July 28, 2014

Carlos Santana…surprise, surprise….AL Player of the Week

carlos santana celebrationAfter tearing apart the Kansas City Royals this weekend, it was no shocker that Tribe first baseman/DH Carlos Santana has been named American League Player of the Week. Over his last six games, Carlos has had quite the run. How does 14-23, six homers, three doubles, 10 RBIs, eight runs scored sound to you? Pretty good. With his walking abilities in tow, Santana has reached base 20 of his last 29 times.

Not too shabby.

Think about where Santana has come from to get back to this point. It has been a steady rise since his brutal start. Carlos went .157/.318/.292 in April and followed that up with a .169/.343/.325 May. But with the warm weather came a new Santana. His post-DL hot streak essentially hasn’t stopped. His June was .308/.426/.590 with six homers and 15 RBIs, that spawned an even better month of July where ‘Los has been a stud: .314/.416/.651 with eight homers and 18 RBIs. His OPS has been over 1.000 for two months now. Last seasons 20 home run campaign has already been tied with two months remaining.

Carlos is the second Indian in a row to receive the AL Player of the Week honor, joining second baseman Jason Kipnis.

Jerry Jones almost drafted Johnny Manziel

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Kevin Love may not opt in, Cavs may not care

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

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

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

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

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

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And just because:

Browns issue statement on status of Jason Pinkston

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Jason Pinkston was not in camp yesterday with the Browns. As the day wore on and as media asked media relations folks first, coach Mike Pettine second and GM Ray Farmer third with very little comment, it turned into a small issue. Pinkston is one of the nicest and most outgoing Cleveland Browns on social media and in person. Fans were deeply concerned about him when he was dealing with a blood clot in his lung a couple years back. And it made sense that there’d be more concern today when he wasn’t there and there weren’t any answers as to why.  Today we have a bit more clarity as the Browns say Pinkston “has not been medically cleared.”

That comes on the heels of Pinkston’s own statement via Twitter yesterday after the Browns basically issued “no comment” across the board.

I don’t fault the Browns for saying “no comment” by the way. This group that currently runs the Browns has been far more giving and open than previous management groups. They don’t seem to want to pretend that they’re running hyper-secret military operations. All that said, when it comes to health-related things governed by the actual law, I don’t blame them. Even today as they haven’t given us any detail, at least we know that Pinkston hasn’t been medically cleared.

[Also See: WFNY's profile of Jason Pinkston from August 2013]

Report: Cavs could host Spurs on NBA’s Opening Night

Danny GreenThere has been plenty of discussion about when and where the Cavaliers will have some high-profile matchups on national television, something that’s been sorely lacking for the last four seasons. There’s no doubt that LeBron’s return to Miami will be one of those signature games, but that’s more likely to be on the Christmas Day slate. At some point, LeBron will face his nemesis in the Spurs, and that moment could come as soon as Opening Night in the NBA on TNT.

Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe is reporting that Spurs at Cavs could be on the slate.

“Rumor has it that the NBA’s season-opening game on TNT will be San Antonio at Cleveland, the first home game for LeBron James in his return to Cleveland and the first game for the defending NBA champion Spurs. The NBA schedule is expected to be released next month”

The NBA’s recent tradition has been the defending champion opening up on national television at home to receive their championship rings, often in a Conference Finals or NBA Finals rematch. I’d be just as pleased to see a high-profile Eastern Conference and division rival to start the season in either Indiana or Chicago. The first home game in Cleveland will be a truly special game and moment to be certain, regardless of who the team plays. The Cavaliers were 3-1 in Opening Night games during James’s time in Miami, but they lost their last three seasons openers with James (2 vs. Boston, 1 vs. Dallas).

Related: Mike Miller signing and some Dion Waiters thoughts

(Photo: Eric Gay/AP)

LeBron James will return to wearing No. 23

jamesnumberAfter much debate that included the numbers 23, 6, and 32, and an Instagram post where James asked fans “23 or 6?” nine days ago, LeBron James has, err, decided. James will return to the number 23, which he wore for all seven seasons in Cleveland. James changed to No. 6 when he left Cleveland for Miami in the summer of 2010.  This announcement came via James’s Instagram account.

The choice to return to his previous number is one that will undoubtedly be a popular one in Northeast Ohio for those (like this blogger) who held onto their James jerseys from the previous era just in case. It also prevents the Cavaliers from potentially having to retire two different numbers from James someday (not that they wouldn’t be willing).

No. 32 was being rumored because he wore the digits his freshman year at Akron SVSM. There was also some thought that he would continue with No. 6, the number that brought him four straight Finals appearances and two titles in Miami. James had announced prior to his departure from Cleveland that he would be changing numbers from 23 regardless of where he ended up that following year. James still believes that 23 should be retired around the league in honor of Michael Jordan, but perhaps he decided it didn’t hurt to get grandfathered in even if the NBA would decide to make such a move.

Now, we can turn our attention to what number Kevin Love fancies with Nate Thurmond’s No. 42 retired, right? Right?!

Related: Mike Miller signing and some Dion Waiters thoughts

(Photo: LeBron James’s Instagram account (kingjames))

Kevin Love withdraws from Team USA, demands a trade to the Cavs?

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Amid all of the trade rumors surrounding his status with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love has decided to not play this summer with Team USA. Love was supposed to report to Team USA’s training camp for the FIBA World Cup in a couple days. He has been the topic of the biggest NBA news over the past few weeks.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, and Golden State Warriors are the strongest suitors for a Kevin Love trade. According to ESPN, The Cavs are said to be very optimistic that they will acquire Love from the Timberwolves. Reports say the Cavs are offering Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a first round pick. There have been conflicting reports about what the Cavs offer is and if they have even offered Wiggins yet. Another possible advantage the Cavs may have is the report by FOX Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico. According to his sources, Love has conveyed his desire to be traded to Cleveland. Amico goes on to say that it is unclear if Love has formally asked the Timberwolves for a trade. If this happens, Cleveland could get him at a cheaper price.

The Bulls have reportedly offered Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, and Nikola Mirotic for Love. The Warriors have supposedly offered Harrison Barnes and David Lee, but it still remains to be seen if they have also included Klay Thompson. The Timberwolves are insistent about getting Thompson from the Warriors. But even with him in the trade, ESPN reported the Timberwolves, more specifically their ownership, prefer Wiggins rather then Thompson. It is still unknown whether Cleveland will acquire Love, but it seems almost certain that he will not be with Minnesota for much longer.

(Photo by: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Brian Hoyer won’t be held back in training camp

In the talk about Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer, the one thing that has been talked about the least is Brian Hoyer’s ACL injury. With all the excitement that Johnny Football brings and with there not being any news of “setbacks” for Brian Hoyer – at least so far – it’s easy to sometimes forget that he needed a major surgery last year after being injured in Buffalo. The injury non-story will continue to be just that, it seems according to head coach Mike Pettine.

That’s great to hear of course. Whether Johnny Manziel beats out Brian Hoyer or not, it’s in everyone’s best interests if he’s forced to beat out a healthy, ready-to-compete version of Hoyer. Then again, if quotes are any indication, Brian Hoyer is always ready to compete. On Friday, Hoyer talked a bit about his confidence and what this competition will be like for him.

“I am confident that I am that guy, but in the same sense, I know that if it comes down to the fact that Johnny does beat me out, I will have given everything I have and he will have totally earned it,” Hoyer said. “That’s what you want, and like I said, for me, all you want is and opportunity and a chance to earn the job. That’s what I’ve been given, and for me, it’s about going out every day and proving that I can be that guy because I believe that I am.”

The fact that he believes he can be that guy should be bolstered by the fact that he won’t be held back due to his surgery last year.

[lso See: Browns think Johnny Manziel has regressed in practice, worry about partying]

Browns think Johnny Manziel has regressed in practice, worry about partying

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In a topic that’s been beaten to death, even on these very pages, we have something of an update. Mary Kay Cabot is reporting from sources within the Browns that they are “stunned” by Johnny Manziel’s non-stop antics during this off-season.

Manziel regressed in practice after the first week of organized team activities, and some in the organization attributed it to too much jet-setting and not enough dedication to the playbook.

Team officials had bought into Manziel’s pre-draft promises to tone down the partying and leave his frat-boy lifestyle back in College Station, Texas, and they’ve been stunned by his non-stop antics, sources said.

I know there’s massive disagreement on this issue and how big of a deal it is. There are questions as to if what Johnny Manziel is doing is even out of the ordinary compared to his peers. Is it just that Johnny has a bigger spotlight on him? These are the things we’ve already gone round and round on as the Browns approach training camp with the rookie. If you believe the reports prove the Browns have legitimate concern, then it’s troubling.

When these things are reported, however, you never truly know what the intent of the source. Maybe the Browns are leaking something like this to send a message to Manziel that party time is officially over with the start of camp. Maybe they’re simply trying to get him to be the best he can be and think this negative talk might just motivate him. Some believe that much of the chatter surrounding the team’s Week 1 starter was done with similar goal in mind.

But for those like our own TD who have said, “Call me when it impacts the Browns during the regular season,” it should at least be a concern that the Browns think that Manziel has regressed in practice while simultaneously partying all over the country.

The only one who could be happy with report like this has the last name, “Hoyer.”

Browns expect Brian Hoyer to start Week 1

hoyer and manziel

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

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

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

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

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

(Joshua Gunter/ The Plain Dealer)

Alex Mack and Paul Kruger named to “All-Bad Contracts” team on Grantland

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I read articles like this the way some people slowly peak at a poker hand hoping to find aces, except opposite. I’m hoping beyond hope that as I scroll through a Bill Barnwell list of bad contracts that there are no Cleveland Browns on the list. Unfortunately, due to the way the Browns’ off-season unfolded with Alex Mack, they find themselves listed prominently. Here’s Barnwell’s explanation.

Mack’s five-year, $42 million contract guarantees him a staggering $26 million, $7 million more than any other center in football. He’ll have a 2014 cap hit of $10 million; no other centers cost more than $7.3 million. Because the Jaguars structured the deal to discourage Cleveland from matching, they also left Mack with a player option in 2016, which he can use to hit free agency again. No center is worth this sort of deal, even a good one.

Obviously I agree with him that Alex Mack is overpaid. I guess, I might try and lessen the blow of that by saying it’s not like overpaying a quarterback. I think even if Alex Mack is overpaid, he’s likely to earn somewhere around 80% of the money he’s been given. Also, giving that money to an incumbent player on the offensive line should be easier to project than using money on a receiver or other skill position player to come in from another system. Then again, I very well could be looking at this through Browns-colored glasses.

The Browns don’t go unscathed on defense either thanks to last year’s acquisition of Paul Kruger from Baltimore.

Cleveland saw the possibility to steal a young pass-rusher away from its rivals and gave Kruger a mammoth five-year, $40.5 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. He mustered up a mere 4.5 sacks in his first year with the team, often looking like their third-best pass-rusher behind rookie Barkevious Mingo and supplanted incumbent Jabaal Sheard.

There’s a silver lining here for the Browns on Kruger though. The team smartly front-loaded the Kruger deal and a quick look at my notes from back when Kruger was signed shows that it won’t be horrible if they have to cut him loose after this year.  The way the Browns designed the deal by front-loading it with a roster bonus, they can cut him heading into 2015 and it will only cost them $3.86 in dead money while saving them $4.34 million should they need it. There’s always a third option of converting some base salary to bonus to spread it out, but they’ll likely opt for just cutting him if he doesn’t play better in Pettine’s defense this year than he did last year.

I recommend reading the whole piece though. While it’s not fun to read about bad Browns contracts, it’s a gas to see Joe Flacco and Troy Polamalu listed prominently.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

NEOMG looking for LeBron James beat reporter

BronHome

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

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

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

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

You know what they say: Prose over pose.1

 

 

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Footnotes:

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

Setting standards for the Browns… While We’re Waiting

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It’s Friday and it’s been a great week of podcasts. Did you check them all out?

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Setting standards for the Browns isn’t easy… As the Browns sit on the precipice of starting training camp, I feel really good about the team. Shocking, I know. I’ve given in to the fact that these feelings mean absolutely nothing. I’ve talked myself down this road before where I convince myself that the defense has it together in such a way that they’ll carry the team. Or more specifically in the recent past, I’ve convinced myself that the Browns can be carried on the back of a player like Peyton Hillis. Each time there’s one thing that’s horribly consistent. I’m always wrong to be optimistic.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t like Mike Pettine, Ray Farmer, Brian Hoyer, Joe Thomas, or anyone else who will be entering camp this week. It doesn’t mean that they won’t finally cancel the pity party that I seem to have annually around Thanksgiving. It’s merely to point out that the burden of proof is on them.

I like the off-season moves. I like the draft. I’ve been hard on Johnny Manziel, but you all know pretty well that I like him a lot too. I like Ben Tate and Terrance West and Jordan Cameron and Joe Haden. I liked the idea of drafting Justin Gilbert to hopefully raise the level of the secondary not named Joe Haden. I liked the free agency acquisitions of Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner. Right now, that’s not worth much of anything.

I’ve liked moves in the past too whether it was Frostee Rucker, Jason Campbell or Ben Watson. Even as some of those players worked out alright, it didn’t matter. By the end of the season those were just new names that replaced old names, both of which were only capable of winning four or five games in a given year.

That’s why last year I stopped with predictions and just set standards. That’s why again this year, even as I support this team and the moves they’ve made to improve, I won’t give them a pass just yet. Yeah, I’m co-signing as much as any fan or commentator can co-sign on a team’s personnel moves, but it’s not on me to produce results or say that the team has done enough to produce those results. It’s merely my job to set realistic expectations.

So I’m going to do it again this year and say that my expectations are for this team to win eight games. It might be a game more or a game less, but I think that’s reasonable to ask. It’s a league with year-over-year turnarounds all the time. It’s also a year where the Browns spent a healthy amount of time bringing in veteran free agents as well as newly drafted picks.

Again, I can’t co-sign for all the players they brought in, but it tells me this team wants to win more games than they did last year. It tells me that this is a team that won’t be content executing a lackadaisical first year in some pipe dream of a five year plan. And with that in mind my standard is eight wins and I think that’s more than fair. That’s still a failure in a lot of NFL cities to go 0.500. So with that, you’re welcome Cleveland Browns. Now show me something.

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Speaking of football, I would have found this interesting or funny once upon a time, but now the idea of youths pummeling each other on a football field just leads me to think of head injuries. Do we need to adopt weight classes like MMA and boxing?

*****

Weird Al Yankovic has the No. 1 album in the country. It’s really crazy when you think about it for a variety of reasons. The music industry is in a weird spot in terms of, you know, “sales.” Weird Al released eight music videos in eight days to promote it. He’s also an age where he’s not completely over the hill as a performer and yet his target audience that he has built since the late-70′s is probably as big as it will ever be. I grew up on “Eat It” and “Fat” and “Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White.” And here I was this week playing “NOW That’s what I call polka” for my son which parodies Mylie Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” among other songs. My favorite song, though, is one that didn’t sink in for me when it was a real song, and that’s Royals by Lorde. No, it wasn’t until Weird Al unleashed “Foil” on us that it stuck in my head like an incurable disease.

That’s enough for me this week. Have a great weekend everyone. Listen to some Weird Al.

Josh Gordon may have checked himself into rehab

Gordon

Mike Garafolo reported Thursday night on FOX Sports One’s evening show America’s Pregame that Josh Gordon checked himself into rehab after his July 4th arrest in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Patient confidentiality being what it is, it may be difficult to confirm if Gordon did in fact complete the program unless it comes from Gordon himself.

Would a completed rehab program have any weight at all in the eyes of the NFL as far as reducing his impending suspension? Could the rehab program itself be the reason Gordon’s hearing hasn’t already happened?

[Related: Josh Gordon's hearing set for August 1st]

 

Has Andrew Wiggins actually been included in a Cavs offer for Kevin Love?

 

flip saunders

Someday we’ll find out these things for sure, but the sources and details are flying and as is often the case, there’s disagreement or at least confusion. Most everyone who thinks about this potential trade at all assumes that Minnesota talks about Andrew Wiggins and that the Cavs likely do as well. The wording on the reports doesn’t necessarily put them at odds, but it’s confounding to try and figure out what’s actually happening.

Take this report (most recently updated July 23rd at 2:03 PM) from Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst at ESPN.

Cleveland’s offer, sources said, would be headlined by No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, 2013′s No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick, with one source close to the process insisting Tuesday that the Cavs are destined to acquire Love. At least one more player might have to added to the package to satisfy NBA trade rules.

And then Sam Amico’s tweet from this afternoon at about 5:00 PM indicates that despite talk, the Cavaliers haven’t actually offered Andrew Wiggins in any trade proposal.

It’s enough to make you want to rip your hair out. So the Cavs and Wolves are talking about deals for Kevin Love. Invariably Andrew Wiggins’ name comes up to the point that he is “headlining” the Cavs’ offer, and yet when it comes to actually discussing potential proposals, the Cavaliers aren’t actually offering Wiggins in any of them?

So the conversation’s like this?

Minny: “Yeah, so if we can get the expiring deals right? Then maybe find one player other than Andrew Wiggins that we want to keep… and then also Andrew Wiggins… that’s what we’re thinking.”

Cleveland: “So we need to get expiring deals and one player other than Andrew Wiggins that you want to keep….” (trails off)

Minny: “And Andrew Wiggins.”

Cleveland: “I hear what you’re saying. Hmmm. Yeah. Talk to you later!”

Have the Cavs really technically not offered Andrew Wiggins in any scenario? Does any of this have anything to do with the timing of finally signing Wiggins today? I guess we’ll find out for sure in the next 30 days, but even with the Browns starting training camp this weekend, I don’t think that’s just going to fly by without a lot of turbulence in the rumor mill.

Not looking forward to that.

Cavs sign Andrew Wiggins, start 30-day “no trade” clock

Does this scream "passive" to you?

It’s finally happened. The Cleveland Cavaliers have announced the signing of their number one overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins.

[Also see: WFNY's Kevin Love Trade FAQ]

https://twitter.com/WojYahooNBA/status/492398283781054464

As Woj and Windy point out, the thing that we’ve been talking about for a long time now has happened. On the one hand, he can’t be traded for 30 days. On the other, now instead of carrying a value of $0 in a trade, he will potentially carry that $5.5 million number if he’s traded. While that helps from a salary matching standpoint, I’m sure there’s some impact on the “leverage” that might or might not exist between the Cavaliers and T-Wolves.

So have at it folks. Let’s hear another round of speculation and scenario building about the Kevin Love trade.

And… GO!

Ohio State fires band director over ‘sexualized’ culture

photo4

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Josh Gordon’s hearing is set for August 1

Good things guiness

“Good things come to those who wait,” is a famous phrase, but in the case of Josh Gordon we’ll have to see if it’s true. Chris Wesseling of NFL Network is reporting that Gordon’s appeals hearing to determine whether and how long he’ll be suspended is August 1 in New York. At this stage of the game, I bet Gordon wishes it had happened a long time ago.

The timeline begins the day after the draft. While Browns fans were in the afterglow of a draft that saw them get one of the best corners in the draft and also one of the most decorated quarterbacks coming into the league, we were smacked by Josh Gordon news that he might have failed another drug test.

Hey, anyone know when Josh Gordon’s appeal is?

Then, over Memorial Day weekend, Josh Gordon was pulled over for speeding. No big deal, right? Most of us could get caught doing 74 in a 60 MPH zone. Oh, but one of his passengers was cited for possession of marijuana. That doesn’t look good during an appeals hearing. At minimum, it probably requires a discussion, right?

Hey, anyone know when Josh Gordon’s appeal is?

Not until after the July 4th weekend when Gordon was pulled over and arrested for DWI in North Carolina. As it turns out, Gordon’s reported BAC was 0.09 and the legal limit is 0.08. “Close” obviously isn’t good enough, but if this was an isolated incident for a guy, you might chalk it up as a one-time mistake.

But this is Josh Gordon and now we know his appeal is scheduled for August 1st. It’s scheduled after he was pulled over for speeding and one of his passengers had pot and also after getting popped for DWI while also coming off a season in which he was suspended while also trying to overcome a checkered past involving drugs throughout a shortened college career.

I’m out of breath and I wonder if Roger Goodell’s run out of patience. We’ll see on August 1st.

I think it’s safe to say that Guiness lied in their advertising, at least in the case of Josh Gordon and Browns fans.

Anthony Bennett can breathe now

Anthony Bennett Box Out

Even as I used the word “bust” in talking about Anthony Bennett during his rookie year, I can be reasonable. I’m not a “no excuses” guy. Sometimes injuries and health are legitimate reasons why a player struggles. Bennett was coming off of a shoulder surgery while also battling asthma and sleep apnea. During the offseason, he had surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids. The resulting Bennett in summer league was much thinner, faster, and more athletic because his breathing was better.

“It acted up at times,” Bennett said. “There’d be times I was playing good, I wouldn’t really notice it. And then there’d be other times where it was real hard to breathe. But I just tried to push through it and do the best I can.”

What remains to be seen is if the Cavaliers will be the beneficiaries of the new and improved Bennett. Bennett’s name frequently comes up with Andrew Wiggins as a possible piece in a Kevin Love deal.

Because of the mitigating factors surrounding Anthony Bennett’s rookie year, it feels like the Cavaliers might be selling low if they trade Bennett before we get a chance to see him play this year. I guess Kevin Love is worth it, but for the first time since he’s been a Cavalier, Anthony Bennett makes me wonder at least just a little bit.

[Related: Bulls offer Gibson, McDermott and Mirotic for Love?]