April 18, 2014

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)

Dion Waiters is Waiting For Next Year

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

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

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

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

2014 NFL Draft, Manziel vs. Bridgewater, Kipnis tossed, and Madden ratings… While We’re Waiting

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Jason Kipnis gets tossed and makes lip-readers blush.  The Tribe lost yesterday, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some fireworks. Jason Kipnis must have used some language that the umpire found inappropriate.

Kipnis’ account sounds tame.

Said the Indians second baseman: “I didn’t think I showed him up. I didn’t try to stand there. I’m not here to show the guy up. I was just walking away and I told him that the first pitch changed the entire at-bat and you don’t need to be helping a guy like that out. Obviously, I used a couple words to express [myself], but that’s the full sense of what I said.”

But, whatever he actually did say, it looked like this when the umpire emphatically tossed him from the game.

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Johnny Manziel is coming to work out in Cleveland this weekend. I know I’m a bit of a broken record on this, but please please please let the Browns find a good reason to draft this kid. Please let him tell you everything you need to know that says his attitude, skills and potential equal what the Browns are looking for as the next dominant starting NFL quarterback. Please let it be so. I don’t know enough to say that’s the case, but if it worked out that way and he’s available and has the ability to translate his wildly entertaining college skills into success on the next stage it will be so good for all of us.

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There’s something about Teddy Bridgewater that makes me unsure of him. He didn’t play the best competition in the country, but that’s not it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Teddy had a good career with Louisville. He appears to be a even-keeled, smart kid. I think I finally figured it out. I think Teddy Bridgewater is an introvert. I think he’s a little on the meek side and those things are probably what’s stuck out to me as something that will keep him from being a dominant player at QB at the next level. Maybe I’m totally wrong, but it just seems to me that he might not be capable of being the kind of leader I imagine succeeding in an NFL huddle. Maybe that’s just his YouTube interviews with the media and he relates better to his teammates, but it gives me pause.

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“What do you mean the Browns’ defense is rated at 78?! It should be at least an 82!” Travis Benjamin is fast, but he doesn’t think he’s fast enough… in Madden. Rick told us recently that the Madden people were in Cleveland getting data on Browns players for the latest version of the franchise football video game. Well, there’s a follow-up on the Browns official webpage. Travis Benjamin is among some Browns players who think they should have higher ratings. Apparently the 98 that the game’s designers gave him for his “speed” rating wasn’t perfectly high enough for his tastes.

“I should be the fastest guy in the game,” exclaimed Benjamin, who was tabbed with a 98 speed rating in last year’s version of the game. After hearing the power Moore has, Benjamin even tweeted him to convince the producer his case. Benjamin plays the game several times a week online with teammates Phil Taylor, Greg Little and Dion Lewis.

I love this fun little story about video games and NFL players. If their giant contracts and larger-than-life personas distance themselves from fans, this is the exact kind of thing that brings them closer together. I can remember year after year with my own (sometimes delusional) hopes for the Browns fueling outrage when I’d look at a Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy or even a Brandon Weeden player rating and wish it was higher.

Let’s hope they get Johnny Football’s rating appropriately high after he becomes the next Browns quarterback. Can you imagine scrambling all over your TV with him? (I know. I’m a broken record… errr… faltering MP3 player?)

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Coming of age as a rock fan… On Monday night I went to see that band I told you about last week, Mansions. They played at the Grog Shop and it was a really great show, but something funny happened that I wanted to tell you about.

In November I drove all the way to Pittsburgh to see the same band headline a show. Because it was in a small club, I was able to buy some of the band’s merch and also meet them. That’s one of the things I love most about small clubs and meeting the bands that generally play there. They are real regular people and very nice to meet before or after they play.

Anyway, fast forward to this past Monday and I was in the Grog Shop and it occurred to me just how much older I was than everyone else there. I was surrounded by kids who had their hands stamped as being under 21 years old. As I was waiting for the music to start, it occurred to me that many of these kids must have been born in the mid to late 90′s when I was well on my way to finishing high school. That’s mildly depressing, but whatever. I was at a rock show and loving it at age 35. No biggie, right?

Well, after the show, I went over to say hello to the band before leaving and Christopher Browder, the lead singer, recognized me. “Hey! I remember you! You were in Pittsburgh!” Now, that kind of floored me. Out of all the people that he has met since being on tour in 2013-14, he remembered me. We’re talking about a band that has played more than 25 shows in the past 30 days alone. And trust me when I tell you that he really did remember me. He wasn’t just putting it on, I’m quite sure.

But it doesn’t make sense to me that anyone would remember me. I’m a really plain-looking kind of guy. I don’t have a lot of defining characteristics that make me stick out. I have no piercings or tattoos or wild hair. When I go to rock shows I wear jeans, t-shirts, maybe a nondescript sweatshirt or hoodie.

And then it hit me. I do stick out. You know what the one defining characteristic of me is in that setting? I’m old. In my mind I’m still just like the same guy I was in my mid twenties, but that’s not what my increasing number of grey hairs broadcast to the world.

Ah well. What’re you going to do, stop living?  Well, someday, yes, but not anytime soon.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo: Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY Sports)

Luck and Suck: FanGraphs digs in on two Tribe pitchers

Corey Kluber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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Footnotes:

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

Indians expectations, end of the Cavs season and Alex Mack … While We’re Waiting

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Indians and expectations: This post is from earlier in the week, but it’s still relevant for most Tribe fans. The Tribe Daily’s Nino Colla wrote about his blog and the team, sharing this great tidbit:

Irregularity my friends. This is baseball. The team is 6-6, this is the first actual post since the season started. Time to forget expectations and embrace the reality. No team is built to go 162-0. No team is even built to go 120-42. If they are, forget HGH testing, investigate them for fraud or insider trading.

Baseball is a tough sport. My article the other day about Asdrubal Cabrera had the line “On average, he’s average.” An 81-81 baseball team can be really tough to watch; they’d be frighteningly inconsistent. They might go on a six-game winning streak, then look really bad for two weeks. One never knows. [Read more...]

MLB’s new catch interpretation is begging to be exploited

I got into an argument over MLB’s new (old?) interpretation of what is a catch when Elliot Johnson “caught” a fly ball, took two steps, came up against the outfield wall and then dropped the ball as he attempted to throw the ball into the infield. It wasn’t ruled an out because the “definition of a catch” apparently includes a transfer, even for an outfielder who has taken multiple steps with the ball secured in his glove. It was a civil conversation with Sirius XM’s Mike Ferrin, but he and I had to agree to disagree on the topic. Then I brought up this question, which I haven’t seen an answer to just yet.

Here’s the rule from the actual rulebook.Catch Rule

I wasn’t smart enough to take the argument to the next logical step, but thankfully Dave Cameron at FanGraphs is. While Cameron agrees while that the rule interpretation makes loads of sense at second base, the issue isn’t quite so clear when it comes to outfielders. The money passage from Cameron says it all.

At this point, it shouldn’t be too hard to spot the problem with using the same definition of a catch in the outfield as it is at second base; the drop at second base has no real impact on the runner’s decision making. The batter is sprinting down the first base line to try and beat out the double play, and probably will rarely even know the ball is dropped on the double play attempt. The runner going into second base is almost always sliding into the bag, and the dropped transfer does not result in the ball rolling far enough away for an advancement to third base. Until the play is over and the runners find out who is safe and who is out, they don’t really care too much about what the fielders are doing.

That is absolutely not true with runners and outfielders, however; the decision of whether to advance or return to base is entirely dependent on whether the outfielder is ruled to have safely caught the ball. Runners are taught to get enough of a lead off the base to maximize their potential advancement in case the ball is not caught while still retaining their ability to return to their previous base if it is. When the ball enters the glove, the runner returns to their prior base in order to avoid a potential double play. Only now, the ball entering the glove is no longer the determining factor of whether or not the catch was made; that is now the ball moving from the glove to the hand.

Enter Elliot Johnson. I never thought I’d have much opportunity to write that prior to the start of the Indians season. But if a catch determination isn’t made until the transfer of the ball to the throwing hand and Elliot Johnson’s two steps before maintaining possession of the ball into the outfield wall aren’t enough, then to quote the Indians, “What if?”

What if Johnson hits the wall and instead of looking to throw starts sprinting toward the infield where the runners are assuming it’s a catch. As he’s running in, he “bobbles” the ball on transfer thus rendering the “catch” not a catch at all. It’s an extreme example, but you kind of open yourself up to it, don’t you? As FanGraphs points out, this opens the game up to the exact thing that the infield fly rule was designed to eliminate.

AJ McCarron will conduct private workout for the Browns

AJ McCarron wins, people

All I do is win win win…

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

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

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

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

Browns among teams showing most interest in Michael Sam

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

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

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

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

Big changes coming to Cavs…Maybe

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown, Chris Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vìva uncertainty!

(AP Photo/Jason Miller)

First pitch swinging and uniform trends…While We’re Waiting

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It isn’t just your imagination, Asdrubal Cabrera has been swinging at the first pitch in big situations for a while. And he is actually getting worse at it. That’s according to some research by Fansided’s Brian Heise. (Math!) It is a bit soul crushing to see Cabrera coming up to bat in a tight spot and just know in your gut he’s going to swing at anything close.

The problem might be his early career success when swinging at the first pitch. Back in 2011, he actually hit .402 when swinging at the first pitch. Things have gone downhill since then however, and you have to think that pitchers are quite aware of his tendency to go after that first delivery. That’s what I believe they call making an adjustment. Time for Asdrubal to do the same. Please. I’m begging.

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A couple of uniform related notes this week. First, The Miami Hurricanes and Florida State Seminoles released new uniforms. Aside from being just a straight uniform nerd, these two uniforms were made by Nike and well, I’ve been keeping my eye on trends we could be seeing for the new Browns digs next year.

Miami got a ‘smoke’ uniform. So the gray trend continues. Both uniforms got accents that are unique. Nike started this with the Seahawks. They designed a feather pattern in Seattle’s stripes to represent the 12th man. Miami got an Ibis shadow incorporated into sleeve designs and the new white helmet. Florida State got a tribal looking design to their stripes and of course the new trendy matte finish helmets.

The last item is the El Paso Chihuahuas. They got a new mascot. He’s a little frightening, but not quite New Orleans Pelicans frightening.

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Shutdown Corner did their draft prospect piece on Khalil Mack. Obviously I’m not an NFL talent scout or defensive coordinator. Mack to me looks like the real deal, and as crazy as it may sound I would like to see him at another position. I think Mack has what it takes to be an inside linebacker at the pro level.

I’d put the Browns’ chances at drafting Mack as slim. First, he could very likely be off the board when they pick at four. Second, I don’t think that the team is going to to for a pass rusher with the number four pick considering the roster we have already.

I do think Mack is one of the safest choices in the draft though. I think when the class of 2014 is analyzed in 10 years Mack may be the one standing at the top of the group.

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Ohio State coach Urban Meyer named Braxton Miller and Jeff Heuerman as two of the team captains for next season. File this under no-brainer. The real question for the Buckeyes is what happens on the defensive side of the ball. SO many questions remain.

Indians activate Michael Bourn, send down Nyjer Morgan

Michael BournThe Indians today activated OF Michael Bourn from the 15-Day DL and optioned OF Nyjer Morgan to AAA Columbus.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise because of Morgan’s success early in the season for the Indians. In nine games, Morgan has a .348 batting average and an OPS of .832. He is third on the team in walks with 7 and tied for the team lead in stolen bases.

In the end, it appears the outfield was just too crowded for the Indians and manager Terry Francona. The Indians elected to keep an eighth reliever instead of sending down C.C. Lee or utility man Elliot Johnson.

Morgan, a lefty, does not play against left-handed pitching where Johnson is a switch hitter.

[Related: On the Indians' struggles against left-handed pitching]

Browns to work out Johnny Manziel this weekend per report

nfldraftThe Browns didn’t use one of their official interviews on Johnny Manziel during the NFL combine. Then they were one of just two teams in the NFL not to send a representative to Manziel’s pro day.

This weekend the Browns will get their chance with Johnny Football.

According to Adam Caplan, Manziel is next up to visit the Browns.

The Browns have the fourth and twenty-sixth picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

Currently, the Browns have Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney as the only quarterbacks on the roster.

[Related: The worst NFL draft cliches]

Luol Deng win’s NBA’s Citizenship Award

luol deng sixers 

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

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

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

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

Photo: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Good riddance, Cavs season: While We’re Waiting

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Yet another uninspired crawl to the finish. We shouldn’t be surprised. This isn’t unique to the Cavaliers, necessarily. Teams in April playoff chases who get eliminated often coast to the end of the season. But just because it’s not surprising, it doesn’t make the end of this Cavaliers season any less disappointing. Above all else, that’s the word that defines this season more than any other. Disappointing. With a little frustration on the side.

This season couldn’t have been set up any better for the Cavaliers. For the first time in NBA history, the Lakers, Celtics, and Knicks all missed the playoffs. The Eastern Conference was historically bad. And yet even in this environment the Cavaliers couldn’t make the playoffs. They weren’t even all that close. With one game left to play the Cavaliers are 5.5 games out of the 8 seed. An 8 seed with a losing record. Six games under .500, to be exact. It demonstrates just how firmly entrenched at the kids’ table this team really is. [Read more...]

AFC North coach compared Bridgewater to fictional character. One in four it was a Browns coach.

NCAA Football: Louisville at West VirginiaMaking it’s way around the internet on Monday is this story from Matt Miller, whose twitter handle is @NFLDraftScout and who is a lead contributor for Bleacher Report. The story is that an NFL head coach compared Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to…

Yep. Willie Beaman. Don’t go searching Pro Football Reference for his stats. Beaman was the character from the movie Any Given Sunday.

So Miller says that an AFC North coach was the one that made this comparison. There’s only four. Chances it was Harbaugh or Tomlin seem slim to me, you?

Deadspin is saying what we’re all probably thinking:

“It’s the Browns, right? It can’t not be the Browns.”

Sigh. Yep. It is probably the Browns.

UPDATE: Yes, good eye. Not necessarily a Head coach. Which opens things up a bit.

[Related: Could Bridgewater slide into day two of NFL draft?]

Kyrie Irving continues to screw with Cavs fans

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

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

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

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

(Photo via Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Could Teddy Bridgewater slide into Day 2 of NFL Draft?

 NCAA Football: Louisville at West Virginia

The pendulum appears to be swinging in the opposite direction—and quickly. It wasn’t long ago that mock drafts had the “Big 3″ quarterbacks all being selected within the first four picks. Today, headlines are screaming that not only will this not be the case, but one of the quarterbacks may not even be selected on the NFL Draft’s first day.

Profootballtalk’s Michael David Smith is “hearing more talk” in league circles that the draft stock of this year’s top-rated quarterbacks is “dropping.” SI.com’s Peter King added fuel to this fire in his MMQB column, stating the Browns—along with the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Oakland Raiders—are “strongly considering” passing on QBs at the top of the draft, “and waiting until their second or third selections.” Many pundits are grouping Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger, Tom Savage, Jimmy Garoppolo, and A.J. McCarron as a second tier that doesn’t have as big of a drop from the first as in years past.

In 2013, it was West Virginia’s Geno Smith who went from Top-10 lock to a second-day selection in a matter of days. Bortles and Manziel appear to be first-round locks as they haven’t given much reason for a slide. With a dreadful Pro Day and lukewarm grades being handed out to quarterbacks, could Teddy Bridgewater be the next to follow suit? Reports are circulating that even Bridgewater’s private workouts have been shaky. This would be the kind of fall that if it were to happen in a fantasy draft, two-thirds of the league would be Googling for unbeknownst injury news; the other third would be using last year’s magazine.

Photo: Andrew Weber-US

Clowney will not hold private workouts before NFL Draft

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What’s the down side in not attending a draft prospects Pro Day? The Cleveland Browns may soon find out.

In the wake of an injury sustained by Clemson’s Brandon Thomas, potential first-overall draft selection Jadveon Clowney will not be participating in any private workouts heading into May’s NFL Draft. “He still will visit teams and interview with coaches and GMs,” writes SI’s Peter King, “but his next show-and-tell football performance will be after the draft in a mini-camp, with whichever team picks him.”

The Browns were the only team to not have front office members present at Clowney’s (incredibly impressive) Pro Day two weeks back, citing that “being in charge of that workout is different than being at a Pro Day where it’s orchestrated and scripted.” Unfortunately for Cleveland, they’ll now see neither.

This (bound to be controversial) decision by Clowney will only serve to add to the talented pass-rusher’s mystique while making the monocles pop out of the eyes of schoolmarms like this “personnel man” throughout the league. Remember, this was the same player who was accused of milking injuries to not hinder his draft stock just weeks after being the subject of glowing columns and feature-length stories.

Isn’t anonymous character assassination delightful?

(Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)