Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Indians Case Study
One-hundred-and-two wins were not enough for the Indians to do what some fans have been waiting 60 years for them to do.

The Indians had a great season, but it didn't mean all that much when they lost a 3 games to 1 series lead to Boston in the ALCS.

Cleveland didn't need a makeover, and it sure did not get one in the offseason. But it's a long road back to the ALCS, and an even longer one to reach the ultimate goal. The Tribe did not do much in the offseason. Kenny Lofton, Christ Gomez and Trot Nixon are gone, but almost everyone else is back.

So, 15 hours before the first pitch of the team's season is scheduled (I've assumed Opening Day would be rained out ever since I heard the Indians were opening at home March 31), I'll look at the players on the roster and run down best case, worst case and what I think will happen.

Casey Blake
Best Case: Blake returns to his 2007 regular season form, improves his average with runners in scoring position, and squeezes out one more productive season with the Indians.

Worst Case: Blake returns to 2005 form, struggles the entire season, and creates a problem at the bottom of the order.

What I expect: Blake is being paid $6 million this year, and I worry about him pressing. I think he will have good spurts and bad spurts, but end up with about 15 homers, 65 RBIs and a .265 batting average. I don't expect him to do well with runners in scoring position, but I think manager Eric Wedge will keep him in positions where he won't be needed to do that.

Asdrubal Cabrera
Best Case: The 22-year old does what he did last fall -- play wonderful defense at second base and get timely hits, all while doing the little things.

Worst Case: Cabrera comes crashing to earth in his second season, as pitchers start to figure him out. Wedge sends him down in May, and Josh Barfield is inserted at second base (remember, this is worst case for Cabrera, not the Indians. I'm a big fan of Barfield).

What I think: Cabrera will slump early, but regain his stroke and play a major role in the Indians playoff push.

Jamey Carroll
Best Case: Carroll gets so few at-bats casual observers forget he's even on the team.

Worst Case: Mike Rouse breaks into Carroll's locker, steals his uniform and plays a game while no one is paying attention.

What I think: Just stay out of the way, Jamey.

Ryan Garko
Best Case: Garko improves his power numbers while maintaining a high batting average. He helps shoulder the load of what becomes a very potent offense.

Worst Case: Wedge starts playing Marte to get at-bats, Garko sits and slumps.

What I think: Look out, Garko's going to have a great year.

Andy Marte
Best Case: Marte finally hits his stride and produces a 25-homer, 90 RBI year. Blake shifts to the outfield to replace the platoon and the youngster regains his fielding prowess.

Worst Case: Marte gets cut when Wedge can't find a way to get him at-bats and he hits below .200 because of it.

What I think: I'm pretty much expecting the worst case here.

Jhonny Peralta
Best Case: Peralta becomes the focused threat the Indians thought they had in 2005. He hits 28 homers, drives in 95 runs and doesn't cause fans to reach for the Pempto every time a grounder is hit to short.

Worst Case: Peralta starts giving quotes like "we still have time to turn it around," Wedge claims his increasing errors are because more balls are hit his direction, and people start talking about moving Cabrera to short and Barfield to second.

What I expect: Peralta has a decent, but not outstanding year. The Indians finally pull the trigger on a trade after the season, and Cabrera-Barfield becomes the infield of the future.

Travis Hafner
Best Case: Travis finds his 2004-2006 groove, when he was one of the most fearsome hitters in the American League.

Worst Case: Two-thousand-seven repeats itself, only with less homers and RBIs. Hafner struggles with elbow injuries and some wonder if he's breaking down at 31.

What I expect: Hafner hits 30 homers, but stays in the .270s. I fear his .300 days are over, but he has a productive season, driving in 110 runs.

David Dellucci
Best Case: The veteran shakes of a rotten spring, and hits 15 homers, settling in to a productive platoon with Jason Michaels.

Worst Case: Dellucci is actually older than Trot Nixon. I don't think I have to go much further on that point.

What I think: Dellucci gets injured, Shin Soo Choo takes his place, and produces the type of season fans are hoping for.

Franklin Gutierrez
Best Case: Gutierrez becomes more consistent at the plate, hits 20 homers and becomes a perfect compliment to Grady Sizemore in the outfield.

Worst Case: Gutierrez continues to run hot and cold, to the point where he finds himself either back in a platoon or on the bench.

What I expect: Gutierrez had two great months last season, but struggled offensively the rest of the time he was up. I look for him to be streaky, but hit enough to maintain his starting job.

Jason Michaels
Best Case: See the Dellucci entry, subtract seven homers from the best case scenerio.

Worst Case: Michaels feels the heat from Ben Francisco, and eventually surrenders his spot to him.

What I expect: I have never been too high on Michaels, who seems to be better suited for the National League. Wedge is very patient, so look for Jason to gets lots of opportunities, even if he struggles.

Grady Sizemore
Best Case: He becomes an MVP candidate so many in the media think he will turn into. He hits 25 homers, steals 30 bases and drives in 100.

Worst Case: I don't care what anyone says, Hafner and Sizemore underproduced last year. It's hard to imagine Sizemore having a bad season. Worst case is an injury. But beyond that, if he doesn't cut down on the strikeouts and start making more contact, he will cause the Indians to shuffle the lineup, and that could make things difficult.

What I expect: Sizemore will not be an MVP, but he will make enough Sports Center catches that he'll convince everyone he's a star, even though he's a notch below that right now.

Victor Martinez
Best Case: The Indians' leader continues to evolve into one of the best catchers in the game, and one of its most feared hitters.

Worst Case: An injury is the only way Victor won't continue to bash the ball.

What I expect: They can talk about Sizemore, Pronk and even Casey Blake, but this guy is the best non-pitcher on the team, and he continues his sizzling play.

Kelly Shoppach
Best Case: Shoppach gets so much better at the plate that the Indians figure out new ways to get him in the lineup.

Worst Case: The most exciting thing he does all year comes when he runs to first base after a walk.

What I expect: He's a fine backup catcher, and I expect him to produce like he did last year.

Rafael Betancourt
Best Case: Just get me a copy machine and I'll put 2007 in it.

Worst Case: The fickle finger of bullpen luck strikes Betancourt, as he struggles to stay healthy and keep his earned run average under 4.

What I expect: So few relievers dominate like Betancourt did last season. Even fewer can do it in back-to-back years. Betancourt will be decent, and may get a shot to close if Borowski implodes one time too many.

Joe Borowski
Best Case: Borowski sqeezes out one more good year, but not before sending Indians fans everywhere into fits of frustration usually reserved for drunken gamblers.

Worst Case: Joe Bo becomes Joe Blow, and is designated for assignment.

What I expect: I don't think Borowski stays in the closer job past June.

Craig Breslow
Best Case: His ERA stays way below his IQ.

Worst Case: Breslow ends up putting his Yale education to use and becomes a best-selling author -- by July.

What I expect: I had never even heard of this guy until last week. Who knows?

Paul Byrd
Best Case: He puts the HGH mess behind him and churns out another decent year.

Worst Case: Poor play raises questions, and so do reporters as they continue to pick away at his version of the HGH story.

What I expect: I find Byrd's HGH story highly questionable. I also wonder if this will be the year age and injuries catch up to him.

Fausto Carmona
Best Case: He continues to befuddle hitters all the way to the World Series and a Cy Young Award.

Worst Case: Carmona starts seeing Boston hitters in his sleep, and falls way off last year's pace.

What I expect: Fausto makes adjustments and keeps mowing down hitters.

Jorge Julio
Best Case: Doesn't seem like a whole lot of upside here. If Julio remains on the roster the whole season, that would be not only surprising, but a best case scenerio.

Worst Case: Scott Elarton is on a bus back to Cleveland at this time next week.

What I expect: Not much. I honestly expect Julio's name to be on a "designated for assignment" list before May.

Masahide Kobayashi
Best Case: The Japanese star becomes a consistent force from the pen.

Worst Case: He adjusts to American life -- in Buffalo.

What I expect: Kobayashi starts strong, the struggles when hitters get used to him. But he gets called on by Wedge to bridge the seventh and eighth innings all season.

Cliff Lee
Best Case: Cliff keeps the fifth starter role and wins around 16 games, while keeping his ERA under 4.

Worst Case: Lee not only gets sent down to the minors, but gets into a fight with Victor Martinez again. I put my money on Victor.

What I expect: Lee struggles and the Indians trade him to a team desperate for starting pitching.

Jensen Lewis
Best Case: He becomes a staple in middle relief, keeping his earned run average under 3.

Worst Case: Jensen turns into Jeremy Sowers, and returns to AAA.

What I expect: This is a tough one. I love Lewis' fire, and don't expect him to lose confidence. At the same time, I don't see him being quite as effective as he was last year.

Rafael Perez
Best Case: Perez pitches the way he did in the playoffs against the Yankees.

Worst Case: Perez pitches the way he did in the playoffs against the Red Sox.

What I expect: A lot like Betancourt. Solid, if not as spectacular as 2007.

C.C. Sabathia
Best Case: Sabathia's holding a World Series trophy this October -- with the Indians.

Worst Case: Sabathia's holding a World Series trophy this October -- with the Red Sox.

What I expect: C.C's been one of the most consistent starters in the game the last five years. I expect him to be great again. But if the players around him are not, the Indians will need to explore dealing him, because he is not coming back next year.

Jake Westbrook
Best Case: Jake pitches really well, gets run support, and wins 15 games.

Worst Case: Jake pitches decent, gets no run support, and loses 15 games.

What I expect: Something between column A and column B.

The Indians
Best Case: The pitching is so strong that the Indians pull away in the Central Division, then mow down everyone in their way for their first World Series title in 60 years.

Worst Case: The Indians get lazy, stop listening to their manager, assume a winning streak is just around the corner, and lose 85 games.

What I expect: The Indians had it all set up last October. They were a game away from the World Series and had their three best starters (and two of the best starters in the league) going. They needed one dominant effort; they got none.

Everything fell into place for the Indians in the second half of last season, until that final weekend. Cleveland will be good, but Detroit (and maybe Chicago) will be better.

The Indians win 83 games and miss the playoffs.


Making up for a nine day break
The most disturbing thing I've read all week is that my favorite writer, Christopher Hitchens, has given up smoking. I'm a lifelong non-smoker and pester all my friends who do it to quit.

But Hitch giving up smoking is like taking the cape off of Superman. Still, the news is good, since it will allow Hitchens to probably live longer, and thus keep producing great work for years and years to come.

- If CBS is doing a big game, I don't care what the sport is -- I want Gus Johnson announcing. He's a guy who gets it. He loves his job, he's enthusiastic, and he seems genuine.

- The Indians season starts tomorrow. I'm not all that confident this season, but I rarely have been since the Indians rebuilt.

- I miss Harold Reynolds.

- Hillary Clinton chooses dishonesty over honesty so many times that it's difficult to believe anything she says. Her husband got away with it. To this point, she has not.

- Are the Cavaliers ever going to be healthy? Will they ever win again?

- I promise to go easy on Casey Blake this year. If the Indians miss the playoffs, he won't be the reason.

- Watching the finish to Davidson-Kansas as I watch this. Gus Johnson sets up the moment perfectly. I'm just hoping Davidson gets a shot off. Kansas leads 59-57 with 16.8 seconds left. Stephon Curry needs the ball. Davidson gets a 3, and it misses. Great run.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Tournament Update
Hey, a men's team from Bowling Green won a tournament game! Romeo Crennel's got to be happy.


About a week ago, I wrote that I thought Barack Obama should speak to the American people to try to diffuse the situation with Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Obama did this. I'm not sure the speech was as great as some are saying, and I'm not sure if it eased any of the concerns middle-of-the-road voters may have.

But I can certainly sympathize with the senator's plight. We all have people in our lives who say and do things that we don't agree with (for many of my family and friends, I am this person). But if this person is a family member or close to it, we don't shun them, and in fact still love them.

People are using Obama's close connection to Wright to raise questions about Obama's character.

But what would it say about the senator if he completley separated himself from someone so close to him?

I'm not defending what Wright said, and I'm not someone enamored with Obama. But I think we need to take a tolerant view of the senator's situation.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

When the men's tournament happens, there usually aren't too many things for me to pull for. Bowling Green is a ways away from making a run. Ohio State rarely made the tournament when I was younger, and it is out this season.

So aside from following my bracket and cheering for teams that way, here's a list of how I follow the tournament.

- Ohio teams get rooting preference, regardless of what my bracket says. So my two favorite teams in this year's tournament are Xavier and Kent State. Xavier won today, though it took some work on its part to overcome No. 14 Georgia. The Golden Flashes are losing to UNLV as I write this, but it's very early.

-MAC teams are also preferable. Usually there is only one (Kent State this year), but graduating from a MAC school, I want the team to do well, no matter which one it is. I'm still under the dillusion that a good run by one of the teams in the tournament will give the conference a better chance at at-large bids in the future. Of course, it never happens, but you have to keep hoping.

- Mid-Majors are easy to pull for, since I relate to them being a MAC student. George Mason struck a blow for all of us a few years ago.

- Underdogs getting wins is always what stands out. So I pull for that too. Northwestern State, anyone?

You kind of knew it was going downhill for Kent State when it managed six points in the first 16 minutes of play. Ugh.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Indians have an interesting case going on in the outfield. It's essentially a question of youth versus experience, the steady production against the risk of a breakout player.

The Indians have played this game before. In fact, they did it last year, waiting forever to drop Trot Nixon from the lineup and go with Franklin Gutierrez.

This season, the Indians have a pair of decent veteran outfielders and a younger guy ready to jump in.

Jason Michaels and David Dellucci will give production. Michaels will play well against lefties. Last season the 31-year old hit .270 with seven homers and 39 RBIs. He'll never be a full-time contributor (he's never played more than 123 games in a season), but he does have value.

Dellucci is harder to gauge, if only because he missed most of last season due to injury. The left-handed batter managed just a .230 average in 56 games. Like Michaels, Dellucci has rarely been a full time player. He's 34 and after a pair of solid seasons (he hit 29 homers with the Rangers in 2006 and 13 with the Phillies in '07), the Indians have to wonder what he has left. Dellucci is older than Nixon, after all.

Which brings us to Ben Francisco. No longer a fresh-faced kid (he turns 27 later this year), the outfielder has shown an ability to dominate the AAA level. This may be his last shot to prove he can make it in the big leagues, before scouts, coaches and general managers toss him in the dreaded "AAAA" category.

Francisco was solid in his time in Cleveland, hitting .274 with three homers in 62 at-bats. But he also struck out 19 times.

There's a part of me that wants to see Francisco out there, since I think he could top Michaels' and Dullucci's production if given the chance.

But Indians manager Eric Wedge always seems a little reluctant to give up on veterans with track records. I expect we'll see Francisco in Cleveland this season, but only after Michaels or Dellucci either gets hurt or struggles.

And that's not a bad thing, even if it could lead to some frustrating games early on.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Gary Hart dies
Wrestling manager and booker Gary Hart has died, according to the Wrestling Observer's website.

My interest in wrestling began in about 1991, a few years after Hart was on the national scene. But he made major appearances in two of this year's documentaries on World Class Championship Wrestling, the vehicle that featured the legendary and tragic Von Erich family.

In my opinion, Hart gave the best and honest interviews on the documentaries, the independent (and I think superior) Heroes of World Class and WWE's Triumph and Tragedy.

Hart also worked in the NWA in the late 1980s, managing heels such as Terry Funk.

Hart was 66.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hart.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Browns impoving?
Don Banks at says so. He said the Browns have improved themselves from a 10-6 team to a 12-4 team. I'm getting chills.


10 questions I'm looking forward to hearing this baseball season

This is a list that has little to do with the play on the field. The best drama the sport has created over the last five years has been found in the courtroom, not the diamond. With that in mind:

1. What new phrases Bud Selig will come up with to explain the steroid issue?: Selig has used phrases like "sensitive issue" in the past. He's was also stuck on the word "eradicate," saying he was "not going to rest" until the league got steroids out of the sport. He must be tired. A few months ago, he used the term "meaningful strides" to describe the game's progress. He's not going away anytime soon, so I might as well enjoy his interesting perspective on the past and future, even if I won't do so in a way he would likely appreciate.

2. How many times will Richard Justice try to convince me Bud Selig is the greatest commissioner the sport has ever had?: I like Richard as a writer and reporter, but his almost hero-worship of Selig is hard to accept.

It ended up being a great vent piece for me, as I laid out a counter argument. The article later showed up on the Sporting News site. I read it again and still was toubled by it. But this is an issue I'll just have to agree to disagree with him on. And because the issue with Clemens and Bonds won't go away, I wonder if the the topic will come up again.

3. What team will create a media firestorm by asking about Barry Bonds?: Seriously, if Tampa Bay can get media coverage, imagine what happens when a relevant team calls?

4. Speaking of which, has there ever been a better case for contraction than the Devi-- wait ... Rays? Just Rays. For god's sake. The name alone means they'll lose at least 90 games this year.

5. How many days until one of the ESPN announcers asks if A-Rod is a true Yankee?: This was beaten to death last season. As long as he's wearing the uniform and on the roster, I'd say that's a damn good sign.

6. What will be the number of times Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro says the word "market" when discussing potential moves? Of course, it will be harder this year after the Browns went on a spending binge and the Cavs have the third highest payroll in the NBA. Mark should just speak the truth: The Indians can't get big stars because the fans don't buy enough tickets.

7. Who wins in a battle between Reds manager Dusty Baker and Reds' announcer and Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman?: It's true, the two aren't arguing yet, but Brennaman's penchant for telling it the way he sees it will probably irritate the Reds manager at some point, especially when the season goes downhill. And it will. Remember Steve Stone?

8. What is the most annoying thing about the Red Sox?: I think they have officially surpassed the Yankees as far as the team I hate most. And I still hate the Yankees. But last year's World Series title put me over the edge.

9. How many times will we hear about what a great guy Andy Pettitte is?: Everyone loved Pettitte for telling the truth. Some even called him a role model. But while the confessed cheater pitches to praise, the clean players play on. Maybe one of them will admit steroid use, just so they can get the positive press.

10. How will the Indians screw it up this year?: Sixty years and counting. It's nothing major in the grand scheme of life. But after watching this team, you just start to wonder what will keep the team from a title. It's always something. People have every reason to be positive about the Indians, but I'm a little shy to get on board. 3-to-1 vs. Boston with an ace on the hill and the Rockies waiting. If you can't get it done then, when?


The Wright story is not going away
There is a great deal to like about Sen. Barack Obama. For my part, I believe him to be a good and honest man. My political beliefs are different than his, but he has had a favorable impact on me overall.

But Obama is digging himself a hole in the story about Jeremiah Wright, the pastor at Obama's church who went off on a bizarre rant in December.

Obama did respond to the tape of Wright yesterday, but I fear it may end up doing more harm than good. First of all, a man running as a uniter should not make his statement on Huffington Post, a blog that is the namesake of conservative-turned nutjob-running-for-California-Governor-then-campaigning-against-the-recall Arianna Huffington.

If Obama is reaching out to people concerned about his standing with moderate Americans, this is not the place to start. It's the equivalent of John McCain responding to a situation on Rush Limbaugh's show (Yes, I know those two are at odds, but I'd like to think Obama and Huffington are at odds on main points too).

Obama's response was almost vague. He made what was a clever remark, when he wrote that:

All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn.

Notice how he doesn't say which statements offended him directly. He doesn't condemn the whole rant, just the parts that caused contoversy. But different parts offended different people.

The semi-blanket denouncement doesn't work for this reason. Basically, by being vague, Obama is hurting himself, because there are people who want to see him come out strong against the statements.

The carefully-worded response comes across, to me at least, as not strong enough.

Obama should have talked to the people directly in a press conference, instead of posting on a blog with left-leanings that most aren't even aware of.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Obama and Mr. Wright
In many ways, Barack Obama's association with this idiot is no different than other candidates' ties to the late Jerry Fallwell and the (still-living) Pat Robertson.

But Obama still needs to come out and explain his ties to Jeremiah Wright and condemn the latter's recent rant.

If he does not, I'd imagine Hillary Clinton's campaign will play the video of Wright's speech over and over again.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In defense of Geraldine Ferraro
Geraldine Ferraro's claim to fame coming into this week was her spot on the Walter Mondale's ill-fated presidential ticket in 1984.

In fact, I hadn't even see Ferraro on television since a Behind The Music episode many years ago.

She's a supporter of Hillary Clinton, which, right away, puts her at odds with my political beliefs. And, oddly, the more I see of Barack Obama, the more comfortable I am with him and his campaign. That's not to say I'll vote for him, but I'm more comfortable with him than his Democratic opponent.

But that said, I don't see what's so wrong about someone giving her honest opinion. I don't think anyone seriously believes Ferraro is racist. So what is the big deal? A lot of people feel that way about Obama, they just haven't said it.

Quite frankly, I was pleased to hear someone's honest answer during this campaign rather than the usual politically-correct sentences that are designed to do nothing more than not piss anyone off.

And personally, I don't agree with Ferraro. I think Obama represents something new, but I don't think his appeal is about skin color. I think his youth and charisma have more to do with his it than his race. But he's also connected on deeper levels.

But Ferraro shouldn't have to apologize for saying what she thinks. I have never understood that about our society. Why ask for an apology when we know the person isn't sorry.

But I don't think she has any reason to be.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Shuffling the Ipod
Five Songs at Random

1. Michelle -- The Beatles
This song has double meaning for me. One is a private memory, about a girl I once knew who inevitably returns to mind when the song plays. The other memory is from my time in a jazz choir some nine years ago. I loved to sing, and still do. But I was singing vocal jazz, which I think I can admit now I never liked much. The premise to me seemed to be to take great rock songs and strip them of authenticity. The music I have always responded to was the kind that was written and sang with genuine emotion. But in vocal jazz, we were singing this great somber track from Rubber Soul with painted on grins. I hated that.

2. Captain Soul -- The Byrds
This is the instrumental track, a glorified jam session that the Byrds released as a single. There's little doubt the Byrds were strong musicians, so the track isn't a throwaway. Still, the Byrds strongest attribute (to me, at least) was the vocal work they did. The harmonies on a Pete Seeger or Bob Dylan song added dimension and helped spur on a movement. There's none of that here.

3. Indiana Wants Me --R. Dean Taylor
Ah, a track from the Time Life collection I bought almost entirely because it had Dobie Gray's Drift Away on it. This is a pretty good track, though I could do without the overdubbed siren and commotion. But it's catchy and not unlike some of the four-chord songs I'd put together some 30 years later. This is only the second song I can think of with Indiana in the title. The other is a song I heard at a concert by a band I have since forgotten. But the song remains.

4. Drift Away --Dobie Gray
Speak of the devil. I'd put this song up there with Charlie Rich's Behind Closed Doors as one of the best recordings of the 1970s. Gray's voice was perfect for the song, which stretches into country and pop. The soulful sound of the voice, meshed with some fine orchestra mixing, make the simple song epic, but unforced. The closing, with Gray singing to only percussion and bass, make the song work on yet another level. Basically, I could listen to this song all day. It's a brilliant performance.

5. Here, There and Everywhere -- The Beatles
Revolver is considered by many to be the best Beatles album. I think there are superior albums by the group. But this may be the best song Paul McCartney ever wrote, and that covers a ton of ground. But it's simple and beautiful, with wonderful vocal harmonies. The song wouldn't work today, because they would try to overdo it. But that was the genius of George Martin -- knowing when to get elaborate, and when to stay simple. Just fantastic.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Stephen A. Smith's rants of wisdom
From Hammond, who posted it from YouTube.

Keep 'em coming.

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There is a lot that will be written in the coming days about the trip to Kentucky, in what I can only describe as the worst trip in years.

But driving along with my friend Jason Aldrich from Tiffin to Danville had one period that stood out -- the drive through and around Cincinnati.

It was there that I first heard that Bengals' player Chad Johnson threw a punch at coach Marvin Lewis at halftime of a playoff game in 2006.

Apparently, this rumor has been floating around since the Divisional Playoff loss to the Steelers. Not living in Cincinnati, I had never heard of it.

But the story broke thanks to Cleveland Brown Shaun Smith, who played for Cincinnati at the time. Apparently, Smith was addressing a Browns Backers gathering in Maryland (Browns fans are everywhere), and was asked what happened in the game against the Steelers.

Smith matter-of-factly said the rumors of Johnson swinging at Marvin Lewis (and receivers coach Hue Jackson, now with the Ravens) were true.

Not surprisingly, this was huge news over in the Queen City, where talk show hosts talked about little else (except the weather, of course) for two days.

I was surprised the story didn't gain more traction nationally, since the idea of a player-head coach altercation would be big news. Then again,

- Maybe reporters don't believe Smith,


- Since it happened more than two years ago, it's old news.

Cincinnati hosts pointed out that (at least as of Saturday), the Bengals didn't deny the altercation or Smith's version of events, only saying "no comment," which, in journalism talk, is often code for "it's true, but I'll be damned if I get pinned for it."

As for me, I tend to believe Smith's account, if only because if you listen to the recording, his tone is relaxed. He didn't try to fire up the fans or make them laugh. He just answered the question, in the same way as if someone asked him what he had for dinner the night before.

Still, I don't know for sure. Only Bengals players and coaches know, and to this point, only Smith has talked.

But if it is true, I'm shocked Lewis wouldn't have told Johnson to take off his uniform, then have security escort him from the building. I won't rip Lewis at this point, because if it didn't happen, he has nothing to defend.

But if it is true, maybe it explains why the Bengals have so many off-the-field issues. There may be no one to answer to.


It's an honor just to be reading nominations
Andy Barch found a way to use me and John Holmes in the same sentence. For the first "Piggie Awards" put on by Pigskin Podcast (and to hear my voice) click here.

In the meantime, I'm still shaking the ice off after my trip to Kentucky. Back with more later.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dennis wins primary
Voters in Ohio's 10th district are destined to get the congressman they deserve. Well, not all of the voters. Fifty-percent voted for a different Democrat.

But the real question of the election was if the majority of Democratic voters would turn a blind eye to the fact that Kucinich has essentially ignored them for six years, while living it up with people like Sean Penn.

Kucinich is a national joke. One would think responsible voters would conclude any candidate would do better. That is, represent them, rather than a pair of ridiculous pipe dreams.

One would have thought now was the time to stand up to Kucinich's absentee leadership, but apparently it isn't.

If not now, when?


Sunday, March 02, 2008

JACK supports Hillary in a new ad
I think Jack Nicholson is an amazing actor and one of the coolest people alive. And this commercial, for what it was, was clever enough.

Of course, it didn't take long for Obama supporters to respond. And while I'm not a huge fan of Barack Obama's politics, I have to admit the parody his people put out is funnier.

Of course, if Jack's position on anything makes you decide how to vote, do the country a favor and stay home Tuesday. You keep thinking Hollywood types would eventually come to the realization that their endorsements mean nothing. But they keep coming back with their causes and attempts at influence.

And still, nobody cares. Which is another reason to love this country.

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The Traveling Wilburies
It's been 20 years since the super group that wanted to be anything but was created.

The group consisted of five members: George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison.

They produced two albums, but only the first is worth getting. The second (called Volume 3) was produced after the death of Orbison. Maybe that's the reason it wasn't any good.

Either way, listening to the album over and over again over the last 20 years has allowed me to recite all the lyrics from memory and wonder what it all meant.

But listening to the first album is sadder now. Harrison is dead. There has been talk that this year's summer tour will be Petty's last.

And then there is Orbison, who was on his way to a career revival before his death. What's remarkable about Orbison is that, even at 50, he had the range of a man 30 years younger. His final album -- Mystery Girl -- was a triumph I couldn't appreciate until I was older. In much the same way, I'm more and more convinced now that the best song on the first Wilburies' album is Not Alone Anymore, the only song in which Orbison had lead vocal to himself.

The song displayed Orbison's passion and range, and again, makes me wonder what he would have done had he lived longer.

Just something to think about as the Wilburies play in the background.


Andy Barch Interview

Another interview with Pigskin Podcast's Andy Barch:

Z: First off, what's going on with Randy Moss?

AB: That's a great question. I'm shocked that he's actually called Daunte Culpepper. to try and ignite the fire for a reunion, has he seen D.C. the last few years? The guy couldnt take the starting job from Josh McCown in Oakland last year, yet Moss still wants the two to hook up again? I'm more amazed that New England didn't slap the franchise tag on him. What the hell are they thinking? The guy caught nearly half Brady's TD passes last year, and a lot of the ones he didn't catch, were a product of his influence early on by drawing double teams and occupying space/attention. Brady will throw no more than 25 tds next year if they dont have Moss. The Pats know that, therefore, I can't see him leaving New England.

Z: Is there at all a sense in New England that he isn't worth it?

AB: There can't be, there simply can't be. They've lost Stallworth, they cannot afford to lose Moss also. Wes Welker is a good receiver, but he had a great season because of Moss. if Welker is all they have next season, that passing game is really going to suffer. I cant imagine them losing Moss and Samuel this offseason. He caught 22 tds, thats un-friggin real, that franchise (as much as I hate them) is too smart to think he's not worth it

Z: Best free agent signing?

AB: Alan Faneca going to the Jets was huge, they were a mess in the trenches last year. I don't know how many great years he has left, but that will help them in the running game, and give them some kind of identity on offense........two other biggies come to mind: Alge Crumpler going to the Titans was huge because it gives Vince Young a big target and a great checkdown option. Asante Samuel going to the Eagles gives them more depth in that secondary, and its a position that certainly needs some help.

Z: What has been the biggest surprise though
AB: The Bears have been surprising because they re-signed Grossman, they also re-signed Lance Briggs after I thought he was out for sure. The Jaguars have been VERY surprisingly active by getting Jerry Porter (who could be a big time fantasy sleeper next year) and getting Drayton Florence who could be a HUGE help to their secondary. Cincinnati's inactivity has also been surprising.

Z: One last question: What's up with the Raiders and Lane Kiffin?

AB: You'd think a franchise like the Raiders, which has such a rich, historic and barbaric tradition would get tired of being the laughing stock of the NFL. These guys go through coaches as often as Britney Spears goes through the drive through.

Al Davis has officially lost his mind, why in the world he thinks a coach like Kiffin can instantly change a franchise that's been in shambles for the last five years, in just a years time is beyond me.

Somebody needs to tell Al that its time to step aside before Raider nation revolts.

If they haven't gotten rid of Kiffin by now, its not going to happen. If you really want a guy out, you dont write up a letter of resignation, you fire him. It's March 3, you can't fire a guy this deep into the off season. It's hard enough to get guys to play in the black hole as it is, if you start another head coaching search at this stage, you will make it IMPOSSIBLE to land any free agents. Whomever they draft first will make JaMarcus Russell's holdout from '07 seem like a routine trip to the quicki-mart.


I was going to write a one-act play in which I return to my apartment at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night, only to be confronted by this blog.

Vitamin Z would be wondering why I have been spending so much time at work, and fearing that I am cheating on it with my work blog.

But if I went any further, it'd just get creepy.

This week's work blogs have primarily been about the team I have covered for three years, and the frustration of not getting to cover it when it really does something special. I'm sure every journalist can relate to this emotion.

There's no tying in baseball.

Mike Hargrove: We played for 19 innings on our home opener in Cleveland Stadium in 1992. And that was when I knew we were gonna be horrible, and the stadium was falling apart and it was cold outside. But did we tie?

Eric Wedge: (Crying) No ... no.

Mike Hargrove: And you know why?

Wedge: No ... no.

Hargrove: Because there is no tying in baseball. There is no tying in baseball!


I will be presenting an award at The Piggies next week. Seriously, where is Pigskin Podcast getting those guests from?

They've been at it a few weeks and they get Paul Keels? I've been doing this four years and the best I can do is get my brother to cover for me when I go to Los Angeles.

The Browns brought back Derek Anderson. You just can't get rid of a 24-year old who threw 29 touchdowns. As for the other moves:

Love it.

Love it.

Will wait and see.

Now let's check out what my friends are saying:

Hammond is going back and forth about the genius of Phil Savage.

Erik is digesting the Quinn-Anderson situation.

Suss wrote about the chance of a BG upset of the nationally-ranked Kent State men, which as it turned out happened.

Beh. I can't keep up this pace. Good night.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Blog turns 4
Four years ago, this blog started because I was bored at work. It's been through a job change, a presidential election, LeBron James' playoff pushes, four Indians' seasons, and the roller coaster of the Cleveland Browns.

What lies ahead? Who knows. But hopefully, we are closer to the beginning than the end of the experiment.