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.


Bad Becks said...

I'm impressed that someone paid to have a Mike Phipps card professionally graded.

1995 may get my vote. That was also the year Ace of Base was all over the radio as long as we are still pissing on that year.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Tigers only won the ALCS. The Cards captured the World Series.

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