April 23, 2014

Month-long pranks, Colbert’s move and Bubba’s big win: While We’re Waiting

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Say something! I struggle to think of many environments—especially work-enviroments where individuals are there by chance more than choice—where any sort of prank can carry on for a full month, but such was the case with cup-of-coffee Cleveland Indian Jeff Francouer. If you’re somehow unaware of this masterpiece, let’s take a step back: Since being granted his exit from the Indians’ minor league system, Francouer caught on with the El Paso Chihuahuas. In his month with the team, the Chihuahuas, from the top down, had the long-time outfielder convinced that one of his teammates was deaf—when he most definitely is not. Even better: They created this mockumentary.

Be sure to watch all the way through—from the over annunciation all the way to the end as Frenchy finds out he’s been fooled. It’s seven minutes that are well worth your time. Hand signals.

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Congrats, Bubba. For the second time in three years, Bubba Watson took the Green Jacket home from Augusta, capping off an excellent weekend with a 3-under in Sunday’s final round. The story, at least in the short term, may be the play of Jordan Spieth who, at age 20, was leading by two shots at the eighth tee. This kid’s future will instantly be put under a microscope as the golf world looks for the next big star stemming from the same tournament that may have simultaneously signaled the end for it’s biggest in Tiger Woods. For Watson, however, to birdie both eith eighth and ninth holes just a few hours after holding a triva contest on Twitter—well, the game may not need Spieth at all. For all that he gets criticized, Watson was nails. With a three-stroke lead on 15, Watson could have let up and played it safe, giving back a stroke or two. Instead, he took a 6-iron 190 yards, through a hole in a tree, over water and onto the green on the par-5 15th—he got there in two. Watson is quirky in a game that typically rewards stoic, emotionless behavior. He rarely plays by the book, both on and off of the course. His caddy even thinks he’s a bit crazy.

It wasn’t all that long ago when Rory McIlroy, then at age 23, was the perceived heir to the throne. So rather than searching for the next big name, maybe we should see the forest for the trees—pun, fully intended. Hell, Watson already owns Woods’ old house, fire hydrant and all.

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The Nation goes Network. Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you’re aware that Stephen Colbert has been tabbed as the replacement for David Letterman following his impending retirement in 2015. As a huge fan of Colbert, I couldn’t be more excited for myself as a fan of entertaining television, but more so for Colbert who will finally be able to shed the character he’s played for most of the last decade over at Comedy Central. When the announcement was made and took Twitter by storm, it was met with positivity from the majority of individuals whose opinion I value. Then there are those who simply pan everything—they’re just the worst type of humans imaginable. In between, however, were those who thought it was a poor decision because they didn’t enjoy “The Colbert Report.” This is a—for lack of a better term—silly way to look at this. Sure, you can feel left in the dust when network talk shows are angling themselves toward younger crowds1, but let’s not pretend that Letterman and Jay Leno were always dinosaurs; these guys were the next big thing—30 years ago. Juding Colbert on the merits of his political-based COMEDY show is akin to saying LeBron James isn’t an All-World basketball player because the movie he was supposed to be in got shelved. This Ben Collins piece sums it up perfectly: “Now he’ll get to be himself. And he’ll be the best in the world at it.”

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Speaking of late night. I couldn’t stay up through all of Mad Men last night. Man, is 10 p.m. is tough on a Sunday. This, however, won’t stop me from reading all about it this morning. I recommend Molly Lambert’s weekly column which should hit Grantland sometime later today.

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And just because: Some people just can’t take a hint.

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Footnotes:

  1. The Roots are still one of the greatest things to happen to late night in a LONG time. []

McShay’s latest mock: Bortles falls to Browns at No. 4; Carr still on the board after two rounds

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Are pundits souring on the quarterbacks? After having the “Big 3″ being taken within the first few picks, ESPN’s Todd McShay still has Blake Bortles being the first quarterback to be selected, but not until the fourth-overall pick as used by your Cleveland Browns.

Conceding to his Big Board, McShay has Houston selecting All-Universe defensive lineman Jadaveon Clowney with the first-overall pick. From there, Auburn’s Greg Robinson goes to St. Louis and Buffalo’s Khalil Mack gets nabbed by Jacksonville at No. 3.

I think this pick would come down to Bortles or WR Sammy Watkins. I’m going with Bortles. While he isn’t a perfect prospect at QB, he has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class. He has some improving to do with his mechanics, but he showed clear progress in that area during his pro-day workout, and he checks all the boxes in terms of his size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), intangibles, character, mental makeup and leadership ability. He can also make plays with his legs and is more creative than he gets credit for.

McShay has Watkins going fifth to Oakland, Mike Evans going seventh to Tampa Bay, Johnny Manziel (who he had going fourth-overall last month) going eighth to Minnesota, and Teddy Bridgewater falling to Tennessee at No. 11.

Choosing Bortles over Watkins at No. 4, McShay once again pegs the Browns as selecting a wide receiver with the 26th-overall pick. This time, the receiver du jour is Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, the 6-foot-5-inch giant who was hauling in passes from Jameis Winston.1

This pair of picks would give Cleveland a young and potentially explosive passing attack to develop (TE Jordan Cameron and WR Andrew Hawkins would help round out an impressive receiving corps). Benjamin has a lot of developing to do as a route-runner and is inconsistent catching the ball on tape, but he is a red-zone nightmare who does a great job of coming down with 50-50 balls.

Fans of size will also like that McShay has pegged Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the second round. The 6-foot-3-inch corner would presumably step and provide size across from Joe Haden.

Derek Carr, a player recently linked to the Browns at No. 4, does not get selected in either of the first two projected rounds.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Footnotes:

  1. “It seemed like every time I looked up I had picked another wide receiver. There are a lot of teams with needs at the position, and a lot of good receiver prospects in this draft.” — McShay []

Browns reportedly ready to match Mack’s offer “in no time at all”

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Sad Alex.

Less than 24 hours after reporting that the Jacksonville Jaguars may have themselves a shiny new Pro Bowl center, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has hedged his bets with a report that the Cleveland Browns will match the Jags’ offer in “no time at all.”

Jacksonville’s offer was reportedly designed to make it as difficult as possible for the Browns to match. Also a factor is that Mack appears to desire any NFL city aside from Cleveland. But much to the center’s chagrin, Ray Farmer’s front office has the most cap space in the entire league and appears willing to use it in order to retain one of the game’s best centers. Per ESPNCleveland’s Tony Grossi, the team is well aware of Mack’s feelings, but is not about to set a precedent about disgruntled players getting to take their talents elsewhere. Not to mention: Mack is a stud.

FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo reports Alex Mack’s five-year offer sheet with the Jaguars will make him the NFL’s highest paid center. Specific terms still haven’t been released, but Carolina’s Ryan Kalil is currently the NFL’s richest center, recently inking a six-year, $49 million contract. That deal contained $28 million guaranteed, including an $18 million signing bonus.

Joe Haden, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron (among others) are going to command a raise at some point, but the Browns appear willing to cross those bridges upon arrival. By all accounts, Mack is going to cost the Browns at least $18 million in guarantees over the next two seasons, making him the game’s highest-paid center. How the fans react to his off-season antics, however, may be a completely different story.

Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

Lonnie Chisenhall placed on paternity leave

Lonnie Chisenhall

Someone let Boomer Esiason know that Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall’s wife, Meredith, had the gall to have their second child while the team is set to begin a west coast swing.

Major League Baseball couldn’t get through their first weekend without controversy, the first bout spilling over regarding it’s paternity leave rules. Esiason, a former NFL quarterback, stirred the pot by saying Daniel Murphy (from the Mets) should have forced his wife to have a c-section so that he could be ready for Opening Day. Esiason later apologized folllowing the subsequent uproar.

The 25-year-old Chisenhall can take up to three days off which should put him back on the active roster at some point over the weekend. Justin Sellers, a shortstop, was called up in a corresponding move. He’s provided a  .199/.278/.301 career slashline in the majors. Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Francisco Lindor is off to a quick start for Double-A Akron, hitting .308/.333/.462 through his first six games.

Babies and baseball. Get excited, folks.

Jaguars to sign Alex Mack to a five-year offer sheet

Alex Mack

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Jacksonville Jaguars will sign highly-discussed transition-tagged center Alex Mack to a five-year offer sheet by Friday.

Per Schefter, Mack badly wants to play the five-year contract with the Jaguars and doesn’t want to return to Cleveland—this, of course, despite all of the posturing being done on the side of the Browns and their “feelings” about the situtation. As promised, Mack’s agent and the Jaguars will likely structure the deal in a way that will make it as difficult as possible for the Browns to match it, even though Cleveland is rife with cap space and possess the desire to retain Mack who is arguably the game’s best center.

For the Browns to pass, the Jaguars would allegedly have to make the first three years of any offer pay out somewhere between $22 and $25 million guaranteed loaded with roster and workout bonuses. While Cleveland has plenty of cap space, he issue for the Browns begin in 2015 and 2016, when some other players (Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, etc.) are in line for new deals.

The Browns will have five days to make a decision if and when a deal is officially signed.

[Related: Alex Mack may have missed the free agent party]

(Photo: Larry French/Getty Images North America)

Behold: Nyjer Morgan 2.0

Photo In the fickle world where professional baseball players trade, Nyjer Morgan has everything going against him. He’s 33 years old. He’s on a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians, getting his opportunity thanks to a minor league deal, ultimately obtaining a spot on the big league roster solely due to an injury to the team’s every day center fielder. A season ago, he was taking left-handed cuts in Japan, but was sent to their equivalent of the minor leagues following a slow start. Domestically, he is known more for headline-producing antics and an alter ego named Tony Plush; both Morgan and Plush have worn out their welcome with several teams in Major League Baseball, including the one he helped lead to the playoffs in 2011. Nyjer Morgan may have very well been the 25th man to get his name carved into the team’s Opening Day roster, but here he stands, freshly showered following his team’s series opening win over the San Diego Padres, telling everyone within ear shot that he is as comfortable as he has been throughout his six years in the game.

[Read more...]

Indians option Vinnie Pestano to Columbus, recall C.C. Lee

Vinne Pestano

Fresh off of a ninth inning that left a lot to be desired, the Cleveland Indians have optioned relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano to Columbus and recalled C.C. Lee.

Pestano, who had (by all accounts) regained the velocity which had escaped him a year prior, will leave the big league club with a 13.50 ERA in three relief appearances. With a fastball that has been clocked in the high-80s, Pestano has allowed eight hits and six runs (four earned) after opening the season on the Major League roster.

Lee, 27, will be making his second stint at the Major League level in 2014, spending one day with the club on April 2 as the “26th man”.  He has made two relief appearances for Columbus, going 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA and four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.

The team has also formally announced the recalling of Trevor Bauer who will start the second game of Wednesday’s traditional doubleheader. He’s coming off of a six-inning start with the Clippers wherein he allowed just two hits and struck out nine.

“Major League” turns 25: 15 facts you may not have known about the movie

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Amidst all of the nostalgic things have have happened over the course of the last few weeks1, the one that may ultimately mean the most to Cleveland fans is the 25th anniversary of the release of Major League, which opened in theatres on April 7, 1989.

Writer/director David S. Ward, whose other credits include “The Sting” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” endeavored to make a baseball movie involving his beloved Cleveland Indians as he was a long-suffering Tribe fan who grew up in South Euclid, Ohio. With the help of Ricky Vaugh, Jake Taylor, Coach Lou Brown, Roger Dorn and Harry Doyle,  Major League became a No. 1 hit at the box office and ultimately one of the most beloved baseball films of all time.

The delightful chaps over at Big League Stew decided to break out 15 things that even the most hardcore Major League fans may have not known, including the facts that Charlie Sheen took steroids for his role as the Tribe’s erratic pitcher, and that Dennis Haysbert—who played the lovable Pedro Cerrano—really was hitting home runs.

As Cerrano, the Cuban import who hit balls “very much,” Haysbert had the honor of being the film’s power hitter. Truth was, it wasn’t totally fiction. Haysbert was the only member of the fictitious Indians who could actually clear the yard. 

“Every time I was supposed to hit a home run in the movie, I did,” Haysbert says. 

It’s a fact that Ward backs up. “He was so jacked by that,” Ward says. “He said, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever do anything more exciting as an actor.’ ”

Haysbert didn’t play baseball past Little League, instead playing football, basketball and running track in high school. His 6-foot-4 frame, though, gave him plenty of baseball power. Haysbert had so much fun shooting “Major League,” after the film wrapped, he says he joined an adult men’s hardball league.

It’s also worth digging up this brilliant oral history of the “1989 Championship Team” that was published over at The Score last summer. I proudly still own Major League on VHS. The fact that I don’t even own a VCR plays nary a role in holding on to it. I’ll be shocked if another baseball movie can ever top it, and I’ll stand in my front yard and wave my rake at anyone who dares say otherwise.

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Footnotes:

  1. Where to begin… This month marks the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, the 20th anniversary of the release of Illmatic, the 20th anniversary of Jacobs Field, the 20th anniversary of The Offspring’s Smash... []

Cavs fans, brace yourself for the Joe Dumars rumors

The wheels are officially in motion. With news coming out that Joe Dumars will resign from his position as Detroit Pistons team president, it shouldn’t be too long before the long-time Detroit native starts to see his name turning up more frequently with regard to (fellow Detroiter) Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers are currently being run by David Griffin, who assumed the position of acting general manager following the firing of Chris Grant earlier this season. Not long thereafter, ESPN.com writer Brian Windhorst was a guest on Detroit Sports 105.1 with Matt Dery and mentioned that Dumars and Gilbert are neighbors and show a lot of “mutual respect” for one another. In what could serve as a bit of corroboration, HoopsHype tweeted that Dumars was “rumored to be in the mix” for the Cavs’ GM job, while also mentioning how awful he was in Detroit.

Dumars has spent 29 years with the Pistons franchise, as both a player and an executive, and has had a hand in every Detroit title. Conversely, Dumars drafted Darko Milicic in 2003, gave $90 million to Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon in 2009, and signed high-priced free agents Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this past offseason, all leading to a 28-49 record in a dreadful Eastern Conference. This was once the guy who was going to land LeBron in 2010—he “had it all figured out.”

Things could be worse. After all, Windhorst also linked Cleveland to…Isiah Thomas.

(Photo: Clarence Tabb, Jr./Detroit News)

Trevor Bauer could be in line for first start of 2014

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With Monday’s game against the San Diego Padres washed out by Mother Nature, Tribe pitching prospect Trevor Bauer could be in line for his first start of 2014 when the two teams lock up in a traditional double-header on Wednesday. Zach McAllister (who wound up with a no-decision last week) is scheduled to start one of the games of the doubleheader, with the Indians expected to promote a pitcher from Columbus to start the other. Bauer, who fresh off of a two-hit gem late last week, would be in line to take the bump.

In his debut for the Clippers, the heady Bauer frequently saw his fastball settle in around 95 miles-per-hour, fanning nine and walking just two in six innings of work. The kid’s struggles are well-documented, but at just 23 years old, things may finally be clicking for the former highly touted prospect.

The Indians could certainly use some clarity at the bottom of the rotation as Carlos Carrasco was anything but solid in his 2014 debut this past weekend. Similarly, Josh Tomlin had a debut to forget, allowing five hits and four earned runs (walking three) in just six innings in a loss to Indianapolis.

Nate Burleson hopes to mentor Josh Gordon

Nate Burleson

Coming over to Cleveland for at least the next year,  veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson is well aware of the off-field issues that have plagued Josh Gordon’s two-year-old career—and he wants to help.

Pro Football Talk has some anecdotes from a story surrounding Burleson and All-World receiver Calvin Johnson who praised the young Browns pass catcher. The Akron-Beacon Journal takes things a step further, discussing how Burleson sees himself mentoring the highly-discussed Pro Bowler.

“If I can take a guy out to dinner, hang out outside of the locker room, then I’m definitely going to do that because that’s one of the more important times when the lessons are learned, when you’ve got the jerseys off and you kind of unveil yourself and it’s not all football,” Burleson said. “That’s how I got so close to the receiving corps in Detroit. That’s how I was able to really get to know Calvin on a personal level because we spent so much time with each other off the field. That’s the plan. I’m going to continue to do that. That’s part of my nature, though. That’s just who I am. I’m a social butterfly, and I feel like positive conversation, positive reinforcement is always going to supersede anything else.”

Those who have played with Burleson speak very highly of his talent (when healthy), but more so about his character. A lot has been made about surrounding young Browns players with veteran leadership—D’Qwell Jackson spoke similarly about Gordon just a year ago, saying the receiver was “running out of lives.” The Browns, in attempt to do the same for Gordon in 2013 swung and missed (perhaps the understatement of the season) in acquiring Davone Bess, who was released earlier this year after multiple off-field issues.

Despite Bess’ shortcomings, Gordon had one hell of a season in 2013. Hopes are that the Burleson acquisition can only make matters that much better, perhaps starting with having No. 12 eligible for all 16 games.

(Photo: Gary Wiepert/AP)

Browns linebacker may be better than Brandon Weeden at baseball too

Brandon McGee Arizona State

When the Cleveland Browns hold their voluntary workouts on Monday, reserve linebacker Brandon McGee won’t be in attendance. Not because he’s a diva, or because he’s injured, or feels he just doesn’t need the work—he’s going to be in South Carolina, doing his best impression of Junior Griffey for the Greenville Drive, a Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. An outfielder in the Boston Red Sox’s minor-league system, the 5-foot-11-inch, 225-pound McGee plans to fully commit to football once the Browns’ first minicamp starts April 29, and he’s also ready to report to Berea earlier if need be, but he’s going to put in as much time he can on the diamond in the meantime, with hopes of being multi-sport professional athlete.

As a rookie in 2013, McGee, a reserve inside linebacker, played special teams in eight games before he suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since then, McGee has reportedly been hitting in batting cages, lifting weights and running—he isn’t allowed to throw. Perhaps the most encouraging fact: He has been using agility drills recommended by the Browns and studying film of new coach Mike Pettine’s defense in between taking southpaw cuts at the plate.

“[Pettine] thought it was awesome,” Magee said of the desire to play two sports. “It kind of surprised me coming from an NFL coach, but he was fully supportive of what I was doing. It felt great because growing up, you have a lot of people that say don’t do this, don’t do that. To have a new coach who hardly even knows me say, ‘Congratulations on playing in the NFL and playing pro baseball, that’s a huge accomplishment,’ that was huge for me.”

A pure athlete, the Tampa Bay Rays claimed McGee 863rd overall in 2008, followed by the Oakland A’s at No. 646 in 2011 and Boston at 721 in 2012. According to FOX Sports Arizona, Magee called baseball his “first love,” but he batted .103 in 27 collegiate games, collecting just three hits. Coming out of the Arizona State University, he went undrafted in the NFL’s selection weekend in 2013 despite racking up 112 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions, 1 pass deflection.

“If a team told me it’s time to focus on one, I would really sit down and consider that. But right now, I have the blessings of both organizations to do what I like to do. It’s a dream come true. Who else can say, ‘I just went to training camp, I played in an NFL season, and right after that, I went to spring training with the World Series champs, with the Red Sox? I’m in the cage talking to David Ortiz and [Mike] Napoli, you know, legends. I’m living the dream.”

Are the Browns jerseys going grey? While We’re Waiting…

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Could the Cleveland Browns new uniforms be less Brown? A discussion in the Browns sub-Reddit sheds some light on what 2015 may bring in the way of the new look Browns.

The design that looks like it’s going to be chosen can best be described as a happy medium between Minnesota and Seattle.

Let’s start with the helmet. A flat matte finish in a color I can only describe as “candy orange” with a matching color facemask and sublimated striping enhances the look of the helmet without sacrificing it’s iconic image.

The Jersey is candy orange with silver accents and brown trim. A custom block font is meant to invoke a blue collar feel. The stripes are subliminated and higher up on the sleeve, kind of like large spaghetti straps.

There are three different pairs of pants, Orange, gray and Brown. There is no Brown jersey, but rather a gray with orange chrome accents and white with the same. The pants have the same sublimated striping as the helmet and jerseys.

While this can only be classified as rumors to this point (as the official uni is supposed to be kept “under tight security”), we know for certain that the Browns will be getting their new uniforms for next season and will be unveiling them before the 2015 NFL Draft. We also know that Nike is in charge these days and that matte helmets are all the rage. Jimmy Haslam said that he will not be altering the logoless lids, so this corroborates such. Where things get interesting are with the jerseys which are orange and…silver? If the brown jersey does in fact disappear, this would be a tectonic shift for Cleveland, but one that’s in line with the rest of the new-wave NFL uniforms. They’d also be in line with what the Tennessee Volunteers, Haslam’s collegiate ties, have unveiled for themselves. There’s plenty of smoke here…

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Chris Grant, Sour Grapes? In what may be the strangest angle to come out of the Kyrie Irving “unhappy in Cleveland” story from late last week, FOX Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico pieces the puzzle together to tie things back to since-been-fired general manager Chris Grant. While he rightfully slams Bleacher Report for their nonsensical rumor surrounding Dion Waiters earlier this year, he pegs Grant as a potential source of some of these new negative stories.

I am being told by executives and insiders around the NBA that former Cavs GM Chris Grant has been spinning stories. Grant, of course, was fired in February. I’ve always really liked Grant personally, even if I didn’t care for the way he refused to make himself regularly available to local media. But one insider told me Grant “is considered a buffoon around the league: Dishonest, incapable and full of (beans).” It wasn’t the first time I heard something like that, and I still often get that vibe about Grant when talking with other GMs.

Grant now has a reputation as someone who is attempting to tell the world the Cavs will be one huge disaster without him. I have no clue if he’s talking directly to national writers — but he at least talks to people who talk to those writers (and, obviously, to me). I’m not saying Grant had an influence in Windhorst’s comments. I’m not even trying to imply that. Brian is certainly dialed-in and intelligent enough to form his own opinion on things. But beware of other yarns involving the Cavs. The one thing I learned long ago in this business is that, sometimes, sources have agendas. The key is to pay attention to what takes place on the floor and in the locker room, and don’t get too caught up in the “he said, she said” stuff.

Kudos to Amico for going Inside Baseball on this one. As someone who has been pen-and-pad deep in the Cavaliers locker room this season, reading something like this—something that doesn’t look like a robotic lede-quote-supporting stats game recap that often comes out of the local beat—is refreshing. Beat reporters have the tireless job of following the daily minutiae and can fall into the trap of regurgitating the same quotes we all hear in the post-game airing. Whether Grant is spinning stories or not, Amico is reporting things that aren’t reformatted from a press release.

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Drake is essentially a teenage boy without guidance. I like Drake, the musician. I think Nothing Was the Same was one of the better albums of 2013, especially when it comes to hip-hop. I think this Michael Paterniti profile from last summer was insightful. But Drake the person? Man…

If you hadn’t heard, Drake was spotted celebrating with the Kentucky Wildcats following their win over the Wisconsin Badgers this past Saturday night. Drake is Canadian. He’s never lived in Kentucky. Yet, when asked about his Kentucky fandom, he said he has “always” been a believer in the big blue. Thankfully, the kind folks at SBNation called Aubry Drake out on his bullish—, linking him to the Miami Heat, Johnny Manziel, Manchester United and countless other front-running gobs of nonsense. You know how LeBron James was a fan of the Yankees, Bulls and Cowboys? Well, he may have met his match. I was fortunate enough to witness Drake’s All-Star weekend antics live and in person. He’s the kid at the local library in a Steelers jersey. Never be that kid.

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And just because: More Drake.

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The drama continues: Kyrie Irving calls out Josh Gordon

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The drama permeating from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room has officially transcended over to Berea. All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving has shot back at Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon for comments the NFL receiving yards leader made about the Wine and Gold. From Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

“Guys like Josh Gordon need to stay in his sport and mind his own business. Does he still play for the Browns? I’ll continue to root for the Browns, but in terms of this stuff here, what goes on in this locker room, he needs to stay out of it.”

Earlier this week, Gordon, speaking in an ESPN interview, said “I talked about it with Dion [Waiters]. He’s my neighbor in my building so we hang out all the time. I’m aware of the rift in the locker room. That’s just alpha males and supreme athletes trying to share the spotlight.”

In a move that isn’t likely to do much for his Q Score amongst Cleveland fans, the receiver already responded to Irving’s declaration, doing so via Instagram.

In his attempt to stay out of the middle of a war of words between two of Cleveland’s most popular athletes, Waiters said that “[Gordon] can’t put words in my mouth. That’s his opinion. That’s what he thinks. I can’t stop a man from saying that. That’s what he thinks.”

While Irving’s “does he still play” comment is a bit empty given Gordon’s recent barrage of national media attention, the message is very clear: Gordon should be staying in his lane. As if Cleveland’s trench of sports-related issues wasn’t deep enough…

Silver lining: At least Kyrie Irving roots for the Browns.

Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY

Alex Mack wants to play for a passionate fan base, visits Jacksonville

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Cleveland Browns’ transition tagged center Alex Mack has finally garnered some interest in the free agent market, reportedly making a visit to Jacksonville to meet with the Jaguars’ front office. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport cites two sources that say an offer sheet is very much possible. According to Rapoport, the Browns and Mack have continued to negotiate since the March 3 tag date, but no deal is imminent. The team would have the ability to match any offer he receives, but would receive nothing in the way of compensation if he would walk.

For the Browns to pass, the Jaguars would allegedly have to make the first three years of any offer pay out somewhere between $22 and $25 million guaranteed loaded with roster and workout bonuses. While Cleveland has plenty of cap space, he issue for the Browns begin in 2015 and 2016, when some other players (Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, etc.) are in line for new deals.

Mack, who is reportedly unhappy that the Browns are willing to pay him $10 million this coming season, has been the focus of one of the more bizarre free agency story lines wherein the Pro Bowl center’s agent came out swinging, only to find out that the stands were empty and no one was willing to pay to watch the show. In discussing Mack’s desires for future employment, his agent Marv Demoff said that the one thing Cleveland has in its corner is the passionate fan base.

“The thing that Cleveland has most going for it is Alex really wants to play in a place where football is really important,” said Demoff. “He’s loved that about Cleveland. And he’s always been excited about being a part of building something that eventually wins.”

In 2013, the Jaguars were 28th out of 32 NFL teams in terms of home attendance. Also: This.

Jaguars Relocation

So yeah…Jacksonville.

Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

“Growing sentiment” that Browns could nab Carr at No. 4

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Buried at the bottom of a glowing column about Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr from ESPN.com’s Ashley Fox is a report that the “growing sentiment” throughout the NFL is that the Cleveland Browns are not just fond of the precise passer, but could use the fourth-overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft to obtain him.

Carr is gaining steam because, unlike Manziel, Bortles and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo, he ran a pro-style offense for a year in college. As a redshirt sophomore in 2011, Carr was a starter for then-Fresno State coach Pat Hill. He learned the skills a quarterback needs at the next level: timing, footwork, and accuracy, among them. He threw vertical routes with precision and displayed a strong arm. […]

Which is why there’s growing sentiment around the league that Cleveland could decide that Carr is its guy and use the fourth overall pick on him despite owning three picks in the top 35, including No. 26 overall.

At the NFL owners meeting last week, new Browns coach Mike Pettine talked about the positive attributes Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater and Carr possess. He said Bortles has all the measurables, Bridgewater is “very cerebral” and Manziel is a “gifted playmaker.” Pettine said Carr was “the best natural thrower as far as arm strength … in the draft.”

Where Johnny Manziel is “competitive” and Teddy Bridgewater is “cerebral,” Carr is being tabbed as “mature” with an exceptional character1. He used his pro day wisely, throwing all vertical passes as opposed the bubble screens which were common in Fresno State. There is also an increasing amount of “it factor” rhetoric being attached to Carr, and plenty of it being used in Fox’s column.

Naturally, this is the exact same “factor” used by Pettine to describe his ideal quarterback. When the first batch of mock drafts were released following the conclusion of the NFL season, Carr’s name barely found the first round. For him to shoot up to No. 4 would not only be a bold move by the Browns, but one that would once again show that draftniks only have so much intel.2

Image: Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports

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Footnotes:

  1. Read: married with a family. []
  2. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much this sounds like what we heard regarding Geno Smith a year ago. One month to go… []

Kyrie Irving takes to Twitter to defend himself against reports

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard took to Twitter following his team’s brutal loss to the Atlanta Hawks and shot back at reports that he, once again, wants out of Cleveland.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, in an interview with Cavs: The Blog, stated that Irving’s “camp” has been leaking desires of the player wanting out of Cleveland “for years.” Windhorst stated that the All-Star point guard is not a fan of head coach Mike Brown and was not a fan of Chris Grant—the latter who was fired mid-season.

There has been smoke billowing out of the Irving rumor mill for most of the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately for the player and fans alike, the true “clarity” can’t come until July if or when he signs a contract extension.

WFNY Book Review — Jacobs Field: History and Tradition at The Jake

Jacobs Field BookJust in time for the Indians’ 2014 Home Opener comes an image and story-filled book from author Vince McKee that provides Cleveland fans with a time capsule of words and wisdom. Jacobs Field: History and Tradition at The Jake is 124 chronological pages that take us from the day Dick Jacobs purchased the franchise all the way through the 2013 AL Wild Card Game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Fans of historical photographs will love the image of the last remnants of Municipal Stadium that graces the book’s opening chapter. There is a shot of a ticket stub from the 1994 Opening Day, several photos of Jacobs/Progressive Field over the years, and plenty of player images, from Albert and Omar to Carlos and Tito, spread throughout the book’s landcape.

The book reads well, telling important stories in vivid detail—the main players, the ultimate outcome and the impact each moment had on the 20 years that have been the Jacobs Field Era. It comes with forewords by legendary Tribe outfielder Kenny Lofton as well as former ace pitcher Charlie Nagy. McKee does a magnificent job of reaching into the history books, some times understandably better than others, providing a reminder to fans that this team has made the postseason eight times since the Gateway District venue opened it’s doors 20 years earlier.

Jacobs Field features exclusive interviews of players and front office personnel, taking readers inside the dugout and into the minds of the men who made the decisions that ultimately led to what was known as “The Era of Champions” as well as those who litter the team’s clubhouse today. It’s an easy addition to the shelves of fans of the Indians as well as Cleveland-based history.

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Jacobs Field: History and Tradition at The Jake is published by The History Press, is available in e-book formats and can be purchased on Amazon or wherever books are sold. McKee is also the author of Hero and Cleveland’s Finest. He is holding author events on April 10 (Books-a-Million, Westgate) from 6-8 pm, 11 (Visible Voice, Cleveland) from 7-9 pm, and 12 (Barnes and Noble, Westlake) from 2-4 pm.

Kyrie Irving mastering the art of “The Return”

Kyrie Irving Orlando Magic 20140402

It was just three years ago, almost to the week back in 2011, when an 18-year-old Kyrie Irving took to the basketball floor for the first time in what was a three-month span. Having sustained multiple torn ligament in his right big toe, Irving, one of the college game’s most heralded prospects, rejoined his team during the men’s Division I tournament, one of the most celebrated win-or-go-home stretches of play in all of sport. As Irving’s teammates filled in admirably in his absence, lifting the Duke Blue Devils to the top seed in the region, questions surrounded his decision to return—team chemistry notwithstanding, with an NBA paycheck in his not-so-distant future, was Irving risking too much by lacing them back up?

[Read more...]

Browns brass becomes bystanders for Blake Bortles’ ballgame

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There’s just not enough time in the day. A few hours after we catch word that the Browns’ “Big 4″ snubbed Jadaveon Clowney’s pro day, we hear from multiple reports that the team is simply busy conducting a private workout wwith Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles.

Bortles has become the sexy No. 1 pick in many mock drafts, meaning that he would not be available at No. 4 when Cleveland was officially on the clock. Holding the No. 26 pick as well, however, could allow the Browns to move up in the event they felt the need to secure a specific player—whether that player is the 6-foot-5-inch Bortles or not.

Keeping in line with their thoughts on not having to take a quarterback with the fourth-overall pick, the team recently worked out Fresno State’s Derek Carr and are expected to do their due dilligence on several other quarterbacks before the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around this May. Carr’s potential (along with others like LSU’s Zach Mettenberger) would makes sense in the event the Browns go another direction with their first first-round selection. Say, an offensive lineman?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)