Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Year in Review
Part 1

We began the year watching Bill Cowher hold the Super Bowl trophy high over his head. We'll most likely end 2006 watching the Browns finish with the third-worst record in the NFL. In between we watched ...

  • ... Coco Crisp get traded to the Boston Red Sox.
  • ... Larry Hughes get injured in two different seasons.
  • ... No Browns make the Pro Bowl -- twice.
  • ... the Cavs blow a chance to make the Eastern Conference finals.
  • ... Brandon Phillips hit 17 homers and steal 25 bases for the Indians, errrrrr, Cincinnati Reds.
  • ... Jim Thome hit a home run on opening day. And in the second game of the season. For the White Sox. AGAINST the Indians.
  • ... Jason Johnson waaaaay too much.
  • ... Fausto Carmona try to be a closer waaaaay too much.
  • ... Another division rival (the Tigers) win another championship (the World Series).
  • ... Browns would-be center LeCharles Bentley tear his patellar tendon on the first day of training camp.
  • ... Maurice Carthon's man crush on Lawrence Vickers.
  • ... Browns defensive back Gary Baxter tear BOTH his patellar tendons in a game.
  • ... staph infection, 4, Cleveland Browns, zero.
  • ... the Baltimore Ravens close in on a BETTER record than when they won the Super Bowl.
  • ... Carlos Boozer and the Utah Jazz put together one of the NBA's best records.
And guess what? This wasn't the worst year in Cleveland sports history. Not even close!

Let's put it this way. If 2006 were the Titanic and Cleveland sports were the iceberg, the Titanic would have been sailing across the Pacific Ocean, Leonardo DiCaprio would be acting in porn under the name Leo the Cap, and Kate Winslet would be asking, "Paper or plastic?" This past year not only wasn't the worst in Cleveland sports history, in terms of wins and losses, it was one of the BEST!

Yes, chew on that. One of the best.

Since Jan. 1, our teams' collective record is 137-134. If the Cavs win one of their final two games or the Browns beat the Texans on New Year's Eve, we'll have actually enjoyed a winning year of sports. Sure the Indians had a lousy year, but they finished just a few games under .500 at 78-84. The awful Browns are 3-12. But the Cavs have saved us, with a 16-11 mark this season and a 39-28 mark (including playoffs) for the 2006 portion of the 2005-2006 season.

The current .506 winning percentage ranks 11th best among years since 1970, when our three-team sporting era began. It just feels worse since we're well off the pace of last year's 142-118 mark -- the fourth-best since 1970.

Which begs the question: What exactly were the best and worst years for Cleveland sports since the Cavs were born in 1970? GHCS has devised a not-so-scientific formula to figure it out.

We simply added up each of our team's record in each calendar year, playoffs included. A good season by the Indians or Cavs can skew the total since they play so many games, so we put a qualifier on the worst seasons. To meet the criteria for worst seasons, each of our teams must have finished .500 or worse, and there could be no playoff games played by our teams that calendar year. Simple as that.

So here are your Five Worst Years in Cleveland Sports History, Three-Team Era:

1. 1982, (95-157 .377 winning percentage)
-- A totally forgettable year, and not just for Cleveland sports. Can you remember ANYTHING that happened in 1982? Heck, even The A-Team wouldn't debut on NBC for another year and Len Barker's perfect game came the year before. The NFL would rather forget -- a strike wiped out half the season. The Browns finished 4-5 and made the playoffs because half the league made the playoffs. But 1982 still qualifies because the playoff game wasn't until 1983! And neither was the Browns last game; they actually went 4-4 in games played in calendar year 2002. Meanwhile, the Indians went 78-84 while the Cavs were 13-69 in 1982, which spanned two unforgettable seasons in which the Cavs lost a combined 126 games.

The skinny: Browns 4-4 (Brian Sipe 4 TD, 8 INT); Indians 78-84 (Andre Thornton 32 HRs; Len Barker 15-11); Cavs 15-67 in 1981-82, 23-59 in 1982-83 (World B. Free 24.2 ppg in 1982-83).

2. 1991 (104-155, .402)
-- The opposite of 1982 in that it was memorable for so much more than wins and losses. And there were a lot of losses! The Indians suffered their worst season ever, finishing 57-105. The Browns began the Bill Belichick era with a 6-10 mark. And the Cavs would up one season with a 33-49 mark. They began the 1991-92 season with much more hope, finishing with a team-record 57 wins before bowing out to Michael Jordan on The Shot in the playoffs. Hey, at least Jordan proclaimed the Cavs, "The Team of the '90s!"

The skinny: Browns 6-10 (Bernie Kosar 18 TD, 9 INT; Kevin Mack 726 rushing yards); Indians 57-105 (Albert Belle 28 HRs, 95 RBI); Cavs 41-40 (OK, so we cheated a bit, since the Cavs did finish the calendar year over .500) in midst of 33-49 and 57-25 campaigns (the foundation for The Team of the '90s is laid).

2. 1984 (105-152, .409)
-- The Cavs were in the midst of nine straight losing seasons, the Browns were still living off the glory of the Kardiac Kids lucky 1980 seasons, and the Indians hadn't finished higher than fourth place since 1968. The early 1980s were truly the dark days of Cleveland sports. In fact, 1983 and 1981 would be on this list as well if not for the Browns playoff games played in each of those calendar years. (Two games the team lost, of course). In 1984, the Indians went 75-87, the Browns 5-11, and the Cavs 25-54. Though the collective record was better than in 1982, you could make a case that 1984 was a worse year because all the teams were so lousy. At least in 1982 the Browns were basically a .500 team. But the strike pushes 1982 to the top of the list of bad worst Cleveland sports years.

The skinny: Browns 5-11 (Paul McDonald 14 TD, 23 INT; Boyce Green (???) 673 yards rushing); Indians 75-87 (Andre Thornton 33 HR, 99 RBI; Bert Blyleven 19-7); Cavs 25-54 in midst of 28-54 and 36-46 seasons (World B. Free 22.5 ppg in both seasons).

3 & 4. 1974-1975 (combined 236-269, .467)
-- The 1970s were to Cleveland what a black hole is to the universe, just a giant cosmic force sucking the life and light out of everything around it. By the middle of the decade our teams had succumbed. Our beloved Browns, dominant in the 1950s and 1960s, won just seven games in 1974 and 1975 combined. The Cavs and Indians weren't horrible, generally hanging around the .500 mark, but their mediocrity presaged a decade which saw the city slide into bankruptcy and become the butt of jokes on nightly talk shows.

The skinny: Browns 4-10/3-11 (the Mike Phipps era -- 13 TD, 36 INT); Indians 77-85/79-80 (George Hendrick 43 HRs, Gaylord Perry 27 wins); Cavs 73-83 while going 29-53 in 1973-74, 40-42 in 1974-75 and 49-33 in 1975-76 (Austin Carr, Bingo Smith, Lenny Wilkens, and Jim Chones among the team's scoring leaders).

5. 1970 (93-121, .434)
-- They talk about the curse of Rocky Colavito. They talk about God hating Cleveland sports. But was the city really cursed by the birth of the Cavs? Were the Cavs a Damian-like force, as outlined in The Omen later in the decade? We had good teams throughout the 1950s and '60s. The Browns won championships, the Indians made World Series and battled for first place many times. But then came 1970, the Cavs, and the downfall of a once great city sportscape. It's only fifth among worst years in Cleveland sports history, but it might very well be where it all began. After all, the Browns had enjoyed 13 straight winning seasons before going .500 when the Cavs joined the scene.

The skinny: Browns 7-7 (Bill Nelsen 16 TD, 16 INT; Leroy Kelly 656 rushing yards); Indians 76-86 (Graig Nettles 26 HRs, Sam McDowell 20-12); Cavs 10-28 in first half of inaugural season (Walt Wesley 17.7 pgg).

6. 1995
-- OK, it doesn't meet the criteria. The Indians were good -- waaaaaaaaaaaaaay good -- and at the beginning of a run that felt like a teenager discovering sex. A 109-50 season and World Series berth? The Cavs were pretty good, too, with winning years in both 1994-95 and 1995-96. Ah, but the Browns. Art Modell announced that the team was moving to Baltimore and all hell broke lose. On one hand you've got one of the greatest Indians seasons in 100-plus years. On the other hand you've got the worst Browns season ever. Charles Dickens was right, it really was the best of times and the worst of times.

2002 -- 106-157 (.403) combined mark, with Indians going 74-88 and Cavs 23-62, but Browns' 9-7 mark which earned them a playoff spot kept this year from being among the worst ever.

2003 -- 95-166 (.364) combined mark. This is actually the second-worst yearly winning percentage since 1970, but that Browns-Steelers playoff game eased the pain, right???

So what were the best records? 1994, 1995, and 1996. Thanks to the Indians boon and The Team of the '90s, Cleveland teams posted a collective .614 mark in 1994, .599 mark in 1996, and .588 in 1995.

1994 looks farther away every year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pro Bowl = No Bowl

The NFL has announced its Pro Bowl rosters, and once again not a single Cleveland Brown heard his name called.

In other news, everyone in the country has had premarital sex, scientists still have not found life on Mars, anti-tobacco ads have subliminal messages encouraging kids to smoke, and the Cavs can't can't win on the road. Or against the Pistons. Or in the second of back-to-back games.

But really, pick a Brown for the Pro Bowl and you're likely to end up with the tree from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Save Kellen Winslow, who leads all tight ends with 76 catches, Browns players deserve to go to the Pro Bowl as much as Santa Claus deserves to go to jail.

No one's complaining though. The Browns offer Pro Bowl selectors about as nutrition as a McDonald's menu. Charlie Frye's 23rd in passer rating and has a broken wrist. Reuben Droughns isn't even among the top 30 in rushing yards. Winslow, despite his 76 catches, doesn't crack the top 30 in receiving yards. Braylon Edwards is 23rd in receiving yards, but out of the top 30 in receptions. Phil Dawson has more field goals than just eight other regular kickers. Dave Zastudil is just average, ranking 13th in punting. Even the once-great Joshua Cribbs has dropped to 11th in kick returns.

And on defense? Kamerion Wimbley and Andra Davis crack the top 20 in sacks and tackles, respectively, while Sean Jones is top 10 in interceptions. But being merely good for a bad team won't cut it.

This year's exclusion makes eight years back for the Browns and one Pro Bowler. That was Jamir Miller in 2001. Then again, why would Browns fans want anyone else to go to the Pro Bowl when Jamir blew out his Achilles' the following preseason and never played another down in the regular season.

Even sadder, each of the Browns' final two opponents has a Pro Bowler despite records no better than the Browns. At least we'll get to see Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber this week and Houston's Andre Johnson next week. Johnson leads the league in receptions and is sixth in receive yards. Barber's been there three straight years and four out of the last five.

Us, we'll stick with the streaks that God's saddled us with. Forty-two years since a championship. Four straight years without a Pro Bowler. And what looks like a long road ahead.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What would Troy do?

By mayoral decree, Wednesday is Troy Smith Day in Cleveland.

If your name is Troy or your name is Smith, you can do whatever you want to do in Cleveland today. And if your name is Troy Smith, and you went to Glenville High School, and you just won the Heisman Trophy, well, line up the photographers and news crews.

On Troy Smith's agenda is a return to Glenville at 3 p.m., where he'll celebrate his Heisman victory and Ohio State's unbeaten season and national championship shot with his neighbors and friends. He'll be feted, he'll be photographed, he'll be filmed.

Most likely, there will be many other things Troy Smith will be doing around Cleveland on Troy Smith Day. You can expect to see a report on Troy Smith Day leading the 11 o'clock news, with pictures of everything Troy Smith did on Troy Smith Day in Cleveland.

Here's the early odds on what you can expect to see Troy Smith doing on the 11 o'clock news:

-- Lebron is Cleveland's sports ambassador. The Cavs play a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday. Perhaps Troy Smith is Cleveland's next sports ambassador. The twain should meet.

-- Some want Troy Smith to take Charlie Frye's job. Heck, some want Derek Anderson to take Charlie Frye's job. Charlie Frye probably isn't too interested in meeting his possible future competition.

-- Doesn't the hero son always ride a fire truck during his festivities?

-- We all know Troy Smith can't afford Cavaliers courtside seats. Heck, he can probably barely afford the $10 seats that would put him three rows from the sun. Since he already paid his penance for accepting money from a booster, Troy's certainly loathe to be seen on the 11 o'clock news sitting right behind Lebron James during the Cavs game ... right?

-- Paying Maurice's cell-phone bill got Troy in enough trouble already!

-- At least wear a helmet if you do, Troy.

-- Although he's from Cleveland, Troy Smith's team isn't hated by God because it plays in Columbus. But if the Browns select Troy Smith in the draft next April, he'll find out all about what God thinks.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Who WERE these guys?

Perhaps Thursday night about midnight, Derek Anderson will leave Heinz Stadium and turn back into a pumpkin. Perhaps Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter will welcome Derek Anderson to the NFL by turning Anderson's next 33-yard run into a 7-yard loss. Perhaps the Browns won't score a touchdown while dropping their seventh straight game to the Steelers, wiping the smiles that the win over Kansas City provided right off our faces.

Or perhaps not.

What we're all hoping for is that Derek Anderson turns into the next Tom Brady or Tony Romo, the guy who no one ever heard of but everyone loved after a few weeks. Of course, if Derek Anderson were replacing Drew Bledsoe that might be easier to believe.

Since God is watching the Browns, there's a different list that Derek Anderson is likely to join -- the most irrelevent starting quarterback in the Browns/Steelers rivalry.

There's been some great starting quarterbacks in the 50-plus years of Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh, Hall of Famers like Otto Graham and Terry Bradshaw, legends like Bernie Kosar and, phenoms like Ben Roethlisberger, MVPs like Brian Sipe. And there have been some real dogs, guys whose mothers barely even remember that they started a Browns/Steelers game.

Is Derek Anderson the next folk hero? Or is he destined to be less than a footnote in Cleveland/Pittsburgh history, especially if Charlie Frye comes back quickly from what head coach Romeo Crennell is saying isn't a broken wrist? After all, here's a guy who before last Sunday against the Chiefs never threw a pass in the NFL in his life. What chance does he have against the Steeler defense, even if he only gets three days to prepare?

So prepare yourselves. With the way things go in Cleveland, Derek Anderson has a pretty good chance of joining this, the list of Most Irrelevent Starting Quarterbacks in Browns/Steelers History:


He's not irrelevent in the grand scheme of things -- after all, he did lead the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title -- but in Browns/Steelers history he barely merits a paragraph. Before riding off into the sunset after his one year with the Browns, Dilfer started one game against the Steelers. It was, of course, a loss, 34-21. Dilfer was just 17-of-34 for 253 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Sure, everyone's been throwing a fit because the Browns have gone without an experienced backup after shipping Dilfer to the San Francisco 49ers for Ken Dorsey. But guess what? Dilfer has yet to get into a game this year while "tutoring" Alex Smith to a 76.3 QB rating. That's barely ahead of Charlie's 72 rating.

Dilfer's forgettable start against the Steelers last year, his overall blah year with the Browns in 2005, and his lack of a resume post-Cleveland land him on this list.


The beginning of the end of the Butch Davis era came with the signing of Jeff Garcia. Garcia brought more Playboy storylines to Cleveland than wins. First, he began dating Playboy Playmate and Avon Lake native Carmella DeCesare. Then there was the catfight between Carmella and a former Garcia paramour. Then there was the Playboy interview where Terrell Owens insinuated that Garcia is gay. With all that, who even remembers that Garcia started two games against the Steelers in 2004? He went a combined 23-of-50 for 320 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception while suffering 7 sacks. The Browns lost both games of course, holding only one 3-0 lead. The Steelers led by double digits for the entire second half of both games.

Garcia started just one more game for the Browns after his second Steelers loss. Then, until the Philadelphia Eagles' Monday night win over the Carolina Panthers, Garcia had just won one game in eight tries as a starting quarterback since leaving Cleveland. It of course was AGAINST the Browns while Garcia was with the Detroit Lions in 2005.


You wouldn't have known it, but Ty Detmer is finally out of football at the beginning of the 2006 season. You wouldn't have known it because not only is Ty Detmer the fifth most irrelevent starting quarterback in the Browns/Steelers rivalry, but also one of the most irrelevent NFL players of all time. He has 15 years of NFL experience but threw only 946 passes. That's just 63 per year! Derek Anderson made it a third of the way there in one half Sunday. Not only is Detmer one of the most irrelevent starting quarterbacks in the rivalry, his start was also one of the most ignominious. He started the Browns very first game in their return to the NFL in 1999, a 43-0 whitewashing by the Steelers. Detmer went 6-for-13 for 52 yards with 1 interception and 2 sacks.

Head coach Chris Palmer deemed Detmer so bad that despite the fact that the new Browns had never played a game, Detmer needed to be benched. Enter Tim Couch. Ty Detmer wasn't seen again until the final three games of the season, and barely at all after leaving Cleveland.


For some reason the Steelers thought Kent Graham would make a good quarterback in 2000, after the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals already decided he wouldn't. And the Giants had decided it twice. But there was Graham under center for the Steelers in Week 3 of 2000, taking a sack inside the 10-yard line with his team out of timeouts and down by three points. The clock ran out before the Steelers could attempt a game-tying field goal, and the Browns had a 23-20 victory.

Graham is saved from a higher place on the irrelevency list by Kordell Stewart. Graham got another start against the Browns in Week 8, but was yanked after going 3-of-12 for 46 yards. Stewart finished the game, which Pittsburgh won 22-0. So even though Graham was pathetic in two starts, he actually gets credited for starting a victory. But he was totally irrelevent to the rest of the league after that second Browns game; he threw just 24 more passes for the rest of his career.


And here's another reason Graham is saved from a higher spot on the irrelevancy list. Remember this guy? In the runaway train season of 2000, Doug Pederson actually played more games than any other Browns quarterback. He was predictably awful, throwing 2 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions.

But while here, he put up a forgettable performance. And it just happened to be in the most irrelevent game in Browns/Steelers history -- that Week 8 game where Kent Graham saw his Steelers career shoot up in flames. Kent Graham vs. Doug Pederson? No one would even turn out to watch that in a high school game. But where Graham was bad, Pederson was worse. He was replaced by Spergon Wynn! In that 22-0 Steelers victory, Pederson went just 9-of-20 for 61 yards with 3 interceptions.

As soon as the season was over Pederson went back to carrying Brett Favre's clipboard, throwing just 54 irrelevent passes over his final four years.


Ortman played just one year for the Steelers and two in the NFL. He played 12 games in 1951, the second year of the Browns/Steelers rivalry. One of those games was against the Browns, a 28-0 loss. Ortman's irrelevent stats: 13-of-27 for 136 yards.

Ortman moved on to the Dallas Texans in 1952 and played just three more irrelevent games before fading into obscurity.


Former nongreat Don Gault started a 1970 game for the Browns that goes down as one of the most irrelevent in the rivalry's history. The Browns won the game 15-7, but it had nothing to do with Gault. He etched his place in the record books by going 1-for-16, setting a record that still stands for most pass attempts in a game with just one completion. But while Gault is long forgotten, the game is remembered as Mike Phipps' first appearance for the Browns and Terry Bradshaw's first start in the storied rivalry.

There's a few other quarterbacks who just missed the list. There's Dr. Dave Mays, who went on to become a dentist. He led the Browns to victory in the famous 1976 game where Turkey Joe Jones dumped Terry Bradshaw on his head. But Mays didn't start that game; he replaced an injured Brian Sipe midway through. And you've got Cliff Stoudt who quarterbacked the Steelers in 1983, but they (A) made the playoffs and (B) split with the Browns.

And maybe, just maybe, after Thursday night, you'll have Derek Anderson. If God's making out the list, you should bet on it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We've had our eye on you, Mr. Anderson

The last time a Derek Anderson made headlines in Cleveland, Mike Fratello was his coach, Shawn Kemp was his best teammate, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a rookie, Danny Ferry wasn't a GM, Lebron James wasn't yet a teenager, and Cleveland Browns Stadium wasn't even built.

This time, THAT Derek Anderson's hanging on with the Charlotte Bobcats -- with former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Brevin Knight -- while THIS Derek Anderson is stepping into the role of improbable folk hero.

Browns 31, Chiefs 28 in overtime. With this Derek Anderson as leading man. Apparently Mr. Anderson took the red pill before the fourth quarter. How else to explain the Neo-like move he put on Ty Law during his 33-yard overtime run that allowed Phil Dawson a chip-shot field goal to give the Browns their first OT victory since 2002? And no helmetless Dwayne Rudd in sight.

After a week of As Braylon Edwards Turns in which the Browns prima donna wide receiver took a helicopter to Columbus without permission from the team to watch his Michigan Wolverines lose to Ohio State, called out teammate Brian Russell for a perceived cheap shot on Chad Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals, then fought with quarterback Charlie Frye on the sidelines during last week's game (because Braylon has so much passion for the game, we came to discover), then found out it was actually his long-lost evil twin behind everything, the Browns wrote a new character into the script against the Chiefs.

Kelly Holcomb. Errrrrrrrrrrrr, Derek Anderson.

Until yesterday, Mr. Anderson didn't even have a bit part in the Browns' drama. He basically was living in the matrix, fantasizing about a world in which he entered a game with the Browns down by 14 in the fourth quarter, brought the team back with seconds remaining in regulation, then led the game-winning drive in overtime. He was as relevant as the water boys. Even Romeo Crennell thought this Derek Anderson should keep taking the blue pills: "If we're ahead by 30, then I would like to see some of (Anderson)," he said the other day. Who even knew Mr. Anderson was the backup quarterback? Before yesterday, ask a dozen Browns fans that question, and all would tell you that was Ken Dorsey's role.

After never throwing a pass in the NFL while standing on the sidelines for two-plus seasons, this Derek Anderson threw 21 of them against the Chiefs, almost all in the fourth quarter. Twelve of them were complete, two for touchdowns, one with 35 seconds to go. Then his 33-yard scramble in overtime set up Phil Dawson's game-winning field goal and the Browns' first overtime victory since 2002.

Now, it looks like this Derek Anderson's going to be leading the Browns into Pittsburgh week. Watch out, Steelers! You remember what Kelly Holcomb did to you in the playoffs a few years ago right? Something like 429 yards, the third-highest passing total in NFL playoff history. Heck, the NEW Kelly Holcomb might do that with his arm AND his feet.

As for THAT Derek Anderson, stay tuned for a week from Wednesday, when he returns to The Q with the Charlotte Bobcats.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The more things change ...

New York, Atlanta, Toronto, and Charlotte. Great vacation spots? Some of the largest cities in North America? Better places to live than Cleveland?

Or, all crappy teams that have defeated the Cavs this season? Actually, that, and all of the above. And maybe soon, all places that Lebron James would rather play than Cleveland, knowing our luck.

The Cavs' 101-98 loss to the New York Knicks Wednesday night -- at home, nonetheless -- marked the team's fourth loss to the dregs of the Eastern Conference. The Charlotte Bobcats (4-11), the Toronto Raptors (5-10), and the New York Knicks (6-11) have the three worst records in the East. Atlanta (6-7) is already 4½ games out of first in their division, the largest deficit of any second-place team. Combined, those four teams are 21-40. Take out their victories against each other and the Cavs, and they are 13-36 in all other games. Extrapolate a 13-36 record over 82 games, and you've got a 21-win team.

The Cavs have four losses against a 21-win team. Atlanta and Toronto are two of the next three opponents, which should make the Cavs as confident as a high-school freshman at his first dance.

Just when we finally thought we had a good team, the Cavs go and pull this on us. The best player of his generation playing ball in his backyard for a team that plays in what some call the worst conference in the history of sports. The Indians disappointed, the Browns went in the tank, but the Cavs were there waiting for us, waiting to build on the promise of last year.

But once again in Cleveland, it's not next year, it's last year. After Friday's game, Larry Hughes will have missed half the season. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is playing like he thinks it's still the playoffs. The Cavs can't turn up the dial against lousy teams. And God is laughing.

It's kind of funny -- here's the Cavs with a 9-6 record, a half-game out of the Central Division lead, just 2½ games behind the Orlando Magic for best record in the conference. They've defeated the Spurs in San Antonio, which happens as often as Rasheed Wallace says something nice about a referee. They're on pace to win just as many games as last season. They've got a presumably happy Lebron James locked up until the end of the decade.

And yet there's that Cleveland smell lingering around this team. Do we look at the 9-6 mark, which puts them in the top quarter of the league in any given year? Or do we look at the fact that 13 of the first 15 games were against teams currently with losing records, and wonder why that mark is only 9-6?

No one wonders what God's looking at. And really, after what's happened in this town for four decades, no one really wonders what the rest of us are looking at either.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tribe's master plan strikes again

Here's every morning in the Dolan households: Wake up. Grab newspaper. Open sports section. Gasp. Pull covers back over head. Curl up in fetus position. Rinse. Repeat.

The contracts look like Mega Millions jackpots. And owners are handing them out like candy from a parade float. The Cubs alone have committed almost as much money in salaries over the next eight years as Larry Dolan did in buying the Indians six years ago:

  • * $136 million for 8 years for OF Alfonso Soriano after his career year
  • * $75 million for 5 years for 3B Aramis Ramirez
  • * $13 million for 3 years for 31-year-old 2B Mark DeRosa and his .273 career batting average
  • * $5.25 million for 2 years of C Henry Blanco and his career sub-.300 OBP

Then there's the $31 million the Baltimore Orioles will be paying out over the next three years to former Tribe closer Danys Baez and lefty specialist Jamie Walker; the $100 million over the next six years OF Carlos Lee will receive from the Houston Astros; the $50 million over the next 5 years that the Los Angeles Angels will give Gary Matthews after his one good year; the $14 million over the next 3 years that SS Alex Gonzalez and his .255 career batting average will receive from the Reds; and the $18 million over the next four years that former Tribe mopup man Justin Speier will be spending thanks to the Angels.

The Indians said they'd have more money to spend on payroll this offseason. But what they didn't say was that everybody else would have a LOT more money to spend on payroll this offseason. Labor peace in the sport has prompted teams to spend like it's Black Friday at Wal-Mart, just without the deals. Ironically, Larry Dolan received praise for helping hammer out that new contract, which put baseball's 32 teams a collective $500 million in the black.

It started a couple weeks ago at the general managers' meetings when the Boston Red Sox paid $51.1 million for the rights simply to negotiate with Japanese pitching sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka and his agent Scott Boras -- kinda like paying tribute to a mob boss before actually sitting down with him. Indians president Paul Dolan said:

"I guess I'm shocked by it. I'm not sure I understand the economics of such a deal. It demonstrates that we have more work to do on the economic disparity within the game."

Hey, a Dolan complaining about baseball finances! On the scale of baseball shockers, that's up there with Manny Ramirez misplaying a fly ball, the Kansas City Royals losing 100 games, and the Indians bullpen blowing a save. Vegas won't even post odds on those events.

But don't worry, as always the Tribe's master plan is in place. This time it comes in the form of outfielder David Dellucci. That's right, another platoon player! The Indians become Dellucci's sixth team since he entered the majors in 1997. For two of those teams -- the Baltimore Orioles (1997) and New York Yankees (2003) -- he collected less than 60 at-bats. For the others -- the Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2003), Texas Rangers (2004-2006), Philadelphia Phillies (2006) -- he played almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. From 2002 on, Dellucci has just 165 ABs against left-handed pitching, but 1,475 ABs overall. Nearly 85 percent of the time Dellucci fills a platoon role. And in that 15 percent against lefties? 23 hits! That's a .147 batting average.

Given those numbers, if Dellucci actually does become the Indians' everyday left fielder, as his agent says, then Mark Shapiro should stop getting out of bed in the morning, too. As it is, they've got another platoon player for the outfield. Dellucci can split time with Jason Michaels in left, while Shin Soo-Choo takes turns with Casey Blake in right. Or if Casey Blake actually does go play first base -- which would be like putting Ugly Betty in a beauty pageant -- then maybe Dellucci can play some right field as well. Just hopefully not against a lefty.

Back to bed now, Larry and Paul.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bye, Casey

Thanks for the memories. You'll never be forgotten.

One last request -- could you put in a word with the big guy for us?


But ... but ... but ... but ...

What a disaster: Cincinnati Bengals 30, Browns 0.

It's not Charlie Frye's fault, though. He's only started 16 games, after all, equivalent to a full season. He has no offensive line. And he has no veteran quarterback to mentor him. No, no, no, no, can't blame Charlie.

It's not Braylon Edwards' fault, though. He's coming off reconstructive knee surgery. And he wants to win, really, really bad -- it's his passion. No, no, no, no, can't blame Braylon.

It's not the offensive line's fault, though. Heck, if not for LeCharles Bentley's injury and Ross Tucker's mystery illness and Bob Hallen's training-camp retirement and Maurice Carthon's stupid playcalling, the Browns would have a great offensive line! No, no, no, no, can't blame the offensive line.

It's not Reuben Droughns' fault, either. An offseason filled with drunken-driving charges and domestic-violence charges just got in his way. He would have repeated his 1,000-yard performance if not for all that, really he would have! No, no, no, no, can't blame Reuben.

It's not Maurice Carthon's fault, either. The radioactive poison of the Browns' season hasn't been anywhere near the team for a month. Still the Browns haven't scored an offensive touchdown in two weeks. No, no, no, no, can't blame Maurice Carthon.

It's not Phil Savage's fault, either. His drafts are only two years old -- give those players time to develop! You can't expect Charlie Frye to be good until he *develops*, just like Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo. And it's not his fault every offensive lineman signed as a free agent turned out to be more brittle than a gingerbreak cookie. No, no, no, no, can't blame Phil Savage.

It's not Romeo Crennell's fault, either. He can only do what he can with what Phil Savage gives him. And what's Romeo supposed to do, throw Braylon Edwards off the team next time he says something stupid. Fine him??? No, no, no, no, can't blame Romeo.

It's not Randy Lerner's fault, either. He's been busy, spending time with his European soccer team. He's distracted! Don't worry, he'll turn his attention back to the Browns soon enough. It's not like he only owns the Browns because he inherited them from his dad or anything like that. No, no, no, no, can't blame Randy Lerner.

Really, how can you blame anyone for the Browns' awful season? It's just bad luck! They're on the right path. Just give them time.

Like 40 more years.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Yeah, well, Pittsburgh still sucks!

If Braylon Edwards didn't understand the Browns-Steelers rivalry before, he sure does now. This time he experienced it just like all Browns fans do.

Here's the formula: yap at the Steelers all week, suffer a heartbreaking defeat, then yap some more. That's Browns fans during Steelers week, and that's Braylon Edwards during Steelers week. That's what Braylon experienced last year, that's what Braylon experienced this year, and that's what everyone in Cleveland's been experiencing for, oh, the last 20 years at least.

Like the show 24, the script's always different but same in a way. Jack Bauer's going to fight terrorists, watch his friends die along the way, and save the world at the last second. The Browns are going to talk a good game, choke, then talk about how they at least played a good game and have to keep it up. Oh, and don't forget, to hell with the Steelers!

That's what Braylon said in the locker room, just after the Steelers had scored with 32 seconds left to take their first lead of the game, just after Charlie Frye's last-play Hail Mary pass bounced through Braylon's hands in the back of the end zone, just after Kellen Winslow consoled his teammate, who apparently didn't inspire his teammates by calling out the Steelers immediately following last week's victory over the Falcons.

Sunday wasn't the first time the Steelers p0wned Braylon. Last year he said no Steeler cornerback could cover him, then caught just 64 yards worth of passes in the teams' first meeting, a 34-21 Pittsburgh victory. Edwards didn't play the second Steelers game last year because of injury. Then the smack leading up to this year's game, an answer-the-bell 137 yards on seven catches, and two chances to catch Hail Mary passes that slipped right through his hands.

Just an awful weekend for Braylon, a Michigan grad, who had to watch his team go down to defeat against THE Ohio State University Saturday. Then he had to watch his former OSU foe Santonio Holmes catch a touchdown and convert a third-and-20 play after the Browns' home crowd fired up Holmes with an O-H-I-O chant.

So we're right back where we always are. Heartbreaking defeat. No points from the offense. Last place. Spanked by the Steelers. Hated by God.

At least the Browns are good at one thing -- last-second losses. Since the Browns last won two games in a row in October 2003, they've lost games in the final minute or overtime to the Broncos (2003), the Eagles and Dolphins (2004), the Bengals (2005), and the Steelers and Ravens (2006). Number of games the Browns won in the final minute in that span? One.

That's right. Over the past three years, the Browns have lost six games that were decided in the final minute while winning one. That one was the 9-7 victory over the Raiders last year when a replay review overturned a Reuben Droughns fumble in the final seconds, leading to Phil Dawson's game-winning field goal as time expired.

Of course, Braylon didn't play in that one. It came two weeks after he tore his ACL. Which equates with ripped-out hearts Browns fans suffer year in and year out.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Browns stink, rivalry doesn't

They think no one in Cleveland cares about the Browns-Steelers rivalry anymore. They think that just because our team has stunk for close to a decade, just because Ohio State has become our de facto pro football team (especially with THE Ohio State University beating Michigan in the Greatest Game of All Time© being played this weekend), just because the Steelers have dominated the Browns and are the defending Super Bowl champions, they think that no one cares anymore.


We just don't care about the game anymore.

But remember what your current punter, Chris Gardocki, did, Steeler fans? Back in 2000 he flipped off the Steelers sideline, telling your jawhead coach Bill Cowher and the rest of the Steelers what he thought of them after the Steelers gave Gardocki a few cheapshots. That's your punter telling you what the rest of us here in Cleveland think about Pittspuke.

Oh, sure, we've got plenty of things to distract us. We've got the soon-to-be-national-champion Buckeyes. There's that Cleveland native Troy Smith who's about to win the Heisman Trophy. We've got Lebron and his James Gang (what, they have the best record in the Eastern Conference??). We've got the high school football playoffs. We've got Grey's Anatomy.

It's just hard to get worked up for a game when we put our hearts, our souls, our money, and our time into rooting for a team that never pays us back. (That's you, Browns, by the way!!) It's hard to really care about a team that has won 2, 3, 7, 9, 5, 4, 6, and this year 3 games since it returned from limbo.

But it's never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER hard to get worked up over the Browns-Steelers rivalry. Even Braylon Edwards, who didn't even play in last year's Christmas Eve game won by the Steelers 41-0, knows this.

Just the smell that comes into our city whenever Pittsburgh fans come to watch their team is enough to piss us off for six months. The games? Hey, we've been getting clobbered, but what can you do when God hates your sports teams?

But the rivalry? The rivalry! You can almost hear Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now replacing "horror" with "rivalry" in his famous speech: "It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what rivalry means. Rivalry has a face ... and you must make a friend of rivalry. ... The rivalry ... The rivalry."

And here's the Top 7 moments for the last seven years of Browns vs. Steelers:


Browns draft bust Courtney Brown records his career-high third sack when he plants Steeler stiff QB on the 6-yard line with 14 seconds to go and the Browns up three. With the Steelers out of time outs, time runs out and the Browns win 23-20. Later in the week, NFL senior director of officiating Jerry Seemen tells the Steelers that the referees should have stopped the clock to spot the ball, which would have most likely given Pittsburgh enough time to try a hurried game-tying field goal. But tough luck, Steelers -- they finish a game behind the Colts for the final playoff spot.


Bill Cowher needed to lie to his players to fire them up in order to win the first game the Browns played when they returned to the NFL in 1999. Cowher told Browns officials not to introduce the Steelers prior to the game, then told his players the Browns refused to introduce them. He must have known his crummy team would only finish 6-10 that year.


Chris Gardocki flips off Cowher and the Steelers' sideline, giving voice to the feelings of every person in Greater Cleveland.


Even though the Browns sucked, THIS one mattered -- Phil Dawson ran onto the field as the clock wound down, the Browns out of time outs. His 39-yard field goal split the Three Rivers Stadium uprights as time expired, giving the Browns an amazing 16-15 victory over the Steelers just nine games after the Steelers whipped the Browns in their return to the NFL. Apparently Cowher forgot to lie to his players before this game.


If you can't beat 'em, kick 'em out! That's the tact William Green took with Joey Porter before the game in Cleveland in Nov. 2004. Porter likes to get riled up in warmups, and this time he supposedly spat on William Green. That led to swings, which led to ejections for both players -- a pretty fair trade!


Hey, who wouldn't get drunk and run on the field in a 43-0 game? Nathan Mallett found out why maybe you shouldn't do it when Steelers linebacker Jerome Harrison body-slammed him and held him for police. But the best thing about it was Mallett's punishment -- he was sent to jail and didn't have to watch the Steelers win the Super Bowl earlier this year. Not only that, he is never allowednever has to go to a Browns game again!! Justice was definitely served.


Not only do the Browns blow a 12-point lead in the final 10 minutes, they do it in a wild-card playoff game against TOMMY FREAKING MADDOX. And you can believe it's not just any old choke job. It took a Dennis Northcutt drop of a pass that would have given the Browns a first down in the final minutes and most likely taken away any chance of a Steeler comeback. Northcutt and Ryan Tucker are the only two Browns starters from that game who remain on the team.

So there you have it. The rivalry still lives, even if this one hasn't provided any Greatest Game of All Time© over the past seven years. You can bet this one will give us yet another highlight, even if God makes it a bad one for the Browns.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Steel hurtin'

This one's for you, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ...

Straight from the W.W. Jacobs files of "be careful what you wish for" comes this year's Browns-Steelers game. Remember his story "The Monkey's Paw" that we all read in ninth grade? (Well, all of us outside Pittsburgh. They were still working on their McGuffey's Readers in high school.) In case you don't, here's the summary, using small words to help Steelers fans understand. Whoever possesses a certain monkey's paw talisman is granted three wishes. Mr. and Mrs. White receive the paw and all their wishes have horrible consequences, including the death of their son.

It looks Browns fans received their wish this season, W.W. Jacobs fashion. "Please, please, please God, make us as good as those awesome Pittsburgh Steelers!" we prayed. "If only we could be as good as a Super Bowl champion. It's all we've ever wanted!"

Wish granted, Browns fans! Suddenly the Browns are just as good as the Steelers. Of course you expected Rod Serling to appear and deliver the cruel twist of fate, didn't you? The Browns are finally as good as the Steelers BECAUSE THE STEELERS SUCK!!!!

Yes, this year's first Browns-Steelers game is a battle for last place. And who can't get excited about that, especially the day after the Greatest Game of All Time© is played in Columbus? Well, other than Braylon Edwards? Sure, the Steelers have beat the Browns nine out of the last 10 times. Sure, the Steelers have shut out the Browns three times since our return to the NFL in 1999. Sure, the Browns haven't scored more than 12 points in a home game against the Steelers since the turn of the century. None of that matters. God has granted us our wish.

Things are so bad that Steelers head coach Bill Cowher is talking about retiring. See what happens when the Browns catch up with you? Let's check out the scoreboard heading into Sunday's matchup: same record (3-6), our Evel Knievel wannabe is second in the league in receptions while theirs is 22nd in the league in passer rating, and the Browns have given up less points than the Steelers so far this year (184-207). Who wouldn't want to retire staring at all that, Super Bowl trophy in hand or not.

And here you thought God hated Cleveland sports.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Are you there, God? It's me, Cleveland

So the Cavs just handed the San Antonio Spurs only their 20th home loss in the last three-plus seasons. The Browns fired jinx Maurice Carthon and won a game. The Indians, uh, they had lunch with Luis Gonzalez!

Maybe things are looking up for Cleveland sports. Maybe God has stopped hating our teams. Or maybe God never really hated our teams at all. Turns out a fisherman off the coast of New Jersey recently hauled in an interesting catch. He found a bag full of letters intended for God, some dating back to 1973, that had been put into a shopping bag and dumped into the ocean.

Let's see. We haven't won any sports championships since 1964. Since 1973, all these prayers to God have gone unanswered. A nine-year drought, no big deal. We can understand that. Happens all the time, even to the Yankees. But 40-plus years is Moses-wandering-in-the-desert territory. That's when you start looking at otherworldly causes. Could some prayers from Cleveland sports fans have been floating in that bag?

What if some kid in Maple Heights asked God to help the Browns beat the Broncos and make the Super Bowl back in the '80s? What if someone in Bedford thought a request to God would help the Indians beat the Marlins in the 1997 World Series and make her grandfather happy? What if some anonymous soul in North Ridgeville thought that a letter to God would help Butch Davis lead the Browns to a Super Bowl?

And what if the letters from Denver, from Florida, from Pittsburgh, from Baltimore -- what if all those letters got through and didn't wind up in a shopping bag in the Atlantic Ocean??

It's bad enough to think that God hates your sports teams. It's even worse to find out that your arguments haven't even had a chance to sway Him. If our letters ended up in that bag in the ocean, it's like a lawyer being banned from the Supreme Court. Not only has the decision been rendered, but we don't even get a chance to argue in our favor. Not only would we have no hope, but we would have no hope of having hope.

At least they found the letters just as the NBA season started. Let's hope God gets the delivery in time to save Lebron's patellar tendons.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The curse of ... Maurice Carthon??

Take a look at that picture up there. That's New York Jets tight end Chris Baker making a tying touchdown catch at the end of the game against the Browns yesterday -- maybe. Baker caught the ball but didn't land inbounds, mostly thanks to the hit Browns safety Brodney Pool laid on him. The officials ruled that Baker would not have landed inbounds anyway, and that call was not reviewable. Score one for the Browns.

But take a look at the picture. No, you can't see the sidelines. You can't determine whether Baker would have landed inbounds. But that's not the point. It's all about what you DON'T see in the picture.

No Maurice Carthon!

That's right, banished along with ex-offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon were all the Browns troubles. Carthon went away and in came Reuben Droughns' first 100-yard rushing game of the season and the Browns' second-highest point total of the year. And their second win. All against a team with a winning record. Bye, bye, Maurice Carthon, hello playoffs!

Maybe it actually was all Maurice Carthon's fault and not God's. Some amazing never-before-seen photos point to this. In Abraham Zapruder-like fashion, photos from past Cleveland sporting events seem to support this "grassy knoll" theory. Take a look at these pictures provided EXCLUSIVELY to God Hates Cleveland Sports and see if you notice anything conspiratorial.


We all know that Willie Mays made the most amazing catch in baseball postseason history in Game 1 of the 1954 playoffs between the juggernaut Indians and the upstart San Francisco Giants. We all know Mays caught the ball in dead center field in the Polo Grounds in the top of the eighth of a tie game, sparking the Giants to a series sweep.

But this digitally enhanced, never-before-seen photo shows the REAL reason the Indians were upended in 1954. Look at who's sitting in the front row in center. He's three seats in from the right. He's staring straight at Willie Mays.



And all this time, we thought Maurice Carthon's influence over the Browns only extended back to the beginning of last season. How wrong we were. Now, these pictures are very grainy. But thanks to our computer picture enhancing techniques, we were able to capture these two shots of those infamous AFC Championship games against the Denver Broncos in the 1980s.

First, if you look just over the right shoulder of the Brown pursuing John Elway during The Drive in 1987, you will see a previously unreleased image of MAURICE CARTHON STALKING THE BROWNS' SIDELINES!

A year later, just as Earnest Byner fumbled the ball away on the Broncos' goal line as the Browns tried to tie the game in the closing minutes, MAURICE CARTHON APPEARED ON THE BROWNS' SIDELINE AGAIN!

This incontrovertible evidence shows just how much Maurice Carthon has jinxed Cleveland sports through the years -- especially the Browns.


Until now, Michael Jordan got all the credit for beating the Cavs in 1989. However, our enhanced digital technology has uncovered the truth.

And no wonder it took all this time. How could any individual be picked out from the sea of people at the other end of the court? But there he is, front row just to the right of the key -- MAURICE CARTHON!

All these years we thought it was the Cavs who created Michael Jordan. But it was really Maurice Carthon. Just like Mr. Glass in Unbreakable, it's Maurice Carthon who created all of Cleveland's arch-villains. He made Elway Elway and he made Jordan Jordan, just by being there.


If you blinked, you missed him. But Maurice Carthon found himself in Florida for Game 7 of the 1997 World Series and decided to take in the game. Somehow he got himself down in the photographer's pit along the third-base line.

You know what happened then.

Sources tell GHCS that they are investigating other ignominious moments in Cleveland history, such as the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, the Hough riots, and the East Ohio Gas Explosion to see if Maurice Carthon indeed played a role. If it is true that Maurice Carthon has cursed Cleveland and not God, then perhaps we have exorcised our demons just in time for the Cavs season.

Monday, October 23, 2006

We've seen this before

Even God's running out of ideas.

The Browns are a television show that's aired far too long. There's no original material left; plot lines repeat themselves. Offensive line stinks? Did that one during season one. And two. And three. Can't score? An ongoing theme. Ruptured patellar tendon? Hell, we already did that story in the first episode of this season -- but let's do it again and make it twice as bad!

Just like Bailey was always worried about falling off the wagon, just like Ross and Rachel ran circles around each other for 10 years, just like every doctor on ER is doing the same thing all the other doctors on ER did a decade ago even though they are all different doctors, nothing ever changes for the Browns. They still can't block. They still can't score. They still have a crummy offensive coordinator. They still have a quarterback who just ain't that good. And nothing changes. Everyone just finds different excuses.

When this same team returned from the dead seven seasons ago, we had a mobile quarterback who ran for his life behind a crummy offensive line. In his first season, when he played 15 games, Tim Couch completed 15 passes and threw 13 interceptions while completing 55.9% of his 399 passes. Karim Abdul-Jabbar and Terry Kirby were the Browns' top backs while Kevin Johnson and Darrin Chiaverini led the team in receptions. Those guys can't even get into the Hall of Fame with tickets.

Now Charlie Frye has actual talent to throw to, but in 11 starts hasn't even shown signs of being as good as Tim Couch. Frye has completed 60.8% of his 365 passes for 10 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The great scrambler has gained only 131 yards on 38 tries for a 3.4 average. Four went for touchdowns. Tim Couch? He ran 39 times for 278 yards and one touchdown that first season. That's TWICE as many yards.

If Charlie Frye were from Willard, Missouri instead of Willard, Ohio, we'd be calling for Ken Dorsey by now.

Seriously, we are repeating the first season of Browns 2.0. We just replaced the guys who play the main characters. They did it with Darin on Bewitched, they do it with James Bond, they did it with Becky on Roseanne (even bringing back the original actress to replace her replacement (the ever hot Sarah Chalke, now on Scrubs)), and they're doing it with the Browns.

Charlie Frye IS Tim Couch. Center Hank Fraley IS Jim Pyne. Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius IS Darrin
Chiaverini. Head coach Romeo Crennell IS Chris Palmer. Kicker Phil Dawson is, well, Phil Dawson. It's just different characters playing the same role, doing the same things they did seven years ago. Don't forget, that 1999 Browns team won two games, just like this one will!

Unfortunately, hardly anyone IS good. So we're banished by God to remake hell, forced to watch the same thing over and over -- miserable loss after miserable loss. Welcome to Dante's 10th level of Hell, Cleveland sports.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Crashing the party

Imagine talking to the prettiest girl at the party all night long. Imagine her interest in you as you make her laugh, as you compliment her dress, as you admire her hair. Imagine her smiling as you talk about how good she is at her job, about her favorite rock and roll band, about her crazy yet irrepressibly beloved mother. Imagine her touching your arm, sharing her phone number, and talking about going to see her favorite rock and roll band when it comes to town next week.

Then imagine the front door bursting open as a young, strapping, semifashionable young man enters carrying a bottle of champagne wrapped in a bow. He smiles as he enters the room, and you see all eyes on him. You see him scan the room, then lock eyes with the prettiest girl in the room -- the girl you have been chatting with all night. Eyes on the prize, he moves in. You're left standing alone against the wall.

Now imagine being a Cleveland Indians fans and watching the Detroit Tigers knock off the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. Imagine watching catcher Pudge Rodriguez spray champagne on the fans through the net behind home plate; imagine watching Jim Leyland kiss his wife through the net, then kiss a drunk Tiger fan on the hat; imagine hearing a sellout crowd roaring with delight.

After yesterday, there's no imagining required. The Tigers are that young, strapping, semifashionalbe young man who have entered the room carrying a bottle of champagne with their eyes on the prize. After 14 consecutive losing seasons and no playoff appearances in 20 years, the Tigers now have claws once again.

Meanwhile, the Indians and their fans are sitting along the wall, all alone, wondering how everything has slipped away. After all, didn't the Tribe do everything right? Didn't they harvest the farm system, lock up their young players, and put together a top offense? Didn't the Indians' brain trust, spearheaded by GM Mark Shapiro, put a plan into place to spur the Indians back into contention?

Remember when after the Florida Marlins beat the Indians in the 1997 World Series, then sold off their team, then-GM John Hart said the Tribe would remain a contender by doing things "the right way"? Of course, the Marlins won another World Series before the Indians even got back to one.

And now the Tigers have vaulted to the top, right where the Indians thought they would be. So the Indians will enter Year 5 of the sped-up rebuilding plan trying to build around the edges of what they already view as a championship contender. They'll keep chatting up the prettiest girls, like B.J. Ryan, like Trevor Hoffman, like Nomar Garciaparra, and hope that strapping young men like the Tigers don't keep crashing the party and stealing away the prize. Maybe the Indians need to call Charles Atlas and stop playing the role of 97-pound weakling.

The Art of revenge

For one day, all Cleveland fans should move to Philadelphia. On Sunday, their Art Modell returns.

Today Terrell Owens returns to Philly, just one season after one season after trying to sabotage the franchise. Heck, one season? Try five games into the next season. What do you think will happen in a city where they once booed Santa Claus at a game? Not only does TO have a running, high schoolish rivalry with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb -- ooooh, did he receive my text message??? -- but he was suspended from the Eagles halfway through last season as Philly coach Andy Reid cut off his nose to spite his face. And now his return has inspired extra security at the Dallas Cowboys/Eagles game Sunday.

It's the revenge scenario Clevelanders dreamed about but never experienced once Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore. For years afterward, Modell never came back to town to watch a Ravens/Browns game, for fear that he would be killed, or worse. From the moment Modell announced the Browns were moving, Cleveland Municipal Stadium became hostile territory for Art, what with "Jump Art" signs and corporate sponsors removing their advertising. It inspired the Art Modell Death Watch (1995 until forever).

These types of things happen everywhere except Cleveland. A-Rod came back to Seattle and Texas after asking out of both places. Pat Riley returned to New York to face "Benedict Riley" signs after leaving the team he took to the NBA Finals. Bill Parcells left the New England Patriots the night after he led them to the Super Bowl, then returned as New York Jets coach. We were able to shower fake dollar bills on Albert Belle and boo Jim Thome, but our Joker, our Lex Luthor, and our Green Goblin all rolled into one never came back to face the music.

Remember those "Jump Art" signs? Remember the fans ripping seats out of the stadium after the real Browns last home game? Remember the Sports Illustrated cover showing a caricature of Art punching a Browns fan in the stomach? All we wanted was revenge. All we wanted was Art to come back to face the music, sitting in his luxury box with palm pressed to forehead while the new Browns took on the real Browns. Even if the Baltimore Ravens won, no one would have cared as long as we were able to spend three hours booing Art Modell.

It was never going to happen. It wasn't death Art was afraid of, but bad PR, bad television. You can bet the NFL's TV partners advised Art not to return, because they would broadcast three hours of Cleveland revenge. Even if the Browns couldn't beat the Ravens -- which rarely happens, as the Ravens are 10-5 against the new Browns -- it wouldn't matter. We would hate on Art Modell like he was an old girlfriend who had wronged us, and came back thinking everything was all right.

But we couldn't even get that. Art never came back, the Browns have sucked ever since, and Modell got his Super Bowl championship in 2001. Not since Han Solo was encased in carbonite and the Empire had seemingly destroyed the Rebel forces had anyone so evil came out on top. Art never did come back for any football games, but what did it matter after 2001? The Ravens won, Art got over, and we never even got to release our anguish through booing.

Philly fans get a different treat. Donovan McNabb will carry Philly's everyman on his back tomorrow, as he gets a chance to stick it to his, and every Philadelphian's, playground rival. They've even got a good team which is favored to beat the Cowboys.

But not in Cleveland. In Cleveland, we're left with blue balls and the unendearing image of Art Modell dancing with Ray Lewis while celebrating a Super Bowl championship in Baltimore. We're left with pictures of the girl we loved and treated like a queen for her entire life leaving for no reason and hooking up with the prom king and former quarterback whose done nothing but stick his rocklike jaw out and smile his whole life. We're left with a rotten taste in our mouths that nothing has washed away in half a decade, and most likely nothing ever well. We're left, like usual, holding a bagful of empty promises and broken dreams.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ex-Indians doom Padres

Stay classy, San Diego. You're going to need to after your Padres get bounced out of the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals. That's the only thing that will get you through the next six months. You see, you are about to get bounced by the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that played out the final 10 days of the season as if MLB still played a 154-game schedule.

The Cardinals held a 7½-game lead over the Houston Astros the next-to-last week of the season. Heading into the final weekend, St. Louis was in a virtual tie with the Astros, leading by just a half game. But the Cards did just enough -- in effect, watch Houston lose on television -- to sneak into the playoffs and avoid the Greatest Choke Ever.™ Now the Cards have the worst odds of any of the NL teams for making the World Series. And the Padres are 8:5 favorites to bounce the perennial NL Central champs.

It's not going to happen. While we don't know who will win the World Series, we definitely know who won't. That's the Padres. The GHCS Playoff Formula tells us that.

It's quite simple, actually. Just figure out which team has the most ex-Cleveland ballplayers, and eliminate it. In the case of ties, whichever team has the players who played in Cleveland most recently will lose. And the Padres, with six former Indians, head the list. Any team with that much bad karma simply can't last.

Here's what the GHCS Playoff Formula predicts for the playoffs this year:


St. Louis Cardinals over San Diego Padres -- Even though they picked up Ronnie Belliard from the Indians at midseason, the Cardinals have just two former Tribesmen. Jose Vizcaino (179 ABs in 1996) is the other. Belliard wasn't quite able to wash the stink of 390 games played for the Indians since 2004, hitting just .237 in 194 ABs for St. Louis.

But Belliard and Vizcaino are trumped by the six Padres who once sported the Chief Wahoo logo: Brian Giles (1995-1998), Rudy Seanez (1989-1991), Josh Bard (2002-2005), Russell Branyan (1998-2002), Alan Embree (1992, 1995-1996), and Dave Roberts (1999-2001). That's 857 games worth of Tribe experience, and that just can't be overcome. The Padres will drown in a sea of Cleveland ineptitude.

Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Mets -- The Dodgers have a huge decision to make. Do they make Einar Diaz (1996-2002) active for the playoffs? If they do, that makes three ex-Indians on the squad, along with Kenny Lofton (1992-1996, 1998-2001) and Jeff Kent (1996). And the Mets would have just two, Guillermo Mota (2006) and Julio Franco (1983-1988!, 1996-1997).

Since Einar only got three ABs for the Dodgers, all in September, odds are he won't make the postseason roster. That's why we're picking L.A. to upend the Mets. If the Dodgers are at all tempted to go with Einar -- say, maybe Russell Martin or Toby Hall were vaporized by invading aliens just before the first game of their series -- they need to realize just how much the decision could cost them. They already made a wise decision months ago by trading Sandy Alomar to the White Sox. Keeping only Lofton and Kent will make them favorites over the Mets, since Mota helped destroy the Tribe bullpen just this year and since Lofton was a pretty darn good Indian.


Detroit Tigers over New York Yankees -- The toughest call of all. Each team has only one ex-Indian, Sean Casey (1997) for the Tigers and Jaret Wright (1997-2002) for the Yankees. Since Wright had a much longer tenure and may very well have the Yankees' playoff fate in his hands by starting the fourth game of this series, that's bad news for New York fans. Casey's 10 at-bats with the Tribe at the beginning of his career don't bring the taint with it that could cost a team a playoff series.

Minnesota Twins over Oakland Athletics -- Not only do the A's have Scott Sauerbeck (2005-2006), who played in Cleveland this year before hiding in some bushes in the suburbs, they have former Indians hothead Milton Bradley (2001-2003). Two infamous ex-Tribesmen easily trump Twins reliever Matt Guerrier, who was only born in Cleveland and never played here. Billy Beane's shit don't work in the playoffs when he's using ex-Indians!


Los Angeles Dodgers over St. Louis Cardinals -- They're tied 2-2 in ex-Indians. But the GHCS Playoff Formula tiebreaker says Dodgers win, since Ronnie Belliard was trying to fasten a few buttons over his belly in Cleveland earlier this year.


Detroit Tigers over Minnesota Twins -- It's about as Tribe-free a series as you can get, since the Twins have no ex-Indians and Sean Casey had just 10 ABs with the Tribe. But unless the Twins drop Cleveland native Matt Guerrier before the ALCS, they're done. Born in Cleveland trumps playing for five minutes in Cleveland.


Detroit Tigers over Los Angeles Dodgers -- The Tigers have constructed a darn good roster. Only one player with any Indians experience, and it was just six games nearly a decade ago! That's good enough to please God and good enough to beat the Dodgers. Give Jim Leyland another ring, and give the title to a team that hasn't had a winning season since the last time the Tribe sucked!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tribe finished despite strong finish

In an alternate universe, it's still 2005, and the Indians' 7-1 record against the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays over the last week of the season put them into the playoffs. It completed a magical run that saw the team roll through the last two months of the season that saw the Tribe go from a .500 team at midseason to one of the league's best, all while clinching their first division title in five years. In that alternative universe, the Indians will be playing the Oakland A's Tuesday at Jacobs Field in the first game of the ALDS; your pitching matchup: C.C. Sabathia vs. Barry Zito.

But in this universe -- you know, the REAL one -- the Indians' 7-1 record against the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays over the last week of the season put them mercifully to bed. The season that really ended in May officially ended with a sweep of the Devil Rays and a 78-84 record. That left them closer to the last-place Kansas City Royals (62-100) than it did to the first-place Minnesota Twins (96-66).

And in this universe -- you know, the REAL one -- when the Indians faced the White Sox and the Devil Rays for six games over the final week of the season in 2005, needing really to win just half of them, the Tribe could muster only one win. One. But sometimes you'd think the Tribe brass lives in that alternate universe.

The Indian Summer Mirage last year, when they went 42-15 from July 23 to Sept. 24, convinced Tribe management -- and many of the fans -- that the rebuilding had worked. But what's the reality? The 42-15 record for two months last year, or the 351-452 record for the remainder of the last five seasons?

Which is kind of weird to hear from an organization that values a player's track record. After all, that's why they signed Aaron Boone. And took Guillermo Mota in the Coco Crisp trade. And signed "innings-eater" Jason Johnson. And let him keep pitching. Contention by 2005? Yep. But no one promised us anything after that, did they???

Next season we'll be entering the fifth year of GM Mark Shapiro's lightning-fast rebuilding program. They've posted 74, 68, 80, 93, and now 78 wins during that time. They're a combined 24 games under .500, which only looks that good because of the 93-win season last year. Four losing terms in five tries don't breed much confidence. Not in a division which has become the best in baseball faster than

Once again, we're left waiting for last year, just as we have been every year for the past four decades.