July 30, 2014

Infographic: Corey Kluber vs. Felix Hernandez

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Corey Kluber (10-6) squares off against Felix Hernandez (11-2) in what should be a battle of the two of the best pitchers in the American League thus far. Only John Lester (BOS) and Fernandez have a higher fWAR than Kluber on the season.

During his last 13 starts, Hernandez has a 1.36 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and .170/.209/.232 slash line. In Corey Kluber’s last 7 starts (since June 20), he’s compiled a 1.71 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 and .207/.240/.335 slash line. On the season, Indians starters other then Corey Kluber: 84 games, 19-34 record, 5.01 ERA, 5.5 innings per start, 2.53 K/BB, .282/.345/.450 line.

Something has to give. I’d take the under.

Dion Waiters: I want to start, but…

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As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves about acquiring disgruntled power forward Kevin Love, one of the players who could potentially be dealt is reiterating that he wants his role to be as a starter. In an interview with CSNSW’s Chris Haynes, Waiters stated that not only does he want to be among the Cavaliers’ starting five, he thinks he should be despite the team using their recent No. 1 pick on a shooting guard in Andrew Wiggins.

Dion Waiters is enormously confident in his abilities to produce on the basketball court. It’s one of the main reasons why he’s one of the best young scorers in this league. [...]

On Monday, following Day 1 of TEAM USA training camp, when CSNNW.com followed up on the matter, Waiters didn’t back down from his stance to be inserted into the starting lineup come next season.

“I want to start and I believe that I should at the two,” Waiters told CSNNW.com.

Despite what many may make it appear to be, Waiters is not drawing his line in the sand by any means. He isn’t demanding a starting role, he’s just extremely confident in his abilities (he averaged over 18 points per game last season as a starter) and feels that he’s the best man for the job. The third-year guard also says that he has dropped 10-12 pounds since the last game of the season thanks to a new diet he’s dedicated to. The results, per Haynes, are a lighter, more athletic 6-foot-4-inch swingman. It should also be noted that his comments have the backing from head coach David Blatt who wants his players to have the confidence Waiters is showing.

High knees, ya’all.

Dion Waiters Dance

Waiters also addressed his recent use of Twitter wherein the two-guard has been interacting with fans almost on a nightly basis. ” I’ve always been a guy that gives it right to you,” he said. “I’ve never been a guy that plays that political stuff. I was brought up that way. I’m straightforward. I give my honest opinion. I’m not going to sit here and hide.”

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Indians implementing analytics to study attendance issues

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The Cleveland Indians were in the postseason a year ago and are seeing attendance numbers continue to fall on a year-over-year basis. Despite two bouts of October baseball in the last seven seasons, they’re certain to finish outside baseball’s top 20 in attendance for the 12th consecutive year. Alas, the team is taking their use of advanced analytics and implementing a formula-based look into what moves the needle in the way of bodies through the turnstiles and how to best serve those who make it down to Progressive Field.

The formula takes historical data into account and weaves in such critical factors as the weather forecast, opponent, team performance, night of the week and time of year.

It doesn’t get fans through the gates, but it does give the Indians a much better idea of how to best serve their audience. [...] What the Indians are seeking are optimal methods of catering to their fans, whether it’s the 9,029 who showed up for an April 8 matchup against the San Diego Padres or the 40,712 in attendance when Omar Vizquel was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame on June 21.

As we have covered here many times at WFNY, dynamic pricing and the team’s urging to “Buy Early and Save” was born with similar goals in mind. Nevertheless, the majority of tickets continue to be purchased in the 48 hours leading up to games. Per Crain’s Cleveland, thanks to the formulas being utilized, the Indians now have a “much more concrete idea” of which games are most likely to produce last-minute buying sprees, and which ones will be a more intimate gathering in which the staff size should be reduced and less food needs to be ordered. Crain’s also reports that the team’s season-ticket base stands at roughly 8,000, well behind the average base in Major League Baseball. Since their playoff run in 2007 where they averaged over 28,000 fans per night, the team has trended downward to it’s current level of 18,402.

To little surprise, events like “Dollar Dog Night” and the firework displays drive demand—Friday and Saturdays continue to be the nights with the highest average attendance. Of course, plenty of factors impact the team’s ability to take advantage of such, including the schedule: the team will play nine Friday night games on the road this summer, and five of their eight Friday contests since June have been away from Progressive Field.

The team hopes that the use of analytics will better prepare them for 2015 where they continue to strive toward improving the fan experience.

[Related: Why we shouldn't be surprised about the Indians attendance]

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Internal Goals: Barkevious Mingo looks forward to his sophomore season

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With twelve minutes and twenty-four seconds left in the fourth quarter of a tie game against the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson harnessed a hand-off from his quarterback, Christian Ponder, and took two quick strides forward, finding himself just inside of his left tackle, Matt Kalil. Peterson, widely considered to be one of the best—if not the best—running backs in the league since being drafted in 2007, immediately darted to his left where he would run past several would-be tacklers for what would amount to a five-yard gain. One of those defenders, a guy tasked with doing everything within his power to meet Peterson behind the line of scrimmage, yearning to beat him to the quarterback immediately following the snap, was Barkevious Mingo.

[Read more...]

Jerry Jones almost drafted Johnny Manziel

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Johnny Cleveland was this close to being Johnny Dallas. We know that the Dallas Cowboys selected guard Zach Martin with their first-round pick, but team owner Jerry Jones says that that almost wasn’t the case. Jones went into detail on how tough of a choice it was during Sunday’s edition of NFL Network’s Inside Training Camp Live, saying that Johnny Manziel was very close to being a Cowboy.

“I want you to know that almost as I was handing in the card, it was that close to putting that Manziel card in. It was that close,” Jones told NFL Media’s Rich Eisen and Michael Irvin from Cowboys camp in Oxnard, California. “I looked over to my son, Stephen, our chief executive officer, and I said ‘I took the right pick.’ … He was the top player by three players on our board at the time that we were sitting there looking at him.”

The Cowboys have Tony Romo in place and may have made the better move in finding him some protection, but there’s no denying that Jones’ penchant for flash matches that of the player who ultimately went No. 22 overall to Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns. Since arriving to Cleveland, Manziel has been a mixed bag of hard work and off-field headlines. He’s firmly entrenched as the No. 2 quarterback in Browns camp, but occasionally shows flashes of the player he was at Texas A&M.

Listening to Jones, it appears that he’s anticipating much more in the way of growth and that Browns fans will have a special player to cheer for over the course of the next several years.

“Manziel is special,” added Jones. “I know him personally. I know that he is going to be a success in the National Football League. And it was a hard decision. And it is one that I will probably for the rest of my career think about.”

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Kevin Love may not opt in, Cavs may not care

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While many continue to debate the merits of players involved in a deal for Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, the great unknown continues to be how long Love would call Cleveland home. There are rumors that he’s demanding a trade to Cleveland and wants to play alongside LeBron James; Cleveland would be the only place he would commit to in the way of a long-term deal, starting with an opt-in for 2015-16. But The Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto says not so fast:

Love is guaranteed $15.7 million this season, with a player option for $16.7 million in 2015-16. I wrote a column insisting the Cavs should demand Love pick up his option before making a deal. Talking to some NBA executives, that could be a problem. One executive explained how the best move for Love may be to come to the Cavs on the current deal — no changes. He becomes a free agent in 2015, then signs a five-year deal for the maximum (could be more than $100 million) to stay here. …

If Love picks up his option for 2015-16 this summer, the most that a team can immediately add is a two-year extension. I’m hearing Love will not pick up his option… I’m hearing the Cavs realize they may have to accept Love’s current deal and gamble on him enjoying playing in Cleveland and with James. Then they will try to sign him for a maximum deal in 2015. So don’t be shocked if a deal is made with his contract situation staying the same.

There has been plenty of Twitter angst surrounding this aspect of the deal. On one side is a group saying that you can’t gamble with a No. 1 pick in Andrew Wiggins if you’re only going to get one year out of Kevin Love. On the other side are those saying that Cleveland team’s have gone decades without swinging for the fences and have wound up empty-handed. The Collective Bargaining Agreement certainly only muddies the waters even more.

Do the Cavs trust Love? Does Love love Cleveland? Stay tuned. We’re about to find out, one way or the other.

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

LeBron’s mind and Kluber’s cutter: While We’re Waiting…

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Browns camp is under way, LeBron chose his jersey number and the Indians finally won a game. Happy Monday, kids. Let’s dig in.

LeBron James has always had a way to recall certain instances of his on-court life. Having covered him during his final year in Cleveland back in 2010, I was always intrigued by the way he would seemingly flash back to certain second-long frames in his mind—certain plays, specific floor placement, time, date, location, you name it. If you haven’t read Brian Windhorst’s extremely well-reported piece on this very characteristic of the four-time MVP, do so—now. (I had considered using this in this week’s #ActualSportswriting, but it’s too good, and too pertinent to just quote.) While cynics may attempt to poke holes in the video game anecdote, the details that James can recall years after they occur are astounding. James already came pre-packaged with an insane physique, possessing an adult’s body as a teenager. The fact that his basketball IQ is through the roof as well—well, it’s almost unfair. The story about the game-winners in Golden State? Incredible.

***

If you haven’t been following along, Grantland has been rolling out some high-quality work on MLB’s best pitchers. It was only a matter of time before Corey Kluber received the “PitchCraft” treatment, getting his due just hours after dominating the Kansas City Royals late last week. I mean, we know Kluber has been downright filthy this season, but just how filthy? His most thrown pitch, his sinker, isn’t even his best pitch. Kluber’s cutter is currently the fourth-best in all of baseball, providing almost a foot difference in movement when compared to his fastball. His slider? Well, that’s held opponents to a .079 batting average this season thanks to nearly 11 inches of horizontal break—an MLB best. Only the Padres’ Tyson Ross has more strikeouts with his slider (84 to Kluber’s 72), and he’s thrown the pitch twice as often.

The Grantland piece also reiterated what we said earlier, Kluber has been this effective despite having a higher BABiP than many of the other pitchers ranked in the top 10 in WAR. Kluber, following his outing against KC, was third in wins above replacement, having been worth 4.3 additional Ws.

***

Hey, did you guys hear about that one really good take? Yeah, me neither. Here’s this week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting:

An Idiot in Exile” by Pat Jordan (Sports on Earth): “Johnny Damon was a major league baseball player for 18 years. He won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2004 and another one with the Yankees in 2009, which is why he once said, “Being a baseball player is so great.” He said the game “was fun,” and winning championships was even more “fun.” He learned how to have “fun” with the A’s and then taught his teammates with the Red Sox and Yankees how to have “fun.” His concept of “fun” was mostly that of a young boy. … He dropped water balloons from the upper floor of hotels on passing pedestrians below. He and his teammates held down other teammates and poured ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard all over their clean uniforms, which he thought was hilarious. In the clubhouse he performed pull-ups naked, his penis dangling in his teammates’ faces. He liked to “party” after games with his teammates, drink booze, smoke pot. He collected women as if they too were toys. Some might say that his sense of “adult fun” was a lot like his sense of childlike fun.”

The Passion of Roger Angell” by Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated): “Writing well is hard. It requires constant thinking. The gears, flywheels and levers of the mind click and clatter nonstop. Writing is flying an airplane without instruments, almost always through the dark storms of doubt. It is new every time. There’s an added difficulty with writing about baseball: The writer ages but the players do not. They are perpetually young, replaced almost imperceptibly by younger versions of themselves. Every season is like a summer-stock version of Bye Bye Birdie. Then one day a ballplayer with $100 million banked calls you “sir,” and you realize the chasm has grown Olduvai Gorge–wide.

Playground Basketball is Dying” by Myron Medcalf and Dana O’Neil (ESPN): “If there is a holy ground of playground hoops, it is the space here near 155th Street, just off the Harlem River Drive. The Harlem Garden, old-timers used to call it, and it is hardly hyperbole. If Madison Square Garden is billed as the world’s most famous basketball arena, this is its outdoor cousin. This is where Julius Erving shucked the nickname given to him by a Rucker announcer — The Claw — and argued to be called The Doctor. This is where Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury, fresh off being selected as the No. 1 and No. 4 picks, respectively, in the 1996 draft, partnered for a dream backcourt; this is where Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alston went from local legend to NBA player; and this is where Kareem, Dominique, Wilt, LeBron, KD, Kobe and so many other first-name-only star players have dropped in for at least one game in their respective careers.”

Mean Girl” by Kelefa Sanneh (New Yorker): “In M.M.A., more than in most sports, athletes must be promoters, too. Rousey is smart enough to know that one of her promotional assets is the way she looks—she has appeared on the cover of not only ESPN the Magazine but alsoMaxim, which called her “Badass & Blonde,” and photographed her in a garment that seemed highly unsuitable for combat. Of course, this asset can be a liability, too, especially for a female fighter seeking the same respect given her male counterparts.”

***

Calling my shot now: That Tom Verducci profile of Roger Angell will be discussed in nearly every year-end “Best of” piece when it comes to sportswriting. It’s the pen-and-paper, modern day equivalent of Mozart covering Beethoven. Verducci is easily one of the best sports writers working today; Angell is a legend, currently 93 years of age and still plugging along. He’s not in the BBWAA—which is simply fantastic given how antiquated and unnecessary the BBWAA is—and is the first to ever win the Hall of Fame’s award for baseball writing to have not been a member. Independent writers (or “bloggers”) could learn a lot from Angell who almost always wrote as a fan. Good news is, The New Yorker unlocked their entire archives for the rest of the summer, so you can catch up on any of his pieces that you may have missed. I recommend starting here. Then go here.

***

You all obviously listen to the great work that Craig does with the WFNY podcasts. But as radio continues to loose steam, pandering and forcing senseless debate, I continue to listen to more and more podcasts by national types. Playing off of the success of Bill Simmons’ BS Report, ESPN has rolled out podcasts for Grantland’s Zach Lowe and ESPN.com’s Jason Whitlock. A few that I recommend: Lowe and Lee Jenkins, talking Cavs; Whitlock and Scott Raab, talking Cavs and Cleveland; and Whitlock and ESPN’s rock star reporter Ramona Shelburne, who spoke candidly about reporting and women in sports.

***

And just because:

It’s Hoyer’s World… We just live in it: Training Camp Notes 07.26.14

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BEREA, Ohio — The sun was shining. A smattering of hip-hop—2 Pac, Birdman, Drake…of course—and classic rock echoed through the speakers. Thousands of Browns fans poured into the Cleveland Browns practice facility, all with hope in their back pockets, each of them getting their first look at the 2014 squad.

There were Superfans. There were signs. There was a little rain, but just enough to get some reporters to close their notebooks for a few minutes. There was Johnny. There was Brian. There was Josh and Jordan and the Joes. Some players rode bikes, others took part in what would stand to be the first day of two-and-a-half weeks of practice time before the collective is forced to synthesize all that’s been provided to them and turn it in to a product worthy of all the fan fare.

And boy was there fan fare.

[Read more...]

Browns expect Brian Hoyer to start Week 1

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According to ESPN’s Bob Holtzman, the “feeling in the Cleveland locker room” is the Browns will start Brian Hoyer in Week 1.

Earlier this week, Browns head coach Mike Pettine said that he would make the starting quarterback proclamation during the third week of Training Camp, heading into the team’s first home game of the 2014 season. Holtzman, however, expects Pettine to make the announcement “well before” the third preseason game, inferring that the decision has been all but made despite the team using a first-round draft pick on Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and the proclamation of a quarterback battle heading into the season.

“We’re all expecting Hoyer to start,” one player reportedly told Holtzman. In an interview with 850AM/WKNR earlier this week, Pettine suggested that Manziel could spend his rookie season as a “package quarterback,” similar to how Colin Kaepernick opened his career in San Francisco, thinking being that the Heisman Trophy winner would bring additional threat of a ground game to the Browns’ backfield.

Hoyer is expected to practice without limitations as the team begins Training Camp on Saturday. The regular season kicks of on September 7 when the Browns travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.

[Related: A look at Browns Training Camp position battles]

(Joshua Gunter/ The Plain Dealer)

NEOMG looking for LeBron James beat reporter

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As the Northeast Ohio Media Group looks to redefine their coverage of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the wake of long-time scribe Mary Schmitt Boyer’s retirement, the group that spearheads Cleveland.com and The Cleveland Plain Dealer are looking for a beat writer. But not a Cavaliers beat writer per se—a LeBron James beat writer.

James’ return to Cleveland has been the talk of the summer in the sports world. With standard, robotic, lede-quote-stats game recaps going the way of the rotary phone, NEOMG wants to make sure they’re ahead of the curve when it comes to covering one of the biggest stories in Cleveland. From the job description:

Bring your sports, news and investigative reporting experience to one of the most challenging reporting jobs in the country, covering the sports performance, business dealings and community leadership of basketball star LeBron James. You’ll cover all aspects of his roles in Northeast Ohio and nationally as he returns to the Cleveland Cavaliers, writing, creating videos, and posting across multiple platforms including all relevant types of social media. You’ll also participate in broadcasts where you discuss James, working closely with reporters assigned to cover the Cavaliers and the NBA.

Kudos to NEOMG for breaking the mold among newspaper-based outlets. The changes they have made to their Ohio State coverage has been noticeable. They’ve also started to break the mold a bit in their Tribe coverage. The intriguing aspect of this specific position, however, will be what sort of access, if any, is provided to said writer outside of the typical scrums and scheduled appearances. Here’s hoping it involves investigative, non-deadline, writerly items as opposed to the mere repackaging of others’ reports.

You know what they say: Prose over pose.1

 

 

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Footnotes:

  1. Actually, I’m not sure anyone’s ever said that. Ever. []

Animated: Watch Corey Kluber dominate the Royals

This is becoming old hat by this point, but Cleveland Indians starter Corey Kluber turned in yet another masterful performance on Thursday night, carrying a perfect game through six and one-third innings, earning himself a no-decision. Per Elias, it was the deepest into a game that any Cleveland starting pitcher had gone without allowing a base-runner since Len Barker pitched his perfect game for the Indians against Toronto on May 15, 1981.

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All of Kluber’s pitches were working on Thursday, but he had the most success with his off-speed and breaking balls. Royals “hitters” were 0-for-16 in at-bats ending with his breaking balls, including eight of his 10 strikeouts.

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Kluber, who somehow missed out on being an All-Star, went nine innings, allowing no earned runs, striking out 10 and walking none, making him just the fourth pitcher in the last 20 seasons to reach all of those marks in a no-decision.

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Coming in to the season as the team’s second starter (behind Justin Masterson), Kluber now ranks third in all of baseball (among pitchers) with a WAR of 4.3—only Felix Hernandez and John Lester have provided more wins through the duration of the entire season—doing so with a marriage of location and deception. He’s thrown his fastball just 52.8 percent of the time through 2014.

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Per ESPN Stats & Info, Kluber is the only pitcher this season with a double-digit strikeout game against the Royals, who entered the day with a 15.6 strikeout rate—by far the lowest in the major leagues. Oh, about that fastball…

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He’s second in the game when it comes to FIP, among pitchers with at least 120 innings, carrying a mark of 2.59 . He’s fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.76). Of the pitchers in the top five in FIP, Kluber has been the unluckiest, boasting an BABiP of .316. Felix Hernandez has a BABiP of .267.

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Corey Kluber is a badass. Pop that collar, brother.

Ohio State fires band director over ‘sexualized’ culture

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The Ohio State University has fired the head of the Best Damn Band in the Land. A two-month investigation regarding allegations of sexual harassment has resulted in the firing of Jonathan Waters, the director of its marching band. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the school is also expanding an internal investigation that uncovered a deep culture of sexualization among students that reportedly has existed for years.

Examples of abuse include an annual midnight band practice at Ohio Stadium in which men and women were expected to march wearing only their underwear. In one recent year, a student suffered alcohol poisoning at the practice. Students led the rehearsal, but staff members, including Waters, were there, too.

Some other traditions: All new band members, or “rookies,” were given nicknames, many of which were sexually explicit. Rookies were forced to perform “tricks” on command. In one case, a female student was told to imitate a sexual act on the laps of other band members, including her brother.

Additional findings include an “unofficial songbook” that was a part of the evidence that investigators provided to university leaders which included raunchy lyrics set to school songs at other schools. Waters reportedly told the office investigating him that he had taken steps to curb some of the sexualized and inappropriate traditions, such as asking band members to cancel the much-discussed midnight underwear practice.

Like many other investigations of this nature, it appears that there have been longstanding complaints by students that were largely ignored on account of such high-valued ideals like “hazing culture” and “tradition.”

 

 

Ray Allen leaning toward joining Cavs

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The Free Agency haul rolls on as Ray Allen is reportedly leaning toward signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This report is according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Allen is expected to have MRIs on his legs to make sure they’re healthy, so nothing will be official until after Thursday. Mike Miller, another recent addition, has been recruiting Ray Allen to join him and LeBron James—both teammates of Allen in Miami—in Cleveland.

“With LeBron James, you are going to win 55 to 60 games regardless,” Miller said on ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd Show. “Now it’s about what you do in the playoffs. For us, even with the young talent that they have there, you’ve got to bring guys that have been there before, even if they are not giving you heavy minutes. Because those are the guys that understand the preparation, the adjustments, things like that can really bring those guys along. And then you build it from there.”

The 39-year-old Allen was fielding offers from the Cavs as well as the Houston Rockets in addition to contemplating retirement. He is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point makes with 2973, and over 19 years of professional play, Allen has shot 40.0 percent from beyond the arc.

Is Danny Salazar back?

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It seems longer ago, but all it took was a mid-July afternoon on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. I sat next to TD, roughly thirty yards from the pitchers mound housed within Progressive Field, as Danny Salazar made his Major League debut. I had planned to only stay for a few innings, spending what would otherwise be my lunch hour taking in some Tribe baseball. We didn’t know what to totally expect, but all it would take was a smattering of 99-mile-per-hour fastballs mixed with off-speed stuff some 20 miles-per-hour slower and it was over: The legend was being penned.

[Read more...]

LeBron James sends cupcakes to neighbors to apologize for pre-Decision commotion

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Pastry and LeBron James links live on for another day. In the wake of The Decision 2.0, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and his family have apparently decided to apologize to his neighbors in the most fitting way possible: designer cupcakes.

Recall, in the week leading up to James’ letter that stated he was returning to Cleveland, a local cupcake shop out of Canton, Ohio was one of the first to have “insider” information, posting LeBron’s impending return to their Facebook page. Not long thereafter, Bath, Ohio police were stationed outside of James’ residence, leading to an evening-long commotion on his street as TV crews and cars had parked on both sides of the street.

According to a resident who claims to live on James’ street, a package of cupcakes from the LeBron James Family Foundation was delivered to his home Tuesday afternoon with a message inscribed:

We know that things have been hectic in the neighborhood these past few weeks and we are sorry for the chaos.

We are so thankful to live in this community and we are so blessed to have understanding neighbors like you.

FOX Sports Ohio spoke with the individual who stated that the package was hand-delivered by the company, though they had no face-to-face interaction with James. Needless to say, this is a gesture that would have been nearly unfathomable during James’ first run with the Cavaliers. Also needless to say: They look delicious.

(Via Reddit)

Cavs “firmly in lead” to acquire Kevin Love

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Andrew Wiggins is one step closer to being an official member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whether or not he ultimately reaches that destination remains to be seen.

The Golden State Warriors were long considered to be the Cavs’ lone rival in obtaining Love as they refuse to include swingman Klay Thompson in discussions given Love’s potential to leave after one season. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst report that the Chicago Bulls—one of the choice destinations for Love—have also entered into the fray1, but the Cavs remain “firmly in the lead” in a deal that would center around Wiggins. The Cavs are reportedly increasingly optimistic that they are progressing toward a trade framework that the Minnesota Timberwolves will accept in exchange for Love to pair him with his Team USA teammate LeBron James.

The Associated Press has confirmed an earlier report from Windhorst that states the Cavs’ No. 1 overall pick will sign his rookie contract with the team. Wiggins has been the topic of trade talks since being selected this past summer, the 6-foot-8-inch shooting guard being the top target of the Minnesota Timberwolves as they look to deal power forward Kevin Love before he reaches free agency. Last week, the AP cited two people familiar with the discussions in saying that the Cavs were still not willing to include Wiggins in a deal despite previous reports to the contrary.

Once the deal (said to be worth roughly $5.5 million in 2014) is inked, the Cavs would be prohibited from dealing the rookie for 30 days. Prior to being signed, Wiggins’ value in a trade was zero. If the Cavaliers do decide to part ways with the highly touted swingman, they would be $5.5 million closer to the required $12.56 million needed to acquire Love. Other players rumored to be involved include Dion Waiters ($4.06 million) and last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett ($5.56 million).

[Related: Mike Krzyzewski would trade Wiggins for Love “without hesitancy”]

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Footnotes:

  1. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler appear to be their starting point. []

Jason Kipnis still bothered by oblique

 

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Jason Kipnis was named the American League Player of the week on Monday, but readily admitted that he has not felt the same since straining his oblique muscle back in April.

“I wouldn’t use the word progress, I’d use the word adjustment,” said Kipnis. “As far as the oblique goes, it’s going to be there all year. It’s not going to go away until the offseason. What I can do is find a swing that works for me. I thought we may have found something coming out of Detroit. It was a step in the right direction and we’re going to keep making adjustments day to day and pitch to pitch and see how it goes.”

Kipnis missed about a month after straining his right oblique muscle in late April and he’s still trying to make adjustments to his swing in order to get comfortable. He went 5-for-15 (.333) with two homers and six RBI during a big four-game series against the Tigers, but it appears that a return to last season’s All-Star form at any point in 2014 may be a pipe dream.

On the season, Kipnis is hitting .258 (.706 OPS) with five home runs, 14 doubles and just 30 runs batted in. His isolated power is down almost 60 points year over year, trending at a career-low mark of .110, and his batted ball distance on homers and flies has dropped 20 feet from last year to this one—both numbers unlikely to be aided by his ailing oblique.

“It’s just one of those things that’s going to be there,” Kipnis said.

Mike Pettine: Josh Gordon is a Cleveland Brown

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In a recent interview with The Akron Beacon-Journal, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine reiterated that the team has no plans to cut maligned wide receiver Josh Gordon in the wake of his troubled off-season.

“We’re firm,” said Pettine. “We want to find that middle ground. Josh is a Cleveland Brown. We want to do what’s best for him. We have a player that potentially needs help. Whether it’s him or whether it’s anybody else that wears the uniform, if we can help, we’ll help. We want to make our decisions always, what’s best for the player, and you try to marry it with what’s best for the team. So that’s why I don’t think that cutting him, while it may have worked for some other people, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best option here. It might be the worst option for both — for us and for him. We’re going to wait and see what happens and then act accordingly.”

Pettine would not get into details regarding how the team can, or will, help Gordon as the league is allegedly sensitive to substance abuse issues. Coincidentally, it’s the league that has yet to determine whether or not Gordon—who reportedly violated the league’s policy earlier this offseason—will miss any games for the 2014 season.

Coming off of a Pro Bowl season wherein Gordon led the league in receiving (despite missing two games), the 23-year-old was expected to be the top target for quarterback Brian Hoyer or newly drafted Johnny Manziel this coming year. The Browns added veterans Nate Burleson, Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin to help bolster an already top-heavy unit. If Gordon misses any time, or even a full season, Pettine iterated that the team will not be able to replace such a talent, but will instead have to draw up creative schemes that will help hide their considerably weak receiving corps.

“You don’t replace him,” said Pettine. “I think you have to get creative. It’s got to be a committee approach, and I think you also have to get creative in how you run your offense whether it’s an extra tight end — that’s where adding Jim Dray and having a veteran like Gary Barnidge helps — [allowing] you to maybe move Jordan [Cameron] around a little bit and play with groupings that maybe involve less wide receivers. You don’t become as wide receiver dependent… I think we have more options there than maybe people think.”

The team believes they will hear word on Gordon’s future within the next 10 days.  The two years remaining on his contract will be tolled if he is indeed suspended. The Browns, theoretically, could have an elite talent at salaries of $825,000 in 2015 and $1.06 million in 2016. Training Camp is set to begin on Saturday, July 26.

 

 

Second-half Storylines: What are you watching?

Nick Swisher

The Cleveland Indians started things off with a relative bang, taking three of four in Detroit. As we close in on the month of August, the Tribe stands 4.5 games behind the Tigers and will need to piece it all together heading into the fall if postseason play is to happen for the second consecutive year. There are copious amounts of storylines to look at for the second half of the season, but which ones are we watching? Take a walk with us as we plan for the next 10 weeks of baseball.

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Indians interested in reliever Joaquin Benoit

San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres

While David Price’s name continues to be bantered about, the Cleveland Indians join the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates as teams interested in San Diegot Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman iterates that while the Indians haven’t established themselves as ‘buyers’ heading into the deadline, they could be leaning that way.

Benoit is owed $8 million next year (which would make him the fifth-highest paid Indian) plus $8 million or a $1.5 million buyout in 2016. His 2016 option will vest if he finishes at least 55 games in 2015. Benoit has a 2.04 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 10.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 39 2/3 innings with San Diego this year.

The Tigers could certainly use the help. While the Tribe’s bullpen is a strength—and they could certainly use help in other areas—they could do themselves a favor by making sure their main competitors in the AL Central don’t fortify their only weakness. It would certainly be one expensive move either way.

(Photo by Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)