April 17, 2014

MLB’s new catch interpretation is begging to be exploited

I got into an argument over MLB’s new (old?) interpretation of what is a catch when Elliot Johnson “caught” a fly ball, took two steps, came up against the outfield wall and then dropped the ball as he attempted to throw the ball into the infield. It wasn’t ruled an out because the “definition of a catch” apparently includes a transfer, even for an outfielder who has taken multiple steps with the ball secured in his glove. It was a civil conversation with Sirius XM’s Mike Ferrin, but he and I had to agree to disagree on the topic. Then I brought up this question, which I haven’t seen an answer to just yet.

Here’s the rule from the actual rulebook.Catch Rule

I wasn’t smart enough to take the argument to the next logical step, but thankfully Dave Cameron at FanGraphs is. While Cameron agrees while that the rule interpretation makes loads of sense at second base, the issue isn’t quite so clear when it comes to outfielders. The money passage from Cameron says it all.

At this point, it shouldn’t be too hard to spot the problem with using the same definition of a catch in the outfield as it is at second base; the drop at second base has no real impact on the runner’s decision making. The batter is sprinting down the first base line to try and beat out the double play, and probably will rarely even know the ball is dropped on the double play attempt. The runner going into second base is almost always sliding into the bag, and the dropped transfer does not result in the ball rolling far enough away for an advancement to third base. Until the play is over and the runners find out who is safe and who is out, they don’t really care too much about what the fielders are doing.

That is absolutely not true with runners and outfielders, however; the decision of whether to advance or return to base is entirely dependent on whether the outfielder is ruled to have safely caught the ball. Runners are taught to get enough of a lead off the base to maximize their potential advancement in case the ball is not caught while still retaining their ability to return to their previous base if it is. When the ball enters the glove, the runner returns to their prior base in order to avoid a potential double play. Only now, the ball entering the glove is no longer the determining factor of whether or not the catch was made; that is now the ball moving from the glove to the hand.

Enter Elliot Johnson. I never thought I’d have much opportunity to write that prior to the start of the Indians season. But if a catch determination isn’t made until the transfer of the ball to the throwing hand and Elliot Johnson’s two steps before maintaining possession of the ball into the outfield wall aren’t enough, then to quote the Indians, “What if?”

What if Johnson hits the wall and instead of looking to throw starts sprinting toward the infield where the runners are assuming it’s a catch. As he’s running in, he “bobbles” the ball on transfer thus rendering the “catch” not a catch at all. It’s an extreme example, but you kind of open yourself up to it, don’t you? As FanGraphs points out, this opens the game up to the exact thing that the infield fly rule was designed to eliminate.

2014 NFL Draft, re-upping Brian Hoyer, Mike Evans over Sammy Watkins and C.J. Mosely – WFNY Podcast – 2014-04-15

WFNY Podcast LogoThe fake Jim Kanicki or the real Mike Burgermeister joined me to talk through some Browns topics.

We talked about the 2014 NFL draft, specifically who the Browns should take at #4. Mike Evans vs. Sammy Watkins and talking about three studs on the offensive line.

Finally, we talked a bit about NFL draft cliches.


Check out this episode!

Calling out the worst of all NFL draft clichés

2012 NFL Draft

Leading up to an NFL draft, there are a lot of hackneyed conversations that will drive a fan absolutely crazy. It seems that some fans want to rely on simplistic rules to simplify the NFL draft for themselves. It’s a coping mechanism to help deal with the fact that most fans have do not possess nearly enough information to truly decide what their team needs or how they should build for the future. It’s not an indictment of fans to not know, but it is an indictment for fans who pretend like they do.

Know what, exactly? It’s infuriating this time of year, but how many fans do you come across — at the bar, calling sports talk radio or on Twitter — who think of themselves as the only one qualified to run the war room of their favorite football team? Imagine every nugget of their “wisdom” being delivered with a confident, smug smile that says, “I just know I’m right.” Instead of looking at each team like a complex system that needs lots of different pieces, we get a lot of vague, simplistic misconceptions. And with that, here are my least favorite draft clichés.

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The Browns could have been trading with the Jets in Draft Day movie

Draft DayI’m not spoiling Draft Day when I say that it involves some wheeling and dealing for draft picks in and around the NFL Draft. I’m also not spoiling anything when I say that the Seattle Seahawks were the trade partner with Kevin Costner and the Browns regarding a presumed number one draft pick quarterback. What I found out today, though, is that originally the Browns were supposed to be fictionally trading with the New York Jets instead of the Seattle Seahawks.

“They were having something of a quarterback dispute, and the team said that this is just going to incite our fans a little more to criticize us, even though it’s all fictional,” director Ivan Reitman said.

So let me get this straight. The team that continually gets booed live and in person every single year no matter who they draft has a thin skin about how a fictional movie about the NFL draft could impact real world criticism of their team? Seems a little bit thin-skinned for a group of professionals who work in the NFL.

Then again, I don’t know what I’d be like if I had to go through this kind of reaction every time I did anything at my job. See how Radio City Music Hall reacted to the Jets trading up with the Browns and subsequently drafting Mark Sanchez.

Gotta love the Mike Mayock quote on the broadcast too. “We don’t yet know what they (the Jets) gave up to get here, but I’m pretty much willing to bet ultimately it’s going to be worth it.” Well, the Browns just signed Alex Mack to a new deal and the Jets cut Mark Sanchez. What do you think now Mr. Mayock?

Some Friday @sportsyelling about the Indians, Cavs, Browns and Pittsburgh – WFNY Podcast – 2014-04-11

WFNY Podcast LogoI really enjoyed my first podcast with @sportsyelling, so I asked her to come back and she said yes.

We talked about Lonnie Chisenhall and his paternity leave, the Cleveland Indians early results, the Browns and if they should do Hard Knocks, the Cavaliers and whether you’d rather have a hockey team and lots lots more.


Check out this episode!

Mack is back as Browns match Jaguars offer

So, you remember that whole Alex Mack contract situation? You see the Browns used the “transition tag” which means…

Oh never mind. I’m not going back through all this again. Alex Mack is back. He’ll be back for at least two years and probably three. He’ll be the highest paid center too at $42 million over five years. If you want to know any more, search our archives.

Pic: Check out a Pokemon-themed Cleveland Cavaliers logo

Cleveland Gravelers Pokemon Logo

I know nothing about Pokemon, but this Cavaliers logo actually looks kind of nice.

I embedded the whole gallery below so you can scroll through the rest.

Your move, Browns – Alex Mack signs Jacksonville offer sheet

Who else would report it, but Adam Schefter? Alex Mack’s deal has reportedly been signed and it’s all pretty straight-forward.

So the Browns are on the clock even before the NFL draft. I have no idea how long they’ll take, but I think this is probably a pretty palatable deal if they were true to their word they wanted him back. It gives Mack a good amount of guaranteed money and also the right level of flexibility for a guy who was drafted by Mangini under Randy Lerner before coming up for renewal under Jimmy Haslam and Ray Farmer. Think of it this way, to keep it in perspective. Alex Mack was in the building at the same (very short) time as George Kokinis.

This is certainly far from as bad a deal as what many Browns expected. It also continues to show how silly Mack’s agent was when he said he thought he could create a deal that the Browns would have difficulty signing. The Browns aren’t guaranteed to sign this deal, of course, but it’s not the team killer anyone would have imagined in light of the agent’s posturing.

Hopefully shortly, we can just put this to bed.

Also see TD’s excellent work on new Cleveland Browns receiver Nate Burleson.

Draft Day, Hawk Harrelson, Alex Mack, Super Tall High School Kid and Mansions live at the Grog Shop… While We’re Waiting

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I set a Google Calendar reminder so that I wouldn’t forget to do WWW this week. Let’s hope that works from here on out. Now on with the WWW.

*****

I saw Draft Day last night, and here are my initial thoughts. Don’t worry. I will save you any and all spoilers. This isn’t a great achievement in cinema, but sports movies and summer popcorn flicks don’t have to be. This movie would be a full on failure if it was about any other topic but sports. Sports movies always have a special license and leeway because they’re about a topic that many of us are already pre-disposed to enjoy. Even still, Draft Day isn’t a great sports movie. It’s alright. Here in Cleveland because it’s about our team it’s like a B+. In the rest of the country where it’s not about other NFL fans’ teams it’s a C-.

There were a few jokes and light moments that mostly fell flat. Some of the quirky characters that were supposed to provide relief, really didn’t achieve it. I thought Denis Leary was probably the best part and even with my criticisms, every Browns fan should see it and will probably enjoy it. Come on. It’s about the NFL draft. That’s our annual Super Bowl, you know other than that real Super Bowl that other teams seem to compete for on occasion.

*****

Finally, we can talk about the Cleveland Indians and race and it has nothing to do with Chief Wahoo. As Deadspin pointed out in their post with video, White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson had some pretty interesting things to say about the Tribe’s reliever, C.C. Lee after he entered the game last night.

After Lee threw a “nasty slider,” Harrelson called it a “typical Asian motion” before tagging it with, “Deception involved.”

Can you imagine either the Indians’ radio or TV crews saying anything like that? Yes, Tom Hamilton was in the spotlight after a brush back pitch at Nick Swisher by Aroldis Chapman last year, but it’s hard to imagine just the same.

*****

Of course the talk of the day here in Cleveland will be Alex Mack. It might be too much talk for the topic. Andy Baskin has been quite level-headed on the topic on 92.3 the Fan. His sentiments have included that as soon as this reaches its conclusion nobody will talk about it anymore and he’s exactly right. NFL center is one of those positions that nobody knows anything about unless the guy is tossing the ball over his QB’s head all the time or committing penalties. Nearly nobody I know would know whether Alex Mack had a good season or not without the benefit of Pro Football Focus.

On top of all that, we need to remember what we don’t know. The Browns were all set to pay Mack just over $10 million for 2014 with the transition tag. The deal makes Alex Mack the league’s top paid center. That can be misleading though. There are so many different variables at play here. Most notably, the salary cap has grown and is expected to continue to grow. So, while $18 million is always going to be $18 million, it shrinks in impact on the team as the salary cap increases.

We’ll just have to wait and see whether the Browns decide to match the deal or not. Only they know via their longer range projections whether this is a good idea for them. Only they know their own confidence level in replacing Alex Mack if he were to depart. Even the most plugged in Browns fans with extensive cap knowledge can go so far as to say if it’s a “good” idea or not.

I think my preference would still be for the Browns to bring Mack back, but absent that extra layer of intel, that preference isn’t worth a whole lot. My preferences are also based on the fact that I have no idea whether John Greco can play center at a fraction of the price or not. I suspect the Browns have a better feeling for that matter, among others.

*****

It might not seem fair, but it makes for a heck of a YouTube highlight video. I bring you the 7’5″ tall high school player highlight mix tape including sweet croakies to hold on his glasses. He’s everything that State Farm wanted their stupid commercial to be with Chris Paul, except the guy with glasses is awkward and plays basketball.

*****

Last, but certainly not least, I’m really excited to go see Mansions again live next week. This time instead of road-tripping to Pittsburgh I get to see them play live and in the comfortable confines of the Grog Shop. They are opening up for La Dispute, who are also sure to be good. Still, I’m only in that door because of Mansions. Here’s my favorite song from their newest album Doom Loop. It’s a live version.

Have a really nice weekend everyone and stay tuned for a podcast with @sportsyelling that I’ll be recording soon!

Peter Pattakos talks about Chief Wahoo and the Cleveland Sin Tax – WFNY Podcast – 2014-04-09

WFNY Podcast LogoWhen will Cleveland sports be about sports again? Well, for right now, there’s a lot of interest in issues off the field. I had a chance to catch up with Peter Pattakos of Cleveland Frowns on both the Cleveland Sin tax issue as well as the Chief Wahoo situation.

You can find Peter at his website or on Twitter.

Jimmy Haslam stops just short of guaranteeing Alex Mack will be back

DSCN0900

The Cleveland Browns are in the news today because many associated with the team were on the “orange carpet” last night for a local premier of Kevin Costner’s Draft Day movie. Mary Kay Cabot was there as well and she got some comments from Jimmy Haslam that back up much of what we’ve all been thinking recently about Alex Mack and his situation as a transition tag-ee.

“We remain optimistic that Alex Mack will be a Cleveland Brown for a long time,” Haslam said on the “orange carpet” at the local premiere of Draft Day at Cinemark Valley View theaters. “We want him to be. I think we’ve made it very clear that he’s the kind of person, the kind of player we want in our organization.’

Asked specifically if he’d match any offer the Jaguars concoct, he smiled and said, “We want Alex to be a Cleveland Brown.”

Obviously that last sentence isn’t a guarantee that he’ll match any offer, but it’s characteristically confident for Jimmy Haslam and indicates to me that he agrees with the rest of us. There’s very little possibility of Alex Mack signing an offer sheet that would be unpalatable to the Cleveland Browns. The bottom line is that Alex Mack can’t get a team to sign up for something that they wouldn’t also be prepared to live with themselves. This is the beauty of a salary-capped world. There’s no Yankees offer out there that’s 30% higher because a team can just afford more than the Browns.

And for that reduced flexibility and lack of free will, Alex Mack guarantees that he’ll get paid at least $10 million. We’re talking about a man who has made somewhere around $14.5 million over the first five years of his career. Of course he wants more guaranteed money and maybe even a chance to play somewhere else, but the trade-off isn’t that much of a hostage situation with the transition tag compensation.

[Related : Alex Mack wants to play for a passionate fan base, visits Jacksonville]

Keith Olbermann proposes Indians rename the team the Cleveland Sockalexis

The coverage of the Cleveland Indians and their Wahoo logo continues both here on WFNY and nationally. Many people have suggested new names whether it’s going back in time to the Spiders or embracing the Feller logo and calling the team the Cleveland Fellers. Keith Olbermann really does have some interesting historical info in this piece and then he suggests the Cleveland Sockalexis. I prefer the Fellers, but the history part is still interesting.

[Also see: Andrew's thoughts from this morning's WWW]

Alex Mack might have missed the party

Mack

Four weeks ago, before millions and millions of NFL free agency dollars were committed, Alex Mack’s agent got boastful with Peter King who wrote it up for his MMQB column. It caused anyone with half a memory for the NFL to go searching for rule books and articles in Google with the keyword “poison pill” as the discerning criteria. And as a thousand Internet researchers hit the enter key to confirm their inklings that “poison pill” contracts were illegal, it was easy to imagine Mack’s agent sitting somewhere with his eyes shut tightly and with his fingers crossed that somehow he could will the reality of the situation away. It’s hard to conclude anything other than the notion that Alex Mack wants out of Cleveland, but it’s even harder to conclude that he’ll find his way out this year.

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Captain America the Winter Soldier plus Chief Wahoo on opening day – WFNY Podcast – 2014-04-07

WFNY Podcast LogoSpoiler alert! Brian and Craig both enjoyed Captain America 2. We discuss that movie in depth and how Marvel continues to impress with their massive film undertaking.

We also spoke about the viral photo that came out of the first day of Brian’s filming of the Chief Wahoo documentary he is making.

 


Check out this episode!

The Wahoo debate has changed, but where do the Indians stand?

tribetimeover

There’s something vastly different about the Chief Wahoo debate this year. The protests have been going on at Opening Day for years, but the movement spawned a new arm since last season. There’s a new @DeChiefWahoo Twitter account that doesn’t have a ton of followers, but don’t be mistaken: This debate has moved beyond those activists directly impacted and into the fan base. Last week, I spoke with Brian Spaeth about the film he was making at the, but he never even had a chance to get any footage out before a photo from the scene by Peter Pattakos of Cleveland Frowns went viral. This site and others have talked about the Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo plenty already, so I’ll skip covering that same ground again. There’s one overriding feeling that I can’t help but focus on: The Cleveland Indians — most notable the Dolan family — is failing to lead on this issue.

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Browns reportedly agree to terms with Nate Burleson

burleson

The Browns thought they had a reliable veteran receiver when they traded for Davone Bess last season. That didn’t work out all that well for the Browns as Bess turned into what appeared to be a pot-smoking rastafarian via his own social media presence. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Browns have found a new veteran as they’ve agreed to terms with Nate Burleson.

Burleson comes with his own problems, of course. He’s only been able to play 15 games in the last two seasons. Burleson has also only had one season of 1000 yards and that occurred an awful long time ago back in 2004.

None of this means Burleson can’t help for a year or so in Cleveland, of course. The 32-year-old former third rounder has had a long career and certainly knows what it takes to be a receiver in the NFL. We’ll see if he can find a way to contribute alongside Josh Gordon, newly signed Andrew Hawkins and whoever the Browns are likely to draft next month.

Speaking of Josh Gordon, he and Kyrie Irving are supposedly fighting.

[Related: The drama continues: Kyrie Irving calls out Josh Gordon]

(Photo Jason Miller / Getty Images)

Windhorst: “LeBron and Kyrie have drifted apart”

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving

Brian Windhorst has no shortage of interesting things to say about the Cavaliers. He has so much to say that I had trouble even figuring out just one thing to put here. There’s talk of dinner meetings with Isiah Thomas that has the potential to make Cavs fans hurl. There’s talk about whether it’s worth it to extend Tristan Thompson. Most notably there’s lots and lots of disappointed talk about an “immature” Kyrie Irving. Most notably though, the former Cavs beat writer says that if the Cavs have any designs on LeBron James spending any part of his remaining career in Cleveland that future won’t include Kyrie Irving.

I’m just giving you my feel right now and my feel is that (Kyrie’s) not crazy about [signing the full max extension] unless he gets everything checked off across the board.

And the other thing is: if the Cavs ever dream of having LeBron, it’s not going to be with Kyrie there. LeBron and Kyrie have drifted apart in the last few years, even to the point that if the Cavs wanted to get LeBron they would maybe trade Kyrie for someone who would fit better with LeBron. And I’m not making that up. That line of thinking was not originated by me. That’s just the truth.

And here I think most Cavaliers fans who have ever spent even small moments thinking about the possibility of LeBron returning assumed that it would take a running mate like Kyrie Irving to make the situation more attractive. Granted any dreams of LeBron returning seemed a lot more feasible (even remotely) before the Cavaliers had such a disappointing season this year.

It just gets further and further down a road where it seems like the pain and suffering of Cavaliers over the past few years was all for nothing. Yes, there seems to be some talent on this team, but if that talent doesn’t translate to team success, isn’t it just wasted talent?

Even worse than wasted talent is the by-product for Cavs fans. That’s a whole lot of wasted time.

(Photo: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

Paternity leave, Danny Salazar, and an update on The League… While We’re Waiting

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While we’re waiting? I really left you waiting this week. Sorry for the delay. [Read more...]

Jennifer Garner talks about shadowing Browns capologist Megan Rogers for Draft Day

Draft Day is coming out on April 11th and I really can’t wait. Granted I’m only excited because this movie is about the Browns, but if you can’t trust Kevin Costner to make a decent sports flick, who can you trust?

Oh, and Jennifer Garner is rarely a chore to watch on-screen either.

Here she is talking (without an interviewer) about the upcoming movie, including how she was shadowing Browns capologist Megan Rogers.

John Axford used to play a game that included ABC gum

It’s a really really old joke.

“Hey, do you have some gum?”

“Sure! I have some ABC gum.”

“A B C gum? What’s that?”

“Already Been Chewed.”

Before John Axford was the Cleveland Indians’ closer, he proved to be pretty creative in terms of finding ways to pass the time as a professional pitcher. Apparently he and teammate Burke Badenhop weren’t above making up their own games, even if it meant involving ABC Gum. Jonah Keri told us all about it on Grantland last year in his Baseball Dictionary piece.

Re-mouth (exp.) — the act of sticking a piece of gum in your mouth after it has hit the ground. The term was coined by pitchers Burke Badenhop and John Axford in reference to a game they invented to pass the time during batting practice. In that game, Badenhop chews a giant wad of gum, spits it out of his mouth, then kicks the wad toward Axford, who’s standing about eight yards away. Axford must then hit the wad of gum out of midair with a water bottle, back toward Badenhop, who then attempts to catch it. When Badenhop fails in his initial attempt to kick the gum, he may then pick the gum off the outfield grass and reinsert it into his mouth for another attempt, hence “re-mouth.” The game itself does not have a name, and Grantland readers are highly encouraged to suggest candidates.

There’s no word yet on if Axford has brought the game with him to Cleveland. Burke Badenhop is now a member of the Boston Red Sox, so maybe when the Tribe and Sox clash this year, they can bring it back.

The 31-year-old Axford is off to a pretty good start in his Tribe career with two saves in two opportunities over the Indians’ first three games. If he keeps pitching like that, he can make up any games he wants. I’m sure fans in the stands will be willing to play with him, even if it includes chewed gum that has hit the floor.