Sunday, April 30, 2006
The Indians were on ESPN, the Cavs were on TNT, but only three letters mattered.
If God were a programming director, every night would look like last night in Cleveland. There were the Cavs on TNT, blowing a 13-point lead against the Washington Wizards and losing by 10 to even their best-of-7 first-round playoff series at two games apiece. There were the Indians on ESPN, blowing a four-run lead against the Texas Rangers and losing two out of three to finish April 4½ games behind the Chicago White Sox. And both at the exact same time.
What started as a promising weekend with wins by both the Cavs and Indians Friday night and a good day of drafting by the Browns Saturday took a turn more wicked than Dead Man's Curve. When 37,000-plus turned out for Grady Sizemore bobblehead night at Jacobs Field Saturday night -- Grady's Ladies were disappointed three times over Saturday night. Not only did the Grady bobblehead look more like the guy who bought the ticket to sit in centerfield than the guy who plays in centerfield, but it made the guy who bought the ticket to sit in centerfield look like he couldn't make it to the bathroom in time. Then the bobblehead morphed into a voodoo doll when Grady went 1-for-5 and was doubled off first base on a lineout to end the game.
Last night it got worse. The Cavs built a 13-point lead, watched it slip away by the end of the third quarter, then lost by 10. The Indians built a 4-1 lead after six innings, then watched their bullpen implode (again) in a six-run seventh as the Rangers wound up winning by four. A discriminating TV viewer could actually switch away from the Cavs game just after Antawn Jamison made his 3-pointer to give the Wizards the fourth-quarter lead and pick up the Indians game midway through the sixth-inning disaster. Welcome to the Titanic, I'm your captain, God!
At least none of the Browns draft picks has been injured. Yet.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Not so daft drafts
The Browns got their man in today's draft, linebacker Kemerion Wimbley from Florida State. He's a first-round talent who fits the Browns' needs perfectly, and Phil Savage even managed to squeeze a sixth-round draft pick out of the Baltimore Ravens while trading down and still landing Wimbley.
And here's why you shouldn't be too excited about it.
Like Indians were to Custer, so too are NFL drafts to the Cleveland Browns. The only difference is no draft is ever the last stand for our Browns. Instead, they live to play again another year only to get massacred again.
Since their return to the NFL, the Browns have selected 67 players in the draft. Not one has made the Pro Bowl, either for the Browns or any other team. Starting with Tim Couch, the first pick of the 1999 draft, Browns drafts have been littered with, well, litter.
Actually, since Bernie Kosar manipulated his way to the Browns through the 1985 supplemental draft, they've struck out in the first round more often than Russell Branyan. Here's a ranking of the Browns' first-round draft picks over the last two decades, from worst to, well, not worst:
1) Craig Powell (1995) -- Foreshadowing the impending implosion of the Browns via their move to Baltimore after the season, then-coach Bill Belichick famously panicked when the New York Jets selected Belichick's man-crush, Kyle Brady, just before the Browns picked 10th. Belichick traded with San Francisco to move to the end of the first round, where he selected Powell, who tore up his knee halfway through his rookie season and played 12 games. Then, after the Browns moved to Baltimore the next year, the Ravens used the pick Belichick received from San Francisco to pick Ray Lewis, who led the Ravens to the most disgusting Super Bowl victory in Browns history.
2) Mike Junkin (1987) -- The Browns traded Chip Banks to the San Diego Chargers in order to move up and select the "mad dog in a meat market" fifth overall. Rivaling Pamela Anderson for bust size, Junkin played two seasons for the Browns and one for the Kansas City Chiefs before moving on to his life's work.
3.) Tim Couch (1999) -- Beaten around like a demolition derby car for five years before spending the last two seasons wandering around the NFL in search of a job like Caine in Kung Fu. Incredibly, Couch cracks ESPN.com's list of the worst 100 draft picks ever, but only makes it to third on the Browns own list. t least he married a Playboy centerfold!
4.) Clifford Charlton (1998) -- The Browns "fixed" the Junkin mistake by taking Charlton 21st, but like Junkin, Charlton lasted just two years with the Browns.
5.) William Green (2002) -- Like a bad rash, William Green just won't go away. He's still on the Browns because no one will trade for him.
6.) Touchdown Tommy Vardell (1992) -- Blame current Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green for this. As coach at Stanford in 1990, he gave Vardell the "Touchdown Tommy" nickname after four 1-yard touchdown plunges in a 36-31 victory over Notre Dame. That was one more touchdown than he scored in four years with the Browns.
7.) Kellen Winslow (2004) -- There were a couple games that Kellen Winslow actually played in. He broke his leg in one of them. Then he played Evel Knievel on his motorcycle, right down to the broken body. The Browns expect him to play a big role on the team in 2006, which is kind of like expecting the hole in the center of a doughnut to fill you up.
8 (tie). Courtney Brown (2000) and Gerard Warren (2001) -- Interchangeable, even so far as they both moved to the Denver Broncos prior to the 2005 season and helped them to the AFC Championship game, after underachieving for the Browns.
10.) No pick (1990) -- It was traded away, meaning the Browns couldn't embarrass themselves.
11. Jeff Faine (2003) -- Ended each of the last three seasons on the injured list, most likely will start the next one on another team.
12.) Eric Turner (1991) -- The safety made the Pro Bowl in 1994, but played just one more year with the Browns. Tragically died of cancer after the 1999 season with the Oakland Raiders.
13.) Antonio Langham (1994) -- one of the Browns better first-round picks of the last 20 years simply by not sucking.
14.) Eric Metcalf (1989) -- Good on kick returns, not good on runs up the middle.
15.) Braylon Edwards (2005) -- Displayed perfect Cleveland form by tearing up his knee midway through his first season. Optimists say he'll be ready by training camp; Clevelanders say don't count on a thing from Edwards for 2006.
15.) Steve Everitt (1993) -- The Browns finally scored, using the 14th overall pick, drafting a hard-working, long-haired offensive lineman who took to the Cleveland ethic like a dog to a bone. Everitt forever lives on in the hearts of Clevelanders for wearing a Browns bandanna on the Ravens sidelines during their first exhibition game. Presumably told Art Modell to F-off when Everitt left the Ravens to join the Philadelphia Eagles after the 1997 season. Of course, no one has drafted a center as high as No. 14 since.
If Kamerion Wimbley were to turn on ESPN, see that he was drafted by the Browns, and immediately retire, we'd understand. And so would God. For now, we can only hope that Kamerion settles in as the 16th least-sucky Browns pick of the last two decades.
Monday, April 24, 2006
This is what you can do when you leave a Cleveland team -- hit a home run to beat the Indians, then point to the heavens to thank God.
Can't do that if you're an Indian, a Cavalier, or a Brown, and you especially couldn't do it if you were and Indian or a Cavalier last night. But Manny Ramirez, since he is now a Boston Red Sock, can point skyward and praise The Big Man all he wants. He can even do it at home plate at Jacobs Field after hitting a three-run homer to lead his team to an 8-6 win over the Indians. And to think, just the other day Manny became just the fourth player in MLB history to hit 200 homers with two different teams. Last night's blow was his 202nd as a Red Sox; he hit 236 with the Tribe.
Right next door, plenty of Washington Wizards could raise their fingers skyward, because they erased the euphoria of the first Cleveland sports team playoff victory in 4½ years with an 89-84 victory over the Cavs. Thanks to 10 turnovers, 7-of-25 shooting, and a missed dunk, King James found out that God is at least a couple of pay grades higher.
All the witnesses who thought LeBron's triple-double in his playoff debut Saturday would propel the Cavs to an easy series victory over the Wizards can now join the millions of other Cleveland sports witnesses -- you know, the ones who witnessed Ron Harper get traded for Danny Ferry, the ones who witnessed the Browns move to Baltimore, the ones who witnessed Jose Mesa's World Series meltdown.
The Indians are now a .500 team and the Cavs have given up home-court advantage against a team that both won the regular-season series against them and overcame a 2-0 deficit in the first round last season. This falls right in line with what we've witnessed in the past. And usually when we do, we're shaking our fists at the sky instead of pointing our fingers.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
You have to wonder, if the Cavs win this playoff series against Washington, what are we going to name it?
Thirty years ago today the Cavs were playing host at Richfield Coliseum to Game 5 of the first playoff series in team history. That series was also against Washington, at that time known as the Bullets. The Cavs won that day, 92-91, their second one-point win of the series. A week later the Cavs won by two on a Dick Snyder bank shot with four seconds left to take the series in seven games. They called it a miracle.
Yes, 30 years ago today the Cavs were right in the middle of the Miracle of Richfield run against this very same Washington team. The Cavs actually finished that year with a better record than Washington -- 49 wins to 48 -- and had the third-best record in all of the NBA, behind only Golden State and Boston. But this is Cleveland, so for the Cavs to beat a team with a worse record in the playoff was most definitely a miracle.
Perhaps now the miracle will be for the Cavs to overcome the Sports Illustrated jinx, as LeBron James is featured on the current cover and is the centerpiece story for the magazine's NBA preview. The Wizards are the most fitting matchup for the Cavs, since among possible playoff opponenets, only the Pistons have given the Cavs as much trouble as the Wizards. The Cavs are 1-3 against both the Wizards and Pistons, and 14-6 combined against every other Eastern Conference playoff team.
And the Cavs probable opponent if they repeat the Miracle of Richfield and beat Washington? The Pistons.
The best thing about the Miracle of Richfield is that the Cavs ONLY WON THE FREAKING FIRST ROUND! After beating Washington, Boston took out the Cavs in six games in the Eastern Conference finals. Many say that if Jim Chones had not broke his foot, the Cavs would have won, which is almost like saying if the Cavs played in any other city than Cleveland, they would have won.
So just keep in mind as the LeBron James playoff era begins that the last time the Cavs played Washington in a playoff series in which the Cavs had the better record, it was a miracle when the Cleveland team won. And that was BEFORE John Elway, Michael Jordan, or Edgar Renteria. Even before Red Right 88. Our sports egos hadn't even been crushed by the mid-70s, just beaten down a bit from a decade of mediocrity from our teams. Still, when we actually had a good team -- a BETTER team based on records -- it required a miracle for the team to win anything.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
A good week to be Brandon Phillips
By the time you read this, former Indians prospect Brandon Phillips may very well have stopped global warming, rebuilt the World Trade Center, discovered an easily tapped reserve of oil, and defeated Chuck Norris in a fight. And by the time you're reading THIS, Indians GM Mark Shapiro has pulled the covers up that much farther over his head as he tries to avoid hearing what else Brandon Phillips has done.
Brandon Phillips has most likely done all these things by the time you read this because right now, as in while this is being typed, Brandon Phillips has hit a grand slam, a two-run homer, and driven in six runs for the Reds against the Brewers. The game is only half over. So that means in half a game, being played right now (or last night for you), Brandon Phillips has two HRs and six RBI.
Meanwhile, Cleveland Indians utility infielder Ramon Vazquez also has six RBI -- since the beginning of the 2005 season. And he has one HR -- since the beginning of the 2004 season. Brandon Phillips has now driven in 13 runs in his last four games. Ramon Vazquez drove in 13 runs -- in 2004.
Brandon Phillips, of course, was the centerpiece of the Bartolo Colon trade three seasons ago, the trade that also brought Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee to the Indians. No one's complaining about that trade. But Brandon Phillips struggled and never lived up to his prospect hype, forcing the Indians' hand this year when they couldn't send him back to the minors without subjecting him to waivers. Still, they weren't exactly presented with Sophie's choice when deciding to keep either Brandon Phillips or Ramon Vazquez. Rather than look at talent, though, the Indians allowed attitude to dictate which player they would trade. Brandon Phillips supposedly would not have taken well to a bench role, while Ramon Vazquez knows his place is on the bench and is very happy to sit there. So the Indians sold Brandon Phillips to the Reds.
Now, Brandon Phillips is taking over second base for the Reds. Now, Brandon Phillips has a good attitude and would even play outfield for the Reds. Now, Brandon Phillips gets a little dig in at Mark Shapiro, other than his two-homer game and his 13-RBI week.
It hasn't been a good week for the Indians, who have given up 27 runs their last two games, lost three of four, and seen two pitchers hit the disabled list. But it's been a good week to be Brandon Phillips, and an even better week to be God.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
If the pitching mound had turned into quicksand and swallowed Indians pitchers one by one, no one would have thought it a more disastrous outcome than what actually happened at Camden Yards last night.
As it was, Tribe pitchers merely exploded. First, ineffectiveness claimed Jake Westbrook; he couldn't get the last out he needed before completing giving away a four-run, fifth-inning lead. Then a strained elbow took out Matt Miller. Moments after replacing Miller, Rafael Betancourt succumbed to a back strain. Surprisingly, Jason Davis took the mound without asking for Barry Bonds' leftover body armor. Even Bartolo Colon, years removed from the Tribe and a coast away, couldn't escape the Indians taint last night, going onto the disabled list with a shoulder problem.
When the smoke settled and the M*A*S*H unit cleared out, in classic do-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-you fashion, the Baltimore Orioles did it right back to the Indians last night. A day after the Indians rolled to a 15-1 victory, the Orioles put up double digits in an 18-9 victory, karmically outscoring the Tribe 15-2 from the bottom of the fifth on.
Some people mow the lawn once a week; the Indians put a pitcher on the disabled list. Miller has already hit the DL, He could be there awhile, as a strained elbow sidelined him for most of last season. He joins C.C. Sabathia and Fernando Cabrera on a list that's becoming more crowded than the upper deck in right field at The Jake. And don't start thinking the cavalry will come stampeding over the hill with a fresh shipment of arms. Replacement names being bandied about include a guy who has spent most of the past three years injured (Steve Karsay), a guy who was a first-round bust (Jeremy Guthrie), a guy with a 7.02 ERA in Akron (Rafael Perez), and a guy who has never pitched in the majors (Andrew Brown). But at least Andrew Brown's from Chardon!
Within the space of the week, the Indians have lost two games in which they've scored nine runs and lost one game in which they allowed just one run. They've lost three pitchers to injury. And they've lost first place to the White Sox, who are suddenly a game ahead. When they wind up three games behind Chicago at the end of the season, remember this week. God sure will.
Monday, April 17, 2006
If yesterday was a playoff preview, the Cavs might as well wait another seven years before they make the postseason.
The Cavs' 104-92 loss to the Washington Wizards yesterday could be explained away by the fact that the Cavs rested their starters for the fourth quarter. Except that the starters found themselves in a 26-point hole before the fourth quarter ever began. And except that Washington won three out of four against the Cavs this season by similar scores. And except that of all the Cavs' potential first-round playoff foes, the Wizards have given the Cavs the most trouble.
Really though, Wizards @ Cavs for the first round of the playoffs isn't something that only Nostradamus could predict. Washington has had little trouble with the Cavs during the LeBron era, winning seven of 11 matchups since King James entered the league. With the Wizards staring the Cavs in the face for the first round and a match with the league-best Detroit Pistons looming in the second round, the Cavs playoff trail is now looking tougher than a burnt steak.
So, masochists of Cleveland, queue up for your playoff tickets today. We don't know when the game is yet, and we don't know who it will be against yet. But we do know that God hates Cleveland sports, especially in the playoffs. Be prepared.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Just as the person who drinks an extra Starbucks grande every morning faces the inevitable sugar crash, so too did Cleveland fans after gorging on a sweetened sports scene the last few weeks. And crash we did last night.
First, old friend Richie Sexson blasted a grand slam that also knocked the Indians' six-game winning streak out of the park. Then the Cavs could only score 29 points by halftime in a statement game against the league-best Detroit Pistons. THEN LeBron James went limping into the locker room in the third quarter.
Apparently God became a little perturbed by our lack of faith. YES, he exists, and YES, he still hates Cleveland sports. Pistons 96, Cavs 73 and Mariners 11, Indians 9 is His little reminder of that.
LeBron will probably sit out tonight's game against the Knicks, making TNT very unhappy. But he says the injury isn't serious. Sure, tell that to every Clevelander who's watched playoff dreams crumble like the walls of Jericho for the last 40 years. The real upset would be if doctors don't discover a hairline fracture in LeBron's foot when they study the x-rays today.
Really, this is the doomsday scenario everyone's been waiting for. A week before the playoffs, in a game that doesn't really mean anything, superstar-of-a-generation and MVP candidate LeBron James goes down with an injury. Diagnosis: out for the playoffs. We haven't reached that step yet, but right now we're holding our collective breath as if we just saw LeBron climb on a motorcycle in a Westlake parking lot.
It appears our pride got the best of us, and God stepped in. Tonight, one king -- King James -- will be sitting in a natty suit on the sidelines, biting his fingernails, and missing a battle with the Knicks. Just a Tiger Woods drive away, another king -- King Felix Hernandez of the Mariners -- will be missing Indians bats with an assortment of pitches that draws comparisons to a young Dwight Gooden. It's certainly possible that Hernandez, who turned 20 less than one week ago, stifles the Indians bats and gives the Mariners a series victory over the Tribe.
Possible? Make that probable. This is Cleveland, and this is the sports scene, and God only has to look downtown to see two of the teams he hates in action at the same time. The sugar crash is here.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
This is just getting out of hand. Now David Riske is following Coco Crisp to the disabled list.
Not only are the Indians in first place for the first time since 2002, not only are the Cavs as the hottest team in the NBA and heading to playoffs for the first time since The X-Files was the hottest show on TV, not only is Vince Young visiting the Browns just in case he slides to 12th in the draft, but now we're looking like like the best traders since Peter Minuit gave up just $24 to get Manhattan Island.
Watch out, before long someone's going to tell you Jason Michaels is hitting over .300 and Guillermo Mota hasn't given up a run.
As long as it's not God whispering any of that in your ear, you might be OK. But right now, either the Big Guy's on vacation, or He actually is Buddha, and it's just taken 40 years for karma to make come north.
The Lebron James-for-MVP talk is now hotter than Paris Hilton in a car wash, and just in time for the Cavs' clash with the Detroit Pistons tonight. Front and center on ESPN at 8 p.m., Lebron states his candidacy for MVP.
He certainly brings plenty of credentials. The Sporting News says Lebron's stats are comparable to Jordan in his prime. The Asbury Park Press ays Lebron's on pace to become the fourth player to average 31 ppg, 7 rpg, and 6 apg. The Akron Beacon Journal's Brian Windhorst says the Cavs late-season surge makes him a serious MVP contender.
But here's what God says -- Lebron plays for a Cleveland team. And that trumps all.
In the last 40 years, only Brian Sipe (1980 NFL MVP), Gaylord Perry (1972 AL Cy Young) and The Old Man (Christmas Story) have won major awards in Cleveland. Sipe capped his MVP season with a playoff interception that became known as Red Right 88. The Old Man's wife "accidentally" broke his leg lamp after he put it in the front window. And Perry, well, he's notorious for cheating his way to 314 wins and the Hall of Fame with his spitter.
Major awards and this city don't exactly fit together like Hall & Oates, Lennon and McCarthy, or, say, Cleveland and sports championships. Even Sipe's award was a fluke; 1980 was the only outstanding year of his career. He's more well-known for throwing the interception to Oakland's Mike Davis than for leading the Browns to that spot in the playoffs.
So perhaps tonight we shouldn't be rooting for Lebron to punk Chauncey Billups and serve notice to the Pistons that the King is claiming his throne. If he does, he likely will go the way of Segway, the Rockers, and Super Joe Charboneau. Remember any of them? Exactly!
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Cleveland welcomes former Tribe manager Mike Hargrove back to town tonight when the Mariners visit for a three-game series -- but watch out, Mike! This is BIZARRO Cleveland now!
And poor Mike Hargrove is the perfect manager to return to Bizarro Cleveland. He's been living a Bizarro Cleveland life since leaving the Tribe after the 1999 season. After building up a 1,312-721 record here and rising to second on the all-time wins list as an Indians' skipper, Hargrove has mucked around a couple of baseball backwaters and now sees his career record just eight games above .500. Yep, like a gambler who can't stop when he's ahead, Mike Hargrove has just kept plugging along, first with a bad Baltimore team and now with an equally bad Seattle team. Hargrove's teams have won 74, 63, 67, 71, and 69 games in his last five seasons. He managed Baltimore from 2000-03 and started with Seattle last year. That's a 344-465 record since leaving town. And believe it or not, the Indians own record is 416-394 in those five years.
Apparently, Mike Hargrove is the Bizarro Bill Belichick, who was ripped apart like a paper airplane in a tornado during his time here, only to go to the New England Patriots and become Hall of Fame Coach Bill Belichick by winning three Super Bowls. Or the Bizarro Paul Brown, who was fired by Art Modell in 1963 and then went to Cincinnati, founded the Bengals, and went to two Super Bowls while the cursed Browns went to none.
Really, who puts together a better managerial record IN Cleveland than OUT of Cleveland? Charlie Manuel -- .535 winning percentage with the Indians, .543 in Philly heading into this season. John McNamara -- .427 here, .491 in more than 2,000 games everywhere else. Pat Corrales -- .441 here, winning record everywhere else.
In fact, going back 50 years, Frank Robinson and Dave Garcia are the only other two Cleveland managers who posted better records with the Indians than they did with other teams. And their combined Cleveland record is exactly .500.
Then there's Richie Sexson, the Bizarro Player of the series. Sexson was traded to Milwaukee midway through the 2000 season, following Hargrove out the door. His teams have enjoyed even less success than Hargrove's since. NOT ONCE since Richie Sexson left Cleveland has his team won even 70 games. NOT ONCE!!
So this is the perfect time for Hargrove and Sexson to return. Up is down, left is right, and east is west on the Cleveland sports scene right now. And two prominent Cleveland sports figures who miraculously had more success in a town whose sports God hates than in towns whose sports He doesn't have returned. In these upside-down times, you can expect Hargrove to leave town that much closer to a career managerial losing record, and Richie Sexson that much farther away from 70 wins.
Monday, April 10, 2006
And April Fool's Day is long gone. Perhaps Best Week Ever will be devoting its next episode to Cleveland sports.
Opposite Week continues today with word that ex-Indians outfielder Coco Crisp -- he of the much debated trade to the Boston Red Sox this winter -- will be out up to two months with a broken finger. Of course, Coco was supposed to be out for about two months with a torn ligament in his thumb at one point last season; he missed just two weeks. So if Coco does miss an extended period, and our own C.C. Sabathia returns much sooner than the original three- to five-week diagnosis, has Bizarro Cleveland become real Cleveland?
Already Bob Wickman has more saves than B.J. Ryan and Trevor Hoffman combined, two closers with whom the Indians played footsie in the offseason. Nomar Garciaparra, who the Indians coveted, pulled a Juan Gonzalez and went on the disabled list before the season even started. The supposedly improved World Series champion White Sox just finished losing two of three to the lowly Kansas City Royals. Meanwhile, Lebron James-for-MVP talk is heating up and Penthouse has picked the Indians to beat the Cardinals in the World Series. Soon people will be planning their summer vacations around the chance that the Cavs will be playing in the NBA Finals. And to top it off, it's 65 degrees and sunny today.
Whatever alternate reality we've spun off into, it's not too bad. But be certain that even in a parallel Bizarro Cleveland, God is still pushing the buttons. Or perhaps it's just Bizarro God, bored with the same old same old. If someone shows up to offer you a choice between a red pill or a blue pill, you'll know the jig is up. Until then, enjoy the ride.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
We're being set up.
After winning a series from the White Sox to start the season, the Indians debuted on top of the ESPN.com baseball power rankings. Then, Yahoo.com's baseball writer Jeff Passan wrote a featured article, which all but says our wait is over for another World Series title. Apparently expectations run so low in this town that whenever anything good happens, such as beating the defending champions, we get extra credit for it. After all, the first power ranking aren't based so much on the Indians winning, but on the White Sox losing: "We have to start with someone at No. 1, and for now it might as well be the Indians," writes ESPN.com.
Thanks for your charity, guys. This makes up for everything that's happened to us the last 40-plus years while standing in line for our championship trophy. The bad taste in our mouths from the collapse the last week of last season? Washed away! Memories of the Cavs choking away a playoff spot last year? Who cares, we beat the White Sox and are No. 1 in ESPN.com's power rankings! Art Modell sucker-punched us and stole our football team away? Seven years of mediocrity since their return? Gone in the blink of a web site refresh!
Funnier even than our top ranking, which follows the preseason chants of everyone with a microphone hailing the White Sox as repeat World Series winners, are the player comments beside the second- and third-ranked teams. For the White Sox, "the old Jim Thome is back." And for the Oakland A's, "Milton Bradley is letting his game do the talking (.308, .400 OBP) and fitting right in this loose clubhouse.
Let's see -- Jim Thome, who missed two-thirds of last season with various injuries, is back after just three games. And Milton Bradley, who has been run out of the Expos, Indians, and Dodgers systems for throwing bigger fits than Rep. Cynthia McKinney, is now an angel in the outfield for the A's.
Meanwhile, the OTHER World Series team from last year is ranked 14th. At least ESPN.com didn't jump on the undefeated Detroit Tigers bandwagon. They are just 18th.
There's no byline on the power rankings, but there's no question who wrote them -- God. The top ranking, combined with a series victory over the White Sox and an impressive home-opening win against the Twins proves it. Call it the Gospel according to Cleveland, where in the beginning there is blue skies, hope, and optimism, but at the end the curtain closes on yet another tragedy.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Like your mother used to tell you, that rain is God's tears. But today they aren't his tears of sadness. No, God is quite happy today, and his happiness is about to drown out the Indians home opener.
Why would God be crying from tears of joy after the Cavs recent nine-game winning streak and the Indians started the season winning two out of three from the World Series champions? Well, that's exactly why -- because optimism reigns in Cleveland right now. And when optimism reigns, God's tears of laughter turn into actual rain.
What better way to remind us that we live in Cleveland than to send the rain pouring down on the day of our home opener? As they say, it's Cleveland's national holiday. We've got Mike & Mike's ESPN Radio morning show broadcasting live from Pickwick & Frolic downtown today. We've FINALLY got a one-run win against the White Sox under our belts. And now we've got a giant rain cloud over the city.
Weather forecasts say the rain, rain will go away just in time for the Tribe to play. By then, our soggy fans will just be happy to see some baseball. And when the Tribe's new acquisition Paul Byrd takes the loss, making God laugh some more, the rain will fall again and everyone will go home doubly soaked.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
In front of every silver lining there's a dark cloud, which is why yesterday was a perfect sports day in Cleveland.
The Indians rebounded to wipe out the White Sox, 8-2, despite another Jim Thome home run. Jake Westbrook dominated into the seventh for the Indians, and Aaron Boone collected nearly half as many hits yesterday as he did all of last April. Then the Cavs, sparked by Larry Hughes' first game this calendar year, destroyed the Philadelphia 76ers, 124-91. Hughes scored 10 points, Lebron James 37 for his seventh straight game of 35 or more, and Anderson Varejao posted a double-double.
But the enduring image from yesterday is of Zydrunas Ilgauskas lying face-down on the court, sitting up, and limping to the sidelines. Z has been one of the NBA's most durable players the last five years, missing less than 30 games. In Cleveland, though, fans are like a beaten puppy, never trusting anything again because of memories of the early days. Z spent most of his first three years in the league walking around in a cast, and we're just waiting for those days to return.
Right now would be the perfect time. Z is doubtful for tonight's game against the Knicks, which makes Clevelanders doubtful that the current nine-game winning streak will result in anything more than a couple Player of the Week awards for Lebron. That the Cavs have the NBA's seventh-best record and play the NBA's worst team tonight means nothing. Cleveland fans are the people who actually believe that Jack Bauer *might* just be dead after the latest cliffhanger.
No, those dark clouds aren't just the typical Cleveland spring weather. They're the typical Cleveland sports weather, forecast perpetually gloomy, with a 35% chance of optimism. And a 100% chance of being hated by God.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
It's next season, and we're still the White Sox's bitch.
We had to sit there Sunday night like outcasts at the high schol dance watching the quarterback dance with the girl we have a crush on as the White Sox received their World Series rings. Then we watched C.C. Sabathia walk off the mound and onto the disabled list. And THEN we had to sit through a three-hour rain delay, just to watch Jim Thome drop a predictable homer into Lake Michigan on the one pitch our supposed closer of the future put over the plate.
And people were worried the Indians wouldn't have their new channel ready in time for the regular season? We should have been begging them NOT to put this on our televisions.
The only thing surprising about the Indians' season opener is that Jim Thome didn't homer until his third at-bat.
Sunday night's script wasn't one of those they wouldn't be able to sell in Hollywood. It was as believable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. In fact, it was written last Thanksgiving, when the White Sox traded for Thome. Two people knew it at the time:
“I predict Jim Thome is going to have a Jim Thome year next season,” (Phillies manager Charlie) Manuel said. “He’s in top-notch shape and is still as good a hitter as he ever was.” “I’m disappointed to see him in our division,” (Indians) GM Mark Shapiro said. “The White Sox gave up a lot. They took a risk, but it’s a trade that could have a very high ceiling.”
And we've even seen this acted out before. After the Indians traded Bartolo Colon to the Expos halfway through the 2002 season, they turned around and flipped him to the White Sox in January 2003. In 2003, Colon went 2-1 against the Indians, including a victory in the Tribe's home opener. He's gone on to win 53 games and a Cy Young since.
Then there's Sabathia, who apparently strained the only muscle in his body for the second year in a row. He went on the disabled list Tuesday morning. "I don't know what caused it," said Sabathia.
Here's what caused it, C.C. -- YOU ARE FAT! That, coupled with God's distate for Cleveland sports, has you at the top of the list for injuries every year.
But really, it's probably a good thing that Sabathia left the game early. If he stayed in, Jim Thome most likely would have lined a shot off Sabathia's head that ended up bouncing over the fence for a home run, leaving our "ace" lying on the mound with a broken skull.
Only 17 more games against the White Sox!