April 20, 2014

First pitch swinging and uniform trends…While We’re Waiting

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It isn’t just your imagination, Asdrubal Cabrera has been swinging at the first pitch in big situations for a while. And he is actually getting worse at it. That’s according to some research by Fansided’s Brian Heise. (Math!) It is a bit soul crushing to see Cabrera coming up to bat in a tight spot and just know in your gut he’s going to swing at anything close.

The problem might be his early career success when swinging at the first pitch. Back in 2011, he actually hit .402 when swinging at the first pitch. Things have gone downhill since then however, and you have to think that pitchers are quite aware of his tendency to go after that first delivery. That’s what I believe they call making an adjustment. Time for Asdrubal to do the same. Please. I’m begging.

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A couple of uniform related notes this week. First, The Miami Hurricanes and Florida State Seminoles released new uniforms. Aside from being just a straight uniform nerd, these two uniforms were made by Nike and well, I’ve been keeping my eye on trends we could be seeing for the new Browns digs next year.

Miami got a ‘smoke’ uniform. So the gray trend continues. Both uniforms got accents that are unique. Nike started this with the Seahawks. They designed a feather pattern in Seattle’s stripes to represent the 12th man. Miami got an Ibis shadow incorporated into sleeve designs and the new white helmet. Florida State got a tribal looking design to their stripes and of course the new trendy matte finish helmets.

The last item is the El Paso Chihuahuas. They got a new mascot. He’s a little frightening, but not quite New Orleans Pelicans frightening.

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Shutdown Corner did their draft prospect piece on Khalil Mack. Obviously I’m not an NFL talent scout or defensive coordinator. Mack to me looks like the real deal, and as crazy as it may sound I would like to see him at another position. I think Mack has what it takes to be an inside linebacker at the pro level.

I’d put the Browns’ chances at drafting Mack as slim. First, he could very likely be off the board when they pick at four. Second, I don’t think that the team is going to to for a pass rusher with the number four pick considering the roster we have already.

I do think Mack is one of the safest choices in the draft though. I think when the class of 2014 is analyzed in 10 years Mack may be the one standing at the top of the group.

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Ohio State coach Urban Meyer named Braxton Miller and Jeff Heuerman as two of the team captains for next season. File this under no-brainer. The real question for the Buckeyes is what happens on the defensive side of the ball. SO many questions remain.

Indians activate Michael Bourn, send down Nyjer Morgan

Michael BournThe Indians today activated OF Michael Bourn from the 15-Day DL and optioned OF Nyjer Morgan to AAA Columbus.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise because of Morgan’s success early in the season for the Indians. In nine games, Morgan has a .348 batting average and an OPS of .832. He is third on the team in walks with 7 and tied for the team lead in stolen bases.

In the end, it appears the outfield was just too crowded for the Indians and manager Terry Francona. The Indians elected to keep an eighth reliever instead of sending down C.C. Lee or utility man Elliot Johnson.

Morgan, a lefty, does not play against left-handed pitching where Johnson is a switch hitter.

[Related: On the Indians' struggles against left-handed pitching]

Browns to work out Johnny Manziel this weekend per report

nfldraftThe Browns didn’t use one of their official interviews on Johnny Manziel during the NFL combine. Then they were one of just two teams in the NFL not to send a representative to Manziel’s pro day.

This weekend the Browns will get their chance with Johnny Football.

According to Adam Caplan, Manziel is next up to visit the Browns.

The Browns have the fourth and twenty-sixth picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

Currently, the Browns have Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney as the only quarterbacks on the roster.

[Related: The worst NFL draft cliches]

AFC North coach compared Bridgewater to fictional character. One in four it was a Browns coach.

NCAA Football: Louisville at West VirginiaMaking it’s way around the internet on Monday is this story from Matt Miller, whose twitter handle is @NFLDraftScout and who is a lead contributor for Bleacher Report. The story is that an NFL head coach compared Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to…

Yep. Willie Beaman. Don’t go searching Pro Football Reference for his stats. Beaman was the character from the movie Any Given Sunday.

So Miller says that an AFC North coach was the one that made this comparison. There’s only four. Chances it was Harbaugh or Tomlin seem slim to me, you?

Deadspin is saying what we’re all probably thinking:

“It’s the Browns, right? It can’t not be the Browns.”

Sigh. Yep. It is probably the Browns.

UPDATE: Yes, good eye. Not necessarily a Head coach. Which opens things up a bit.

[Related: Could Bridgewater slide into day two of NFL draft?]

Photos: EA Sports in town getting Browns players “In the game”

Long snapper Christian Yount and newly signed defensive back Isaiah Trufant took to social media after getting their faces digitized for the upcoming edition of the Madden franchise- Madden 2015. The guys seemed to have gotten more than just their mugs pixelated. It looks like there was a goodie bag for each as well.

Figures. The guys who have the money to blow on video games get the free ones. Go figure.

Trufant

Update: More players getting the Madden treatment.

Justin Staples

Justin Staples (Custom)

Tori Gurley

https://twitter.com/TGurley81/status/455767255645945856

Browns adding former Bengal fullback Chris Pressley?

Thomas PressleyIf Chris Pressley can return to form from a knee injury that cost him the 2013 season, he could be in for a treat in Cleveland.

This town loves them some fullbacks.

According to Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com (who by the way, does a really good job covering Browns news for the Beacon Journal) the Browns have signed the free agent fullback. Pressley was cut by the Bengals back in December. Pressley began the season on the PUP list after suffering a season ending knee injury back in 2012.

Pressley was a college teammate of Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas at Wisconsin. Thomas’ senior year was Pressley’s sophomore season. Pressley was signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2009.

The Browns offense under Kyle Shanahan will likely use more of a traditional fullback than the offense used last season under Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner.

[Related: Nate's room now resides in Cleveland]

Thome’s first pitch juuuuuust a bit outside

Former Indian Jim Thome (you know, the guy who is getting a statue this summer) was invited to throw out the first pitch for the Charlotte Knights. The Knights are the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, but were the Indians’ affiliate in 1993 and ’94. Thome and Manny Ramirez were part of that ’93 team that won the International League title.

Thome never pitched in a major or minor league game. Perhaps we now know why.

Alex Mack saying the right things about Browns matching his deal

Alex Mack is saying all the right things about his new contract and his relationship with the Cleveland Browns. If you expected anything less, well you haven’t paid much attention to Mack’s career.

Talking with Cleveland.com on Saturday, Mack said he is happy to still be in Cleveland.

“It’s been a long, hard road, but I’m here and I’m happy, I’m excited. I’m fired up. There’s no bad blood. Now that it’s done, I’m happy.”

When asked about the reports that he wanted out of Cleveland, Mack said “I don’t believe I ever said that.”

“Contracts are tough. It’s the business side of things and as a player my job is to play football, something I’m good at. I have agents (Marvin Demoff and Tim Younger) to do the business side of things, and it’s not always easy, but I’m happy with where I’m at.”

Alex Mack is a smart person and a smart player. This negotiating period was all about money and options. If I were a betting man, I would bet that Mack’s camp wanted the opt-out after two years but Cleveland was reluctant to include it. Once Jacksonville made the offer, the Browns were quick to match however.

That’s my guess. Not reporting it as fact.

[Related: Details of Jaguars offer to Mack]

Video: Lindor’s hot start includes game winner for Akron

Cleveland uber-prospect Francisco Lindor is having a good start to the AA season for Akron, hitting safely in eight of the Rubberducks nine games. He has a double, a triple and a pair of home runs to go with seven RBI.

One of those homers came in the bottom of the 13th inning on Friday night for a walk-off winner.

Details of Jaguars offer to Alex Mack reported

According to numerous reports, but first by the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Alex Mack is about to become the highest paid center in the NFL.

Whether he plays for the Jaguars or Browns is still undetermined.

What we can gather is that Jacksonville’s offer includes $18 million guaranteed over the first two years of the deal. After 2015 there is an option for Mack to void the rest of the deal. If he does void the remaining contract, he cannot be tagged with the transition or franchise player designation no matter whether he plays for the Jaguars or if the Browns match the deal.

The 2016 season is worth $8 million according to FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo.

The total of the deal is believed to be $42 million dollars. That averages out to $8.4 million and makes Mack the highest paid center in the league. He is 28 years old and has never missed a snap in his NFL career.

The Browns will have five days to match when he signs the offer sheet, believed to be tomorrow.

[Related: Browns reportedly ready to match whatever offer for Mack]

John Axford finally recieves his Rolaids Relief Award…from 2011

Axford Rolaids (Custom)Indians closer John Axford is off to a good start. He is four for four in save opportunities after getting the save in the first half of the Tribe doubleheader on Wednesday. He is trying to bounce back from a bad 2013.

Axford’s best season by far came in 2011 when he saved 46 games while posting a 1.95 ERA. He allowed only four home runs in over 73 innings pitched for the Brewers and was rewarded with the National League Rolaids Relief Man award.

Except he never got the trophy. Until Tuesday morning in Cleveland.

FOX Sports’ Rob Neyer reports that the famous Rolaids trophies with the fireman helmets have been hard to come by since the Rolaids product went through two recalls stemming from consumer reports investigations.

“After those two recalls, Johnson & Johnson drastically reduced its distribution of Rolaids-brand products, and the attendant promotion of those products. Without Rolaids on store shelves, there was obviously little incentive to spend any money at all on those nifty trophies … and so none was spent, at all. Bell and Rafael Soriano, the winners in 2010, didn’t get their trophies. José Valverde and John Axford, the winners in 2011, didn’t get theirs, either.”

The players union apparently fought to get the awards made, and on Tuesday, Axford finally got to hold the silver trophy that he earned back in 2011.

Blocking the King and honoring a Chagrin Falls native …While We’re Waiting

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I was in bed a good portion of Tuesday with stomache issues, which is never fun. I did get to watch something that I’ve been wanting to watch for a while but never pulled the trigger on it. It isn’t sports related, but it is Cleveland related. I watched the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson, which is about Chagrin Falls native Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, my favorite comic.

If you are a fan of boy and his tiger, I recommend watching it. The documentary is an hour and a half long and very well done. Many interesting topics covered including his staunch refusal to allow any licensing for Calvin. None. Those stickers of Calvin peeing on various logos on the back of cars? Big surprise, they are not licensed.

Calvin and Hobbes (Custom)Remind you of the Tribe game last night?

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Braxton Miller has a habit of missing a few quarters, or games for that matter. He takes a lot of hits because of his carries. This past season Kenny Guiton was the back-up and a really good one. Guiton is gone. The man who is one step away from taking meaningful snaps for the Buckeyes? Cardale Jones. You know, the guy who once questioned why football players had to actually go to class.

If stories are to be believed, Jones has grown up. He credits Guiton for a lot of it, and Meyer.

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The RubberDucks home opener is on Thursday night. It’s supposed to be nice from what I’ve seen in the forecast. They have made a ton of changes around Canal Park. I’d recommend stopping by and checking it out. You can see the SS of the future there. Lindor is batting .333, with an OPS of .840. If he keeps hitting, hard to imagine him being in Akron longer than a month and a half or so. Plus, you will get to see the new mascot Webster unveiled.

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You will probably be seeing this all over the web today, but it is worth it. Big time block by Mason Plumlee at the rim on LeBron attempting a game winning dunk. Best part? LBJ was sporting the King James jersey. Awesome.

 

Sorting out the Browns wide receiver situation

Little2The Browns announced the signing of Nate Burleson on Sunday night. Burleson will be 33 when the season begins. He has had a nice NFL career, but at this point he isn’t exactly the threat opposite Gordon that would make the Browns a dangerous offense. (Quarterback notwithstanding.)

The Browns currently have the following receivers on the roster: Josh Gordon, Nate Burleson Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, Andrew Hawkins, Josh Cooper, Charles Johnson, Tori Gurley and Vernon Conner.

Gordon is the legitimate number one receiver. He is one of the best in the league and still hasn’t reached his potential. Travis Benjamin tore his ACL last season against the Chiefs in week 8. He should be ready to go for the beginning of the season. Benjamin is dangerous because of his speed and agility. Hopefully he is able to fully come back from this injury. Even if fully healthy, he is a slot receiver and return specialist.

Andrew Hawkins is the free agent acquisition from the Bengals. Obviously the team thinks enough of him to outbid the Bengals for his services. Looking at his career to date, you wouldn’t think that Hawkins is being primed to be the second option behind Gordon. He is a very nice 3rd/4th option. [Read more...]

Photos: Waiters, Dellavedova and Hawes take in an Indians game

Three members of the Cleveland Cavaliers took in an Indians game together on Sunday afternoon. PG Matthew Dellavedova, SG Dion Waiters and C Spencer Hawes sat on the third baseline and enjoyed the game. For the record, Hawes was not afraid to wear Wahoo.

Hawes tweeted a different shot.

Deleted scenes and a television confessional …While We’re Waiting

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It turns out there will be a scene that you won’t be seeing in the Draft Day movie. It appears that the NFL wants to portray a little less violent or crazy atmosphere. They reportedly made the movie cut a scene in which fans hung an effigy of Kevin Costner’s character.

When I was young my dad took me to see the Browns play the Colts in the playoffs. It was January 9, 1987 to be exact. The Browns beat the Colts 38-21. As we walked through the Muni-lot on our way in the game, I saw a huge crowd gathered around chanting and cheering as a group of fans hung an effigy of Colts’ running back Eric Dickerson.

That wasn’t my first playoff game at Municipal Stadium. We went to see the Jets game the year before. It was the first time I had seen an effigy in person though. Must have made an impression, because I still remember it.

I don’t really know that I’m either in favor or not in favor of the move made here by the NFL. Maybe it isn’t as far-fetched as some might think though. Although, Browns fans have had plenty of coaches and front office people that could have had the effigy treatment. If it hasn’t happened yet, maybe it is a bit of movie fiction. (H/T FSO)

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Huge props to the Rays for a cool tradition. Tampa Bay has had it’s players out meeting and greeting their fans on Opening Day since the team’s inaugural year. Some were out shaking hands and giving high fives. Some were scanning tickets. All of them had a simple message- thanks for coming.

Can’t tell you how big a fan I am of this. I’m sure not every player is asked to do this. I bet some are a lot more willing than others. Still, kudos Tampa.

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Yesterday’s discussion of the How I Met Your Mother finale had me thinking. Not because I had a different opinion, or any opinion at all really. See I’ve never seen the show. In fact, there are so many shows that everyone around me (or around me in cyberspace) talk about constantly that I have just never watched. So I started a little list. These are shows that I have either never seen, or never seen more than an episode of.

30 Rock, Lost, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, South Park, The Sopranos, The Wire, Family Guy, Arrested Development, Sex and the City, Dexter, The West Wing, Breaking Bad and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

I’m sure that there are more for this list, but I used a couple of ‘top ten shows’ lists to even come up with some of these. Why? Well, a variety of reasons I’m sure. Partially because I don’t have HBO or Showtime or any of those channels. Partially because I have a daughter in the house that I don’t really want to watch these with. I would add that I don’t think my life is any less enriched because I didn’t watch them. I doubt on my deathbed I will really wish I had taken the time to see all of 24. We all have things we love and make time for. Honestly, I think sometimes that other people must get another couple hours a day more than me. I have enough trouble getting to everything I need to do as it is.

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Finally, because you know I’m a uniform nerd… the Akron Zips will have a new look apparently next fall. Looks like they are going with black and gold.

I think we are reaching the point of too much with the trendy uniforms. But hey, that’s just one guy’s opinion. Have a good week gang.

Tribe players geeked about Opening Day

The Indians begin the season in Oakland tonight, and the players seem ready to go…

Tomorrow it counts.

Video: Dion’s buzzer beater NBA’s play of the week

On Wednesday, Dion Waiters comepleted the Cavaliers’ improbable comeback with a last second shot to beat the Pistons in Detroit. The play was Dion’s first game winner and earned him the top spot in the NBA’s top ten plays for the week.

 

Facebook map of MLB fandom

As they did for the start of the football season, Facebook revealed a map of the country according to their MLB allegiance. The social media giant gives each county in the country to a team based on the number of ‘likes’ of the official team page it has. It isn’t an exact science of course, but considering Facebook’s reach it is probably as accurate as any other measure.

The Indians dominated northeast Ohio as would be expected. They do not own the majority of Ohio however, as the Reds’ reach spread throughout the middle of the state and into Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.

FB Baseball map.

The Indians dominate a smaller total area than many of their small market counterparts.

The more interesting thing to me was to compare the map of baseball fan loyalty above, to the map of NFL fan loyalty from last fall below.

312293-facebook-nfl-fan-loyalty-map (Custom)

According to Facebook, the Indians own more counties than the Browns. The Pittsburgh influence in baseball isn’t as strong in the eastern part of the state, nor do the Pirates get a boost from the Findlay area as the Steelers do because of the Ben Roethlisberger connection.

Happy opening day.

[Related: 2014 WFNY Tribe predictions]

Indians sign Kottaras and Lowe to minor league deals

The Cleveland Indians added veteran depth in the organization just before Opening Day by signing relief pitcher Mark Lowe and catcher George Kottaras.

Kottaras has also played a couple of games at third and first base, but is primarily a catcher. It remains to be seen how much Terry Francona will use Carlos Santana to spell the recently extended Yan Gomes at catcher. Kottaras had a relatively uneventful spring with the Chicago Cubs and did not make the roster.

He does however, have an awesome dog.

Lowe threw 10+ innings for the Tampa Rays this spring and gave up a single run. He had a brutal 2013 for the Angels. Chalk this up to the Indians throwing as many arms on the pile as possible, hoping that they catch lightning in a bottle with a couple.

[Related: Setting the lines on the 2014 Indians]

It’s good to be the king… While We’re Waiting

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I don’t really like math. So I don’t really ever sit and just do some for fun. Maybe that’s why this piece on Gene Smith threw me for a loop. The Ohio State Athletic Director will get a bonus of $18,447.94 for junior wrestler Logan Stieber’s national championship from the weekend. Smith gets bonuses for teams or individuals from the Buckeye programs winning on the national level. I understand the idea behind these bonuses. They are incentive for the AD to build winning programs.

What really threw me was the revelation that this bonus was equal to one week’s pay for Smith. One week? Are you serious? Like I said, I’ve never really bothered to break down a million dollar salary by the week as it wasn’t really necessary for my family budget. That just seems unbelievable to me. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Smith probably shouldn’t have survived this long at OSU. What a lucky man.

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Grantland’s Bill Barnwell takes aim at QB pro days in his latest piece, and specifically seems to go to bat for Teddy Bridgewater. I agree to an extent that the pro days don’t tell us the whole story. Perhaps the pro day is kind of a waste of time when you compare it to a private work-out. Maybe that’s why Ray Farmer has already told us he won’t be attending Manziel’s pro day. Hey, it sure would be nice to have a front office ahead of the curve in something.

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Some really good nuggets in this piece about tanking. “Since 1985, when the NBA’s draft lottery began, 19 of the NBA’s 30 teams (63 percent) have played in the Finals, but only eight franchises (27 percent) have won a championship. By comparison, over that same time span, the NFL has seen 25 different teams (78 percent) reach the Super Bowl, with 14 teams (44 percent) winning the Lombardi Trophy. The NHL has had 22 teams (73 percent) face off for a title, with 15 different franchises (50 percent) hoisting the Cup. And MLB — the least payroll-balanced of the four major leagues — has had 25 teams play in the World Series (83 percent) with 18 different victors (60 percent).”

Of course the Cavaliers figure prominently in any discussion of the topic. They tanked once and hit the jackpot in the lottery by getting LBJ. Then there is the recent history. Think of what the Cavs could have done with a couple high draft picks right after drafting LeBron. Imagine getting LaMarcus Aldridge or Brandon Roy to pair with James. The 2005 draft could have brought the point guard the Cavs needed in Chris Paul or Derron Williams.

Sigh.

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No thanks, I’m not hungry now. Not that I was ever a big Skyline Chili fan before (sorry, that isn’t chili, it’s coney sauce on spaghetti) but this is just gross. Skylines in Louisville, Kentucky are dyeing their spag red and blue for the UK-UL sweet 16 match-up. Click at your own risk. It isn’t pretty.