Perhaps the Indians are getting a little lucky. Even in a beleaguered sports town like Cleveland luck has to turn your way at least a little from time to time. With Scott Kazmir returning to All Star form and Ubaldo Jimenez suddenly looking at least competent, the Indians appear to have a starting rotation that can support the rejuvenated offense and solid bullpen in a run to the playoffs.
Or maybe we have a front office that’s made some shrewd moves at a time when ownership finally ponied up enough money to give them a fighting chance. Chris Antonetti certainly deserves some credit for taking a chance on Kazmir and plucking out guys like Mark Reynolds and Ryan Raburn.
And finally, we might have one of the best managers and coaching staffs in baseball with Terry Francona leading the teeam. It’s hard to put too much blame on Manny Acta when ownership tied the hands of the front office, but Acta didn’t exactly get the most out of his team. With Francona we have a proven champion and someone who clearly knows more about baseball than everyone in the Cleveland sports media combined. He and his staff have been working tirelessly with Jimenez and Kazmir, and when everyone was panicking about Jimenez, Tito knew that patience was needed. Jimenez may still disappoint everyone, but he seems to have a fighting chance with the coaching he’s been getting.
Throw in some breaks like incompetent umpires and the Indians are on a roll heading into a weekend showdown with the Tigers. It’s still very early, and we all know baseball seasons can turn on a dime, but this fast start feels different than previous years. This team is very deep on offense, giving Francona endless options to play matchup baseball with his lineup, and suddenly the pitching looks like it can turn into a strength as well. And we have some insurance with guys like Trevor Bauer at AAA. They definitely have my attention . . .
Baseball is very hard to predict from year to year, and one of the reasons has to do with the unpredictability of starting pitching. And then we have guys like Ubaldo Jimenez. He has a ton of talent, but he also has a delivery that can easily get out of whack. The results can be hideous, but then he can put together dominating performances like he did last night.
I love what the Indians are doing after years of running the franchise on the cheap, and Terry Francona is an excellent manager. But, we all know that the team’s success this season will depend on the team’s very unpredictable starting pitching. It’s unpredictable because we have young talent mixed in with guys like Jimenez and reclamation projects like Scott Kazmir. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. With a little luck the Tribe might stumble into a starting rotation that helps them compete for a playoff spot.
When a team loses consistently for years, it’s hard for fans and members of the media to be rational about anything. Everyone wants instant gratification, and any attempt to take the long view about a team’s roster is met with emotional outbursts about how people are tired of waiting for a winner.
I was waiting for this draft before making any kind of judgement about the new Browns regime. Like most I’m tired of the revolving door in Berea, and I wasn’t thrilled with some early comments from Joe Banner and his team that suggested they might blow up the roster, particularly at quarterback.
With that said, I’m very happy now that the draft and the first phase of free agency are completed. The biggest plus has to do with what the Browns didn’t do. Banner always said he would listen to his coaches regarding personnel and needs, and it’s clear that both Chud and Norv Turner told Banner and Lombardi that they thought they could work with Brandon Weeden. So, the Browns resisted any impulse to reach for a quarterback, and all the rumors about Geno Smith going to Cleveland turned out to be BS. That alone makes this draft a success.
I love the Barkevious Mingo pick. The Browns are obsessed with developing a pass rush, and Mingo will be another impact tool for defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
I don’t know if it’s a good thing, per se, but the guy who will impact the Browns most in 2013 might not be the player they took at No. 6 overall. At No. 68 overall, they took Leon McFadden, a much-needed CB who knows how to operate on an island. As I look at the depth chart, I don’t see a reason why McFadden can’t break camp as the starter across from Joe Haden. That’s not a small deal because it also maximizes Buster Skrine, who will be able to spend more time in the slot, where he’s much better. Now, that first pick was Barkevious Mingo, a player I’m at once infatuated with as a talent, but skeptical of because of what I considered production that didn’t match up with his talent. Now, Mingo adds depth at outside linebacker, but he’s going to need some developmental work because he played with his hand on the ground at LSU. After that, there isn’t a lot here that you’ll see in 2013. Jamoris Slaughter could provide depth at safety. The lack of a second-round pick really hurt the Browns, who could have used a higher-rated guard — though I do think Garrett Gilkey has the chance to start eventually — and I thought would have been wise to add another inside linebacker. But Josh Gordon is developing and Davone Bess should provide Brandon Weeden with another solid target in the passing game. The hope is Mingo becomes a star, and McFadden can perform early. The good news is, both could happen.
I’m encouraged that the reviews on McFadden seem to be good. If he turns into a starting corner, either on the edge or in the slot, then that’s a very good pick.
Then we have the trades that brought out all the emotions from fragile Browns fans and media members. Basically, the Browns traded a 4 and a 5 and got back and 3 and a 4 for next year . . . and people complained. That’s just beyond silly. A third rounder in particular is a huge asset, as you can grab an excellent player or use it to jump up in the first round.
Our fourth round pick was also used to grab Devone Bess, which was another excellent move for the Browns. Bess gives Weeden a reliable option on third down, which was sorely lacking last year.
All in all, this draft was solid. They didn’t make the kind of headlines that impress draft graders, but who cares? Banner and company made very solid moves, and they avoided making a boneheaded move when they resisted reaching for a quarterback. Right now it looks like we can have a very disruptive front seven, and we have a young offense that has the potential to thrive under Chud and Norv Turner.
Here’s a great profile from NFL Films about Devone Bess. The Browns just added a very polished slot receiver in his prime at 27 years old. Watch this and you’ll see why everyone says he’s the consummate professional and a huge asset in the locker room. With a young and talented receiving corps, adding a veteran like Bess seems like a great move, as Brandon Weeden needs a reliable receiver than can be counted on to catch that third down pass.
I have no problem with this. Here are some initial observations:
- As I said before, it’s hard to say that Byron Scott had to go. The Cavs were very young and suffered a ton of injuries. That said, there was clearly something missing and I can’t get too upset that Dan Gilbert decided to make a change. The rumblings are that Scott really didn’t work that hard, and they’re clearly happy getting a “grinder” like Brown back in the fold.
- The only reason Brown was fired the first time around had to do with LeBron James, who was sulking like a baby and refusing to give the Cavs any idea of his plans before he took his ego and talents to South Beach. Gilbert rolled the dice, hoping that a coaching change would convince LeBron to stay. But the big baby was gone anyways and he didn’t have enough class to let the Cavs know before they dumped Brown.
- Mike Brown reminds me of Marty Schottenheimer and Mike Hargrove – an excellent coaches who can’t seem to adjust their regular season formulas to the postseason, so perhaps we’ll be screaming about Brown in the future. But Brown will get the most out of his talent by stressing defense so like those guys he’ll at least get decent teams to the playoffs. Brown was outcoached several years ago against Orlando, but I still think LeBron James deserves much more of the blame for the failure of the Cavs to win a championship during his tenure. The world saw LeBron’s weak character when he let the Heat wilt against the Mavs, but we saw previews of that here in Cleveland. He had a meltdown versus Boston, and if you go back to that Orlando series you’ll see plenty of pathetic plays from LeBron, like chucking up lazy threes at the worst possible time.
- I don’t buy the argument that the Cavs have been waiting for LeBron to come back in 2014. They went young because that’s what made sense. They are set up nicely again with this draft and with the cap, so now Chris Grant has to earn his money and put some talent around Kyrie.
- Mike Brown will teach Kyrie how to play defense, and if Kyrie resists, we don’t want him around anyways.
In the end, Brown wants to be in Cleveland and he’s a very solid choice. They can now focus on building a contender for the long haul.
I really can’t blame Byron Scott at all for the pathetic record we’ve seen from the Cavs for the past several years. The team went in major rebuilding mode and suffered a constant stream of injuries.
Something must have gone wrong behind the scenes. Kyrie Irving and other young players have developed, but maybe the chemistry between Kyrie and Scott wasn’t really there.
Let’s see what Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert have in mind. The team is poised with a lottery pick and the Lakers pick to grab more talent, and they should be targeting a veteran as well. The time is now for this team to compete, so we’ll see who they bring in as the new coach.
It’s been a strange and heartbreaking day in the sports world with the news out of Boston, but we also heard some strange news out of Tennessee involving Pilot Flying J, Jimmy Haslam’s company. The headquarters was raided today by the FBI and IRS. Needless to say it isn’t good news when the new Browns owner has to deal with something like this. Let’s hope Jimmy isn’t personally involved in any wrongdoing.
It’s no secret that the Cleveland Indians had a pretty rough time last season, plummeting toward the latter half after a strong beginning. There’s still a lot of hope for the 2013 season, however, since the Indians had a very productive winter making a lot of progress in (hopefully) the right direction. Let’s look at the changes the Indians have implements that just might get them into the playoffs, and maybe even the World Series.
The first thing the Cleveland Indians did this winter was grab some new baseball gloves for the many new members they’ve welcomed onto their team. Having traded a lot of players and signing a couple of free agents, the Indians have revamped their lineup in hopes of bringing stronger players to their team. Matt Albers, Brett Myers, Nick Swisher, and Bryan Shaw have all been added to the Cleveland Indians, giving the proud city of Cleveland hope for this season.
When they began signing their new players, the Indians forewent trying to save money on their payroll by obtaining young players and instead put their money into getting well-known talent. This makes their budget for the upcoming season pretty tight, but it should also assist in helping them regain the immense losses that they incurred last season. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for the team.
Ubaldo Jimenez was the height of discussion last season as his performance continued to decline since the Cleveland Indians brought him onboard in 2010. A very talented pitcher in the past, he was called a disappointment by a lot of Indians fans for his 5.25 ERA (the second worst for the entire year). He plans to step it up in this upcoming season though. Throughout winter, Jimenez spent a lot of time with the Indians’ pitching coach to better his performance and solidify his techniques, admitting that last year was really bad for him. If he takes the training to heart, the boost in Jimenez’s ERA will be a huge advantage for the Cleveland Indians this season.
Carlos Carrasco should also be returning to the Indians this year after having undergone surgery in his elbow. Always a promising player for the team, the return of Carrasco will also benefit the Cleveland Indians immensely and will definitely help them in their upward mobility toward the playoffs. Scott Kazmir, who pitched during the winter league, will also be joining the team this year after being gone from the majors since 2011.
What the Cleveland Indians need is consistency and a strong lineup of fresh, talented players will provide that. If they can continue to scout out the best players and train the ones they already have, they will definitely be on mark to potentially make the playoffs, even if they aren’t quite ready to get back into the World Series.
The news out of Berea has been much more encouraging lately with some of the statements coming from Joe Banner and Rob Chudzinski. Both seemed to make it clear that they saw some real positives with Brandon Weeden, and it appears Weeden will get every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job in the fall. They’re seeing what we all saw last year – a QB with a great arm that can make every throw, but also a rookie who made predictable mistakes. Many “experts” thought the Browns would be a complete mess last year, but they were in every game and often covered with Weeden keeping them close, so the sports betting world learned not to underestimate him.
Of course, they also challenged Weeden to step up and really work for it, and I have no problem with that at all. I also have no problem with them bringing in competition for him. For his part, Weeden is confident he will start and welcomes the competition.
Most fans and local writers seem to get this, and now the new regime seems to understand as well, though we still haven’t heard from Mike Lombardi. Chud and Norv Turner obviously saw all of this on tape, and hopefully they weren’t shy about letting banner and Lombardi know they had a guy that could run their offense. Banner seemed to state that the Browns will not waste the #6 pick on a QB, and that’s a very positive development. Of course Banner still needs to build some credibility with the media. He says he’ll never “lie” to the media, but do any of us think that his statements that Tom Heckert would be evaluated at the end of the year were honest? In hindsight, they had made up their mind, and the early rumors of Mike Lombardi were all true. Let’s hope this time he’s telling the truth.
There’s also the bizarre infatuation with the read-option that seems to unite Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner. Let’s hope this “trend” runs its course before these two shake up the QB position by trying to find running QBs.
Jim Nantz called in to the Bull and Fox show on 92.3 The Fan and delivered an epic rant about the new Browns organization. You can listen to it here.
His basic message was simple – Jimmy Haslam has assembled an impressive group of people to turn the Browns around, and that Browns fans will soon realize it as they get to work and start winning. He strongly defended his friend Mike Lombardi and took some tough shots at Tony Grossi without mentioning him by name regarding his harsh criticism of Lombardi.
Let’s consider some of the things Nantz said.
First, I agree with him that the overall team assembled by Haslam is impressive, and I’m optimistic about the future direction. This is coming from someone who thought Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert did a ton of the dirty work in turning around the franchise and were heading in the right direction despite some mistakes. Rob Chudzinski is an excellent coordinator, and he seems to have the charisma and leadership qualities necessary to make him a good head coach. I like Haslam’s general style and think he’s looking for the right qualities when considering head coached. Chud has also assembled a very impressive staff, with Norv Turner and Ray Horton leading the pack.
As for Mike Lombardi, I understand both the concerns expressed by people like Grossi along with the praise coming from people like Nantz. Still, Grossi’s comment on the radio the other day that Lombardi was not qualified for the job is ridiculous. People can question past draft picks but he’s certainly developed a resume that prepares him for this job. I also like the fact that Lombardi has been with the NFL Network for 5 years. Anyone with a brain would gain some excellent perspective from that job and would leave there knowing practically every coach and personnel guy in the league.
Also, it’s not like Haslam has handed Lombardi the keys to the organization. The biggest problem with Randy Lerner wasn’t necessarily the people he hired, but the total lack of oversight and accountability that existed after the introductory press conference. Guys like Butch Davis and Eric Mangini desperately needed a strong owner and GM to push back when their desire to control everything led to silly decisions. With Joe Banner and his “team” approach to decision making, no one person can make rash decisions without intense oversight, and you can bet Haslam will be in the room to make sure everyone knows they’ll have to answer for mistakes.
So I know Lombardi isn’t perfect, but I have no problem with a guy like him in the brain trust. Of course Jim Nantz is totally biased in arguing that Lombardi is a football genius. Nantz worships at the Bill Belichick alter, so he’s seems to see everything through that filter. Still, I’m more than comfortable giving Lombardi and the rest of the team a chance.
On the other hand, I think Nantz took some cheap shots at Tom Heckert. Of course Bull and Fox just gushed and didn’t push back on that, which is disappointing given that Heckert rebuilt an old, pathetic roster.
Now, there are legitimate debates on some of Heckert’s picks, and Nantz did raise good points as well. Taking Trent Richardson with the third pick after trading up is certainly debatable, as many believe drafting a running back that high is a mistake. Nance points out late round picks that did well, but pointing out a running back that scores touchdowns in the potent New England offense like Shane Vereen is ridiculous. The question is how would a guy like Vereen have fared with the Browns, who were desperate for some weapons on an offense that didn’t have a great quarterback. I think his point was more persuasive when he brought up Doug Martin who went to Tampa Bay. The Browns could have gotten him at the 22nd pick, and you could argue that young QB Ryan Tannehill at #4 and Martin at #22 would have been better than Richardson and a much older Brandon Weeden.
The real cheap shot was bringing up Russell Wilson, who was passed over by everyone and frankly dropped into the perfect situation. Wilson had a great first year, but he really didn’t flourish until Pete Carroll started running him, and that style of play doesn’t necessarily lead to long-term success.
These are all debatable points, and Nantz brings up a good point that Heckert’s record isn’t pristine. Still, he fairly noted that Richardson could be incredible under Norv Turner, and many think Weeden could flourish there as well. So it will take time to flush out Heckert’s record.
At least the Browns recognize that a foundation has been built, and hopefully the new brain trust can build on it. Overall, I’m glad to hear that Lombardi has guys like Nantz will to speak up on his behalf.
As for Tony Grossi, I understand his reservations, and it will be interesting to see how the soap opera plays out now with Lombardi, Grossi and Nantz. To his credit Grossi has said he’s giving Lombardi a clean slate. Let’s see if he lives up to it.