Wednesday, March 28, 2007

C.C. to the DL? Tune in tomorrow

C.C. Sabathia -- not dead yet.

That qualifies as good news in Cleveland.

His wrist probably isn't even broken, either. But the Indians ace does have a swollen forearm and his status for Monday's season-opening start is now up in the air. And he is a Cleveland athlete. After all, Kellen Winslow's knee surgery this offseason has rumors floating around that his career is ove, even though Browns GM Phil Savage expects him back by training camp.

Like the old Batman televison shows, the Indians tell us to tune in tomorrow, same Tribe time, same Tribe channel, as C.C. will be re-evaluated then. Provided C.C. doesn't stand for Cursed Cleveland, everything will be OK and Sabathia will avoid the DL -- unlike the last two seasons.

But why break tradition?
C.C. you later?

The shot heard round the world -- or at least the Greater Cleveland area -- was the bone cracking in C.C. Sabathia's wrist this afternon.


It seems that in his final preseason tuneup, on just the second pitch of the game, Cleveland Indians ace pitcher Sabathia took a line drive off his pitching wrist.


Presumably Sabathia's wrist is currently ballooning while trainers look at it. But because this is Cleveland we have already assumed the diagnosis will be something along these lines:

1.) Sabathia has been killed by the line drive, even though it struck him on the wrist.
2.) Sabathia's arm will need to be amputated by the morning.
3.) Gangrene will set in and Sabathia will spend the rest of the season trying to save his arm.
4.) Sabathia's wrist is broken and it will be three months before he sees the field again.
5.) Sabathia's wrist is somehow made even stronger by the line drive, and he signs with the Yankees.

There is no other possible diagnosis, not in a town where LeCharles Bentley's career can end on a noncontact injury on the first day of training-camp drills, not in a town where Cliff Lee can pull some stomach muscles and miss the first month of the season, not in a town where Gary Baxter can become crippled simply by jumping up in the air for a football.

No, when news like this leaks out, we simply head for the bedroom in order to pull the covers back over our head. In Cleveland no one is even allowed to be optimistic. Lucy always pulls the football out of the way at the last second, and we're foolish enough every time to think that we can kick it.

And then we land flat on our backs every time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Not so risky business

Oh, those crazy Bostonians. They'll fall for anything.

Seems that a furniture dealer in Boston is offering free furniture to anyone who buys it by April 16. Free with a catch that is -- only if the Red Sox win the World Series this year will anyone who buys the furniture actually get their money back. That's right, if the Red Sox win the World Series, Jordan's Furniture customers get their furniture free.

Since the Red Sox have won the World Series exactly once in 101 years, that's a pretty good bet by the furniture store. Forest full of trees have been cut down and turned into pulp so people could write all about the Red Sox curse, and then half as many again were chopped down in the last two years so everyone else could write about the end of the curse.

The store expects to sell $20 million worth of furniture between now and April 16. $20 million!!! That many Red Sox fans are foolish enough to expect the once-in-a-lifetime event will be repeated two years later. If this company had run this promotion every year since the World Series began and sold $20 million worth of furniture per year, it would be able to BUY the Red Sox, because it would be ahead by $2 billion.

Can anyone imagine a furniture company running this promotion in Cleveland?

"Hey, everybody, if you buy this sofa and love seat NOW, we'll give you a refund if the Indians win the World Series this year, so you'll get it ABSOLUTELY FREE!! What, no takers? OK, how about we'll give you a refund if the Browns win the Super Bowl this season!! Everybody here loves the Browns -- free furniture if you buy it now and then the Browns win the Super Bowl. What do you have to lose?? Still no one? OK, how about if the Cavs win the NBA Championship? Why is no one coming to buy furniture?"

There might be a sucker born every minute, but none of them are going to be buying into a promotion based on getting something free if a Cleveland team wins something. Might as well tell people that they can have the couch for free if they can lift it and throw it into the sun. No one short of Superman can do that.

Which sounds like just who the Indians, Browns, and Cavs need to lead them to a title.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Heat is on Cavs' playoff seeding

Thanks, Denver, we owe you one.

One right in the nose.

A day after the Nuggets demolished the Cavs on the Q Arena floor on national television, holding LeBron James scoreless in the final period in the process, they choked away a victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Choked as in both-hands-around-the-neck-with-a-chicken-bone-stuck-in-the-throat choked. Up by three with 1.5 seconds to go AND POSSESSION, the Nuggets treated the inbounds pass like a greased pig. Rasheed Wallace scooped it up, hit a 60-footer to tie the game, then led his Pistons to a 113-109 overtime victory.

So that gives the Pistons one more up on the Cavs, a full three-game lead for the Eastern Conference's best record with just 12 games to go. Let's say the Cavs win 10 of 12 to finish the season, which we know won't happen anyway. The Pistons could still win the division just by winning at the same pace they're winning at right now.

Oh, well, at least LeBron bought himself a bicycle company.

Of course, the more pressing issue now is that the Cavs are just a game up on the Bulls for third in the East after Chicago's victory over Portland Monday. Saturday's game in Chicago will go a long way toward deciding who gets to play a losing team in the first round of the playoffs and who gets to play perhaps, say, the defending champion Miami Heat. Whoever finishes second will get someone from the Orlando Magic-New Jersey Nets-New York Knicks mix, sub-.500 teams all.

The Cavs currently own that second seed and if the season ended right now would be playing the 33-38 Magic in the first round. But the Bulls are seeded fifth at the moment, which would pit them against the Toronto Raptors. Toronto and the Heat are the other two division leaders and are pretty much destined to finish third and fourth in the playoff seedings. Right now the teams are tied at 38-32; if Toronto wins the tiebreaker that will push the Heat to fourth.

And there the Cavs might be sitting and waiting as the fifth seed. Just what they want in the first round, a matchup with a revitalized Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal.

Expect nothing less. Not with a five-game road trip coming up. Not with a visit from those Heat to The Q next week. Not with a Cleveland team. Nope, this is looking more and more like a seed planted in the Dust Bowl.

And don't forget, the Nuggets lost to the Bulls on a last-second shot last week as well. Thanks, Denver, we REALLY owe you one!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Boozers vs. Boozer

He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.


Nearly three years after the free-agency move that got him labeled a traitor, Carlos Boozer is back in town with the Utah Jazz.

Tonight, Clevelanders will release nearly three seasons worth of pent-up anger at Boozer. Think we're over it? Then you missed it when Jim Thome was booed in his return to Jacobs Field with the Chicago White Sox last season. We actually liked him. And remember the fake money that came flying out of the bleachers when Albert Belle returned with the ChiSox in 1997 after bolting as a free agent? There was enough to fill a store aisle full of Monopoly games.

This is a guy who inspired, for goodness' sakes. He's on the Mount Rushmore of hated Cleveland sports figures, along with Art Modell, John Elway, and the Pittsburgh Steelers logo.

Sure, booing Boozer might seem kind of sad and petty, like snarking at an ex-girlfriend who you've long moved on from. Look at the Cavs now -- seven-game winning streak, second-best record in the Eastern Conference, national television about once a week to showcase LeBron James, a capable Boozer replacement in Drew Gooden (11.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg). Everything's going quite well, thank you.

But even if you moved on to marry Eva Longoria, your ex still wouldn't be welcome in your house, not after being accused of stabbing a blind man in the back, not even three years later. Especially not on Cleveland's own national holiday, St. Patrick's Day, otherwise known as Drunk Day. And ESPECIALLY not with a better record at 43-22 -- led by the traitor, Carlos Boozer, who is averaging 20.9 ppg and 11.5 rpg. It's like giving the most dazzling diamond ring to Eva, only to see your ex show up with one that's just a bit better.

You can blame the Cleveland mindset for what's going to happen tonight just as much as you can blame Boozer leaving for the Jazz in the summer of 2004. It was another psychological jolt to a city that's reeled from those punches for years and years. In one sense we've moved out quite well, what with the Cavs rising toward the top of the NBA. But then again, this is Cleveland. The Boozer move was just another in a long line of bad things that have happened to us, almost like it's our birthright. Perhaps if we truly enjoyed long-term success in any of our sports endeavors we would be able to move past Boozer with no problem and let him get away with just a smattering of boos. But so often it seems that things are a mirage. The Indians fell on their face last year after a 2005 season that left them on the brink of the playoffs. The Browns can't get out of their own way. And in the back of our minds we're bracing ourselves for the moment that LeBron announces he's going to the Knicks. We're like a beaten puppy, afraid to embrace anything good for fear it will be taken away once again.

That's today will be a day of booze and boos, boozers and Boozers, when Carlos returns to The Q. It will be like the world's largest collective drunk dial, as an alcohol-soaked crowd will let its true feelings out, dousing Carlos Boozer and the Jazz in one of the loudest derisive cheers ever heard in Cleveland.

And that's the way it should be.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Falling off a Cliff

If the Indians could find a reset button on this year's spring training, they'd press it. First, Keith Foulke decided he'd rather spend the rest of his time fishing. Now, Cliff Lee's tummy is acting up. He has an abdomen strain that's going to put him on the shelf for a month or so. So you can pretty much cross him off the Indians roster until May.

And here you thought only fat guys hurt themselves during spring training.

So that makes it less than a month into spring training and already two key components of the pitching staff are sidelined. If any other pitchers check the mound for a trapdoor the rest of the way, don't be surprised.

Lee missed two months of the 2003 season with a similar abdominal strain, so no one's optimistic that he'll beat the four-to-six-week timetable the Indians have set for him to rehab from this injury. Expect to see a lot of Fausto Carmona, who filled in for C.C. Sabathia at the beginning of last season.

Now that the Indians preseason is starting to resemble Hilary Swank's upcoming movie, "The Reaping" -- coincidentally coming to theaters the same day as the Indians home opener -- it might be time to rethink those World Series predictions. ESPN's Buster Olney has already predicted the Tribe will win it all; of course 10 ESPN personalities predicted the Indians to make the playoffs last season. Apparently it's the cool thing to do.

But so far few teams have had a worse start than the Tribe. Besides the pitching woes, Trot Nixon has battled back problems. Even Indians legend Bob Feller was in a minor fender bender. Elsewhere, the Baltimore Orioles have suffered the biggest bow, with Kris Benson bowing out for the year with what looks like a torn rotator cuff.

Sure, sure, it's not the end of the world. The Indians have touted pitched depth in their minors and can withstand the loss of Lee for a few weeks. It's just that it's more of the same ole, same ole in Cleveland sports, and that's a headline we've grown tired of seeing.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Browns, yawwwwwwwwwn, sign Jamal Lewis

That sound you didn't hear this week was the roar of fired-up Cleveland Browns fans rushing to get in line for season tickets. The signing of Jamal Lewis hasn't exactly inspired the masses as it would have if he were, oh, maybe still any good.

But at least he won't have any more 295-yard games against the Browns.

Now there's only one way Browns GM Phil Savage can redeem himself.

Draft Brady Quinn.

The Notre Dame quarterback wants to come here. The Browns need a quarterback. With the third pick, they're in the perfect position to draft a franchise quarterback. And by most accounts, Brady Quinn is a franchise quarterback.

And the Lewis signing set the Browns up very nicely for Quinn's coronation. They've already added one of the top free-agent offensive linemen, Eric Steinbach. They've got their brand-name running back. But they still lack a real quarterback. Since two of the three names attached to the Browns' draft hopes are an offensive lineman (Wisconsin's Joe Thomas) and a running back (Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson), the team really needs to address a different need in the draft. Nabbing Quinn does just that.

Still, it's really a rather odd signing, especially in light of the fact that the Browns already had Jamal Lewis on their roster. They just called him Reuben Droughns. And had is the operative word -- signing Lewis allowed the Browns to trade Droughns to the New York Giants for backup wide receiver Tim Carter, he of 72 catches and three touchdowns in five seasons. Here's a comparison of Lewis and Droughns over the past two years:

583-2,038 rushing, 3.49 yards per carry
50-306 receiving, 6.12 yards per catch
played in 31 of 32 games

529-1,990 rushing, 3.76 yards per carry
66-538 receiving, 8.15 yards per catch
played in 30 of 32 games

Sure, Lewis outgained Droughns by 350 yards this past season, but Droughns outrushed Lewis by nearly the same amount the year before. And that's behind a supposedly inferior offensive line. And Droughns had a lousy offseason last year, what with DUI and domestic-violence accusations thrown at him. But Lewis spent the summer of 2004 in jail thanks to drug charges. Droughns is also almost exactly a year older than Lewis, but didn't become a big-time running back until his fifth season in the league and therefore has nearly a thousand less carries in his career. That's a lot less wear and tear, especially considering Lewis' reconstructive knee surgery that wiped him out for the 2001 season.

Lewis says he signed with the Browns because they are more committed to running the ball than the Ravens. This from a guy who ran the ball 314 times last year, eighth-most in the league last year, and produced the 16th-most yards.

More like the Browns are just committed to paying him more. He'll probably get $5 million from the Browns, which is more than the Ravens thought he was worth. They apparently won't miss him, trading for Willis McGahee before Lewis' pillow even cooled.

Whatever the case, don't expect McGahee to provide the Browns more than Droughns did the past two seasons or would have next season. And though many believe that the signing doesn't take the Browns out of the runnnig for Adrian Peterson, Savage's methodology toward the running back position points away from Peterson. First, it was trading for an unproven product in Droughns. Now it's moving in on a guy who barely cracked the top 40 in yards per carry last season. Translation? Star not needed.

But the Browns could sure use a star at quarterback. Savage and the rest of the NFL were duped when Trent Dilfer led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title in 2001. Teams thought they could get by with someone average at quarterback who didn't cost them the game with interceptions. Since then, though, the list of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks includes Tom Brady (three times), Brad Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger, and Peyton Manning. Brady and Manning would go into the Hall of Fame tomorrow if they retired.

So it's time to put aside the myth that a team can a title win with just a decent quarterback. Right, Chicago Bears? Compare Rex Grossman (73.9 passer rating) to Charlie Frye (72.2 passer rating) and calculate the Browns' chances of making the Super Bowl with a team less than the Bears around Charlie Frye.

That's why Quinn's the choice. Just like Matt Leinart slipped to 10th last year, Quinn's stock is dropping. But you won't find the Arizona Cardinals crying about their bad luck in landing Leinart.

Time for the Browns to get bold. Time for the Browns to stop trying to settle with guys like Jamal Lewis. Time for the Browns to draft Brady Quinn.