Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A scene from one of my favorite films
Frank Drebin (played by Leslie Nielson): You'll never get away with this Hapsburg. Whatever it is.

Quinten Hapsburg (Played by Robert Goulet): All right, I'll show you. Of course you know Dr. Meinheimer. And you've met Earl Hacker.

Earl Hacker (played by Richard Griffiths, coming towards Drebin in a neck brace): Why you sonuva... ooh. Ow.

Hapsburg: And then I'd like you to meet the Redmens -- weekend guests from out of town.

(Everyone looks around, confused)

Hapsburg: We're going to the press club dinner. Make sure nothing happens to him until I get back. Then, I want the pleasure of killing you myself.

Drebin: The pleasure is all mine.

-- From the 1991 film, Naked Gun 2 1/2

Rest in peace, Mr. Goulet.


Monday, October 29, 2007

A winter of discontent
And so, the baseball season ends the way it began: With people talking about the Red Sox and Yankees. This two-headed monster always seems to loom over all baseball discussion, and it will be stronger than ever Monday.

The Red Sox polished off a sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the World Series Sunday night in Denver; the Yankees are set to hire their first new manager since 1996. The game's other teams can take a holiday - at least a national one. No one will be talking about any of them for a while.

As an Indians fan, the Boston win is especially frustrating. A little more than a week ago, Cleveland appeared to have the Red Sox on the ropes with a 3-1 series advantage in the ALCS. Win one of three games, and the Indians would have played for their first World Series title since 1948.

Given the way the Rockies played against the Red Sox, one dares to believe the Indians would have won a world title easily.

Of course, that's not fair to the Rockies, who probably would have played a Cleveland team just as nervous as they were. Besides, the Indians didn't deserve to be in the World Series, anyway. (But that's another column.)

From a purely national perspective, this World Series was a real let-down. Four games, all won by the Red Sox, two of which were decided by five runs or more.

It was an underwhelming World Series, something that's becoming all too familiar. Three of the last four World Series' have been decided in four games. The lone exception was last season, when the Cardinals beat the Tigers in five games.

If there is drama, it happens before the World Series. The Indians and Red Sox went to seven games in the ALCS; the Mets and Cardinals did the same in last year's NLCS. Perhaps the most talked about series of the last 10 years didn't happen at the game's biggest stage - after rallying from a 3-0 deficit to take the American League from the Yankees in 2004, the Red Sox steamrolled the Cardinals.

So, after another World Series without too much drama (though Rockies' fans at Coors' Field were outstanding even when things looked hopeless), baseball fans can look forward to a winter of Alex Rodriguez filing for divorce from the Yankees and announcers forgetting that David Ortiz actually does have a given name.

Pass the Tums.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Red Sox win the World Series
Jimmy Kimmel probably sums up my feelings best.

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The Panel: Week 8
Phil Prusa: Browns over Rams
Nihar Vasavada: Colts over Panthers
Curtis A.: Giants over Dolphins
Zach: Chargers over Texans


Browns 27, Rams 20
Had Braylon Edwards not done his best Dwayne Rudd impersonation, and had he caught Derek Anderson's throw on the Browns final offensive possession, you could have called it a flawless performance.

This was Braylon Edwards' game. He was the star, the big-budget leading man, an action-movie protagonist. He had a great supporting cast: Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, Joe Jurevicious and Jamal Lewis all played significant roles.

But if the field turf at whatever they call that dome in St. Louis was a stage, Edwards deserved the curtain call.

When discussing the game afterwards with someone close to me, I gave my first thought on Edwards: Great receivers make catches to put the game away, and they certainly don't give back 15 yards of a 19-yard completion to show the world how handsome they are.

But the person on the other end of the phone line thought I was crazy.

"Braylon Edwards WAS the reason they won today," he said.

Then I watched the highlights of the game. Edwards was all over them. It wasn't just the number of catches (8), his receiving yards (117) or his touchdown catches (2). It was the way in which he did it.

It was as if the Browns said to the Rams: "Here's our best player. Stop him if you can."

The Rams couldn't. For most of the day, the Browns moved the ball at will, overcoming penalties and a 14-0 deficit. And Edwards was the biggest reason.

The No. 3 pick of the 2005 draft has nine touchdown catches this season, four from the Browns' record of 13 set by Gary Collins in 1963. That was a year before the Browns' last NFL title.

Edwards' emergence in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's system is not the biggest reason the Browns are better. That honor goes to the offensive line.

But Edwards is breaking out in a way few of us expected. Eventually, defenses will double him and try to take him away.

That's what Winslow is for.

- I don't expect the defense to get much credit from anyone this week. It gave up 393 yards to a wounded, mediocre club. Steven Jackson got hurt in the first half and never returned. Mark Bulger hurt his thumb and missed part of a series. And the Browns' still struggled.

No pass rush to speak of, though Cleveland did record a sack. The pass defense was spotty, which is more a reflection of the Browns line than anything else.

And still, the Browns came through with some big stops. Twice, they stopped the Rams on fourth-and-1s. Then Leigh Bodden -- for the second time this season -- sealed a win with an interception in the game's final minute.

The Browns did give the defense all the rest it could ask for, having a pair of drives in the second half that went longer than six minutes.

In many ways, the long drives were more meaningful than an 80-yard pass. The defense is mediocre, but if you can keep it off the field, it's easier to ignore.

And Browns fans will have to ignore it, because it won't be getting better.

- Romeo Crennel needed two things from the Browns to take the heat off of him this season.

Cleveland needed to perform better in the AFC North -- it is 2-1.

The Browns had to win-back-to-back games -- they have done it.

Skeptics will point out the Browns did it against teams with a combined record of 0-16. The counter is the Browns have beaten teams they are supposed to.

There haven't been many of those in recent seasons.


Rockies chances are Fogg-y at best
Note: This was written and posted on Blogcritics prior to Game 3 of the World Series, but I wasn't able to post it here until after the game concluded. Sadly, I think I hit the nail on the head.

You want to believe in the Colorado Rockies. You want to think they will come back, and if not win the World Series, then at least make it interesting. And let's face it. Only Red Sox fans want to see the World Series end in four or five games.

So the question is: After two games in which the Rockies have scored just two runs, can they find their momentum and come back against a strong Boston pitching staff?

Let's just say the odds are against it.

Game 3 is all but a must-win for Colorado. That's not news, but it's important to note, especially when considering whom the Rockies are sending out as their starting pitcher. Josh Fogg is 30 years old. He has pitched for three teams over his seven-year career. He started 29 games this season, finishing with a respectable 10-9 record. But the right-hander also had a 4.94 earned run average this season. That ERA is remarkably close to his career mark of 4.90.

Bottom line: Fogg is an average to mediocre starting pitcher. He's only had a pair of complete games in his career. Basically, he's far from an ideal choice to start game 3.

What I think this shows is just how remarkably hot the Rockies have been up to this point. They have been able to overcome their flaws and get farther than anyone would have thought. But the hot streak was not going to last forever. Unless the Rockies can find the magic (or their offense) in Denver, there's little reason to believe they can get back in this series.

And that's too bad, because few want to see a route. Hopefully Fogg can shut down David Ortiz (and keep the announcers from calling him "Big Papi.").

If he can, many of us will be happy. And surprised.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Phil's Picks: Week 8
Lions (4-2) @ Bears (3-4)
A win puts Chicago right back into the NFC wildcard chase.
Zach's thought: It's tempting to take Detroit. Really, really tempting. Chicago.

Steelers (4-2) @ Bengals (2-4)
Fast Fact: Pittsburgh has not lost in the state of Ohio since 2001.
Zach's thought: Steelers es bueno. Senor Bengals es el diablo. Steelers.

Raiders (2-4) @ Titans (4-2)
Tennessee wins on a last second field goal to take a 9-6 win.
Zach's thought: This is so not an interesting game. Titans.

Browns (3-3) @ Rams (0-7)
Cleveland has a real shot to win back to back games for the first time in Romeo Crennel's tenure as head coach.
Zach's Thought: I haven't taken the Browns yet this year. Rams.

Giants (5-2) @ Dolphins (0-7) -- IN LONDON
For the record, I despise any regular season game being played overseas.
Zach's Thought: London is calling I won't pick the Dolphins AH! Giants.

Eagles (2-4) @ Vikings (2-4)
Andy Reid might not survive past this season as Philadelphia's coach.
Zach's thought: Reid will survive, and the Eagles will make the playoffs. Eagles.

Colts (6-0) @ Panthers (4-2)
No way does Tony Dungy let his team look ahead to the New England game next week.
Zach's thought: Can you imagine if the Colts played in the Northeast? We'd never hear the end of how good they were. Good thing there isn't a team like that there. Oh, wait. Colts.

Bills (2-4) @ Jets (1-6)
New York needs to play Kellen Clemens to see what they have in him. This season is already lost.
Zach's thought: The Jets have to win some time. Right? Jets.

Texans (3-4) @ Chargers (3-3)
Chargers should get a boost with the official announcement that the game will be played in San Diego.
Zach's thought: Who cares about football in San Diego? It's been a rough week. Chargers.

Jaguars (4-2) @ Buccaneers (4-3)
Tampa Bay should take advantage of Quinn Gray starting.
Zach's thought: I still think Jacksonville is better, regardless of who is quarterbacking. Jags.

Redskins (4-2) @ Patriots (7-0)
Like the Colts, New England will not make the mistake of taking it easy this week.
Zach's thought: Patriots. I am so sick of these guys.

Saints (2-4) @ 49ers (2-4)
Boils down to Reggie Bush vs Frank Gore.
Zach's thought: Bush vs. Gore? No reason to change votes seven years later. Saints.

Packers (5-1) @ Broncos (3-3)
All three of Denver's wins have been on last second field goals.
Zach's thought: At least Denver won't have to worry about missing the World Series. Packers.

Cardinals (3-4)
Bye comes at a perfect time to help Kurt Warner heal.

Chiefs (4-3)
Does anyone realize Kansas City has won four of their last five games?

Cowboys (6-1)
Dallas is 6-1 for the first time since 1995.

Falcons (1-6)
Nightmare season just can't end fast enough.

Ravens (4-3)
The defense is older and the swagger seems to be missing.

Seahawks (4-3)
Even the home fans have started to boo Shaun Alexander.

LAST WEEK: 9-5 Z: 9-5
OVERALL: 67-36 Z: 62-41


Thursday, October 25, 2007

World Series: Game 1
It's easy, as an Indians fan, to feel a little bitter about the World Series right now.

The Red Sox beat my favorite team, and honestly, deserved to beat my favorite team. Because Cleveland got so close to the World Series, there is a temptation to ignore the Fall Classic, and focus on football and whatever else.

But if you love baseball, that's not an option. No matter what teams play, no matter how annoyed you get when national announcers use the name "Big Papi," and no matter how much you hate the idea of Red Sox Nation, baseball is still baseball.

It is the best sport in the world, and the World Series is the last chance to watch it until March. Besides, I thought, this could be a fun series to watch.

Then the game started.

- Josh Beckett is on some kind of run. He struck out the first four batters he saw, then went to the dugout and watched leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia lift a home run off starter Jeff Francis.

From there, the Red Sox took off, scoring four runs in the first inning. There really is no need to go through the scoring because the game was over after the first inning.

Beckett again will get the praise, because he gave up just one run in seven innings and struck out nine, two more batters than the Rockies' Franklin Morales gave up runs. Don't look for him anytime soon.

- How uninspiring was this game? It got so bad that Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were talking about Van Halen during the ninth inning. They even managed to get in a dig on Sammy Hagar, a man who has rocked more in one night than McCarver and Buck have in their lives.

It was pointless, but it was better than hearing McCarver and Buck talk about what a great play Manny Ramirez made in Game 7 of the ALCS. The one where Ramirez threw out Kenny Lofton at second base. Yet they never mention that Lofton was safe and the umpire blew the call. (Sorry. Sour grapes.)

- People will talk about the Rockies' layoff, but no one has beaten Beckett in the postseason. Some will probably argue the Rockies are overmatched, but Colorado just had a 10-game winning streak snapped. And no matter how lopsided, it was just one game.

I still think Colorado can come back and win this series. But it starts with the starting pitcher. Ubaldo Jimenez starts tomorrow. He can hit 100 on the radar gun, but as C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona can tell you, speed means nothing without control.

Curt Schilling goes for Boston. He was just there in Game 6 of the ALCS. Carmona and the Boston hitters did all the work.

If Jimenez keeps it close, the Rockies hitters should get to Schilling.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It ain't over 'til it's over
You know what irritates me most about Al Gore and other climate alarmists? It's their insistance that the debate over climate change is over.

That ought to be reason for concern. Getting married to an idea is dangerous, because pretending we know everything about the Earth's climate can't lead to anything good.

The debate isn't over at all, says John Stossel. Still, he says Al Gore won't talk to him. Makes you wonder.


The Panel: Status Check
Phil Prusa: Can't use San Diego, Chicago, New England, Dallas, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Kansas City

Nihar Vasavada: Can't use Seattle, Denver, New England, Dallas, Arizona, San Diego, Washington

Curtis A: Can't use Detroit, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Tennessee, Cleveland, New England

Zach: Can't use Seattle, Pittsburgh, New England, Dallas, Tennessee, Baltimore, Washington


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Phil's Picks week 7
Better late than never, say I.

Ravens (4-2) @ Bills (1-4)
Don't expect Willis McGahee to get a warm homecoming reception here.
Zach's thought: Who'd have thought. Not me. Ravens

Buccaneers (4-2) @ Lions (3-2)
While Tampa Bay is for real, the jury is still out on Detroit.
Zach's thought: I took the Buccaneers.

Patriots (6-0) @ Dolphins (0-6)
Bad for Miami: New England is 16 and a half point favorites in this game. Worse for Miami: New England is the away team.
Zach's thought: And it's only gotten worse since then. Patriots.

Falcons (1-5) @ Saints (1-4)
Bryon Leftwich gets his first start for Atlanta this year.
Zach's thought: I took the Saints because they were the home team.

49ers (2-3) @ Giants (4-2)
Does anyone even remember the Giants starting the season at 0-2?
Zach's thought: Does anyone remember when this was a marquee NFL game? Giants.

Cardinals (3-3) @ Redskins (3-2)
A once promising season may be ruined in the desert if Tim Rattay has to play for an extended period of time.
Zach's thought: A little to the right, and I'd have been out of my own eliminator picks.

Titans (3-2) @ Texans (3-3)
Upset special: Vince Young is not 100 percent and Houston is at home.
Zach: So close, Phil. Titans

Jets (1-5) @ Bengals (1-4)
Welcome to the 2007 Disappointment Bowl.
Zach: I took the Bengals. They were home.

Chiefs (3-3) @ Raiders (2-3)
Fast fact: Kansas City has won eight straight against Oakland
Zach's pick: I misunderestimated the Chiefs. Raiders

Vikings (2-3) @ Cowboys (5-1)
Exactly who is Brad Childress trying to kid by listing Adrian Peterson as the number two running back?
Zach: He's not fooling anyone. He doesn't even cover his bald head with a baseball cap on the sidelines. Cowboys

Bears (2-4) @ Eagles (2-3)
This would have been a great game about two years ago.
Zach: I took the Eagles in the Depression Bowl.

Rams (0-6) @ Seahawks (3-3)
Shaun Alexander should get back on track against the Rams woeful defense.
Zach: That Browns game is coming up at the wrong time. Seahawks.

Steelers (4-1) @ Broncos (2-3)
Denver will be unable to stop the Pittsburgh running game.
Zach: It wouldn't have been had the Steelers not chosen to pass so much. Steelers.

Colts (5-0) @ Jaguars (4-1)
Indianapolis looks to get payback after their game in Jacksonville ended in a lopsided 44-17 loss.
Zach: Everyone thought this'd be a good game. Colts.


Browns (3-3)
"Hey guys. It's me Brady Quinn. Anybody there? Hello? Anybody?"

Chargers (3-3)
Despite a slow start, they're still sharing a lead for first place in the AFC West.

Packers (5-1)
Running game? We don't need to stinkin' running game!

Panthers (4-2)
David Carr's NFL career might be in jeopardy if he can't get a start over the ageless Vinny Testaverde.

LAST WEEK: 7-6 Z:7-6
OVERALL: 58-31 Z: 53-36


Monday, October 22, 2007

Never thought I'd post a Nation article
But this is something everyone should read. No side comes out looking too good


Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Panel: Week 7
Phil Prusa: Chiefs over Raiders
Nihar Vasavada: Redskins over Cardinals
Curtis A.: Patriots over Dolphins
Zach: Redskins over Cardinals


Game Seven
Even before the game started, I had a quote in my head that I thought I would use if the Indians were eliminated tonight by the Red Sox.

It was something Mrs. Smith, my first grade teacher, said after we watched a film strip of Casey at the Bat. After Mighty Casey struck out, Mrs. Smith turned to the class and said, "Sometimes, things don't turn out the way we want them to."

Fans wanted to believe that this Indians team was different. That it was, in some way, better prepared for the postseason than the hard-hitting playoff teams of the 1990s. Even I found myself believing late in the season -- believing the Indians would follow the Red Sox and White Sox in breaking the championship drought.

And let's be clear: It's a drought, not a curse.

The Indians deserved to lose this series. Thanks to Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd, they staked themselves a 3-1 series lead, and had C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona going in the next two games, one of which was at home.

But the Indians choked under the pressure. I'm not writing that to be mean. But the reality is the Indians were outscored 30-5 in the series' last three games. You can't tell me it was all the Red Sox doing.

Jake Westbrook wasn't perfect, but he was gritty and gave his team a chance in Game 7. I won't pile on Joel Skinner and Casey Blake. Blake did everything right for six games, and had the pitching staff done what it was supposed to, Blake would not have been in the position he was in. He's not blameless, and neither is the third base coach, who made one of the strangest decisions I have ever seen.

But the series was the Indians to win in the fifth and sixth games. It wasn't one guy, but different guys failing at the worst possible time. The Indians lost to the Red Sox because the Sox were better.

- It will be tough to stomach anyone writing about what "strides" the Indians made this season. Two 19-game winners, a closer with 45 saves, and 96 wins is nice. But the truth is this: When the opportunity is there, in life and in baseball, you have to take advantage because you never know if it will come up again.

Do you realize the Marlins won the World Series in 1997, gutted the team, rebuilt and won again in 2003, while the Indians haven't been back?

It's not fair to judge this season as a failure, but it's hard to see when the stars will allign again like they did this season.

Maybe this is the start of something. Or maybe it's the end. Either way, it was a great regular season that, unfortunately, ended like all the others.

And once again, I'm reminded that things don't always turn out the way we want them to.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Making sense out of this series
When you're from the Cleveland area, you don't inject logic into your arguments, especially when it comes to sports.

But when the Indians grabbed a three games to one lead over the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, I started thinking like a non-Clevelander. That is, thinking logically.

With a three games to one lead, the Indians were sending C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona -- 38 wins between them in the regular season -- to the mound in the next two games.

One of those guys, I thought, ought to be able to bring it home.

Sabathia wasn't bad, but wasn't an ace, while Josh Beckett was. Then, Saturday night, Carmona pitched his worst game since he was a closer last season.

Now, Cleveland's trip to the World Series hinges on its No. 3 starter -- Jake Westbrook. No disrespect to Westbrook. He's a good starter. But he's not exactly what you'd want going into Game 7. The Indians can't turn to Jared Wright like they did the last time they faced such a game. They don't have any tricks up their sleeves. Westbrook has got to be great Sunday. He has to pitch the game of his life.

In a season where nothing has gone the way one expected, I'm not saying it's impossible. But the Indians have looked bad in their last two games, while the Red Sox have looked confident and comfortable.

Should the Indians lose, this is not an "Only in Cleveland" moment. The Indians called on their aces, only to see them fall flat. Should Boston prevail, it's because it is the better team. Simple as that.

As an Indians fan, I'm hoping that in a season of surprises, the team can pull one more out, and give the city hope it's long championship drought is nearing an end.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So, some ESPN analysts are piling on Terry Francona for starting Tim Wakefield instead of Josh Beckett on three days rest.

I remember the last time ESPN's guys were critical of a manager for starting an average veteran instead of his ace.

Oh wait, that was a week ago. I look for Wakefield to give my Tribe all kinds of trouble.

I hope I'm wrong.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Browns 41, Dolphins 31
There were years, in the early expansion period, where you had to wonder if the Browns would score 41 points in a month, let alone a game.

And yet, the Browns offense has churned out two 40-point efforts in the season's first six weeks.

Five weeks after the opening day disaster, the Browns are at 3-3, 2-1 in the AFC North. The Browns offense hasn't been this energized since Bernie Kosar and Webster Slaughter donned the colors at the old stadium.

After the game, however, I received calls from friends, most of whom were bitching about the defense.

And let's be fair. As good as the offense has been through the first six weeks, the defense has been just that poor.

At times, the Browns will get strong individual efforts on defense -- Kamerion Wimbley, Antwan Peek, Leigh Bodden and even Willie McGinest have played well. But the Browns have given up 26 points or more.

But isn't it nice to be in a position where some fans are negative after a win?


The Panel: Week 6
Nihar Vasavada: Chargers over Raiders
Phil Prusa: Jaguars over Texans
Curtis A.: Browns over Dolphins
Zach: Ravens over Rams


Phil's NFL Picks
Vikings (1-3) @ Bears (2-3)
Good: Minnesota had a bye week to prepare for this game. Bad: Kelly Holcomb is still on their roster.
Zach's thought: The Bears should win, riding the momentum of last week. Bears

Dolphins (0-5) @ Browns (2-3)
This will be Miami's first trip to Cleveland since 1993, according to USA Today, which is wrong.
Zach's thought: The day I pick the Browns will be the day I want to jinx myself. Dolphins.

Redskins (3-1) @ Packers (4-1)
The lack of a running game is catching up with Green Bay.
Zach's thought: Still not sold on either, but GB is at home. Packers.

Bengals (1-3) @ Chiefs (2-3)
It's a toss up as to who has the worst defense of these two.
Zach's thought: I see the good Bengals re-emerging here. Bengals.

Eagles (1-3) @ Jets (1-4)
Maybe the Philadelphia offensive line can keep the QB sacks in the single digits this week.
Zach's thought: Using the AFC is better than NFC model, I am going with a slight upset. Jets.

Titans (3-1) @ Buccaneers (3-2)
Not having Cadillac Williams in this game will be too much for Tampa Bay to overcome.
Zach's thought: I must have been drifing off when I made this pick. TB.

Texans (3-2) @ Jaguars (3-1)
Byron Leftwich who?
Zach's thought: This might be a better game than some thing, although the Jaguars will probably prevail. Jaguars.

Rams (0-5) @ Ravens (3-2)
Anyone else think Baltimore should just name Kyle Boller the full time starting QB?
Zach's thought: Ravens might win this one 3-2. Ravens.

Panthers (3-2) @ Cardinals (3-2)
Desperate for a QB, Carolina dusted off and signed Vinny Testaverde.
Zach's thought: If the Cardinals want anyone to take them seriously, they need this one. Cardinals.

Patriots (5-0) @ Cowboys (5-0)
Barring something drastic, these two teams will likely have their rematch in Super Bowl XLII.
Zach's thought: Not if the Colts have anything to say about it. Colts.

Raiders (2-2) @ Chargers (2-3)
Fast Fact: Against Oakland, LaDainian Tomlinson averages 121.3 yards rushing yards per game.
Zach's thought: Chargers need this one. Chargers.

Saints (0-4) @ Seahawks (3-2)
National television gets to welcome back the Aints.
Zach's thought: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Seahawks.

Giants (3-2) @ Falcons (1-4)
Eli Manning vs Joey Harrington is a mismatch.
Zach's thought: Unless the Indians and Red Sox wrap up early, I'll miss this one. Well, maybe not miss it. Giants.


49ers (2-3)
They need to be more than the Frank Gore Show

Bills (1-4)
So how bad are you to force six turnovers and still lose?

Broncos (2-3)
That 2-0 start seems like such a farce now.

Colts (5-0)
Bye week comes at a perfect time to get Marvin Harrison and Joseph Addai healthy.

Lions (3-2)
They have been blown out in each of their losses

Steelers (4-1)
Have quickly become the team to beat in the AFC North.

LAST WEEK: 10-4 Z: 12-2
OVERALL: 51-25 Z:46-30


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Indians, Red Sox split
The devil fools with the best laid plans-Neil Young

This was a series where I really thought homefield was meaningless. After the first two games, I still feel that way. There's little question the Indians needed to split this series.

But my reasoning was the Indians needed to win one of the first two games because they were throwing their two best starters early. If C.C Sabathia and Fausto Carmona can't get wins, I thought, what chance do the Indians have in this series.

As it happened, the two aces were awful. If we're to believe the hype, Mr. Bloodsock, Curt Schilling is tough in the postseason. And yet, as bad as Fausto was, Schilling was worse.

Rafael Perez was bad, surrendering homers to Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell. The Indians were down 6-5, and I thought the game was over.

But before Manny was even done tipping his cap to the adoring Boston fans, the Indians tied up the game.

And then the bullpen took over. Jensen Lewis and Rafael Betancourt made Boston hitters look lost. Tom Mastny (I didn't even know he was on the postseason roster until last night)was perfect.

The Red Sox finally ran out of gas in the 11th. I think every Indians fan was smiling when Eric Gagne came in. He was incinsistent last night, and has been poor ever since showing up from Texas.

It was as if the Indians decided they had enough of the Red Sox. Trot Nixon made all of us doubters look stupid, Ryan Garko and Jhonny Peralta (a playoff MVP so far)had RBI hits, and Franklin Gutierrez finally came through, by hitting one off the Volvo sign.

What does this mean? Well, here's what I know:

- The Indians will need better starting pitching than they've gotten to win this series.

- The Indians may have the edge in managers, something I never thought I'd write.

- Jake Westbrook can ease a lot of tension will a good start Monday. Westbrook can pitch like an ace. The Tribe may need that.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore wins share of Nobel Peace Prize
Uh, why?


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Conan O'Brien vs. Cleveland
Conan O'Brien's monologue Tuesday night began with a joke that went something like this: (Paraphrasing):

The Yankees have been eliminated from the playoffs by the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees were upset because their season is over. The Indians are upset because they have to go back to Cleveland.

Here's the thing. I could care less if Conan O'Brien chooses to joke about my hometown. David Letterman used to do it all the time. And I can appreciate a good Cleveland joke.

Sadly, this was not a good Cleveland joke. I have heard it about 100 times, the first time in 1990, when the Browns played the Broncos on Monday Night Football. They had a cut-in of the cast of Coach watching the game. Hayden commented to his buddies that the games were always close, but the Broncos always seemed to pull it out. Luther Van Damm (his assistant) responded that no matter what the outcome was, the Browns always lose because they have to go back to Cleveland.

It was barely funny then. Still, I encourage Conan to keep trying. It's not like our city hasn't given him a lot to go on. Our rivers and our Mayor's hair have caught on fire. We can't win in sports. Our top athlete wears a Yankees hat at an Indians playoff game.

Come on Conan, you can do better. Really go for it. Stop stealing Luther Van Damm's material.

Besides, Cleveland fans should take heart. In the game where Van Damm made the joke, the Browns rallied to win. And who are the Indians playing in the ALCS? The Red Sox. O'Brien's favorite team.

Maybe it's a good sign.

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In search of Reagan
While hardly someone who could qualify as a political insider or political expert, I should be of interest to some as a young voter.

I was born in 1980, the year Ronald Reagan took office. I was eight years old when his second term ended, and George Bush took over.

If there is one thing that bothers me more than anything else about the political right, it's the reliance on the past. The Republicans are in an interesting situation coming into the 2008 election. They have a two-term president without a vice president waiting in the wings to run.

Perhaps because of that, I hear more and more about presentation and perception than reality. A entire column in Slate today was dedicated to Fred Thompson's performance at a debate.

But do debates really mean anything? We've become a culture obsessed with performance in front of the camera. Thompson may very well act as the best president; he may play the part the best. But that doesn't mean he is the best to face what this country is facing -- two wars, the threat of terrorism and climate alarmism.

Which brings me back to Reagan. I will be the first to say that Reagan was the best president in my lifetime, and was, in my opinion, one of the best of the last century.

But that was LAST century. The next president will face a different set of issues than Reagan. Reagan had the Cold War. The 44th president will have the War on Terror. Reagan did had the War on Drugs. The 44th president will have two actual wars to deal with.

The point is, Republican need to stop looking for the next Reagan. Reagan worked in the 1980s. Then again, so did ALF. Times have changed. If the Republicans want to win this election, they need to find the candidate best suited for the future.

Not one stuck in the past.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

One more unexpected step
It would be hypocritical for me to gloat this afternoon, one day after the Indians knocked out the Yankees in the Division Series.

No one was more skeptical about the Indians than me. Eric Wedge was a glorified minor league manager. Casey Blake belonged in Buffalo. Eric Wedge would rather lose than send Mike Rouse to Buffalo.

C.C. Sabathia wasn't consistent enough. The Indians couldn't beat top teams. They were in awe of the Yankees and Red Sox.

Joe Borowski will haunt us. Wedge panicked and used Josh Barfield as a scapegoat. Paul Byrd wasn't as good as his record. Jhonny Peralta was lazy and would go cold in October. Casey Blake couldn't hold down the third base job. Trot Nixon had no business getting at-bats.

I can mock the national media for giving Cleveland no respect. But neither did I.

But the truth is, Eric Wedge did a fantastic job in this series. He knew when to take C.C Sabathia out in game one. He knew not to take out Fausto Carmona in game two.

He played Trot Nixon against Roger Clemens. He road the success of Kenny Lofton against Andy Pettite. He started Paul Byrd and Kelly Shoppach.

The bottom line is that Wedge knows how to get the most out of his players. I never would have written that a month ago. But look at the way the series went. His team went 0-6 in the regular season against the Yankees.

As it turned out, Wedge made sure his Indians could care less.

I have no idea what to expect from here, but Wedge has proved he's better manager than I ever thought.


Great Baseball Quotes
"We got beat in the four games played,' Damon said. "Overall, are they the better team? I don't know."-- Johnny Damon

Love it. Why do we bother playing the games, again?


Patriots 34, Browns 17
The Browns were coached well, and at times played well.

But the time for moral victories is over, and no matter what the final score was, the game was never close.

The Browns' opportunity at a competitive game ended when Derek Anderson threw an interception in the end zone to Junior Seau.

The Patriots are one of the top three teams in the league. A team can't turn the ball over four times and win against good teams. Tony Romo got away with it, but Anderson can't.

No one expected Cleveland to win, so the loss didn't sting like it usually does. Still, the Browns are in a strange position this week against the Dolphins. For the first time this season , the Browns will go into a game as a favorite, and will face some guy named Cleo Lemon at quarterback.

If the Browns can go into their bye at 3-3, I think we'll accept that. A loss will be hard to take.


Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Panel: Week 5
Nihar Vasavada: Titans over Falcons
Phil Prusa: Cardinals over Rams
Curtis A. Titans over Falcons
Zach: Titans over Falcons


Phil's NFL Picks, Week 5

Falcons (1-3) @ Titans (2-1)
So Atlanta signed Byron Leftwich because....?
Zach's thought: Who knows? Titans

Jaguars (2-1) @ Chiefs (2-2)
This game could set offensive football back by 10 years.
Zach's thought: I can't believe I was smart enough to take Jacksonville.

Cardinals (2-2) @ Rams (0-4)
Four games after signing a 6-year extension, Marc Bulger is benched.
Zach's thought: Looks like trouble for the Rams. Cardinals

Browns (2-2) @ Patriots (4-0)
Fast Fact: The combined record of teams New England has played thus far is a mere 4-12
Zach's thought: Derek has got to be smarter with the ball on the NE 2. Patriots.

Panthers (2-2) @ Saints (0-3)
New Orleans has had a bye to focus on what really has become a must win game against Carolina.
Zach's thought: And I took the Saints for some reason.

Jets (1-3) @ Giants (2-2)
Can I just say the New York team wins this one?
Zach's thought: Uh... no. Giants

Seattle (3-1) @ Pittsburgh (3-1)
Here's hoping the Super Bowl XL rematch provides a better game this time around.
Zach's thought: The AFC's best teams are just better. Steelers.

Lions (3-1) @ Redskins (2-2)
After a huge fourth quarter win last week, Detroit is due for a let-down.
Zach's thought: The Redskins are a great tease, but I was smart enough to pick them.

Dolphins (0-4) @ Texans (2-2)
What the heck was Trent Green thinking when he chose to go to Miami?
Zach's thought: So, the Dolphins are coming in winless to Browns Stadium. Great. Texans.

Buccaneers (3-1) @ Colts (4-0)
Big test to see if Tampa Bay's defense is really back to their old form.
Zach's thought: Does anyone really believe TB is any good?

Chargers (1-3) @ Broncos (2-2)
At the quarter mark of this season, the Sophomore Slump Starter Award goes to Philip Rivers.
Zach's thought: Norv Turner has to be breathing easier tonight. SD

Ravens (2-2) @ 49ers (2-2)
Upset Special: Trent Dilfer gets a small measure of revenge against the team he guided to a Super Bowl win.
Zach's thought: The Ravens may have found an offense worse than them. Ravens.

Bears (1-3) @ Packers (4-0)
If this keeps up, the chants for Kyle Orton will soon start up in Chicago.
Zach's thought: So close to a great week. Packers.

Cowboys (4-0) @ Bills (1-3)
ESPN must be thrilled to broadcast a game that could be over by halftime.
Zach's thought: That's pretty much been every week though, right? Cowboys.


Bengals (1-3)
Is it about time for Marvin Lewis be on the hot seat in the Queen City?

Eagles (1-3)
Ugly stat of week 4 was Donovan McNabb taking 12 sacks

Raiders (2-2)
Oakland won two games total last year.

Vikings (1-3)
Adrian Peterson needs to become a bigger part of the offense.

LAST WEEK: 8-6 Z: 6-8
OVERALL: 41-21 Z: 34-28


Andy Barch Interview: Week 5
Note: This interview was conducted early (very early) Sunday morning.

Zach: Why are the Chargers struggling?

Andy: As I said earlier, Phillip Rivers is GARBAGE. I took some heat for that, and I"m sticking by what I said. He's been garbage this year, he can't prove that he can throw the ball consistently to anybody but LT and Gates. I put the struggles on Rivers, and Norv Turner. He's come in, and he's allowed the inmates to run the asylum. GM A.J. Smith should be fired for allowing this to happen.

Zach: Will the Bears be able to recover once they get healthy?

Andy: Not a chance; their offense is AWFUL. Who knows if they will ever get healthy. IF they lose on Sunday, they'll be 4 games behind the Packers and they won't be able to make up that kind of ground. Their offensive line is good but it has underachieved. Their passing game is a joke and their defense has been on the field way too much. Hence the injuries, and I see that continuing.

Zach: Should Marvin Lewis be getting heat for his team's struggles?

Andy: Yes, because they are losing, and he was expected to bring some defensive expertise to this team. Their defense is A JOKE. He has changed the way people have viewed the Bengals, and they are no longer the laughing stock of the league, but at some point, he has to be accountable to for what happens on the field, and this team can't stop ANYONE. One thing to keep in bad as they've played, they're only two games out of first with two games to play vs. the first place team in their division, I think they're going to be fine. Their bye week comes at a GREAT time.

Zach: Finally, the Browns ... any hope?

Andy: None, as I mentioned at there is no hope whatsoever, even if they do play Brady Quinn, there is NO HOPE. Unless Quinn can gain 70 lbs and play d-line, they have no shot because they can't stop the run. The reason they didn't allow a ton of yards on the ground this past weekend vs the Ravens is because they got ahead early and Brian Billick panicked. That won't happen often with this team, they are just not good at stopping the run and that spells absolute hell when you're trying to win games. This offense is not consistent enough and this defense just can't stop teams from killing the clock.

The Colts last year were the exception, not the rule. Not to mention they have an offense that can overcome that. These guys HAVE TO be better on defense, otherwise, they'll never be looked at as anything more than the laughing stock of the AFC. Their offense is just not consistent enough, if they do what they've done the last few weeks, I'll change my answer, but right now, I just don't see it.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

MLB Playoff Notes, Day 1
Part of me still can't believe the teams in the National League playoffs. None of them were in the playoffs last year, and all have had World Series droughts.

Okay, Arizona won the whole thing in 2001. But that was a while ago. Not as long as the Phillies (last World Series appearance in 1993), the Cubs (1945), and the Rockies (never), but still worth noting.

• I'm actually glad ESPN isn't covering the playoffs, because I doubt most of its talent even knows where Colorado is, let alone be able to name five players on the Rockies.

• It's difficult to say, "no one gave this team a chance" in the National League, because none of these teams (with the slight exception of the Phillies) were on most people's radar for the postseason. Still, the Rockies being in the playoffs, and winning their first game against the Phillies due to pitching, just seems strange. Jeff Francis was great in all but one inning today, when he gave up back-to-back homers to Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell. The bullpen did the rest.

• The more I see of Matt Holliday, the more convinced I am that he's one of the most exciting players in the game, and deserves strong MVP consideration.

• Great baseball announcing in the first game from Joe Simpson and Don Orsillo, who talked almost exclusively about the Phillies and Rockies. They didn't talk about the Yankees, Roger Clemens, or the following Red Sox game. Simpson I particularly like, because he knows his stuff, but doesn't seem to need to be loud. Best of all, no Tim Robbins in the booth.

• The Red Sox-Angels game was not all that exciting, except for Red Sox fans, who saw their team put away the Angels rather early in a 4-0 win. As someone who would take the Indians' C.C. Sabathia for Cy Young (call it a Midwestern bias), I must admit it will be hard for Sabathia to top Beckett's shutout. It's got to be discouraging for the Angels to have their ace, John Lackey, go down so convincingly in Game 1. The series is not over by any means, but it's difficult to beat the Red Sox when Boston gets that kind of pitching.

• Why are so many people picking the Cubs for the World Series? They won 85 games, and are now facing an 0-1 hole against a Diamondbacks team that tied for the most wins in the National League. Plus, Carlos Zambrano pitched great, but the team still lost.

• And wasn't it great to hear Dick Stockton doing baseball game? TBS really impressed me on its first day of playoff coverage.

• As for predictions, well, I am abstaining for a pair of reasons. First, I picked the Padres and Twins to make the World Series last year, and they were bounced in the first round. The second reason is my Indians are in the playoffs this year, so my objectivity is out the window. As it will be tomorrow when I write notes on that game.

Also can be read at Blogcritics.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Erik Cassano talks Tribe
I'm sure most of you have read Erik Cassano's thoughts over at the brilliant .

With the Indians' first postseason appearance since 2001 about to happen, I sent Erik some questions via email about our favorite team's chances.

Z: Erik, despite our concerns logged on our respective blogs over the season, the Indians made the postseason. I actually think this is the most playoff-ready Indians team we have seen in our lifetime. Do you agree?

E: It's hard to top the 1995 club that led the AL in both pitching and hitting. That team had a deep, strong bullpen and the best single-season closer in Indians history. But I would venture to say that having two aces at the front of your rotation, as the current Indians do, compensates for a lot of other weaknesses. Certainly, this team has the best starting pitching of any Indians postseason team since 1954.

Z: What's your top concern about the Indians going into the Yankees series?

E: My prime concern is what is going on in the Tribe's heads. I don't know if it's New York's quick-strike offense, the marquee names, Joe Borowski's epic April 19 meltdown in the Bronx, or the mere fact that it's "The Yankees," but the Indians looked intimidated versus New York this season, and it showed on the scoreboard. Not only did they lose all six games against the Yankees, they were purely outclassed in at least half of them.

That MUST change. We can sit here and dissect pitching matchups, bullpens and lineups, but if the Indians go weak in the knees, none of that will matter, and this series will be over by the end of the weekend.

Z: Joe Borowski has been living on the edge all season. Are you concerned he could cost the Indians big?

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little concerned. Some fans I've talked to have gone so far as to say Eric Wedge should pull Borowski out of the closer's role and replace him with Rafael Betancourt for this series. I wouldn't go that far. Borowski notched 45 saves this year and deserves the chance he's getting to close postseason games. But there is no denying the fact that he is a "guts-and-guile" closer who relies on pitching smarts and the gloves behind him far more than the caliber of the stuff he throws.

There is no way around the fact that Borowski lets runners on base. That would seem to play right into the hands of the Yankees' lineup. However, if we remember Borowski's April implosion in New York, you can bet he sure does. Borowski is a fiery competitor, and I think his April embarrassment will serve as motivation if he finds himself in a save situation in this series.

Z: Any concerns about Fausto Carmona, being he has never been on this stage before?

E: Inexperience is a double-edged sword, especially when you have been pitching the way Carmona has all year. On one hand, you've never experienced the pressure cooker of playoff baseball, so it's natural to get jittery. On the other hand, you've never experienced the pressure cooker of playoff baseball, so maybe you don't know enough to be afraid.

Carmona isn't alone. Betancourt and Rafael Perez are postseason newcomers as well. C.C. Sabathia hasn't pitched in a postseason game since his rookie year of 2001. Paul Byrd is the grizzled October veteran of the pitching staff, last reaching the postseason with the Angels in 2005. Right now, there just isn't a lot to go on with the Tribe's pitching staff and postseason play. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. We'll find out soon enough.

Z: Do you have a prediction for this series?

E: In order to win this series, the Indians are going to need to be up 2-1 after three games. On paper, their best chance is to win the first two at home with Sabathia and Carmona going on normal rest. If the Indians win the first two, Eric Wedge can start Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd in Games 3 and 4 at Yankee Stadium with a clear conscience, knowing that the security blanket of Sabathia in Game 5 at home exists if needed.

If the Indians fall behind 2-1 in the series, suddenly Byrd (who tends to get battered by the Yankees) can't go in Game 4 and Wedge is forced to start Sabathia and Carmona on short rest Monday and Tuesday to try and win the series. The last time an Indians manager tried the short-rest routine in a playoff series, it was Mike Hargrove in 1999, and the result was a disaster that contributed to his firing.

I believe that the Indians' starting pitching is strong enough to win two of the first three, allow Wedge to use Byrd as a sacrifical lamb in Game 4, and get the series back to Cleveland for a deciding game, where Sabathia can start on normal rest and pitch the Indians to the ALCS for the first time since 1998.

Indians in five.

Z: Thanks Erik.