more a reflection of the fact that fans will begin to forget about him with the Indians being so terrible, because unlike Sizemore (and rather inexplicably since Victor has twice the personality that Grady has), he doesn't have the star power to keep himself in the Cleveland conscience with the team out of it.

In addition, I had to move Varejao up right now. He's beloved, he's playing insanely good basketball, and this team is starting to build a lasting legacy for itself in this town. The same is true for Delonte who, after months of not being the same guy he was at the beginning of the season, finally appears to be back at full strength. He's playing inspired defense, picking up the scoring load when needed, and endearing himself to the Cavalier faithful. He deserves a spot in these rankings.

Falling off the list is Shaun Rogers, not because of anything he did, but because with Browns fans resigned to the fact that the Browns are going to be bad again this year, nobody is going to give a damn about the veteran players. All of the focus will be on Quinn and our sexy high-octane young rookies like Brian Robiskie and Alex Mack (shaking head).

Just missing this list: Dave Dellucci, Rafael Perez, Lorenzen Wright

That's it for now. GO CELTICS! (and if you don't get why I'm saying that, you don't know the NBA)
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

LeBron's March to the Sea

I haven't written about the Cavaliers in a while because truthfully, I haven't felt like it. Now I know what you're thinking: I only chime in when I have something to complain about, but please, allow me to explain . . . .
When I watch the Cavs right now, I don't have to think. I don't have to worry. I don't have to do anything. Right now, being a Cavs fan is the most relaxing and enjoyable experience that you could possibly imagine. I watch the way they play the game, and my body experiences this indescribable euphoria, the likes of which I have never approached through any other (legal) activity.

Generally, I get motivated to write about one of my teams when they're doing something that requires some sort of analysis. What exactly do you want me to analyze about the Cavs right now? They're playing at a level that only a handful of teams in NBA history have ever played at. They do everything right. They never take games off. They never shit the bed. They just go out there every game and please me. That's what they do. Why ruin that by trying to engage in some long-winded analysis. For the first time since maybe the '95 Indians, one of my teams requires no explanation or commentary. As a fan, I can only sit back and enjoy them. In a way, they're like a beautiful sunset. If I try to deconstruct their beauty instead of just enjoying the moment, I'll ruin the experience. I would encourage every blogger to take this approach with the Cavs right now. Don't tell me how they're doing what they're doing. Just let me sit back, relax my brain, and enjoy the breathtaking show that they put on every time they take to the floor.

Given the feelings I've just expressed, I'm not going to offer much in the way of Cavs analysis. All I will say is that right now, Lebron is doing more damage to Atlanta than any man since Sherman. I mean he could literally beat the Hawks with four NBADL stiffs around him right now. He's playing at a level that's higher than anyone since maybe '96 Jordan and even Jordan couldn't hold a candle to the type of efficiency numbers that Lebron is generating right now. I've been watching him for six years and I'm just flat out in awe. He does whatever he needs to do whenever he feels the need to do it. The floor is his. Everyone else, especially the opposing team, is just there for decoration.

It won't always be this easy. Certainly, there are a few teams out there that could challenge our juggernaut. But right now, I don't want to think about them. I just want soak up all the love and positive energy that the Cavs are sending in my direction. For once in my life, I want to enjoy the fact that I don't have to work to be a fan.
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Friday, May 1, 2009

Alvaro's Afterthoughts: Tribe In Desperate Need of 'Relief'

I'm pissed off. I should be basking in the glow of the Cleveland Cavaliers as they march towards their inevitable championship destiny. I should be drinking my annual Browns' delusional punch, convincing myself the team has any semblance of finishing above .500. I should be admiring Terrelle Pyror's new tattoo.

Instead, evening after painful, predictable evening, I am forced to endure the pathetic excuse for a team, currently masquerading as the Cleveland Indians.

In the past, this site has been accused of taking a somewhat cynical and critical view towards our Cleveland sports franchises. However, I refuse to be further subjected to and to blindly cheer for a Cleveland Indians team which is both boring to watch and mind-numbingly frustrating to follow. A wildly inconsistent offense, coupled with a gasoline and matchbox carrying bullpen, and a team devoid of leadership, has lead me down the fandom path of anger, despair and that oh to familiar Cleveland feeling of apathy (really a disguised mixture of anger and despair).

For the past few seasons, the Indians have been the media's sexy preseason sleeper pick, the team which all the pundits love to purchase a season upon the bandwagon. What these pundits fail to perceive, is that Tribe as currently constructed, is an inherently flawed baseball team. A bandwagon with three broken wheels and no horses isn't going anywhere.

1. The Bullpen

The hands-down, biggest culprit for the Indians' failures thus far this season is the bullpen. Look, no one expected the bullpen to be this bad. In fact, coming into the season, the bullpen appeared one of the strengths of the roster. Picking up Joe Smith and Kerry Wood only seemed to cement a relief corps which finished last season strongly. Instead, the team has the league's worse bullpen - a group who seemingly cannot retire a batter between them.

How many of you out there, when watching Indians' games feel that any lead is safe? Not me. I don't care if the Tribe is up 7 runs in the 9th inning with two outs, as this point in the season I have absolutely zero confidence in any of our relievers.

The Indians relievers with the lowest ERAs currently are Tony Sipp (3.60 - who gave up 2 runs in a .1 inning of work in his last appearance) and Aaron Laffey (3.60). The fact that the Indians had to move their most consistent starter to stabilize the bullpen indicates just how bad things have gotten. Not to mention that the supposed reliable members of our pen, Wood, Jensen Lewis and the Raffies have been giving up runs at an alarming clip (like every single game). Jensen Lewis especially has been serving up home runs like a pedophile handing out candy to tricker-treaters.

Perhaps the bullpen's struggles can be attributed to the off-season dismissal of Luis Issac. Perhaps moving Laffey to the pen, demoting Raffy Perez, calling up Matt Herges to replace Vinnie Chulk, and the potential pick up of Luis Vizcaino will turn things around. All I know is that's hard to win ballgames when you can't protect leads. And, as a starting pitcher, it has to be demoralizing to leave with a sizable lead, only to see the pen crap away the game. I'd rather the Indians get blown out of a game, rather than see the team continually give games away in the latter innings.

2. The Tribe has No Personality/ No Leadership

A second problem I have with this team is that has absolutely zero personality. Watching the Indians play this season, it's clear that they are one of the most vanilla teams in baseball - the team identity falling somewhere between Ben Stein's portrayal as Ferris Bueller's teacher and a pet rock. Gone are those carefree yesteryear days of pies in the face, ala Trot Nixon. In their stead, we find a team without an identifiable captain or even a viable mouthpiece.

The problem seemingly starts at the top with Eric Wedge. I've always been on the fence with Wedge as a manager of this team, which in of itself is a characterization of the overall identity problem with the team. Wedge has always been so bland in spouting off trite baseball sound bites after games, that it's nearly impossible to form an opinion of his either positively or negatively because he's so robotic. His players seem to respect him, if only because he protects from the media and his usual refusal to say anything negative about them.

On the other hand, Wedge spends most games staring off into the distance, with a look of utter disinterest and disdain plastered across his face. It's only been recently, with the Tribe's season circling the drain, along with Wedge's future employment, that we've begun to see any life and fight emerge from him. In fact, one of my favorite moments so far this season was when Wedge finally showed some emotion arguing that swinging strike and that foul ball in the Red Sox game, getting himself tossed. The Indians were so moved by their manager's unusual display of emotion that they rallied themselves into another losing effort.

While I'm not a huge Ozzie Guillen fan, I can't help but think that an underachieving team like the Indians might be better served by having a fiery manager like Ozzie at its helm. I'm thinking along the lines of perhaps a Tony Pena - he has managing experience and he's even smacked one of relief pitchers in the head with a glove before.

But despite Wedge's unwavering demeanor for the most part, no player has stepped up into the leadership role on the field - gaps left by the departures of Casey Blake and C.C. Sabathia. Usually, a team's most talented players will find themselves in the leadership role, if only because their abilities on the field seemingly earn them the respect of their peers. On the Indians, two players who would appear to be in leadership type positions are Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez. And honestly, neither of them strikes me as a vocal leader of this group.

Sizemore especially would seem to possess all the qualities necessary to be a dynamic clubhouse voice for the Tribe - -he plays the game hard, he seems to enjoy himself and his teammates seem to respect him. Unfortunately, he seems to have no interest in filling that role. It's typically unusual for a younger player to be the mouthpiece of a team. Having someone like Lebron James in our backyards (who is such an impressive team general) can blind us to the fact that it's typically the older veterans who set the tone for how a team approaches the game or responds from hardships. Grady just doesn't seem to have the type of personality who is going to rally teammates in the dugout or pat someone on the back after a hard game. Maybe as he matures, Grady will fall into to such a role, but presently it might not be fair to expect him to do so.

On the other hand, Martinez seems to have both the talent and the desire to be the leader of the Indians. As a catcher, Victor would seem to demand respect of the pitching staff and as the team's most polished hitter, it would be natural for him to set the tone in the lockerroom to the other hitters (hopefully preaching patience). I do think Martinez is probably the silent leader of this ballclub. I think Victor's personality appears that he's not so much an outspoken leader, as much as he leads by example.

The problem with Victor serving as the leader of this ball club is that he also currently the team's most tradable asset. As Biff discussed in one of his earlier posts, with the organizational glut of catching prospects coupled with Victor's inevitably move from behind the plate to first-base, if the Indians continue to tank, their apparent leader of the Tribe may be out of here by July.

Interestingly, Ryan Garko was recently asked on the radio who he thought was the emotional leader of the Tribe. His response - David Dellucci. Hmmm - the leader of the Tribe is someone who's been absent from the team for the majority of the season? Perhaps Wedge knew something about the makeup of the Indians when he essentially assured Dellucci a roster spot in Spring Training. If Dellucci truly is a team leader, maybe his value to the team is greater than most Indians' fans realize.

3. The Indians Offense Strikes Out Way Too Much

Finally, the Indians' offense, as constructed, essentially has to get lucky to succeed. As a team, the Tribe has marignal speed and and for the most part is forced to mainly play station-to-station baseball. We're not going to see the Indians manufacturing a load of runs. The problem with this philosphy, is that the Indians have to rely on clutch hitting to score runs. And the Indians strike out. A lot.

Take for example, Jhonny Peralta. In 101 ABs this season, he's struck out a whooping 32 times. Grady Sizemore has struck out 1 out of every 4 ABs. DeRosa and Choo - 1 out of every 5 times. Kelly Shoppach? 48 ABs and 20 Ks.

The point is - when a team, which doesn't have a lot of speed isn't even putting the ball into play 20% of the time, hits aren't getting strung together and runs aren't getting scored. Furthermore, it's hard to ever string together any kind of big inning or rally - it's inevitable someone's going to come along and strike out in a big moment. (And I know that the Indians' have had some huge innings this year, like against the Yankees).

With the Tribe's lack of plate discipline, the Tribe has a knack for letting opposing pitchers off the hook, prolonging their appearance in the game and avoiding getting to another team's bullpen. Our hitters make the other team's job easier. And my job as a fan much harder.

So - what we have is an organization with no leadership, a team with no plate discipline and a bullpen which can't get anyone out? How would I fix these problems? I think the roster moves (bringing up LaPorta and Valbuena) are a start - placing those underachievers on the roster on notice. I think it might be time to bring in a new coach - as I said above, perhaps someone with a little bit more fire in the likes of Tony Pena. I think it might be time to take the next relief pitcher who gives up a lead out back and shoot them. Same for the next player who strikes out with runners in scoring position. Other than that, I see but one solution. GO CAVS.
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