Nothing is Given. Everything is Earned.

One person's take on the news and events shaping the professional sports teams in Cleveland

Jason Kipnis Misses the Point of Fan Frustration

I get where Jason is coming from, as I can only imagine the amount of Tweets he is getting a day about this season, especially the last couple weeks. The issue is deeper than there being 1) underachievers; 2) not playing well; 3) no one being hot; and 4) no real mashers.

Kluber has been hot basically all year. This team, whether it be the offense or bullpen hasn’t got him nearly the amount of wins he should have. Brantley has been dependable all year as well. Lately, Carlos Carrasco comes to mind as having some pretty hot starts, but still taking a few losses because of insufficient run support or the bullpen blowing a game. This team has had clutch performances by players only to see another player choke it away. Having some hot players doesn’t fix anything.

As far as underachieving… Players are only “underachieving” because of the contracts they were given. I’ll be the first to admit I loved the signings of Bourn and Swisher when they happened - but those have got to go down as two of the worst free agent signings from that year by far. Jason himself has admitted he was not performing up to his contract extension. Those things are going to happen and while it certainly angers fans, it’s no where near my biggest issue - and I doubt the biggest issue for fans in general.

My biggest issue is the focus of the team. You don’t lead MLB in errors and then get to go on Twitter and act like the fans should be happy you’re still in it. Jason claims I should want a team of overachievers - but if this team is overachieving by leading MLB in errors, then I’m scared to think what could be. Since game one of the regular season the fundamentals of baseball have been the worst areas of the Cleveland Indians. At some point you would think there could be improvement, but there hasn’t been. I’m not sure if that’s on the coaches or the players, likely a mixture of the two. A league can be so bad that you could still be in the hunt for the playoffs even with an awful record. Being in playoff contention is not the type of overachieving one should be proud of. Making it to the playoffs and actually winning some games is a good starting point for that.

Unfortunately, anyone who has watched the Indians these past two weeks knows they aren’t actually in the playoff hunt. Technically, numbers wise - yeah, they’re in it. It’s not going to amount to anything though, there’s not enough consistency there. I understand there is an argument that a lot of players are playing out of position. That’s fine. I’ll go right back to the manager and the GM for allowing that to happen then. Every time the Indians face a left handed pitcher I see some of the worst defense ever, because the ideal starting lineup is so left handed heavy that backup players are assured to be trying to play a position they are not familiar with and in the starting lineup.

The other issue I have with this team, more so the franchise in general, is that I know Kluber is only going to be here for another couple of years or so before we trade him away for some prospects so the next rebuilding project can begin. The history of this franchise shows that is the only way this is going. No way the cheap Indians are going to pony up the cash to keep an ace on the pitching staff, it just doesn’t happen. Trevor Bauer would ideally step in at some point, but he is unfortunately the definition of inconsistent right now. He will show ace potential for 8 innings, but it’s that 1 inning where he gave up 6 runs that made you lose the game. 

So… Knowing our best pitcher will be gone when his contract is coming to an end let’s look at the players the Indians got back for trading away CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee… Carrasco is the only player remaining from the Cliff Lee trade while Michael Brantley is the only one remaining from the Sabathia trade. Both have turned into good players this year, Michael an All-Star, but when you’re trading away a CY Young Award winner the return should be greater. Is it poor scouting, poor negotiation, a mix of the two… I don’t know. Whatever it is, hopefully it is solved before the next roster purge.

2014 Browns Season Preview

The Cleveland Browns open the 2014 season today in Pittsburgh with a new GM, new coaching staff, and an ever optimistic fan base. If the preseason was a sign of what to expect in the regular season I’d be predicting 0-16 with the possibility of getting one win versus Buffalo.The regular season is not the preseason - but I simply cannot ignore the way this team has looked the past month. Thus, my prediction is that the Browns finish this season 6-10.

There is absolutely no doubt the Browns are going to be relying on their offensive lines to open holes for the running backs in an attempt to move the chains and control the pace of the game. It’s indisputable that the way the roster is currently set (no Josh Gordon due to suspension) there are zero weapons at the WR position. Andrew Hawkins has been a hyped up free agent signing, but he comes with multiple limitations and injury concerns given his size. The one bright spot in the passing game is Jordan Cameron, unfortunately every defense knows this as well and can game plan around minimizing his touches.This leaves the bulk of the work to fall onto Ben Tate, who has injury concerns of his own. I loved the signing at the time and I still do, but when you minimize the passing game and allow defense to put more men in the box you’re in for a losing battle. Where does that leave Brian Hoyer? Game manager. He may be capable of so much more, but we won’t get to find that out the way the roster is currently constructed. What the Browns need is him to make smart decisions and not let the game get out of hand. Accurate passes will be key to at least keep defenses honest, otherwise Manziel mania may take over sooner rather than later.

Where we may see vast improvement is on the defensive end. Mike Pettine lead an impressive Buffalo Bills defense last year and likes to create pressure on the QB. One of the reasons the Browns drafted Justin Gilbert is because the plan is likely to involve a lot of man-to-man coverage while the front creates pressure. Whitner will be replacing TJ Ward while Dansby replaces Jackson. If we get the Jackson of last year I see that as an improvement, while I am not sold Whitner over Ward is as large of one. I expect Whitner to be better in coverage than TJ was, but TJ was great at stopping the run. The one thing that is undeniable about the acquisition of these two is that them, together with Haden, provide strong veteran leadership to a defensive unit that never seemed to make a key stop in the fourth quarter when it was needed most. I would not be surprised to see this defense win us a game or two as opposed to costing us a game or two like last year.

In the end it finally seems like the Browns are somewhat on the right path. With questions at QB, limited offensive talent, and a young secondary outside of Haden this probably isn’t the year they take that next jump. With some continuity, consistency, and an answer to the ever revolving door at QB the Browns are poised to make some noise in the AFC North… Unfortunately it will probably take the Bills pick next year with ours to reach the desired goals of the Browns franchise and all their fans.

Might be time for someone from the Indians PR department to step in… Also, advice for Jason: If you want help offer free tickets to a home Cavs game instead of Indians game. Much more interest there.

Might be time for someone from the Indians PR department to step in… Also, advice for Jason: If you want help offer free tickets to a home Cavs game instead of Indians game. Much more interest there.

Maybe it was an errant throw by Carlos Santana or Roberto Perez?

Wiggins Out… Love In.

The worst kept “secret” in the NBA was able to become official today, and it did. Kevin Love has been traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In exchange the Cavaliers have traded away Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins - the #1 picks of 2013 and 2014, respectively - along with the Miami Heat’s first round pick of 2015. If the Cavs weren’t already in “win-now” mode, they certainly are now.

Do I agree with the trade? No. I can’t sit here and knock it though. For all we know this exact scenario (bringing Love to Cleveland) is what led LeBron to come back home. If that’s the case then I can’t fault anyone for making this trade. The fact of the matter is Love wanted out of Minnesota and getting Wiggins and Bennett is a huge haul under such circumstances. The only thing I, and fellow Cavs fans, can hope for is that Love does indeed resign a longer contract with the Cavs, otherwise I don’t see how you give up two number one picks for a one year rental. The rumor is indeed out there that Love has agreed to such an arrangement, but no one will officially say anything in that regard until the time comes.

All that said… The Cavaliers just landed one of, if not, the best power forwards in the game. I believe his stats are inflated dominating for an awful team, but I don’t expect as big as a fall off as Chris Bosh saw when he went to Miami from Toronto. If you would have told me Kyrie Irving would be the third best player on the Cleveland Cavaliers after he signed his max extension I would have thought you were crazy and sought an immediate wager. Clearly I would have lost any such wager. The only person more excited than Cavs fans today is probably David Blatt.

There were legitimate rumblings that Blatt was being told to take the Warriors assistant coach job instead of the Cavaliers head coaching job. Blatt chose the Cavaliers, so that all may have been speculation - but could you imagine what his reaction would have been like after today if someone else had taken this job and he turned it down? Thankfully he took the job in Cleveland. By all accounts he is an offensive genius and with a big three of Irving, Love, and James these Cavaliers may be one of the most exciting teams of my generation.

While I’m sad to see Andrew Wiggins go, there’s no way any Cleveland fan can’t see the big picture here. Professional sports teams in Cleveland often produce far more misery, disappointment, and embarrassment then they do must see moments. The entire 2014-2015 Cleveland Cavaliers season is going to be must see TV. It already was going to be when LeBron came, but now the championship expectations are at a whole new level. If this team can’t bring Cleveland their first professional sports title in 49 years (near 66 years if you don’t count the Browns ‘64 title, but instead the ‘48 Indians World Series as the last championship) - then I’m not sure Cleveland is destined to win a title at all.

Some Things are Given… Such as the Browns Starting QB Job

LeBron was wrong. Not everything in northeast Ohio is earned. Some things are just given because there is literally no other option. At least that’s the way it feels after an early morning announcement proclaimed Brian Hoyer the 2014 starting QB for the Cleveland Browns. Nothing Hoyer did on the field in the two preseason games earned him the job. That’s not to say that Johnny Manziel or anyone else earned the job instead of him, because they certainly did not. It’s simply pointing out that with both quarterbacks performing at such a bad level, why not wait another game to make the decision and see if someone can actually earn it? I wish I had an answer for that.

The way things stand right now Brian Hoyer will take first team reps all week leading to a preseason game against the St. Louis Rams this Saturday where the “pressure will be off”. Only, the pressure will never be off for Hoyer. If Hoyer couldn’t even perform under that pressure in the preseason why should we expect him to when the games matter? Manziel is always going to be in the background, it’s not like he is going away just because he was named the backup. Not to mention, Hoyer hasn’t got this team in the end zone once this preseason. Think he’s feeling some pressure to score this weekend? I know I would be. He certainly better be.

As only the Browns can, no matter who is in charge, they have managed to completely mishandle yet another situation. Naming Hoyer the starter today shows there never was an actual competition, only the illusion of one. A real competition would entail one of the individuals winning out, which has not happened yet. It’s going to be a real shame if Hoyer looks awful on Saturday and then Johnny comes in and looks amazing. Based on the previous performances it is doubtful (Johnny looking amazing that is; Hoyer looking awful is as close to a sure bet as I could place right now), but it’s not impossible. If that time comes I feel sorry for us Browns fans who have to wonder why a decision was rushed instead of letting someone actually earn the job.

The “ideal” situation for the Cleveland Browns was to have the starter named after the second preseason game, prior to the third one. Seeing as this is the Cleveland Browns, nothing is ideal - which is why there is a good chance no starting QB will be named prior to the third regular season game. Both QBs look well below average. So far below average that even Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy look like better quarterbacks on their respective teams. Maybe the Browns will name a starting quarterback before their next game, maybe they won’t. If they do it certainly is not because someone “won” the job, it is because they are the best of a bad group.

Here are the stats so far through two preseason games:

Read those stats over and let it sink in that a QB who is likely to not even make the team is out performing both options to start for the Cleveland Browns in a couple of weeks with almost one eighth of the actual game time. 

The argument for Brian Hoyer relies on believing that he will regain the same form he had last year when he showed signs of promise in leading the Browns to a couple of wins before tearing his ACL. Newsflash to fans who make this argument… This is not the same Brian Hoyer as last year. Like it or not he looks timid in the pocket and downright scared when he has to leave it. That’s what tearing an ACL and not being able to run in the first place will do to you. It’s possible it’s just rust… But is the regular season really a time to work out one’s rust from not playing for so long? Also, chances are Hoyer would be without Josh Gordon who, by all accounts, is the only Browns receiver capable of playing the position. Where does the confidence come from that Hoyer gives this team a chance to win based on his performances THIS year?

On the flip side there are the numerous argument for Johnny Football. If both quarterbacks are so bad why not let the young guy start; at least Johnny is exciting to watch; Johnny can make plays with his feet; Johnny will do better in a real game; and the list goes on. I don’t even know where to start with any of these arguments, because none of them actually give me any confidence that he can win a game for the Browns this year. The only argument that holds any weight to me is the one that he can run. If the Browns are truly without Josh Gordon they need every play maker they have on the field. If Hoyer isn’t making plays with his arm what good is he?

If I was Mike Pettine I wouldn’t have made a decision today either. It’s like going to the polls on election day and having to choose the lesser of  two evils. Choosing a QB for your team should not be that way. There should be a clear cut option. If there isn’t, it better damn well be because both players are capable of starting in the NFL. In addition to not making a decision today I would have let Connor Shaw get all first team reps to send a message to Brian and Johnny that last night was not good enough, it was embarrassing, and won’t be tolerated from the “leaders” of this team. 

My gut tells me the longer there is no decision the closer we are to Manziel Mania taking over. I believe Pettine wanted to announce a starting QB today and fully intended on it being Brian Hoyer. That’s why Hoyer got the start in both the previous games. Unfortunately for the Browns (and Browns fans) Hoyer has not led the offense to any touchdowns and does not seem confident in his throws. Johnny has now at least scored a touchdown and flashes signs of having the ability to make something out of nothing. Why lose with someone who is not likely in the team’s future (especially if this type of play keeps up) when you can lose with a rookie and let him gain experience to go into next year with (when hopefully this organization realizes you need Wide Receivers capable of 1) catching the ball; and 2) breaking free from coverage)?

Cleveland Browns Training Camp: Week One Review

It’s now been a full week since the Cleveland Browns opened training camp. They have had six days of practice and one off day (Wednesday) leading up to today’s family day scrimmage at the University of Akron. Exactly one week from today will be the first preseason game in Detroit against the Lions. There has been a lot of hope, a lot of hype, and a lot of questions surrounding the 2014 Cleveland Browns. That’s what happens when you draft someone like Johnny Manziel and bring in a new executive staff and coaching staff - among many other things. Ultimately no one knows exactly what is in store for the Browns this year, but as the weeks progress we should have some answers and ideas where the Browns are headed.

For now, what we do know is that Hoyer appears to be ahead of Manziel. Multiple outlets reported Manziel was going to be given a more immediate shot at the starting job, but his “antics’ have held him back to date. Even if that wasn’t the case, by all accounts Hoyer looks like the more fluid, consistent and accurate quarterback. So much so, that Manziel said the following when asked about his performance:

Always, for me, I’ve been better in a game situation than I feel I have in practice. But I have to come out here and get better with the reps that I’m getting. That’s the main thing, keep getting better, and then when it’s time to go out and play football, it’s time to play football

Better in game than in practice… Eerily similar to what many Tim Tebow backers said regarding his performance in the NFL. I’m certainly not saying Johnny is going to be the next Tebow, but it’s discouraging to hear comments like that this early. It’s especially discouraging because maybe he would be better in practice if he put in the requisite time expected of a starting NFL quarterback. I initially wanted Johnny to be the starter game one, but at this point I’m all for Brian Hoyer leading us into the season. This position will certainly change over the weeks, especially if Johnny comes out strong in a preseason game or two, but my vote goes to Hoyer right now. 

Another key concern/issue has been the wide receiver position. Josh Gordon’s status is up in the air right now and if he were to miss the entire season I’m not sure Tom Brady could help this team, let alone Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer. Reporters at camp, as well as teammates, have said Miles Austin looks impressive and could be in position for the main wide receiver spot should Gordon miss time. After seeing Miles Austin regress and be a shell of what he was his few good seasons this is about as discouraging as it gets. The reason everyone has been high on him so far is because he is catching the ball. Admittedly, that is a huge upgrade from previous back-up wide receivers, but it also fails to account for his injury history and how slow he has looked. It won’t matter that he can catch a ball if he can’t break free of coverage or even get on the field. Personally, I’m hoping that Josh Gordon’s lawyers come through and beat this current suspension - otherwise this could be a long year of watching some poor offense yet again.

Moving to the defense. Last year Ray Horton already had these guys fired up game in and game out, but the overall talent was lacking at times. Ray is gone, but the defensive intensity should remain by way of head coach Mike Pettine. By adding Justin Gilbert and Donte Whitner I feel the secondary is the most improved aspect of this team. The Browns should be able to play impressive man coverage which will allow the big guys up front and in the middle more chances to go after the quarterback instead of dropping into coverage. Justin Gilbert is the key to this plan and I have not heard much about his training camp performance thus far, so I’ll take that as a good sign for the time being. Lots of praise has gone the way of Buster Skrine who appears to be greatly improved in coverage. Many expected him to be in on nickel packages and covering slot receivers - but he may be making a case to get some time elsewhere.

Overall there has been a lot of intensity at the training camps, a lot of fan support, and a good vibe in general. The storyline to watch in the coming weeks is certainly the QB battle, but I think we’ll also start hearing more about Ben Tate and Terrance West at the RB position and hopefully we’ll hear about some younger wide receivers stepping up and looking like they can contribute to the team. Lastly, aside from positional battles and player performance, there have been no major injuries. This is probably the most important news to-date because the roster depth just isn’t there yet to be able to account for any (expected) key contributor to be missing an extended amount of time. The Browns have come out strong and focused with a job to get done and goal in mind - now the coaching staff just has to keep this momentum going throughout camp and into the regular season.

Indians Trade Justin Masterson: Waving White Flag?

Earlier today the Cleveland Indians sent Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for 24 year old OF prospect (first round pick in 2012 draft) James Ramsey. A lot of talk I have seen is how the Indians are waiving the white flag by getting rid of their ace for a marginal prospect. At the same time, these articles discuss Masterson’s problems and how he is the perfect guy to put in the middle of a rotation, especially if he can get over the funk he is currently in. Well… which is it? Is the guy an ace not pitching like one or someone who belongs in the middle of the rotation? I’d say the latter. I’d also say he’s much closer to the middle of rotation than ace material. All this isn’t to say I don’t like Justin Masterson. He had some great years at Cleveland and I certainly wish things would have gone better this year, but it was clearly time for the Indians to move on while anything of value could still be acquired.

As for the prospect the Indians are getting in this deal, Teddy Cahill summed up James Ramsey as follows in an article on the trade.

While at Florida State, Ramsey earned some comparisons to Tim Tebow for his on-field performance and his strong Christian faith. He was a Rhodes Scholar nominee and managed to be the rare college senior drafted in the first round when the Cardinals made him the 23rd overall pick in 2012. He quickly rose to Double-A Springfield and returned there in 2014. He hit .305/.393/.531 in 67 games this season and ranked sixth in the Texas League with 13 home runs at the time of the deal. He is a solid all-around player and has the versatility to play all three outfield positions. His high baseball IQ and intangibles help all of his tools play up, giving him a good chance to be an everyday outfielder in the big leagues.

My initial thought was great. We got some right handed power who can play all outfield positions. That is much needed at the major league level right now. Only, come to find out, James Ramsey bats left handed (while throwing right handed). Had Ramsey been right handed I would not have been surprised to see him on the major league roster later this season. He may still have a chance depending on how he performs, but the Indians are already flooded with left handed batters - making it a challenge to face a left handed pitcher with the best lineup possible. The description, in terms of his baseball ability, strikes me as something that could have been said about Michael Brantley as he was coming through the Indians’ system. With the exception of the power numbers. I’m excited to see where Ramsey fits in with this team and organization. There’s always the possibility a bigger deal is looming and Ramsey could be a piece in that, as the Indians are rumored to be seeking a starting pitcher to keep making a playoff push.

Even if the Indians don’t make another move, which is the course of action I fully expect, I don’t believe the Indians are waving the white flag and conceding the rest of the season. Whether or not I think the Indians can actually get one of the spots is a different story, but irrelevant to this transaction. Despite their current bad run they are 6.5 games out of first place in the AL Central and 5.0 games out of the second wild-card spot. Justin Masterson has barely contributed anything of worth to this season. In all reality he’s cost us more games than he has won us. Danny Salazar had a quality start the other night after a string of them in Triple-A. If he can rejoin the rotation at the level he is capable of that’s an instant upgrade from where Masterson has been at all year. Consistency and defense are going to be key as the Indians continue to push through, not whether or not another starting pitcher is acquired. The only way I see the Masterson trade hurting the Indians is if it somehow demotivates the clubhouse, which I don’t see happening with Terry Francona in charge. 

Tonight will go a long way in setting the pace for the Indians post-Masterson. Corey Kluber is going up against Felix Hernandez in Cleveland. These are the types of games no one expects the Indians to win that they will need to start winning to have a chance. Kluber typically gives the Indians a fighting chance every time he is on the mound, so it will be interesting to see how he does, now fully entrenched as the Indians current ace. 

Feel free to comment below on whether or not you think the Indians are waving the white flag and where you see the second half of the season going.

The Mirage of a Cleveland Indians Pennant Chase

After an All-Star break that allowed everyone but the sole All-Star, Michael Brantley, to rest, the Indians came out strong in Detroit. So strong national articles were written about the “pennant chase” now taking place in the AL Central. Taking three of four against Detroit warranted discussion, especially when it got the Indians within 4.5 games of first place. That was a huge achievement and deserved recognition. It did not warrant the mass hysteria and unfounded belief this team was ready for a pennant chase though, and this past week proved that.

Following two (morally) crushing defeats to the Royals, the Indians are now 7.5 games back and have Kansas City in between them and Detroit at 5 games back. That’s what happens when you lose four straight and 1 of your last 6 games since playing Detroit. The past two nights have been a mix of defensive blunders and relief pitchers giving up a game losing home run. There’s no need to even comment on Corey Kluber’s gem of a game, ruined by one of the worst defensive plays you will see all year (if not ever). It amazes me Corey Kluber continues to pitch as dominantly as he does, knowing full well his offensive and defense are bound to let him down.

The Indians play this afternoon in Kansas City and are looking to avoid a sweep. Then they head home for their next eight games where they are considerably better there than on the road. Is a pennant chase out of the question? No. This team caught fire at the right time last year and hopefully they do it again. I just won’t believe there is a pennant chase on hand until the Indians are actually there. This team doesn’t seem built for long winning streaks due to the weak pitching. It’s going to take chipping away at the lead and winning each series as it comes. Thus, until the Indians find themselves 1 game out with Kluber or Bauer taking the mound (maybe even Salazar if he can find his groove again) I refuse to believe the Indians are competing for that top spot in the AL Central. 

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