April 23, 2014

Kosar out of television booth for preseason Browns games

11959204-largeThe Browns released a statement on Wednesday evening regarding the preseason schedule and the broadcast team on the coverage.

Jim Donovan will be joined in the television broadcast booth by Solomon Wilcots for color commentary this year, meaning former QB and fan favorite Bernie Kosar is out of the booth.

“The Browns and WKYC are revamping their broadcast team, welcoming veteran commentator Solomon Wilcots to the preseason television booth. Additionally, the Browns are exploring more opportunities to allow fans to hear from Bernie Kosar, the All-Pro quarterback who guided the team to three AFC Championship games in the 1980s. ”

Those “opportunities to hear from Bernie” might include the pregame show for the preseason games, as well as roles on the team’s official website and on various other Browns programming.

Last season, Kosar had to apologize for negative remarks made about the St. Louis Rams receiving corps he made during a broadcast. He was also arrested in September on suspicion of DUI.

There is a pretty good chance those two incidents had much to do with why he isn’t on the WKYC broadcast team anymore.

[Related: Have you seen Johnny Football in Cleveland today?]

Tribe defense has been historically bad thus far

swisher_2014-04-05

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.

Have you seen Johnny Football in Cleveland today?

Johnny Football Fan Art

The word is out that Johnny Manziel is having his visit in Cleveland today. Have you seen him?

As I said yesterday, I’m really not sure that draft boards are changing that drastically at this stage of the game. One thing I am sure of is that I don’t think I have anything else to say about Johnny that I haven’t said already.

Need proof? Here’s a bunch of things we’ve already said.

Making the case for the Cleveland Browns and Johnny Manziel

Mel Kiper Jr. has Johnny Manziel going No. 1 overall

Browns are reportedly big fans of Johnny Manziel

Video: Texas A&M thanks Johnny Manziel with highlight video

LRMR set to sign Johnny Manziel

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. []

Salazar’s struggles and more …While We’re Waiting

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Indians pitcher Danny Salazar seems to be a one-pitch pony right now. The ball that Mike Moustakas crushed for a three run homer last night was a breaking ball that was up and right over the middle of the plate. His fastball has been terrific, especially the first two times through the order.

But if Salazar is going to become an effective and consistent starter, he is going to need to come up with some different action on his fastball or vary the speed a bit and hit spots. This article at Getting Blanked is a good read. Three different types of fastball dominant pitchers and how they are effective.

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No surprise to those long time readers here at WFNY, but I’m not much of a fan of diva athletes. Take a guy like say, Keyshawn Johnson. Something about his personality just rubbed me the wrong way. (To be fair, I’m sure I’d annoy him as well, if he had any clue who I was.)

So I read this at Eleven Warriors and I have mixed feelings. It appears Keyshawn Johnson Jr. has Ohio State on his short list. He isn’t his father. It is a little unfair to put those kinds of expectations on him whether good or bad. He could come in and be a model citizen and player. He could also fall short of his father’s talent. You never know.

We’ve seen other receivers with famous fathers come in. Chris Carter’s son Duron didn’t have such a good time at his dad’s alma mater. I guess if Keyshawn Jr. comes to Columbus we’ll be hearing more from the elder Keyshawn.

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This was making the social media rounds on Tuesday. It is an article about the time that Cleveland released a million and a half helium balloons trying to set a world record. I realize that many of you were not yet born when they did this in 1986. I certainly was alive, but I don’t really remember this. Anyone?

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Pro Football Talk broke down the Browns’ draft needs (by position) and somehow managed to ignore the offensive line and the inside linebacker position. Hmmm. Interesting.

Of course they list QB, WR and CB which are pretty much universally understood. Mike Wilkening chose to also include RB and TE in his top five positions of need.

Don’t get me wrong, I could easily see the Browns adding someone at both of those positions, but I think more as depth type of picks. Inside linebacker and guard are two spots that a draft pick could easily come in and win the job.

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Would you play more golf if it was easier with a 15-inch hole?

I talked about my relationship with the game of golf this morning and how I quit and didn’t miss it. I also talked about how I would like to get out there and try some foot golf which involves melding golf and soccer. Now, I’m reading a story about how some courses are considering steps to get more casual golfers interested in the game. Most significantly, it appears some courses are trying out golf holes that are about the size of a pizza.

Golf has always reveled in its standards and rich tradition. But increasingly a victim of its own image and hidebound ways, golf has lost five million players in the last decade, according to the National Golf Foundation, with 20 percent of the existing 25 million golfers apt to quit in the next few years.

People under 35 have especially spurned the game, saying it takes too long to play, is too difficult to learn and has too many tiresome rules.

I know it’s a gimmick and the traditionalists would hate it, but I think it would be a lot of fun. Just like moving the fences in for baseball increased homers, imagine how many chip-ins casual golfers could get with giant holes? Sure, it would render many traditional handicaps meaningless, but I can’t imagine a lot of serious country clubs would take this thing on anyway.

But seriously, for beer leagues? This sounds awesome. Ultimately, I wasn’t enjoying golf anymore because it did take a long time. It wasn’t really relaxing. I felt like I had better things to do. I was roundly mocked by the serious golfers when I would say that I preferred playing nine holes.

So you tell me. Do you like the idea of changing the game? Would it get you to play more rounds? Would it bring any of you fellow quitters back into the fold?

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. []

Would Browns trade down to draft Derek Carr?

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I lust for the day when the Cleveland Browns draft rumors won’t involve first round quarterbacks. In order for that to be the case, the Browns will have to find one, probably in the first round. So, the only question is where in the first round? As the Browns are set to host Carr in Cleveland this week, Pro Football Talk suggests maybe Ray Farmer and the Browns could take a page out of the Ravens’ book.

They could trade down from No. 4 and draft Carr in the teens, like the Ravens did when acquiring Joe Flacco six years ago. This would give the Browns an extra pick or two as the latest new coaching staff tries to put together a team that fits the new schemes and systems.

One of my biggest complaints about the Browns — as I’ve stated time and again — is that under Mike Holmgren, they seemed to constantly lose the “poker game” aspects of the NFL draft. The Browns went and got guys they wanted, which is good, but they seemed to pay steep prices. I’m really hoping that the Browns stop losing the poker game under Ray Farmer.

Maybe that includes confidently trading down, gaining more assets and still getting a player they covet. Now, whether or not they should be coveting Derek Carr is another conversation…

[Related: "Growing sentiment" that Browns nab Carr at No. 4]

Photo: Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports

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

Wut

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.

Waiting for the 2014 NFL draft, Gilbert Arenas’ cash, Metroparks foot golf, and Game of Thrones… While We’re Waiting

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Your regularly scheduled Tuesday writer Andrew couldn’t be with us this week, so I volunteered to cover his WWW today.

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nfldraftI can’t stand how long we’re waiting for the 2014 NFL Draft. Consider that if it was this time last year we’d be two days out from the NFL draft. Seeing as the NFL are attention blanks that insist on dominating as much of the calendar year as possible1 we’re still a few weeks out as we wait for May 8th.

That would be alright too, if we weren’t being subjected to fake news every day. As Joe Lull pointed out over the weekend on 92.3 the Fan, as mock drafts get made and re-made, reporters say things about how guys are dropping and rising on draft boards as if they’re being publicly traded like stocks. Meanwhile for all anyone knows, the draft boards are 99.9% set right this second. In fact, I’m almost positive that’s the case.

Just because the NFL decided to move the draft back doesn’t mean that NFL teams smoothed out the scheduling of their off-season. Maybe they can get a few more things done that they wouldn’t have been able to do last year, but to think that scouting departments and general managers aren’t as prepared for the draft today as they were this same day last year seems ludicrous. You know what that likely means? The draft board is basically set.

So unless we’re talking about trade rumors involving teams moving up and down, don’t bother me with your last-minute draft rumors. Unless a guy tears his ACL or discovers a career-threatening injury, don’t talk to me about guys rising and falling on the draft board. Unless Johnny Manziel requires Tommy John surgery or gets himself busted by the cops for something serious, the NFL draft is basically set.

Now if the Browns want to trade up or trade down, I’m all ears…

*****

Gilbert Arenas is one of the top-paid “athletes.” I don’t dislike Gilbert Arenas. He never played for the Cavs, but he always seemed like a decent enough guy. Sure, there was a gun incident, but the man formerly known as Agent Zero explained that one… kind of. The point is that I liked the way he played the game of basketball. The other point – and the reason I put “athletes” in quotation marks – is that Arenas is one of the top-paid and yet he is no longer playing.

The Orlando Magic will pay Gilbert Arenas $22.3 million this season, even though he has not played for the team since the 2010-11 season.

Arenas hasn’t played for any team since April 2012, and yet he is still the third-highest-paid player in the NBA and the 30th-highest-paid athlete in the world, according to ESPN the Magazine.

Arenas was cut loose via the NBA’s amnesty clause. Even though the term “amnesty” makes sense because we’re talking about amnesty from the salary cap implications, it still seems like a misnomer when a team is paying a player more than $20 million in a season that’s two years removed from his last appearance with that team.

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Foot Golf is here in Cleveland and I want to play badly. I gave up golf when my first son was born about four years ago. I didn’t have to give it up, but I hadn’t really enjoyed my time on the course much recently anyway, so it made sense for me to quit. I had a whole host of other hobbies from this very website to music and other stuff, so it just made sense. I haven’t had this burning desire to get back into it either, but now that someone’s combined soccer with golf right here in Cleveland’s own Metroparks, I’m kind of interested again.

So far, if you want to play foot golf it’s really affordable. 

Mastick Woods: $10 (general), $7.50 (ages 17 and under and 60 and older). Info: 19990 Puritas Ave., Cleveland, 216-267-5626.

Shawnee Hills: $9 (general), $6.50 (ages 17 and under and 60 and older). Info: 18753 Egbert Road, Bedford, 440-232-7184.

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gothronesJust when I thought I was out… (of Game of Thrones) they pull me back in. Game of Thrones was one of the TV shows that I just up and quit watching. File it away with Boardwalk Empire in the list of shows that just rubbed me the wrong way and I quit watching altogether.

Now, you can also file it away with Breaking Bad as a show that I quit and then picked back up and started to like. After re-watching the first four episodes of the series, I remembered why we didn’t like the show. It’s got a lot of characters and the learning curve is a little bit steep as you get to know the Game of Thrones world. Some of those early episodes were kind of boring too.

What I found though is that my wife and I probably gave up an episode or two too soon. By episode five, six and seven, the show was hitting its stride. I originally said that the show’s excessive sex and nudity were more distraction than a necessary plot tool. I still kind of feel that way, but now that we’re into the meat of the first season storyline, it seems worthwhile to gloss over a few of the minor warts.

So that’s it. We’re back in. It feels luxurious too knowing there are so many episodes waiting to be watched. It feels like entertainment dollars in the bank. I’ll be sure to keep up with the show and give periodic updates. It’ll be old news to you GoT die-hards, but that’s O.K.

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That’s all from me for this Tuesday. I’ll be doing this again on Friday when I can say “Have a nice weekend.” So today, I’ll finish by saying enjoy your Taco Tuesday!

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Footnotes:

  1. Love you NFL! []

Indians activate Jason Giambi, send Blake Wood to AAA

Jason GiambiThe Indians started the season with two players on the disabled list that were mainstays of the 2013 Wild Card team; center fielder Michael Bourn and DH Jason Giambi. Manager Terry Francona and GM Chris Antonetti decided to go with an extra bullpen arm early in the season with Nyjer Morgan keeping Bourn’s spot in center warm. Then again, Francona always loves having extra guys in the pen. The question was which way would the roster go once Giambi was ready?

Veteran reliever Scott Atchison has pitched his way into the Matt Albers role thus far and put himself in the safety zone. This left three other options: Relievers C.C. Lee and Blake Wood, and utility man Elliot Johnson.

Johnson’s right-handed bat and versatility has obviously become something that Francona values so he has stuck. Considering the fact that he hasn’t seen the field in 10 days and Mike Aviles can do all the things he can tells me Tito is a fan. That left Lee and Wood. Lee has replaced Vinnie Pestano and is a young guy the brass is high on. In his four appearances since being recalled, Lee has allowed one earned run. Wood drew rave reviews this spring thanks to his high-90′s fastball, but the control issues he has always had have yet to come around. The five earned runs in six and a third along with a 1:1 K to BB ratio most likely sealed his fate.

So Wood was the one who was sent down to AAA Columbus with today’s activation of Giambi. The 43-year old DH will be used in spots the same way he was last year. Francona said last week the team has sorely missed having him around both on and off the field and his presence in the clubhouse will be welcomed. Tito also wasted no time getting his bat in the lineup. Tonight he will be the DH hitting seventh against the Kansas City Royals.

In other lineup news, with Carlos Santana getting a night off, Francona has chosen third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall as his cleanup hitter. Big Lon is one of the few Indians who have actually been swinging the bat well all season (13-29/1.105 OPS).

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(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

NFL Draft Chatter: The Latest on the Browns

Browns helmet

The 2014 NFL Draft is a little under three weeks away and the pre-draft visits by the prospects are coming fast and furious. Teams are still trying to get their draft boards set and these pre-draft visits might be the final determination before their final board is set. On the other side, players are putting their final impressions on the teams that might select them.

- The Cleveland Browns have been extremely busy meeting and working out all the top prospects that they are considering. During the past week the team had workouts with many of the top quarterbacks. According to multiple reports, the Browns worked out Alabama QB AJ McCarron on Wednesday and this past weekend the Browns were down in Texas working out Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel.

- This coming week is a huge week for the Browns and the city of Berea as the team hosts many of the top prospects from the draft at the Browns Training Facility. The team will be centered on the quarterback position. According to multiple reports, Manziel, Central Florida QB Blake Bortles, Fresno State QB Derek Carr, Georgia QB Aaron Murray, and McCarron will all make their visits this week to Berea to meet with the team.

- This year’s draft is considered a very deep one with lots of talent in many positions—the wide receiver, secondary, and offensive line positions are loaded with talent from top to bottom. There will be great value in the later rounds because of the depth of these positions. Luckily for them, the Browns have their biggest needs in some of these rich positions. So do not fret that the Browns did not address one of their needs early in the draft, because they can still get quality players later on.

- Look for the Browns to address the quarterback position with one of their first three picks. Just by looking at their recent draft visits, it is very clear that the team is targeting a quarterback high. The hard part is to determine which one of the top quarterbacks they like the best. Early on in the draft process, Johnny Manziel was linked very strongly to the Browns, but this may have changed after the front office reshuffling. Now which quarterback will be playing in Cleveland next season is all a huge unknown. The quarterback position is the big wild card in the draft. Many believe that there could be one that falls in the draft like Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater; others say that someone might rise into the first round that is a complete surprise like Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage or Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The way the draft will ensue all depends on where the quarterbacks land and how early they may go.

- The Browns are in a very unique position in that they have multiple first-round picks and an early second-round pick. They can target players they are high on and have enough trade chips to go wherever they want to get the players they covet. The Browns have two first round, two third-round, and two fourth-round picks that give them the ability to maneuver around and get the prospects that are high on their board. The Browns have talked to numerous teams about moving up in the draft as well as trading back. I believe the Browns will use their multiple picks to move around in the early rounds to snag a player that might be falling and that is high on their draft board.

- Cleveland will be addressing a lot of their needs during the draft. I believe the team will look to fill the quarterback position first and foremost. This is the biggest need on the team and they will look very hard at all the top quarterbacks to hopefully find their franchise quarterback. The other positions that they will probably try to fill are cornerback, offensive guard, wide receiver, inside linebacker, and maybe a safety. Obviously, the team will probably not be able to fill all of these needs perfectly, but I believe they will draft at least one for each of these needy positions.

- Though not necessarily a position of need, the Browns continue to be linked to Buffalo’s insanely talented linebacker Khalil Mack. Mike Pettine is a big fan. Conveniently, Mack is also rumored to now be ranked ahead of South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney on some boards.

- The AFC North is up for grabs and the 2014 NFL Draft could be a deciding factor in getting one of the teams over the top. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in need of wide receiver, linebacker, and secondary help. They will look to try to get some help for Ben Roethlisberger after losing WR Emmanuel Sanders in free agency. The Baltimore Ravens will be looking for safety, offensive lineman, and defensive lineman help in the draft. They will need to bolster their defense to try to get back to their hard-nosed defense they had for so many years. The Cincinnati Bengals will be trying hard to improve the front seven of their defense. They must replace defensive lineman Michael Johnson, who left in free agency. This draft will be a big component in the way the division will pan out.

- My name is Joe Gilbert and this is my first article for WFNY. I am a Lakewood kid who is a die-hard Cleveland sports fan. Over the next couple of weeks, as WFNY continues to tackle all of the other items regarding the Browns, I will be covering the NFL Draft. Please continue to check out my articles if you’re a draft fanatic. I look forward to writing for you all.

Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

Former Browns WR Brian Tyms suspended

Browns helmetBrian Tyms was signed by the Browns last October. He was active for seven games, catching a pair of passes. Monday morning, Adam Caplan reported that Tyms has been suspended by the league.

Tyms was waived by the Browns on March 5th.

No details are available on the reason Tyms was suspended. A four game suspension handed down by the league without any arrest reports leaked out sounds an awful lot like a banned substance suspension. Which to me is newsworthy considering the length of time he spent in the Cleveland locker room last season.

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

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

progressive-field-sellout

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. []

Terrell Pryor to be cut or traded by Raiders

Terrelle Pryor Ohio State Sugar Bowl

Former Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Terrell Pryor didn’t have an awful year last year, but he apparently isn’t going to be a part of the future in Oakland. It certainly sounds like if you’re a bettor that you should probably assume he’ll get cut.

It seems unlikely that anyone would trade for Pryor when the word is out that he’s about to be cut. Then again, he did show flashes of promise last season, and he’s only due a salary of $750,000 this year, so it’s possible that some team might think he’s worth a seventh-round pick.

I certainly don’t think this is the kind of thing that the Browns should pursue, but you never know where Ray Farmer and company might think to look for a backup to replace Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden. Terrell Pryor might not excite Browns fans, but in a field that includes Rex Grossman, it’s probably not the worst idea ever.

Pryor’s highlights from last year were mostly plays he made running the ball, but he did have two games where he had a QB rating over 100. He also had two games with over 100 yards rushing.

2014 NFL Draft: Browns interested in Andre Williams from Boston College

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You never really know where this kind of info comes from, or even what it means when it’s reported that a team has “interest” in a player. That being said, Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) indicates that the Browns are among the teams that are interested in Boston College running back Andre Williams.

The punishing Doak Walker Award winner set the Boston College single-season record with 2,177 rushing yards last season. He was a consensus All-American and rushed for 18 touchdowns last season…

Wiliams has drawn second-round to third-round grades.

It’s even harder to try and project out past the first part of the first round of the draft if you can even successfully do that. It’s especially difficult in a year where there’s seemingly no clear cut number one pick for the Texans. So, to go on down and look at a prospect who is vaguely projected between the second and third rounds is tough.

Still, I am fully interested and in favor of all this talk about the Browns and their renewed commitment to the running game. It wasn’t necessarily their fault a year ago when Trent Richardson faltered out of the gate and Dion Lewis got hurt before the season even started. Still, it’s nice to know that a year after suffering through the dying breaths of Willis McGahee that the Cleveland Browns might just commit to the running game again.

That commitment will include former Bengals fullback Chris Pressley, Ben Tate, and hopefully a prospect from the draft.

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)