April 24, 2014

Was an Indians usher fired for not wearing an Issue 7 sticker?

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Did the Cleveland Indians fire an usher for being unwilling to wear a “Vote Yes for Issue 7″ sticker? One specific usher appears to think so.

In a report penned by Vince Grzegorek from Cleveland Scene Magazine, Edward Loomis, a 27-year-old usher who was in the midst of his second season with the team, feels that he was fired due to his unwillingness to support the extension of the sin tax. There are some vague areas of grey regarding Loomis’ story—penciling himself in on the schedule, for instance—but rather than picking sides, we will let you sift through the information that’s been provided.

Loomis, who is 27, worked for the Tribe in the premium seating area since last Spring. He was all set for year two with the Indians when a little stomach bug snuck up on him just prior to the home opener. He emailed his supervisor and let her know he would probably not be available for that first three-game stretch. His illness cleared up sooner than expected and he arrived on April 4, ready to work. His supervisor then instructed him that, although he wasn’t on the schedule, to pencil himself in. He did so and attended the regular pre-game meeting.

Sick employee turns into Wolverine, heals up faster than expected and is ready to work. All good, right? Yeah, not so much.

“I then came in the next day, on Saturday, and I was not allowed in the stadium. If you’re not scheduled, you’re told you’re not supposed to come in, and that made sense to me, since I had previously called off. I was persistent in asking why though.”

Loomis says he had security radio his supervisor twice to ask why he wasn’t allowed in and why the previous day’s arrangement — penciling his name in on the schedule — wasn’t suitable any longer. He had called off, prematurely, but was ready to work.

He subsequently received an email from his supervisor that he was not scheduled to work until further notice pending an investigation about what happened at the gate. Loomis insists that besides being “persistent,” he was not violent or threatening, either verbally or physically, that Saturday.

Yesterday, Loomis heard from the organization again: he was fired. A former coworker was not surprised — he told Loomis he had heard he was fired a full week ago.

The Indians obviously benefit from the extension of the sin tax, thus making it clear why they would encourage (or mandate, which they claim is not the case) employees to support the issue. In the business world, many things that are deemed “optional” can easily morph into “recommended,” which—well—becomes unoffically mandatory. The story of what occurred at the gate on that Saturday is obviously one-sided, and it doesn’t help matters when the team is unwilling to share their side of the story. When Loomis asked for reasons of his firing, but was allegeldy given very little in the way of information and the team, through email, declined to expand on the story in any capacity.

Just like any other man-versus-machine story, it’s easy to side with the individual who is more than willing to talk on his own behalf. Not helping matters is the politically sensitive topic of Issue 7 and the radio silence from the other side.

Then again, who still uses pencils?

Todd McShay’s latest pegs the Browns with Sammy Watkins AND Johnny Manziel

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Many times throughout the draft process, many point to draftnik types like ESPN’s Todd McShay and say “If he was so good at scouting talent, why isn’t he employed by an NFL team?” Well, this is because his job isn’t necessarily to scout talent, but to use what he knows, coupled with people he speaks with, and produce lists that ultimately link players to specific teams. Naturally, this is a fleeting, thankless job as months of work becomes useless once the NFL Draft has come to an end, save for those who wish to go back and “grade” how people of his ilk did at their job.

In his latest, however, McShay switches gears a bit and says not what he thinks will happen come May 8, but what he would do if he were the GM of the 32 NFL teams. Using his “Big Board,” McShay bends a bit based on need, but maps out what is mostly a Best Player Available scenario throughout the first round—one which lands the Cleveland Browns two high-profile talents in Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

With high-octane ends Jadaveon Clowney and Kahlil Mack going first and third, resepctively, and offensive lineman Greg Robinson going to St. Louis, the Browns switch gears by going offensive play-maker. Take a gander:

I’m beginning to sound like I’m on repeat here, but the Browns are another team that needs a quarterback that I have waiting until later to draft one, because I can’t justify using a top-four pick on any of this year’s QBs. Cleveland needs an upgrade at the No. 2 receiver spot opposite Gordon, and if Watkins reaches his potential, the Browns will essentially have two No. 1s. He is an explosive and dynamic weapon both as a vertical route runner and after the catch, and he attacks the ball in the air, playing bigger than his size. He’ll have some learning to do as a route runner, but he already knows how to separate from coverage.

Blake Bortles then becomes the first quarterback off of the board, going eighth to the Minnesota Vikings. Arizona scoops up Teddy Bridgewater at No. 20, allowing Manziel to slide all the way to 26th.

This pick made sense to me because Manziel is the 19th-ranked prospect on my board, and the Browns need to address the quarterback position. Additionally, I already addressed a need position with an elite player at the No. 4 pick in Sammy Watkins, and having five total picks in the top 83 frees the Browns up to take a chance here. All of those factors make Manziel worth the risk, because the potential pay-off with him — if he can make the necessary adjustments to his game to consistently win from the pocket and protect his body, while still utilizing his rare improvisation skills — is significant. If Manziel gets past the top eight picks on draft night, I think there could be a good trade market to get in place to draft him.

This scenario would satisfy plenty of Browns fans as a team in dire need of skill positions addresses them with two of the biggest names in the draft. Unfortunately, as McShay iterates, the odds of Manziel falling this far and a trade not happening are very slim—the Dallas Cowboys have been recently linked to the Texas product and the Tampa Bay Bucanneers reportedly have the QB on their “short list.”

McShay’s latest isn’t the first piece to have Johnny Manziel sliding down to the Browns at 26, but I’m not certain this makes the possibility any more likely. Personally, if Blake Bortles is available at No. 4, I’ll be shocked if the Browns pass in hopes of obtaining a passer later on. I also hope I’m dead wrong.

[Related: WFNY on the 2014 NFL Draft: Joe Gilbert’s Top Five Quarterbacks]

Tribe defense has been historically bad thus far

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Sure, the Cleveland Indians aren’t exactly tearing the cover off of the ball on a nightly basis, but they aren’t exactly catching it either. FanGraphs, who has been very kind to the Tribe thus far through 2014, penned another entry that wasn’t all too glowing. The topic du jour: Defense, or severe lack thereof.

As run stopping has grown just as important as run producing, the Cleveland Indians are struggling mightily with the latter. FanGraphs, who breaks defensive opportunities into percentiles of likelihood to be made, shows that the Tribe is not just struggling with the unlikely plays, they’re blowing their opportunities to make the routine ones as well.

If you look at the 90%-100% ones, you’ll notice that 12 teams have converted 98 percent or more of those plays. 17 more have turned at least 96.0 percent of “the easy ones” into outs. And all alone at 94.4 percent, and dead last in DRS, are the Cleveland Indians. [...]

You can already see how it’s hurting the Cleveland pitching staff. They have the second–best strikeout rate in baseball, and the third-lowest homer rate. They’re not immune to blame — they’re walking way too many — but they’re being saddled with a .331 BABIP that is not only the highest in baseball, but would be tied for the second-highest in the last century with a 96-loss 2007 Tampa Bay team that primarily had B.J. Upton and Brendan Harris as double play partners, behind only a 1930 Phillies team that lost 102 games and played in one of the most offense-friendly seasons ever.

Oof. The struggles have not been limited to just one area of the team. We already discussed Nyjer Morgan’s early issues with regard to stopping runs. David Murphy has been tagged with three runs himself despite being a part of a platoon. Nick Swisher has been tagged with three runs, large in part to his two gaffes in a win over the San Diego Padres. Jason Kipnis has dropped easy pop-ups, failing to convert on three “easy” plays. Yan Gomes has been tossing baseballs all over creation. Michael Brantley’s errorless streak has ended. I could go on…

As Mike Petriello writes, with the AL Central slated to be a dogfight once again, the Indians can’t afford to be helping out their opponents. The way their defense has played so far, they’re making it much harder on themselves than it needs to be.

A Thank You from WFNY

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We have long joked about the veritable cemetery of websites, or “blogs”, that has grown exponentially since the summer of 2010. Ask anyone who has opposed the advent or proliferation of web-based properties over the years, and—after some dullard comment about basements and underwear—they would likely point to the fact that anyone can start a blog. This claim is unequivocally true. Anyone with access to the Internet and the wherewithal to land on a Blogspot or WordPress page could, with a few minutes of their time, start a blog. But that point, the moment in time where your URL is officially live, is simply the beginning. The doors may be open for business, but only through dedication, hard work and a little bit of luck will you find people willing to walk through them. And getting them to come back for more? That’s a whole new ball game.

By now, you may or may not have noticed the slight, more colorful change to our sidebar. Gone is the “Vote for WFNY” advertisement; replacing it is the word that WFNY has officially been named the Best Sports Blog and Best Podcast in Cleveland for 2014 by the kind folks over at Cleveland Scene Magazine. This isn’t our first “Best of” award, and it (hopefully) won’t be the last, but I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t the most important.

[Read more...]

Jim Tressel one of three finalists for University of Akron presidency

 Jim Tressel

Jim Tressel, current executive vice president for student success1 at the University of Akron, is one of three finalists for president, the university announced on Tuesday afternoon. The other two finalists are Ronald A. Nykiel, provost of University of Maryland Eastern Shore and former dean of business of Husson University; and Scott L. Scarborough, provost of the University of Toledo and former executive vice president for finance and administration of DePaul University.

All three finalists will will reportedly spend a day interviewing on campus with faculty, staff, students and community leaders. Each finalist will also appear at a public forum with Tressel scheduled to meet with campus groups on May 1. While at Akron, Tressel taught a “Principles of Coaching” class wherein Martin Rickman, friend of WFNY, sat in to absorb all of the genius.

Tressel, former Ohio State University football coach, is also a candidate for president at Youngstown State University.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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Footnotes:

  1. I still can’t believe this is a real title. []

Cavs’ David Griffin: “I’m not going to campaign—I’m not running for mayor”

Cavaliers' GM David Griffin

The message was officially delivered. The Cleveland Cavaliers are done “acquiring assets.” Just days after the franchise wrapped up a 33-49 season, one that left them just short of their goal of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, acting General Manager David Griffin sat in front of the local media and ensured them that, after years of rhetoric revolving around assets and banter that treated players as if they were poker chips, the team is shifting into “targeted acquisition mode.”

Expected to have $26 million in salary-cap space this off-season, Griffin pulled no punches when it came to addressing the Cavaliers’ current weaknesses. He referred to several instances over the course of the 2013-14 season where his team was “selfish” and did not trust one another. Specific to the roster, Griffin stated that the Cavs need to—are you ready for this?—get bigger, get smarter (have players with a higher basketball IQ), shoot better, and be tougher.

Though the team is also armed with the ninth-overall pick (assuming the lottery plays out as it stands), Griffin said that the Cavs will no longer look to get lucky in the draft. Though they have plenty of areas for improvement, he repeatedly said that the team’s success will hinge upon how players fit within the confines of the current core. “There is nothing that can be done to an NBA roster that we are not capable of doing,” Griffin said of the flexibility he is afforded.

The overarching question will be who, whether it is Griffin or an appointed General Manager, will be making these impending decisions as the team continues on. Griffin is currently operating as “Acting” General Manger, stepping in for Chris Grant who was fired earlier this season and  though he hasn’t gotten official word from Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert, Griffin spoke confidently, stating that he is on the same page with those making the decisions.

“I feel no great sense of wonder,” Griffin said of his current title and suspiciously quiet owner. “I feel very confident ownership and myself will be moving in the same direction. But I also don’t need to hear from them to know that I need to get better.

“I’m not going to campaign. I’m not running for mayor. Our results are totally unacceptable. I understand what we need to do to get better. And if Dan and his ownership group are of that mindset, we’re going to get better together.”

FanGraphs: Indians have one of “smartest” lineups in baseball

First, they get their own special scissors; now, park benefits!?

The lefty-heavy Cleveland Indians lineup may be a bit frustration to watch through the first 19 games of the season, but the team is being commended for the method behind the madness. The latest comes from a FanGraphs piece titled “Lineup Genius in Cleveland“:

One thing seems certain: Some very smart people are working for Team Cleveland. In addition to their focus on those intangible things we’ve had such a hard time measuring — like manager influence and chemistry — the club has also made some smart decisions about the roster’s composition. [...]

Over the course of a 162-game season, there’s an inherent advantage to fielding a lefty-leaning lineup. Roughly 70% of pitchers are right-handed, so we’re talking about a lot of platoon advantage. Of course, if 70% are right-handed, then 30% are left-handed. That can be a problem, which is where Raburn and the switch-hitters enter the equation.

The FanGraphs piece goes on to discuss the composition of the AL Central specifically, pointing out that the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins both have right-handed heavy pitching staffs. If this wasn’t enough, they take into account the confines of Progressive Field, stating that “The Jake” has a 105 HR park factor for left-handed batters—lefties hit five more home runs in Cleveland than in a neutral park. This contrasts to an 89 HR park factor for righties. Progressive Field reduces righty home runs by 11 percent. Add it all up and a generic left-handed bat is 16 percent more likely to put a ball on the other side of the fence than your average right-handed hitter.

The power of platoons has already been well documented. Just remember all of these other items next time you see all of those south paws in the Tribe’s lineup.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Jesus Aguilar continues to destroy baseballs in Columbus

Jesus Aguilar: Home run hitter, food eater

If you’re one of those Tribe fans who only cares about high-profile prospects, you may want to make an exception for Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar, the Columbus Clippers first baseman blasted his fifth home run of the season on Monday, and is now putting up a red-hot slash line of .386/.453/.737 (1.190 OPS) through 16 games.

The portly Aguilar is listed at 6-feet-3-inches and 250 pounds, though he is likely closer to a an offensive lineman-like three bills. This hasn’t stopped the 23-yaer-old right-hander from anhiliating anything thrown his way.

 Last year, Aguilar batted .275/.349/.427 with 28 doubles, 16 home runs and 105 RBI in 130 games at Double-A Akron. As our own Kirk stated earlier this month, Aguilar could easily fill in at first base if the team would be willing to put Nick Swisher in the outfield against lefties. This, of course, would come at the expense of Ryan Raburn who recently signed a two-year deal to be—well—Aguilar. Though an equal-opportunity masher, against left-handed pitching this season, Aguilar has provided a line of .348/.444/.826 (1.271 OPS) with two doubles, three home runs and five runs batted in. He’s also walked four times as compared to just three strikeouts.1

Aguilar didn’t crack Baseball America’s top 10 list for Top Prospects this season. He doesn’t have the hype or long-term potential of Francisco Lindor; he certainly doesn’t have the tools of someone like Clint Frazier. But for a team that is in dire search of someone who can not only hit left-handed pitching but do so with power, their answer may be just two hours south on Interstate 71.

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Footnotes:

  1. It’s worth pointing out that his 2013 slash line was more favorable against right-handed pitching. []

The most popular professional athlete in Ohio is…LeBron James?

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Using Google search data, the blog for BestTickets.com has derived the most popular athletes, sports, positions, and teams on a state-by-state basis. While the NFL is the top dog in much of the United States, the most searched-for athlete in the state of Ohio is none other than LeBron James.

James is actually the runaway leader in the United States, being the most searched for in 23 of 50 states. The fact that James is from Ohio, and had once played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, should only serve to cement him as the leader in the Buckeye State.

There is plenty of data to dig through in this piece. For instance, what states don’t have football as a priority? What teams are the most popular in all of the four major sports? I would have never guessed the top-searched NFL team. Nor would I have put the Cavaliers ahead of the several playoff teams, including the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets. The Tribe in the top 10? Also surprising.

Perhaps the most interesting, the player who rounds out the Top 10? Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. If anyone could bump the Browns up their respective list, it’d be this kid.

Indians and Verizon partner to roll out new wireless and Wi-Fi network

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Say what you want about the product on the field over the last week or so, but the Cleveland Indians are undoubtedly listening to their fans. In an effort to better connect with fans at Progressive Field, the team, in partnership with Verizon Wireless, has announced a roll-out of what their referring to as new Distributed Antenna System (DAS) and Wi-Fi network.

 These updates aim to offer fans more reliable access to social media applications while allowing them to check in on ever-growing MLB.com At The Ballpark app while within the confines Progressive Field.

It was just a season ago when the entire city of Cleveland was essentially blacked out in the way of cell signal when 41,000 fans (plus those who were simply downtown) attempted to utilize their mobile devices. As tweets and image uploads on a variety of networks become a larger part of the in-game experience, the Indians obviously saw this free marketing as an opportunity worth addressing.

“This implementation will significantly enhance fans’ digital experience at the ballpark by making social media and their favorite apps more easily accessible, as well as completing common functions like making a call or sending an email or text,” said Neil Weiss, the Indians Senior Vice President of Technology and Chief Information Officer via press release.

MLB.com At the Ballpark personalizes fans’ trips with mobile check-in, social media, offers, rewards and exclusive content. It comes complete with concourse maps, food and drink menus, player entrance music info (with the ability to purchase songs on iTunes), and seat upgrade functionality. The Indians plan to offer exclusive deals to those who utilize the application. Getcha smartphones ready.

[Related: Indians (once again) among best values in MLB]

Matthews *and* Manziel? While We’re Waiting…

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Mock City, USA. With the NFL Draft just a few weeks away, the frequency of the ever-popular mock draft is going to pick up—immensely. One of my favorites thus far, if only from a Cleveland Browns standpoint, comes from Rotoworld’s Evan Silva. Silva hedges his bets throughout, saying that he “doesn’t pretend to know what will happen at the draft,” but then has the Browns landing Johnny Manziel…at No. 26. This, after they select Jake Matthews (hey, if we couldn’t land Clay, we may as well get his cousin, right?) at No. 4. Then in the second round, he has the Browns landing Marquise Lee from USC, a player who many had in the top 10 of the 2014 Draft as recent as a season ago.

Don’t get me wrong, this would be an absolute haul. I also give it about Bluto Blutarsky’s shot at happening1. For starters, I still see Manziel going in the top eight. Secondly, if he doesn’t, he’ll get scooped up in the late teens or early 20s by a team willing to take a gamble—the Browns would get jumped. This said, as big of a Manziel fans as I am, I’m totally fine with Matthews. As WFNY commenter Jim Kanicki said best in his latest podcast, you can’t go wrong with the bloodlines.

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The NBA Playoffs will only serve to be frustrating for Cavalier fans. So many quality games, so many quality players—many of whom were selected after various Cavaliers and are doing really, really good things for their team. Watching guys like Kemba Walker (20 points, five boards, six assists) and Damian Lillard (31 points, nine rebounds and five assists) do big things for their respective teams is great for them, but just so maddening for anyone who is a fan of Cleveland. Charlotte is in the playoffs largely because of the gamble they made on Al Jefferson and Portland is stacked, so the apples we’re comparing aren’t exactly the same. But it’s very difficult to watch a team like the Bobcats—who is where they are despite a complete failure in drafting Bismack Biyombo before Walker—knowing that the Cavs could’ve been playing postseason basketball if not for such a horrid, horrid start to the season.

Some bonus Cavs coverage comes in the way of Jason Lloyd, who pegs Andrew Bynum as the common denominator of failure for 2013-14. Check it out.

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On a good note regarding the Cavaliers, WFNY’s Ben Cox (Writer of the Year), Jacob Rosen (Best Written Cavaliers Article of the Year, “Everything we know about the Cavaliers and Analytics“), and Joe Mastrantoni (Up and Coming Writer of the Year) for cleaning up at Stepien Rules’ 2013-14 STEPY Awards. I’m proud to know that WFNY houses some of the best Cavalier writers on the planet. Do I wish they had the chance to utilize their skills on a competitive franchise? You bet your sweet ass. That said, covering a losing team for an entire season is even tougher, and these guys deserve all the credit they receive.

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While the Tribe is struggling a bit out of the gate, Let’s Go Tribe takes a look at the players the Indians chose not to re-sign. Raise your hand if you’re a Tribe fan and knew that Ubaldo Jiménez’ ERA is north of seven.

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It didn’t take long for Clint Frazier to get the call. The Tribe’s red rocket is officially a member of the Lake County Captains. Frazier made his 2014 debut going 1-for-5, scoring a run and had a RBI as well as the team ended its losing streak, winning 6-3 and are now 5-9 on the year. Last year Frazier played 44 games in the Arizona Rookie League hitting .297, with 32 runs scored, 11 doubles, five triples, five homeruns and 28 runs batted in.

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Spoiler-free Mad Men thoughts: Sally Draper episodes have become exponentially better than non-Sally Draper episodes.

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Cochella thoughts: Welcome back, OutKast.

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And just because: Paul Pierce, falling down.

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Footnotes:

  1. Zero. Point. Zero. []

Numbers Don’t Lie: Cavs took huge steps defensively in 2013-14

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Across from the coach’s office within the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room is a poster-sized sheet that serves as a reminder for what this team had set out to accomplish heading into the season. All 30 NBA teams, listed in order by opponent field goal percentage—a widely-used gauge to determine defensive prowess in a game that can vary widely in the way of pace of play. Last season, when Byron Scott took that final walk, the giant metal door clicking behind him, the Cavs were listed 30th. When Mike Brown was reintroduced just days later, the message was clear: If the Wine and Gold were going to improve, it would be through defense. And while they did not make the playoffs, a goal that was clearly disseminated from the top, the team did improve substantially on the defensive end, finishing 12th in the league in opponent field goal percentage with a mark of 45.2.

Other defensive statistics also show marked improvement. After finishing the year 25th in points allowed per game in 2012-13, this year’s unit finished 16th. The Cavs (perhaps surprisingly) had the fifth-lowest average for opponent points in the paint (38.9) and had the seventh-lowest average in fastbreak points (12.1). They finished 2013-14 17th in defensive efficiency (104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), one year after finishing 26th (106.9). Where they failed, at least in the way of being among the top third of the league, was in three-point percentage, finishing 22nd (.367). 

Offensively, the team was a mixed bag as they ranked 22nd in scoring (98.2) and 27th in field goal percentage (43.7) after ranking 19th (96.5) and 29th (43.4) in 2012-13. The Cavs ranked 17th in pace of play this season—a mark that by no means has a direct correlation with success—after finishing last season 12th. They finished the year 23rd in offensive efficiency (101.3). In 2012-13, they were 23rd as well with a mark of 100.8.

Statistical improvements or regressions, at least when it comes to team-wide output, can rarely be linearly extrapolated into subsequent years. They’re largely a function of the individual players and their fit within the system. Anderson Varejao will be a year older with a partially guaranteed deal. Much will change between this unit and the one which will take the floor this October.

Many of the numbers listed above, while improvements, represent a jump to league average. The LeBron James-led Cavalier units under Brown were frequently among the best in the league. It’s clear that the team made strides defensively as compared to a year ago—a goal of theirs heading into the year—which was the goal in bringing Brown back for his second tour. If he is retained beyond this summer, it will be for these reasons, with the hopes and conviction that that poster across from his office displays something even more favorable come this time in 2015.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dion Waiters is Waiting For Next Year

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In his exit interview with the local media on Thursday morning, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters discussed the offseason and what the team’s goals are over the next 12 months.

“I’ve never been to the playoffs,” said Waiters. “I’m very hungry. It’s why I play every game like it’s my last. Hopefully one day—next year. Next year, reaching the playoffs—that should be everyone’s main goal. I already know what it’s like, just by the jersey retirement for [Zydrunas Ilgauskas], how the fans were. So, just imagine the playoffs.

“We all have to come in with one mindset. We can’t worry about individual goals, individual accolades. It has to be a team thing, a team mind set, and everything else will take care of itself. That’s the biggest thing.”

Waiters plans on spending the next several weeks with his son before getting back to the grind. Several players on the Cavaliers—including Waiters, in efforts led by Jarrett Jack—have plans to watch NBA playoff games from the stands over the coming weeks as a means to get a taste for the atmosphere and energy that comes with making the postseason. “I want to see how teams win,” said Waiters.

Mel Kiper Mock has Manziel to Browns, Bridgewater to Round 2

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Fans of Johnny Manziel will be happy with the latest from Mel Kiper Jr. Though laced with caveats, the fluffy-haired draftnik’s latest mock not only has the Cleveland Browns selecting the first quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft, but making that player one Johnny Football, the polarizing passer out of Texas A&M, with the trio of South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney, Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Clemson’s Sammy Watkins going first, second and third, respectively.

Manziel is not my top-rated QB, but he is the QB I believe (right now) is likeliest to go this high, as I believe a team like Cleveland, with a number of draft assets and a QB on the roster it feels can create a bridge to a young starter, is in a good scenario to take a chance on Manziel’s ceiling. The Browns owning the No. 26 pick as well as an early second-rounder gives them a chance to take a player like Watkins here if available and consider a QB later, but this is how I see it as of right now.

Regarding the other quarterbacks, Kiper has UCF’s Blake Bortles going eighth to the Minnesota Vikings, but the “Big 3″ officially becomes the “Big 2 and Derek Carr” (as many had been hinting) with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater falling to the first pick on the second day, leading to quite the haul for the Houston Texans. Carr was nabbed 2oth overall by the Arizona Cardinals.

For the Browns’ second first-round selection, Kiper jumps aboard the cornerback bandwagon and pegs Cleveland with Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller.

Depending on which game you’re watching, you could walk away thinking Fuller is as good as or better than any cornerback in this draft, and the Browns can take him expecting a player who will contribute early at a position where they lack enough depth behind Joe Haden. Fuller has good size at 6 feet tall, and not only plays fast, but gets off the ground well to challenge high-point throws against taller pass-catchers. If Cleveland goes another route at No. 4, this is obviously a slot where the Browns could go with a QB.

And to help quench the thirst of the wideout-hungry fans, Kiper closes things out with Fresno State’s Davante Adams being taken with the team’s second-round selection. Adams is a 6-foot-1-inch, sure-handed athlete who helped Carr get bumped in to the top 20.

Consensus appears to have Cleveland pegged with some combination of a quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and offensive lineman being taken very early. While there will likely be countless mocks to unfold between today and the NFL Draft, it appears that the Browns should leave the second day with at least three of four needs having been tackled.

(Photo: Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY Sports)

Luck and Suck: FanGraphs digs in on two Tribe pitchers

Corey Kluber

Small sample sizes rarely stop the crew over at FanGraphs—if anything, they thrive on them, helping hardcore fans understand why a player hasn’t exactly done what has been expected of him, either for the better or worse. Given the small sample size discussion from our own Jon earlier this week, the latest from FanGraphs falls right in line, discussing the merits (or lackthereof) of the struggles being exhibited by two of Cleveland’s own: Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

In a post titled “Buy Low on Corey Kluber,” Scott Spratt echoes much of what Steiner said, focusing solely on the stoic one and his 5.50 ERA.

Kluber’s 8.64 strikeouts and 1.62 walks per nine innings are in line with his 8.31 and 2.02 rates from last year when he carried a 3.85 ERA for the season. In fact, Kluber’s 3.31 FIP is almost identical to his 3.30 FIP from 2013. It stands to reason that his ERA will fall in line if he continues to pitch this way.

Kluber is not unusual as a victim of the small-sample madness of the first few weeks of the new season. However, I do think circumstances have conspired to make him particularly vulnerable, and those circumstances have just improved.

To date, only the Minnesota Twins have been worse defensively in the outfield than the Indians based on the combined Defensive Runs Saved totals of the three outfield positions. The Indians have lost eight runs in the outfield, and almost all of it has been the result of Nyjer Morgan and Michael Brantley in center field.

Spratt, in addition to luck and a .411 BABiP, believes that the addition of Michael Bourn alone should allow for the fly-ball happy Kluber to regain his relative success. While it seemed crazy a few days ago, the fact that Morgan has been tagged with a league-worst five runs to this point speaks volumes to his demotion. While the article doesn’t mention the loss of Drew Stubbs as well, it does appear that if Bourn can provide at least baseline levels of defense, the team will be that much more better off—regardless of what he does at the plate.

Regarding Carrasco, things appear to be a bit less luck-based and more, well, Carrasco-based.

It’s easy to point to his 3.51 SIERA, ridiculous .400 BABIP and 53.8% LOB% and claim he’ll enjoy better luck moving forward. Similarly, it’s also simple to call him a head case, perform no analysis whatsoever, and move on. But of course, I’m not going to do either of these things. With a repertoire that seemingly appears fantastic, why isn’t Carrasco the best pitcher in baseball?

The odd thing about the inflated BABIP is that he has a allowed an LD% of just 12.9%. Given that line drives go for hits most frequently of all the batted ball types, it’s a surprise that he has allowed so many hits when the majority of his balls in play are ground balls. [...]

Although Carrasco’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and has touched as high as 96.7 mph this year and 98.1 mph historically, the pitch has been clobbered. He throws both a four-seamer and a two-seamer and both have been absolutely wretched. This year, the four-seamer, which he throws most often, has been hit to the tune of a .381 wOBA. While that’s terrible, that’s nothing compared to what hitters have done to his poor two-seamer.

Batters have quite enjoyed Carrasco’s two-seam fastball. How much you ask? Oh, just a delightful .761 wOBA. That’s not OPS, that’s wOBA. In OPS terms, it’s 1.811, including a .444 ISO and .667 batting average. Yeeesh. When you’re fastballs are that bad and you throw them a combined 60% of the time, no wonder why you’re getting blasted.

Fans have always loved Carrasco’s live arm—players who can get the ball up in the 90s are just fun to watch. That said, it’s intriguing that the best pitch for guy who can nearly hit triple-digits is actually his change-up. Carrasco simply can’t locate his heat. He touches 95 on the regular, but any major league baseball player can hit that when it’s served up over the middle of the plate, as Carlos has been thus far. Whether or not Mickey Callaway can coach Carrasco—and whether or not the pitcher can be coached—will be one huge storyline heading into May, especially with Trevor Bauer tossing yet another gem on Wednesday night1.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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Footnotes:

  1. Six innings, no runs on five hits, striking out nine batters with just one walk. []

AJ McCarron will conduct private workout for the Browns

AJ McCarron wins, people

All I do is win win win…

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will reportedly host a private workout for the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday, this according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Oh, boy. People may want to talk about his girlfriend, but get a load of this guy’s body. At 6-feet-4-inches and 220 pounds with 10-inch hands, McCarron possesses the size and stature needed to be a durable quarterback in the NFL. This kid can take—a—hit. He may only have decent arm strength that may require a crow hop to get the ball down field, but this guy…he is a mature, high-motor guy who does nothing but win. He won two—not one, TWO—National Championships while with the Crimson Tide. He’s been labled a ‘game manager,’ but he’ll be the first to tell you that he brings way more to the table. 

McCarron has all the inangibles. He’s a very confident player, yet he’ll put in that extra work in the film room! He was a Human Environmental Science major! He’s one of the few guys I know that has tattoos and bow ties—I mean, I know guys that have bow ties and I know guys that have tattoos; I don’t know many guys that have both. This kid can make all the throws—OK, some of them. But he’s done nothing but win.

[Related: Calling out the worst of all NFL draft clichés]

Browns among teams showing most interest in Michael Sam

In a story that will be bound to pick up steam as the 2014 NFL Draft nears, sources tell the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson that the Ravens, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns are showing the most interest in Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.

Sam was one of the more anticipated players to take to this winter’s NFL Combine, but turned in a sluggish workout where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds, had just a 25-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds just 17 times. Sam did, however, improve on his numbers during his campus Pro Day workout at Missouri, running the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds, leaping 30 inches bench pressing 225 pounds 19 times.

As a senior with the Tigers, Sam amassed 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses and was named a first-team All-American and a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection. The 6-foot-2, 256-pound college defensive end struggled during the Senior Bowl during outside linebacker drills as he attempts to transition to a new position.

Given the NFL teams listed, it appears that Sam is pegged to fit in mostly as an edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme. Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, projects to be a third-day selection who will likely have to thrive on special teams to make a 53-man roster.

Big changes coming to Cavs…Maybe

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown, Chris Grant

So we know that Dan Gilbert is none too pleased. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ majority owner is reportedly fuming, having set his sights on the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season, only to fall just short in a year when countless teams around him missed the playoffs intentionally. Gilbert has a reputation for being short-sighted and reactionary, supported by recent firings and re-hirings. With the Cavs on the outside looking in, many assume that more of the same will be on the way, but FOX Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico says that while some changes are going to happen, no decisions have been made regarding the front office, head coach or roster.

How displeased is Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that his team missed the playoffs? Well, “enraged” was the word most used by sources to describe Gilbert’s overall feelings. “Inside the organization is like a time-bomb waiting to go off,” said one.

That doesn’t mean Gilbert will overreact and start firing everybody, sources cautioned. It does mean he is expected to strategically (and perhaps slowly) find the best fit for running the basketball side of things this summer.

That could mean keeping interim general manager David Griffin and giving him the job on a full-time basis. Sources said Gilbert has been impressed with the improved culture in the Cavs’ locker room since Griffin took over. However, Griffin landing the gig is still not considered a definite. One source close to the situation described the idea of keeping the current front office entirely intact as “shaky.”

Amico expands on the status of head coach Mike Brown, which is expected to be determined this summer. The team owes Brown four more years of a five-year, $20 million deal and is less than a year removed from a press conference where the head coach was the definitive man to lead the team for the second time. Apparently, Glbert is very unhappy with the fallout of the Luol Deng deal, especially with the growing belief that the award-winning small forward will be playing elsewhere next season.

And the priority? Make Dion Waiters Waiters and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving work as the long-term starting backcourt. Just who will be tasked with executing on this plan will apparently be the giant variable.

Vìva uncertainty!

(AP Photo/Jason Miller)

Luol Deng win’s NBA’s Citizenship Award

luol deng sixers 

Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Luol Deng has been voted the 2013-14 winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award which is presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the player, coach or trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for any award, but this one is special because it represents who I am as a person and where I came from,” said Deng via press release. “What I’m most proud of is that my family can look back after my career is over and realize that I was able to make a difference on and off the basketball court.  That is something that tells the true story as to who I am as a person, someone who cares about his community and wants to improve the lives of others.”

Deng recently recorded a public service announcement for the EnoughProject.org, urging peace during a time of renewed conflict in his native South Sudan. This is his latest contribution to a number of international causes, including The Luol Deng Foundation, which is a global non-profit organization that uses basketball as a platform to give hope to those in Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the U.S., Deng’s work has been focused primarily on the communities in which he has played, Chicago and Cleveland.  He has funded Thanksgiving and holiday events that provide meals and toys to the underserved and has also served as a mentor to the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” He is also an avid supporter of the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program and has participated in PSA’s to raise awareness for World Malaria Day.

“The breadth and depth of Luol Deng’s community service elevated him from a deep pool of committed candidates,” said PBWA President Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “But, really, all the candidates and their communities are winners.”

Photo: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving continues to screw with Cavs fans

DSC_0568

With less than a week remaining in the regular season, Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving continues to play games with Cavalier fans who are concerned about the All-Star point guard’s future with the team. This past weekend, Irving vaguetweeted in a way that would make a teen girl blush out of admiration, putting the following tweet in quotes.

A quick Google search leads to nothing in the way of a well-known (or even obscure referenced) quote. Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Jodie Valade dug into the ever-enlightening pages of UrbanDictionary to find out that “jumping the fence” means “the moment when you are trapped in a bad situation, and you are quickly trying to get away, hoping things won’t get worse.”

Earlier this month, the point guard was the subject of an interview wherein he was not painted in a pretty light, one which stated that “his camp” had been intimating that he yearns to leave Cleveland. The rumors were quickly refuted, Irving stating that reporters should “be man or woman enough” and ask him directly. Well, on Monday, Irving was questioned about the tweet, to which he responded, “I’m going to let you dissect that. I’m just going to let you dissect that. Whatever you want to think about that.”

The Cavaliers could be eying up a ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference, placing them with the worst odds at the NBA Lottery and one spot outside of the postseason—this is commonly known as NBA Limbo. Irving is expected to be offered a contract extension this summer, which he could accept or decline. He’s just 22 years old, has all the talent in the world, and continues to be scrutinized every step of the way. He can will his team to victory one night and take the next one off, expecting nothing in the way of direct or indirect recourse. He holds most of the cards, but has grown increasingly frustrated when being asked to show them. Whatever he meant by that tweet, it’s going to be a long two months.

(Photo via Scott Sargent/WFNY)