Monday, May 22, 2006

It's a Cleveland thing

From now until the end of time, every possible hurricane or tropical storm has already been named. Each of 12 different regions already has several different lists of storm names which are rotated each year. For example, the first Atlantic Ocean hurricane of this year was named Alberto. The first Atlantic Ocean hurricane of 2011 will be named Arlene. And in 2012, the first Atlantic Ocean hurricane will be named Alberto, as this year's list comes back into play.

Perhaps it's time to set up such a list for Cleveland sports teams. ABC decided to show us our list in the closing minutes of the Cavs' Game 7 loss to the Pistons yesterday. While watching the end of Game 7, we relived The Catch, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, and The Mesa. We can add in The Modell for the Browns' move and The Non-Catch for Grady's misplay in Kansas City next year and have ourselves a right proper list. Thanks, ABC!

Then we'll be prepared for years to come. Instead of trying to come up with new names for each of our sports disasters from now on, we just start back at the top of the list, and call the next event The Catch II. Red Right 98. The Drive II. The Next Fumble. The Second Shot. The David Modell. A Bigger Mesa. Another Non-Catch. Then let's call this latest loss The Cleveland, because it just sums up our sporting life year after year. Or how about The Sigh, because that's all we can do. Then just go back to the top of the list each time you get to the end and modify the names a bit, that should last us at least the next 50 years. Certainly past 2011.

While yesterday's Game 7 loss doesn't rival the towering infernos which have burnt down in our sporting past -- after all, it wasn't at home and the Cavs weren't favored and Jose Mesa wasn't playing -- it certainly belongs on the same stage. After all, the Cavs tied the record for fewest points in a half of a playoff game (23), and set records for fewest points in a Game 7 and a Cavs playoff game (61). If you're not going to make the loss memorable, you might as well make it historical.

For some reason, despite falling for the old Lucy-holding-the-football trick once again, fans still believe. Of course, plenty of people still believe Bill Gates is giving away money for forwarding email. No, it's just the same old, same old; the promise of a big hunk of fresh cheese and the reality of a giant mousetrap snapping down on our necks in a trap sprung by God.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Game 7 unlucky number for Cleveland teams

Some Cleveland traditions -- Stadium Mustard. Polka. The St. Patrick's Day parade. The Rib Cook-Off. Losing the deciding game of a playoff series.

The history of both the Cavs and Indians is replete with losses in the deciding game of a playoff series, some legendary, most just lethargic. Of course, the Loch Ness Monter has been seen more often in the past few years than a playoff finale for a Cleveland team, so most of our failings have been forgotten. But the psychic wounds run deep.

The Cavs are 3-4 all-time in the grand finale of playoff series, which in the annals of Cleveland sports is good enough to shout about from atop Terminal Tower. The Indians have nothing glorious to say, with three losses in three tries in the final game of a series.

2001: Roberto Alomar hits into two double plays and is accused of tanking as the Mariners defeat the Indians, 3-1, in Game 5 of the ALDS to complete a comeback from down 2 games to 1.

1999: Pedro Martinez strolls out of the bullpen and shuts up the Jacobs Field crowd with six innings of shutout baseball in the Red Sox's 12-8 victory in the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS.

1997: Jose Mesa makes the Indians the first team to lose a World Series when taking a lead to the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 by blowing the save -- Tribe loses 3-2 in 11 innings.

1993: Cavs go the distance against the New Jersey Nets in the first round, winning Game 5 99-89 to take the best-of-5 series. They then get swept by the Bulls in the second round and go 2-12 in the playoffs until this year.

1992: The Cavs become only the second Cleveland team to ever win a seventh game, beating the Celtics 122-104 at home in the finale of the Eastern Conference semifinals. But the Bulls are waiting and stomp the Cavs in six games en route to the title.

1990: Charles Barkley gives Craig Ehlo a nice thud in lane as the 76ers win Game 5 in Philly, 113-97, to take the best-of-5 series.

1989: The Shot. 'Nuff said.

1988: Michael Jordan and the Bulls begin their mastery of the Cavs by taking their first-round, best-of-5 series with a 107-101 home victory in Game 5.

1977: Back when first-round series were best-of-3 affairs, Cleveland couldn't even win one of those. The then-Washington Bullets took out the Cavs in the third game, 104-98.

1976: The Miracle of Richfield. The Cavs won Game 7 against the Bullets, 87-85, to take the series -- it's a miracle!!!

So don't be surprised if by tomorrow morning, once again we are waiting for next year. After all, aren't we always?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Believing it before we see it

What the heck were we thinking? Did we all forget where we live?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Believing it before we see it

In the first game of the 1988 World Series, Kirk Gibson limped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth for the Los Angeles Dodgers and hit a game-winning home run off Dennis Eckersley. Announcer Jack Buck famously proclaimed, "I don't believe what I just saw." Too often we haven't been able to believe what we just saw happen to our teams. As in every single year for the past 41.

But by 7 a.m. this morning, the news vans were already lined up along East 4th and Huron, right in front of The Q. More were sure to follow. Front and center, The Plain Dealer asked, "Are you ready to believe?"

And for some reason, we are.

For some reason, despite believing just before Brian Sipe threw the ball into Mike Davis' hands, we are ready to believe.

For some reason, despite believing when John Elway stood under center on his own 2-yard line with less than two minutes to play, we are ready to believe.

For some reason, despite believing when Earnest Byner ran to the 4 and then the 3 and then the 2, we are ready to believe again.

For some reason, despite believing when the Bulls inbounded the ball to Michael Jordan with less than 3 seconds left down by a point, we are ready to believe again.

For some reason, despite believing when Jose Mesa took the mound in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, we are ready to believe again.

For some reason, despite believing just before Grady Sizemore lost a fly ball in the sun in Kansas City, we are ready to believe again.

For some reason.

But tonight we might finally be able to be happy about what we are about to see. Tonight, even though this is Cleveland, it may very well be the other team moaning, "I don't believe what I just saw."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lit up like Vegas

On the day he was drafted, LeBron James promised he would "light Cleveland up like Las Vegas." On Friday, he delivers on that promise.

In what has the potential to be this city's greatest sporting event since the Browns' 1964 NFL Championship, LeBron and his Cavaliers can eliminate the Detroit Pistons from the playoffs tonight at The Q. Two weeks ago we really were just happy to be here. Now we are believers.

The Greatest Moment in Jacobs Field History already happened, more than 10 years ago. The Greatest Moment in Q History might happen Friday night.

Way back in 1995, when the Indians made the playoffs for the first time since before we began sending things into outer space, we witnessed The Greatest Moment in Jacobs Field History and this city's top sporting moment in the 40-plus years since the Browns' title. In the first game of the first playoff series the Indians had played in since 1954, Tony Pena hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th at 2:17 a.m. in front of a sellout crowd of 44,218 people, most of whom were still in the building. Two years and 12 hours before, there might not have been 44,218 people in all of downtown Cleveland.

The home run towers over two World Series appearances, the return of the Browns in 1999, all our named sporting disasters, everything since that 1964 championship. It delivered on a promise and promised its own run of greatness. It is and will always be the Greatest Moment in Jacobs Field History because of both the anticipation and the outcome, something we had waited more than 40 years for, and something that delivered like Santa on Christmas Eve. By the 1997 World Series, our expectations ran higher than the July temperature, taking some of the fun away and making us all more miserable when the Florida Marlins won. By the late 1990s and into the turn of the century, we became all the more bitter when the Indians could not turn in more once-in-a-generation performances.

But now -- NOW -- we have a moment to rival the anticipation of that Oct. 3, 1995 playoff game. And if for just one night God stops hating Cleveland sports, we will have a moment to rival the delivery as well. LeBron is the promise the Cavs made to the fans on May 22, 2003, when they won the draft lottery. The Cavs have a chance to provide The Q's seminal moment Friday, its Tony Pena moment, a night where they both deliver on a promise and promise more to come. Even though a victory over the Pistons won't be a championship or even a ticket TO the championship, it could very well become The Greatest Moment in Q History for what it represents: Rebirth. Revival. Resilience. Renewal.

Of course, the Pistons have been behind 3 games to 2 in three other playoff series three times over the past two seasons. They won all three series. So the rational part of Clevelanders is thinking this is all a setup, just another one of Lucy's promises to hold the football while we kick it, only to laugh at us for believing her once again.

But we're still going to light up the town. And whatever God has in store for us, like Job we're going to take it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A bold prediction

If Detroit Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace wants to wrest the mantle of World's Greatest Psychic away from Sylvia Browne, he's going to have to do a lot more than predict that the Cavs aren't going to win a playoff series. The NBA world is agog with word of the latest "guarant-Sheed," in which Wallace apparently turned into a burning bush and said, "(Game 4) will be the last game played in this building this year."

WOW! Rasheed Wallace has declared that a Cleveland team will lose a playoff series, which is one step removed from predicting that he will put his right shoe on his right foot before tonight's Game 4 begins. Apparently, Wallace has made three other "guarant-Sheeds," all of which came true. They were, in order of greatness:

  • "Water will come out of this faucet when I turn this handle," he told his high school girlfriend in 1991.

  • "When I throw this ball up in the air, watch, and it will come right back down to me," he told an amazed 5-year-old before the first game of the NBA Finals two years ago.

  • "That 'Emily's Reasons Why Not' show ain't gonna last three episodes," he told Rip Hamilton while watching the NFL playoffs.

  • Wallace's prediction is so amazing that every single Plain Dealer writer picked the Pistons to win this series in five games, as did three of five writers. Those picks were made more than a week ago.

    If Rasheed Wallace really wanted to be remembered, he would have predicted that this is the week the Indians get healthy. After all, the Royals (10-25) and Pirates (11-27) own the two worst records in baseball. They're here for seven games. The Tribe could very well be 24-21 in a week, the skies will clear, the sun will shine, and Cleveland will rejoice in a summer on the shores of Lake Erie. Or it could be football season.

    But Wallace would rather be right than be remembered, so he will have none of that. Not when the Royals (5-1 against the Tribe, 5-24 against the rest of baseball) are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Not when Wallace's Detroit brethren, the Tigers, just completed their first sweep in Cleveland since Len Barker's perfect game, errrrrrrrrrrrrr, 1990. Not when six straight losses have sent the Indians sinking into the quicksand of the 2006 season; they've dropped to fourth, closer to last place (5½ games) than to first (8 games).

    There's someone much more omniscient than Rasheed Wallace who's been making predictions about Cleveland sports for the past 40-plus years. His name is God, and every year he makes the same pick -- you lose.

    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Mission even more impossible

    Good morning, Mr. James. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves defeating the best team in the NBA in four of the next five games. They have been designated as "The Pistons." You will be aided by several teammates, none of whom is especially adept at playing defense. One of those players, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, may be MIA. You must find him, using techniques such as the pick and roll and the entry pass.

    Iit is essential that more than one of your teammates be able to make an outside shot. Allowing Larry Hughes and Flip Murray to shoot 3-pointers all day leads to certain disaster. Only by driving to the basket and playing strong defense can a team advance past the first round of the NBA playoffs.

    You'll have 48 minutes per game in which to defeat "The Pistons." You will be playing at The Q for the next two games, the first of which will be Saturday afternoon. As always, should any member of your team shoot poorly, foul out, or fumble a ball into the end zone at the end of the game, the fans will go into a panic and remember your actions for all time. And Mr. James, this message will self-destruct in five playoff games -- probably less.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    A Royal mess

    The Kansas City Royals have just completed their first sweep of the season, at the expense of our Indians, and everyone's surprised. But really, the surprise is just why the heck is everyone surprised?

    No one's noticed, but Kansas City has turned into a veritable Bratislava for the Tribe. They go in search of good times, easy wins against the league's doormat, and hot women. Intead, they find themselves tortured, mutilated, and shot.

    Here's what's happened to the Tribe in their recent trips to BratislavaKansas City:

  • Five straight losses to the Royals in 2006.
  • Grady Sizemore lost fly ball in the sun in final game of 2005, costing Indians a possible win and sending them on a weeklong slide to end the year.
  • Pitcher Kyle Denny shot in leg by stray bullet on bus ride to team hostelhotel after a game at end of 2004 season.

    It's almost as if a Dutch businessman has arranged the Tribe's travel plans and a German doctor is treating their injuries.

    Now the Indians come back home with a losing record and hopefully a half-dozen new pitchers.

  • If the Tribe isn't careful, fans won't be showing up for much more torture after this homestand. We've seen it way too many times. The Indians are 17-18, 7 games behind the White Sox and already 4½ behind this weekend's foe, the Detroit Tigers, for the wild-card spot. That's only one game ahead of both the 2005 and 2004 pace after 35 games. And each of the past two seasons, the Indians' frantic dash to the finish was as successful as a coed dashing away from Michael Myers. More of the same just won't fly, especially with the Cavs season almost over and the Tribe most likely all alone on the Cleveland sports stage in less than a week.

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Go west, old man

    Trent Dilfer, we hardly knew ye. Thank goodness.

    In a Rube Goldbergian exchange, the Browns have now turned the No. 3 pick in the 2001 NFL draft into Ken Dorsey and a 2007 seventh-round draft pick. It worked out this way because in 2001 the Browns selected Gerard Warren with the third overall pick, then traded Warren to the Broncos last year for a 2005 fourth-rounder, which they sent to the Seattle Seahawks for Dilfer. Now, Dilfer goes to the San Francisco 49ers for QB Ken Dorsey and a seventh-rounder next year.

    Like the American dollar against the Euro, the exchange rate gets worse and worse for the Browns. Keep that in mind if the Browns wind up with a new set of goalposts at their training facility and Ken Dorsey is nowhere to be found. That might very well be the most the Browns can get if they try to flip Dorsey.

    Looks like the Browns have indeed hitched the wagon to Charlie Frye. But don't be surprised if Dorsey starts a few games for the Browns this year. He's a perfect Cleveland quarterback, at least based on who's stood behind center for the past decade. Dorsey's played in 12 games with the 49ers over the past two seasons and completed eight touchdown passes while throwing 11 interceptions. That mediocrity is right in line with every Browns QB since 1992, who have combined to throw 207 touchdowns and 207 interceptions. Perfect balance!

    Really, we've been living with Ken Dorseys at quarterback for the past 11 seasons, since before Art Modell even thought of leaving town. Just take a look at the main contributers for each year since 1992:

    Mike Tomczak, 211 pass attempts, 7 TD, 7 INT
    Bernie Kosar, 155 pass attempts, 8 TD, 7 INT

    Vinny Testaverde, 230 pass attempts, 14 TD, 9 INT
    Bernie Kosar, 138 pass attempts, 5 TD, 3 INT
    Todd Philcox, 108 pass attempts, 4 TD, 7 INT

    Vinny Testaverde, 376 pass attempts, 16 TD, 18 INT
    Mark Rypien, 128 pass attempts, 4 TD, 3 INT

    Vinny Testaverde, 392 pass attempts, 17 TD, 10 INT
    Eric Zeier, 161 pass attempts, 4 TD, 9 INT

    Tim Couch, 399 pass attempts, 15 TD, 13 INT
    Ty Detmer, 91 pass attempts, 4 TD, 2 INT

    Tim Couch, 215 pass attempts, 7 TD, 9 INT
    Doug Pederson, 210 pass attempts, 2 TD, 8 INT

    Tim Couch, 454 pass attempts, 17 TD, 21 INT

    Tim Couch, 443 pass attempts, 18 TD, 18 INT
    Kelly Holcomb, 106 pass attempts, 8 TD, 4 INT
    Kelly Holcomb, 302 pass attempts, 10 TD, 12 INT
    Tim Couch, 203 pass attempts, 7 TD, 6 INT

    Jeff Garcia, 252 pass attempts, 10 TD, 9 INT
    Luke McCown, 98 pass attempts, 4 TD, 7 INT
    Kelly Holcomb, 87 pass attempts, 7 TD, 5 INT

    Trent Dilfer, 333 pass attempts, 11 TD, 12 INT
    Charlie Frye, 164 pass attempts, 4 TD, 6 INT

    Perhaps it's time for the Browns to walk away from the veteran-QB-holding-down-the-fort school of thought. Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Jeff Garcia, and Trent Dilfer have been just plain rotten in that role; if they pass anything other than the salt for the rest of their lives, some coach is going to have some explaining to do.

    And if Charlie Frye becomes a Ken Dorsey, so will whoever becomes the NEXT new Browns brain trust.

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    Can I get a


    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Many unhappy returns

    Today if Mike Hargrove replaces Ozzie Guillen as manager of the Chicago White Sox, don't be surprised.If John Hart drops in on batting practice, cell phone glued to ear, and says he's trying to swing a deal as GM of the ChiSox, don't be alarmed. If Dick Jacobs brings a bagful of cash to home plate, shakes hands with Jerry Reinsdorf, and buys the White Sox, act normal.

    Chicago fans will. After all, they're used to this.

    Last night, Jim Thome returned to Jacobs Field for the first time since leaving the Tribe as a free agent following the 2002 season. He was wearing a Chicago White Sox uniform, which makes him (a) the enemy, and (b) the latest in a long line of Indians from the Jacobs Field glory days to come back to Jacobs Field wearing a Chicago White Sox uniform and beat the Indians.

    The White Sox have become sort of an old folks' home for ex-Indians in recent years. Since 2001, Sandy Alomar, Kenny Lofton, Bartolo Colon, and Roberto Alomar have come back to The Jake in White Sox gear. They followed the path blazed Albert Belle in 1997, who had a worse breakup with the Tribe than Nick Lachey did with Jessia Simpson.

    And of course the White Sox win just about every time one of our bygone stars returns. The rundown, in order of how bad a beatdown they performed on the Indians:

    1.) Albert Belle, 6/3/97 -- After signing a five-year, $55 million contract with the White Sox, fans threw money, both real and fake, onto the field upon Albert's return. Proving that God was on his side, Albert cracked a three-run homer, went 3-for-5, led the White Sox to a 9-5 victory, and flipped off the fans.

    2.) Bartolo Colon, 4/8/03 -- The Montreal Expos flipped Colon to the White Sox after obtaining him from the Tribe midway through the 2002 season. Colon ruined the Tribe's home opener in 2003 by allowing just two runs in six innings of a 5-3 victory. He didn't earn the victory, but of course, neither did the Indians.

    3.) Jim Thome, 5/1/06 -- He helped the White Sox to their eighth straight victory at Jacobs Field by going 1-for-5 with an RBI single and a walk. The single came when the Indians elected to use Scott Sauerbeck to pitch to Thome with two outs and only third base occupied in the ninth, which is a bit like trying to put a fire out by dumping gasoline on it. White Sox won, 8-6.

    4.) Sandy Alomar, 4/2/01 -- A bad day for Alomar in his White Sox debut, as he went 0-for-3 with a passed ball. He did reach base via walk, but was then caught stealing. No matter, White Sox still won, 7-4, and Alomar saved his homer for the next day.

    5.) Roberto Alomar, 7/12/03 -- He couldn't make it as a Met after the Indians traded him, so the Mets shipped him to Chicago's South Side. This Alomar returned to The Jake for a doubleheader, and went 1-for-7 with a pair of walks on the day as the squads split.

    6.) Kenny Lofton, 4/22/02 -- After leaving the Tribe for the second time, Lofton joined up with the White Sox. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and was caught stealing in his return as the White Sox lost, 4-2. Yes, that is not a misprint, the White Sox actually lost one game in which a member of the Indians made his Jacobs Field return.

    And who do we have that use to play for the White Sox? Ummmmmmmmmm, how about Jeff Liefer? He hit a home run last year! No? Well, there's Rick White. Wil Cordero? OK, Ellis Burks and Bobby Howry! Take THAT, White Sox!