Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Phil's NFL Preview
For the fourth year in a row, here is how I see the NFL coming together in the upcoming season with each team and their predicted record.

Wildcard teams have a * by them.

1. Patriots (11-5)
Completely going against tradition, New England broke the bank on free agents for 2007. Tom Brady should look like a brand new QB with the new receivers he has to work with.

2. Jets (10-6) *
New York's success largely hinges on which Chad Pennington shows up. Was is the often injured QB prior to 2006 or the rehabbed leader we saw last season? Where will backup Kellen Clemens fit this year?

3. Bills (8-8)
JP Losman showed signs of taking the next step last year. If he can show better consistency game to game, Buffalo might be a sleeper team.

4. Dolphins (7-9)
Defense is getting older and slower. Miami better hope Ted Ginn Jr. quickly becomes the second coming of Jerry Rice or it's going to get ugly fast.

FINAL THOUGHT: It's New England first, then a bunch of what if questions with the other teams.

Zach's final thought: I see a down year for the Jets this season. I don't see them as a playoff team.

1. Ravens (10-6)
Baltimore may have seriously look into the QB position next year. For now, they'll ride Steve McNair one more season and see how far he can take them.

2. Bengals (8-8)
No longer a surprise team. They had three games to make the playoffs last year and lost all three. Will that motivate Cincinnati or was it a sign of things to come for 2007?

3. Steelers (7-9)
Last time Pittsburgh opened an NFL season with a new head coach, John Gotti was being found guilty, the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series, and the 1992 Summer Olympics were being held in Spain. Expect a few growing pains here.

4. Browns (6-10)
Hope Cleveland fans enjoyed the NFL Draft this year because that might be the only real success the Browns have in 2007. Will Romeo Crennel survive the season?

FINAL THOUGHT: Once a dominate division, the AFC North may have a bit of a down year in 07.

Zach's thought: I'd like to predict a better Browns season, but I can't.

1. Colts (13-3)
Have to feel good about their chances to repeat as the Super Bowl Champions. Should have little trouble filling the holes left by the few players that left Indy after last season.

2. Jaguars (9-7)
Jacksonville's offense, particularly Bryon Leftwich, should benefit with new offense coordinator Dirk Koetter. His passing offense should re-energize an offense that was rather stagnant last year.

3. Texans (6-10)
Houston's hopes for the 2007 season rests on QB Matt Schaub, who has started all of two NFL games in his career.

4. Titans (5-11)
My wager for the player who has a sophomore slump is Vince Young. Also, Pacman Jones year long suspension is a huge blow for this defense.

FINAL THOUGHT: Indianapolis should wrap this division up by game 13.

Zach's thought: I think the Titans could be a sleeper team.

1. Chargers (12-4)
A 14-2 record last season ultimately got their head coach fired. No pressure eh Norv Turner? May have one of the better offenses in the AFC this year, but its the defense that really shines.

2. Broncos (10-6) *
Jay Cutler enters his second NFL season as Denver's starter. The Broncos offseason was filled with tragedy and how it affects their overall play has yet to be seen.

3. Chiefs (7-9)
It's Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzales, and not a whole much more after that. The team has gotten older with not much influx of new talent coming in

4. Raiders (4-12)
As of this writing, Oakland is the only team not to have their first round draft pick (JaMarcus Russell) signed to a contract. This team puts "fun" in dysfunctional.

FINAL THOUGHT: Anything less than at least the AFC Championship game will be a disappointment for San Diego.

Zach's thought: The Chargers lost a lot in their coaching staff from last season, and I expect them to be affected by that. Luckily, they play in a dreadful division.

1. Cowboys (11-5)
Have the speed on defense to take this team deep into the playoffs. QB Tony Romo needs to play more like the early part of 2006 and let someone else be the holder for field goal attempts.

2. Eagles (10-6) *
Will go as far as QB Donovan McNabb can take them. His durability is a concern and the team is not the powerhouse it once was.

3. Giants (8-8)
The spotlight is cast on Eli Manning as far as whether or not he can have a breakout year and win a playoff game or two. Might be kind of hard with this below average squad he has to work with.

4. Redskins (7-9)
Joe Gibbs may be a legend in Washington, but will team owner Daniel Synder sit on his hands if the team endures another non playoff season?

FINAL THOUGHT: Can realistically see any of these teams making the postseason.

Zach's thought: The Cowboys? I just do not see it.

1. Bears (10-6)
Memo to Rex Grossman: you are not a rookie anymore. Constantly fumbling the snap from your center is a good way to get demoted, even if you are coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

2. Lions (8-8)
I liked that they went with the best player in the NFL Draft with the second overall pick (WR Calvin Johnson), but can't help but wonder how the offensive line will block so he gets open.

3. Vikings (8-8)
Minnesota starting Tarvaris Jackson at QB is like playing the lotto. I don't like his odds of success, but the potential payout is huge.

4. Packers (5-11)
Missing: Aaron Rogers, quarterback for Green Bay. Last seen on a bench while over the hill Brett Favre plays. If found, please return to the Packers organization.

FINAL THOUGHT: Chicago is darn lucky to be in this division - they could be a third place team elsewhere.

Zach's final thought: Bret Favre might actually retire this season. Ah, who are we kidding?

1. Saints (12-4)
Was last year the start of something big or simply a one year wonder? Methinks there is too much talent overall for this team to have a sophomore slump.

2. Panthers (8-8)
Can we finally assume that Jake Delhomme was a one year wonder at QB? His play has dropped considerably since his Super Bowl run.

3. Buccaneers (6-10)
They are stockpiling QB's as if they were going out of style, but can any of them play? Jon Gruden may be in the hot seat if his team doesn't perform

4. Falcons (5-11)
It's official: Michael Vick is suspended indefinitely by the NFL for his despicable involvement with dog fighting. That leaves Atlanta's hopes resting with Joey Harrington, who may be on his last chance to prove he belongs in the NFL.

FINAL THOUGHT: Last year, New Orleans made the NFC Championship game. Will anything less in 2007 be a disappointment?

Zach's Thought: The Panthers are always expected to be a Super Bowl contender. Has the torch been passed?

1. Seahawks (10-6)
If they can get back in their groove offensively, they'll be the team to beat in this division. If not, everything becomes up for grabs.

2. 49ers (9-7) *
Solid drafting and smart decisions on personal have began a solid core in the bay area. Can challenge Seattle for the top spot in the NFC West and could be the team to be by 2008.

3. Rams (8-8)
I've seen some experts say the Rams could be a top 10 overall team this year. Not seeing it, especially on offense where Marc Bulger has limited options and weapons.

4. Cardinals (6-10)
Another year, another head coach, another year of rebuilding, and another year of starting over with a new start. Some things never change.

FINAL THOUGHT: Seattle's days of dominating this division may be coming to an end.

Zach's Thought: Umm, are there any good teams in this conference?




Tom Brady adds to his Hall of Fall resume.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weekend sports thoughts

This was an interesting week for the Indians, as they have actually won four of their last six.

Sunday's game was especially interesting, as they looked bored and headed for defeat with two outs in the ninth inning. But trailing 3-2, Grady Sizemore looped a single to center and took second when the center fielder dove and had the ball bounce in front of him.

Then Asdrubal Cabrera (who has relieved my frustration over the benching of Josh Barfield) singled Sizemore in. The Indians took the lead in the 11th on two-out, RBI singles from Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, and Joe Borowski defied all conventional wisdom by pitching a 1-2-3 inning for the save.

Perhaps most impressive about the win was the Indians driving in four of their five runs with two out hits. It doesn't dolve all of the team's problems, but it was a step in the right direction. Casey Blake even drove in a run with a two-out single.

Here's the thing about Blake: He has four hits and two RBIs over the last two games, each in the No. 9 spot in the batting order. Perhaps he's found his calling. Still (and I have said this before), Blake is not hurting the Indians nearly as much as Hafner, who came into the game hitting under .200 with runners in scoring position. If the Indians want to do anything this season and beyond, he has to produce more. You can't give $15 million to a designated hitter who hits .250 and hits 23 homers a year.

Fausto Carmona wasn't his usual brilliant self. In fact, by his standards, he was mediocre. That just means he was pretty good by everyone else's standards. At least he didn't get a loss pinned on him today.
The Browns' preseason win in Denver was their first of any kind over the Broncos since a Monday night in 1990, when Jerry Kauric kicked a game-winning field goal. Bud Carson's Browns won all of three games that season, but the memory of the contest still warms my heart.

Anyway, a win in Denver is a win in Denver.

Charlie Frye looked better than he has in a long time. He had time to throw, and because of that, was able to run effectively when he needed too. I think he cemented himself as the Browns starting quarterback for the opener against Pittsburgh.

- Brady Quinn looked great again. He shouldn't start the opener (remember, Ben Roethlisberger didn't start for the Steelers right away), but he should go into the year as the No. 2 QB. And by the way, his throw to Joe Jerevicius was a touchdown.

-No one is talking about it, but I'm a tad concerned about Phil Dawson.
Thanks to Matt Sussman and Deadspin for giving me my biggest day (by far) on the blog in terms of hits. If anyone is wondering, I chose Van Morrison because (as usual readers know) I am a huge fan. There is no connection between Morrison and the Browns that I know of.

Next Week: Cavs players and Janis Joplin songs.

Just kidding.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Looking back at the Browns quarterbacks from 1999; with Van Morrison
Given the current discussion about quarterbacks and the Browns, I think it's a good time to look back at the quarterbacks from 1999-present. And since I love Van Morrison music, it's also a good time to list them with Van songs.

Here are the rules:

- I will not include players who did not take a snap in a regular season game, so guys like Josh Harris will not be listed.

- The Van Morrison songs are just a way to write this while still keeping my sanity.

OK, here we go:

Tim Couch (1999-2003): I really think, after years of reflection, that Couch was not the worst pick the Browns could have made. But the Browns were the worst team Couch could have gone to. He was never really that bad, but the offensive line was. And so Couch got battered year after year, until the Browns finally released him. I can't say for certain, but I think Couch would have been a very good quarterback had he been drafted by Philadelphia or any other reasonable team.

Van Morrison song for Tim Couch: Did Ye get healed?

Reasoning: Couch's injuries have forced him from the game. I don't know if Couch would have been great, but I think he never really had the chance. No one was happier than I was when Couch signed with the Jaguars, but he was released. I certainly hope he's not finished, but it isn't looking good.

Ty Detmer (1999-2000): Detmer was supposed to be Couch's mentor. Couch wasn't even supposed to start in 1999, but a horrid opener against Pittsburgh altered the plan. Detmer did get one more start with the Browns -- the season finale against a playoff-bound Colts team. Detmer somehow led the 2-13 Browns to a late lead, but the Colts rallied for a 29-28 win. Detmer missed all of the 2000 season with a preseason injury (thus becoming one of 18 Browns QBs to get injured that year) and was replaced by Kelly Holcomb the next season.

Van Morrison song for Ty Detmer: Full Force Gale

Reasoning: It's what Detmer must have felt he'd been hit with after Chris Palmer told him he was yanking him after one start.

Doug Pederson (2000): Called into action after Detmer's injury, Pederson became the starter after Tim Couch hurt his thumb during practice. He played in 10 games during the 2000 season. All I remember is after one week, there was a ful-fledged quarterback controversy. Fans wanted Palmer to throw Spergon Wynn out there. Pederson was awful, throwing 10 picks and only two TDs. He ended up in Green Bay, serving as Brett Favre's backup for four seasons. This is why Packer fans should be thankful for Favre's durability.

Van Morrison Song for Doug Pederson: Cleaning Windows

Reasoning: That's what Pederson should have been doing instead of quarterbacking for the Browns.

Spergon Wynn (2000): Why yes, this guy was drafted ahead of Tom Brady, why do you ask? Spergon Wynn wasn't awful in relief, and looked good enough that fans wanted him to start. Then he did. Against Jacksonville. Final score: Jacksonville 48, Browns 0. Wynn went on to play for Minnesota, then ended up in the CFL.

Van Morrison song for Spergon Wynn: Only a Dream

Reasoning: What the idea that Wynn could be a savior was.

Kelly Holcomb (2001-2004): A Butch Davis signing, Holcomb could just blow you away one game, then look mediocre the next. The guy threw for 429 yards in the Browns' only playoff game since 1999. That game was enough to get him the starting job with the Browns in 2003. That just didn't go very well. Holcomb probably is a career backup, and resumed that role after leaving the Browns. Apparently he's with the Eagles now.

Van Morrison song for Kelly Holcomb: Rolling Hills

Reasoning: A good game, then a bad one. One week he looks like Bart Starr; the next week he looks like the backup quarterback in Necessary Roughness. "Blow the Whistle!"

Jeff Garcia (2004): Everyone tries to call this era in Browns history a disaster (when hasn't it been since 1999?), but it wasn't as though Garcia came to a good team. And he single-handedly led the Browns to competence in an overtime loss to the Eagles. The guy was a gamer. Sadly, his name was in the tabloids more than it was in the sports section. He had his share of bad games, and when Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage came in, Garcia was gone.

Van Morrison song for Jeff Garcia: You Don't Pull No Punches

Reasoning: From Terrell Owens to injuries to court issues to losing, Jeff got it from all sides. But he has made quite a comeback.

Luke McCown (2004): Yes, I forgot about poor McCown in the original version of this post. After I finished writing it, I thought I may have forgotten someone, since there were so many. Anyway, McCown was a rookie thrust into the starting spot when Terry Robiskie took over as head coach after Butch Davis was paid tons of money to go away. McCown got a start against the Super Bowl Champion Patriots, and that went about as well as you might expect. He did throw four touchdowns for the Browns that season, but was also picked seven times. He has yet to see action in a regular season game since 2004.

Van Morrison song for Luke McCown: Domino

Reasoning: McCown started because there really was no one else after injuries decimated the quarterback position in 2004. Garcia went down, then Holcomb went down. Then practically the entire offense ended up on Injured Reserve. McCown never had a chance to be successful with the Browns, but no one would have been with that team.

Trent Dilfer (2005): Dilfer was brought in to start and not make too many mistakes. He did that. He wasn't great, but he was competent. So he was better, much better, than a majority of the Browns' quarterbacks. The Browns determined Frye was ready to start in 2006 (yeah, that was a good idea) and Dilfer was shipped to San Francisco.

Van Morrison song for Trent Dilfer: Precious Time
Reasoning: Dilfer wanted to play, didn't want to be a backup, and probably knew his career was close to over. Had he accepted a backup role with the Browns, last season may not have been such a disaster. Well, OK, it would have been.

Charlie Frye (2005-present): It's difficult to remember now, but there was a time when some considered Frye the Browns quarterback of the future. Those people were delusional. Anyway, Frye has yet to prove himself as anything more than a third-string quarterback. Still, the Browns will likely start him in 2007, until the wheel falls off on another season and Brady Quinn starts. Like, in week 3.

Van Morrison song for Charlie Frye: Man has to Struggle

Reasoning: Frye will have to do something pretty special to keep his job past October. With what he has around, there is at least an opportunity. Good luck, Charlie.

Derek Anderson (2006-present): Right now, Anderson is pretty much living off one game -- his overtime win against the Chiefs last year. Ever since then, Anderson has looked like a high school freshman against a varsity team. He had his chance to wow the coaches this month, and hasn't (although he played well tonight against the Broncos. Then again, so did Frye. And Quinn). My guess is he'll be elsewhere by the end of this week.

Van Morrison song for Derek Anderson: You Know What They're Writing About

Reasoning: I'd hope no NFL quarterback reads the newspaper. Well, at least not the sports section. But the writers haven't been kind about Anderson's play. But I'm also sure Anderson is aware of how poorly he's played for much of the preseason.

Maybe this got you excited to watch the Browns. Or maybe it got you thinking about how great Van Morrison is. Either way, if you read this, I'm happy.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Live Blog: Indians-Tigers, Game 3
-LIVE! from Comerica Park

-Our hosts are Matt "3-out homer" Underwood and Rick Manning

-Before I even have a chance to remark on Underwood's "three-out homer" remark from last night, he tops himself in the opening of the broadcast:

"If (Jake Westbrook) can shut down the Tigers, the Indians have a great chance to stay in first place by a full game and a half, or maybe extend that to two-and-a-half games ..."

Forgiving the whole "full game and a half," (huh?) the Indians already lead the Tigers by a game and a half, and they are playing the Tigers. Therefore, there is no way the Indians have a chance to stay up by a game and a half.

- Gotta love that Eric Wedge. Lofton gets two hits, gets on base three times, and sits. After scoring 11 runs Wednesday, Wedge moves Grady Sizemore back to the leadoff spot. So much for grabbing a hold of anything positive.

- The Indians appear to have found their offensive groove, looking about as interested through three innings as me at a global warming summit. Nate Robertson has Cleveland hitting lazy fly balls. Westbrook looks OK through two innings, though he had two pitch with two runners on in the second.

Just to be fair to the Indians broadcasters, I have turned down the sound. That way, I am not tempted to write a snide remark everytime Underwood says something. No score through two and a half.

-Indians are still not hitting through six, but the game stays tied after a brilliant play by Franklin Gutierrez. I've said it before: Gutierrez needs to play every day. The Tribe is getting nothing from Trot Nixon, who looks more used up than a three-year old toothbrush. Gutierrez is on the brink of stardom. Play him.

Manning says "you don't realize how good he is defensively." I'm not sure that's true, but if it is, it's only because we don't get to see Gutierrez enough. He is probably the best defensive out fielder on the roster, and he has a higher average and six more homers than Nixon.

Meanwhile, Westbrook plays with fire again. He gets the first two hitters in the sixth, then gives up a single and stolen base to Magglio Ordonez. Carlos Guillen walks, bringing up Marcus "They call me Mister" Thames. He gets up 0-2 on him, then gets him to bounce to Casey Blake. Another great start potentially wasted. It's like Denis Leary's The Job.

- We reach the eighth, with the Tigers putting a pair on for Guillen. Two outs, and Westbrook gets ahead 1-2. Guillen hits a bouncer to Garko, who (and isn't this a shock) bobbles the ball. He recovers and throws just in time to end the inning. That's eight shutout innings for Westbrook. How is it Fausto Carmona gives up three hits, Westbrook pitches eight shutout innings, and Paul Byrd (six runs, 5 1/3 innings) may be the only one to get a win in this series?

With two outs in the ninth, Sizemore stretches a single into a double, basically assuring the Indians won't score (Blake is on deck ... runner in scoring position ... you know). Jim Leyland takes out Robertson. I don't want to act as though Robertson wasn't brilliant, because he was. It's just that the Indians hitting has been so cold for so long, it's hard to tell who is more responsible for doing what.

Interestingly enough, Leyland brings in Joel Zumaya, who has faced Blake one time in his career. Blake homered. I declare, on this blog, that I'll stop riding Blake for a month if he drives in the run.

Blake grounds to third. Oh, well.

- Wedge calls for Rafael Betancourt. This has been a spot where the reliever has been somewhat less than perfect this season. He retires the first batter, then gives up a base hit to Mike Rabelo. With Ivan Rodriguez running at first, Betancourt walks Brandon Inge. Not looking good.

Ramon Santiago hits, and flies to Sizemore on the first pitch. With Curtis Granderson up, Wedge goes to Rafael Perez. Well, the Indians will now have used their two good relievers.

So, here's Granderson. There's this one annoying guy in the crowd, who keep yelling at Indians players. He told Travis Hafner earlier to pick a bat without cork. I don't know if he's annoying the players, but he sure is annoying me. I mean, it's one thing to heckle, but when you're not clever with it, it's painful to listen to.

Perez strikes out Granderson; we go to the 10th.

- And that's when the Indians break it open against (Huzahh!) Zumaya. They load the bases with one out, but Guitierrez strikes out. But Wedge does the right thing, inserting Kenny Lofton. The veteran wastes no time, snapping an RBI single past second. Chris Gomez follows with a 2-RBI single to right center, making it 3-0. Those are RBIs from the midseason pickups. And people worried about chemistry. Think Mike Rouse would have driven those runs in?

Zumaya is done. Leyland brings in Bobby Seay to face Sizemore, who strikes out looking.

Fasten your seatbelts boys and girls, it's time to enter the exciting world of Joe Borowski.

Borowski retires the first two hitters without incident, bringing up Magglio. I am predicting a home run here, just to keep it interesting. Borowski goes 3-0 on Ordonez. As I get Tampa Bay flashbacks, Ordonez rips a double. It never is easy with Borowski.

It brings up Guillen, who gets a bunt single. Oh, lord. Thames singles to left. Now I'm getting Yankee Stadium flashbacks. If Borowski blows this one, it might be time to make other arrangements. This is perhaps the most crucial game of the season.

So here comes Pudge. Borowski's first pitch to Pudge, a ball, looks awfully flat. But Pudge pops up a 2-1 pitch. Gutierrez grabs it, game over, 2 1/2 game lead.

I'm still worried about Borowski, though. And I'm out.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Will the Indians make the playoffs?
My answer is no. Let me know what you think.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Didn't this guy used to be a No. 3 pick?
Gerard Warren was traded by the Broncos Monday for an "undisclosed" draft pick. His new team? The worst (by far) organization in football.

Somehow, we all just sort of had to figure a guy like Warren would end up with the Raiders.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Come all without
It's amazing to me, after so much failure and heartbreak, that the fans of the Cleveland Browns can be so optimistic.

After Saturday's preseason game against the Lions, the high energy shown by the fans over Brady Quinn's performance was ... well, actually, expected. This is, after all, a city whose primary newspaper ran a photo of quarterback Spergon Wynn as its main art during an Indians' playoff race.

But Cleveland needs something to be excited about, and lord knows Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson won't provide it. And Quinn's numbers in the fourth quarter were downright scary. Not quite as scary as the Browns in the red zone in the first quarter of Saturday's game, but scary.

He made 13 receptions for 155 yards with two touchdowns. That's great. But it was against the third string defense, and many of the receptions were screens against a prevent defense.

So am I ready to hand the reigns to Quinn?


But here's the question: Am I ready to say, conclusively, that Frye and Anderson will be better right now that Quinn?

No again.

Romeo Crennel has a problem. He needs to win now to save his job, but he also needs to protect the franchise quarterback. The one bright light is that the Browns offensive line could be its best in years, and the team appears to have a dominant rusher in Jamal Lewis.

But just as in every Browns preseason, we have far more questions than answers.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

So, apparently, Indians manager Eric Wedge is scapegoating second baseman Josh Barfield for the Indians offensive struggles.

There's reason to believe had the point in the season been different, Barfield would have been sent to Buffalo.

Boy, Wedge sure knows how to motivate his players, huh?

You know, I remember another second baseman Wedge couldn't get to play well. They traded him (sort of) to Cincinnati. Whatever happened to Brandon Phillips?

Just use that name as a counterpoint when someone tries to tell you how great Wedge is at getting the most out of his players.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Song quote of the day
They don't give a damn
about any trumpet playin' band
it ain't what they call rock and roll-- Dire Straits


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The train is officially off the track
If the hitters don't produce, it doesn't matter if Greg Maddux 1995 is out there. And right now, the offense is just a theory.

It's easy to blame Eric Wedge, so I will.

- The eighth inning last night, and Lofton is set to leadoff the inning. But because a lefty is on the mound, Eric Wedge chooses to go with that dependable leadoff hitter, Jason Michaels. Lofton is being used as a platoon player, and I just don't understand that. Lofton has speed and a slashing swing. He's different than everyone else on the roster. But Wedge sticks with Michaels, who is pretty much the same player as every other veteran outfielder on the roster.

- Trot Nixon. Why?

- Chris Gomez hits a double to leadoff the ninth, and the Indians can't even be bothered to put the ball in play before calling it an inning. I don't expect Jhonny Peralta to bunt, but he should at least be disciplined enough to put the ball in play.

- I am always tough on Casey Blake, but the reality is, at least he gets on base, which is more than I can say for much of the lineup.

- I never feel good when Joe Borowski comes in, but he seems to be much worse when he pitches in a non-save situation. Wedge went to him last night in the 10th, for reasons I can't phathom. Yes, the Indians bullpen is mediocre, but there are some guys who can pitch a scoreless inning every once in a while. Rafael Perez?

-And if I hear one more person say "if someone had told you the Indians would be a game out in August ...", well, first off, no one ever says anything like that. Secondly, Most of the Indians good work was done in April and May. So there's little immediate evidence the team will turn it around any time soon. That's cause for concern.

- The Tigers are probably smelling blood. They have been miserable, but they know they have no excuses. Yes, Detroit has injuries, but the talent is still superior to Cleveland.


Song quote of the day
There's a man talking on the radio,
what he's saying I don't really know
seems he's lost some stocks and shares,
stops and stares,
he's afraid I know-- George Harrison


Pluto jumps ship
Terry Pluto, one of the best sports writers in Northeast Ohio, is returning to The Plain Dealer, leaving The Akron Beacon Journal.

Pluto has long been a favorite of mine; one of only a handful on sports writers I can say really did influence me with his style.

This has got to hurt the ABJ, though.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Weekend on the shores

So this was the weekend we had been hearing about. The weekend when the fans of Cleveland would come out, just like the old days.

We had the Indians hosting the Yankees for the only time this year. Saturday night, the Browns opened up the 2007 preseason, and gave all fans a short respite before the inevitable waste of a season takes place.

The Indians-Yankees series was a trainwreck. More people saw the Indians this weekend than at any other this season, and I assume many fans won't be back.

Of course, so many have no reason to -- they're Yankee fans.

The Indians have had a problem the last several years with pressure.

They have never played well against the Yankees under Eric Wedge, they struggle against Boston, and they had to hitch a ride to the finish line in 2005, when just one more win in the final week could have meant the playoffs.

The first two games were blowouts. Fausto Carmona didn't pitch badly -- he never does -- but he was not over-the-top dominant against New York. Paul Byrd apparently can't pitch outdoors. The bats were quieter than Charles Nagy.

Meanwhile, the Yankees got pitching and hitting.

The Yankees looked like a powerhouse; the Indians looked like a one room apartment with no windows.

The question is: Can the Indians beat up on enough mediocre teams to win the Central?
Charlie Frye played OK Saturday night, but made two major blunders. Things of those sorts have cost the Browns regular season games in the past.

Ken Dorsey played well against fifth teamers, while Derek Anderson looked lost. My guess is Dorsey will stay on the team, and Frye will win the starting job. Anderson will be elsewhere.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Indians starting to make sense
Less than a week after ditching Mike Rouse, the Indians made what could be a valuable pickup today -- they claimed infielder Chris Gomez off waivers from Baltimore.

I suspect Gomez is what the Indians wanted Hector Luna to be. The infielder can play all four infield positions, and was hitting .302 with the Orioles. He is also a veteran, who started his major league career with the Tigers in 1993.

As for Mike Rouse, no team claimed him, and he's off to Buffalo. I can't help but wonder if the Bisons want him.

Fernando Cabrera was released, which was something no one in Cleveland's organization wanted to do, but there was no choice.

Cabrera simply couldn't get it going this year. He has amazing talent, but the Indians could no longer afford to keep a pitcher on the roster who could not get outs. I assume Cabrera will find success eventually, but with Cleveland in a pennant race, it couldn't wait around.

Oh, the Tribe made one more move today. After signing Russell Branyan Tuesday, they sold him to Charlie Manuel's Phillies today.

While the thought of Branyan wearing an Indians uniform again sent me into convulsions, I can't help but feel sorry for the guy. He barely had a chance to order a pizza in Buffalo.

I didn't have a blog when Branyan played for the Indians. That's a good thing, because my frustration with his play was greater than at anytime during the Casey Blake era.

Think about that.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wonderful use of CNN's Political Ticker
Angelina Jolie doesn't endorse a candidate.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Barry Bonds has just set a record for career home runs, hitting his 756th at home against the Nationals. I've decided to give this achievement all the attention it deserves.


Mike Rouse designated for assignment
I actually read the news on my own blog, and I didn't even write it. Thanks Erik . You made my day.

Mike Rouse was designated for assignment today, meaning the Indians have finally seen the value in having 25 major league players on the 25-man roster.

The Indians now have 10 days to trade, rele... oh, come on. He'll go through waivers, no one will claim him, and the utility infielder will end up back at Buffalo.

I'd make a list of Rouse's top moments as an Indian, but considering he had just eight hits in his four-month tenure, there's not much to say.

You have to figure he's a good guy, because if he wasn't, he'd be on the Akron roster right now. But the big leagues can't be about being just a good clubhouse figure and nothing else. If it were, I'd have advanced far beyond my preliminary softball team as a kid.

The interesting thing was on Sports Time Ohio (the Indians' own station) the clip they kept showing was Rouse's error in Texas. They also mentioned he had the lowest batting average in the league of anyone who had at least 60 at-bats.

As for tonight's game, Jake Westbrook was brilliant, and the Indians scratched out seven hits and two runs, which was somehow enough to win.

Cleveland also survived a brutal ninth inning, where Victor Martinez dropped a called third strike, allowing a Chicago hitter to reach, and then with two outs, Martinez and Ryan Garko let a foul pop drop between them.

It was the second time in a month the Indians had forced closer Joe Borowski to get at least five outs in the last month. Borowski bailed the Indians out again.

But the Indians won't get away with this down the stretch, against contending teams. That's why you have to be concerned. You can't give most teams more than three outs in the ninth inning and emerge unscathed.

For the moment, the Indians are in first place. But there are serious questions about how long they can stay there. The team seems to lack poise at times, and in pennant races, that can be the greatest sin.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Politics vs. Popularity
If what we were told since childhood -- that what's right is not always popular and what's popular is not always right --is true, then I must admit to being a tad confused.

What the phrase doesn't say -- what it doesn't tell us -- is what is preferable to most.

Being right is a victory, but it's often a quiet one. Bellow from the rooftops that you are right, and you might find yourself seeking popularity.

The more I read on the presidential primaries, the more concerned I become that being popular in this culture is considered better than being right.

Arecent example comes a Dick Morris colum, which followed a Democratic presidential debate.

According to Morris, Hillary Clinton made a mistake when she criticized Barack Obama's pledge to meet with leaders of rogue countries.

In his column, Morris said Clinton:

"is on the wrong side of this particular issue for the Democratic primary electorate. Scott Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll shows that Democrats agree with Obama that the president should meet with these foreign leaders without preconditions by 55 percent to 22."

Morris goes onto say Clinton has lost the ability to think like an "outsider."

I know Morris thinks with polls, with politics. But wouldn't it be better to think Hillary went after Obama's opinion because she really did disagree with it?

I have never seen the value in a candidate who makes decisions based on polls. I'm sure I'm being naive here, but the best leaders seem to be the ones who don't listen to the opinions of those who are less informed than them.

And on this case, I'd argue Clinton's opinion on speaking to leaders of rogue countries without condition -- that it's a bad idea -- is correct.

There are many reasons to be troubled by Hillary Clinton as president. But the idea that she might have shot from the hip in a debate -- and been right -- will help her with some voters.

As for Obama, every time he talks, he sounds worse. I'm not even sure if he knows why he's running.


Song quote of the day
No one knows quite how he does it
but it's true they say
he's a master of going faster - George Harrison


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Indians continue to slide
You know, if you had told me, a few weeks ago, that an Indians lineup with Casey Blake batting third would produce two runs in 18 innings, I'd have said:

"Well, yeah."

I know Blake's not to blame for the Indians offensive woes. But the idea that Eric Wedge even thinks of Blake as a No. 3 hitter just sends chills down my spine.

It's as if Wedge thinks he will turn Casey into a solid run producer by sheer will power. Personally, I'd put Kenny Lofton in the leadoff spot, put Blake second, and Grady Sizemore third.

Then you have Sizemore, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner in a row.

Oh, and why is Trot Nixon still in the starting lineup?

Labels: ,

Friday, August 03, 2007

Tucker suspended
Well, I suppose it had been too long since something bad happened to the Browns. What was it, two days?


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Indians skidding
The worst thing a team can do at the trading deadline is make a move just to make a move.

But because the Indians did not get bullpen help, they faced a problem in the 10th inning of Wednesday's game against the Rangers. Having used Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt and Joe Borowski, manager Eric Wedge was forced to go to Jensen Lewis, a rookie.

Keep in mind that despite the Indians' recent struggles, they would have tied the Tigers for first place with a win tonight. That made the game important. And yet, Wedge has so little confidence in his bullpen, he went with Lewis.

The result was the answer to the question of why experience is important. Lewis botched back-to-back bunt plays, and the Indians lost.

And Mike Rouse finished the game at second base.

Just had to add that.


All Indians two-timer team
Last year around this time, I did the all-obscure reference Indians team. This year, with the re-aquisition of Kenny Lofton, I thought it might be fun to compile a new list, this one of players who liked it so much in Cleveland, they came back after playing for another team.

Or they couldn't find a job anywhere else.

The ground rules for this list: All are Indians players during my lifetime, which means Larry Doby will not be appearing, despite being a better player than everyone on this list.

Stats are thanks to

C- Jesse Levis (1992-1995; 1999): In sports, timing is everything. Had Levis come around even three years earlier than he did, he'd have been the Indians starter (No way Andy Allanson would have beat him out). But Levis came up in 1992, when Sandy Alomar, despite constant injuries, was the Indians' rock.

The Indians liked Levis a lot, though. I remember Peter Gammons saying during the 1992 expansion draft that the Tribe was considering sending Alomar to Toronto (where he'd be on the same team as Roberto) for Pat Borders and a pitching prospect. Anybody else glad they didn't go through with that one?

Levis was servicable for the Brewers, and returned to the Indians in 1999, signing with Cleveland two days after being released by the Devil Rays. He hit three homers in his career. I saw his first -- on my only trip to Tiger Stadium in 1992. It helped the Indians win the game, which sweetened the memory.

1B - Jose Hernandez (1992; 2005): He played all of three games in the 1992 season for the Indians, then returned 13 years later. He missed the beginning golden age by two years, then returned four years after it ended.

Still, Hernandez was servicable enough in 2005, mainly playing first against left-handed starters. He hit six homers and managed just a .231 average. Scoff if you want, but his average was 112 points higher than one of the Indians' current utility men (ehehehehMikeRouseehehehe).

2B - Carlos Baerga (1990-1996; 1999): Of all the moves Indians General Manager Jon Hart made, his trade of Baerga to the Mets in 1996 may have been the one he felt the worst about.

Baerga was the first Indian of the 1990s (with the possible exception of Sandy Alomar) to win the hearts of Cleveland fans. For four years, he hit more than .300 and had more than 15 homers. His homer in the eighth inning of the 1995 ALCS off Randy Johnson was the final nail in the Mariners' coffin.

But whatever Baerga had, he seemed to lose it in 1996, and never got it back. He was hitting just .267 with 10 homers on July 29, 1996, when Hart shocked the fans by trading Baerga to the Mets. The Indians received future NL MVP Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. I actually loved watching the Indians with Vizcaino at second, since he complimented Omar Vizquel very well.

The Indians lost in the first round of the playoffs to Baltimore in 1996. Hart used Kent and Vizcaino (along with Julian Tavarez) to get Matt Williams from the Giants. Then he sent Williams to Arizona for Travis Fryman.

Back to Baerga. I always thought Hart felt bad about trading Baerga, even though it was a good trade. Baerga never regained his form and became a bench player. But Hart brought Bearga back, getting him from the Padres in 1999. Baerga, in a backup role, hit .228 and was left off the postseason roster, although he did sit on the bench during the Boston series, which, the Indians lost.

SS - Julio Franco (1983-1988; 1996-1997): Julio Franco was a great player on some miserable Indians teams in the 1980s. He hit more than .280 in five of his first six seasons with the Tribe, and batted more than .300 from 1986-1988. The Indians rewarded him by shipping him to Texas for Pete O'Brien, Oddibe McDowell and Jerry Browne.

Yeah, just take a guess who got the better of that deal.

Franco hit forever. He hit in Texas. He hit in Chicago. He hit in Japan.

Then, in 1996, the Indians brought Franco back to play first base. He hit again, batting .322 with 20 homers that season. In 1997, the Indians figured he was washed up, and released him. Eleven years later, he's still playing.

3B - Brook Jacoby (1984-1991; 1992): Brook Jacoby and the Indians were meant for each other. You might say Brook Jacoby was Casey Blake before Casey Blake was cool.

Except, Jacoby was much better than Blake. A solid defensive player, Jacoby was a two-time all-star, Jacoby hit .300 with 32 homers in 1987. His last solid season was 1990, when he made the all-star team. The next year, he scuffled on a horrid Indians team, and was dealt to Oakland for Lee Tinsley and Apolinar Garcia. Speaking of that. If a trade fell in the forest and no one noticed it, did it make a sound?

The Indians brought back Jacoby in 1992, where he backed up Carlos Martinez at third. He hit four homers and retired.

LF-Candy Maldanado (1990; 1993-1994): The 1990 Indians were an interesting team, with a large group of veterans carrying the team to a fourth-place finish in the American League East, winning 77 games. It was one of those weird seasons where the Indians were not all that bad.

One of the reasons the team was decent was the play of Maldanado, who GM Hank Peters signed to a one-year deal. He hit.273 and led the team with 22 homers (no, really).

But the Indians were in the beginnings of a rebuilding movement, so they let Maldanado go. The Indians slugged along for a few seasons, while Maldanado became a postseason hero with the 1992 Blue Jays.

In late 1993, in a bizarre move, John Hart brought Maldanado back, sending Glenallen Hill to the Cubs for the outfielder. Maldanado was decent for the remainder of the '93 season, and returned in 1994. He was the starting designated hitter in the Indians' first game at Jacobs Field, against the Mariners.

But Maldanado didn't do so well in 1994. He batted .196 with five homers. The Tribe was so thrilled they traded for Dave Winfield -- during the 1994 players strike. Candy signed with Toronto, then finished his career in Texas in 1995.

CF - Kenny Lofton (1992-1996; 1998-2001; 2007): This is an obvious choice. The Indians and Lofton are like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. They can't seem to live with or without each other. One of the great surprises for me as a fan came when Lofton signed with the Indians in 1998. The signing came less than seven months after the outfielder said the Indians "stabbed him in the back" by trading him.

But Lofton is a Cleveland legend. If you don't believe me, listen to the crowd when he comes up to hit. My guess is his number will be retired by the Indians, and rightfully so.

RF -- Mark Whiten (1991-1992, 1998-2000): Mark Whiten had one of the biggest swings I'd ever seen. My best memory of his career came in 1998, when he crushed a homer in game 3 of the ALCS against the Yankees.

His career highlight came with the Cardinals in 1993, when he hit four homers in one game. He hit 105 homers in his career, but he never got cheated. The Indians first dealt him in 1993, and got pitcher Mark Clark in return. If memory serves, Whiten came back after playing in Mexico.

He also had one of the best nicknames ever -- "Hard Hittin'" Mark Whiten. That alone gets him on this list.

Tom Candiotti (1986-1991; 1999)
Dave Burba (1998-2001; 2002)
Doug Jones (1986-1990; 1998): Not much to say here, but then pitchers needed to be represented. If you choose to remember these guys, remember the first go-round. Though many of you probably don't even remember a second tenure.