Waiting For Next Year http://www.waitingfornextyear.com ...a tradition of hope, passion, and misery Fri, 06 Mar 2015 01:49:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Should the Browns be interested in Brandon Marshall? http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/should-the-browns-be-interested-in-brandon-marshall/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/should-the-browns-be-interested-in-brandon-marshall/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 20:29:23 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=141028 The Chicago Bears are reportedly interested in trading receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall has had a hugely productive career, including putting on one of the most incredible receiving days I’ve ever seen in person when his Denver Broncos lost at the hands of Peyton Manning’s Colts.1 Marshall went off for 200 yards on 21 receptions and

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The Chicago Bears are reportedly interested in trading receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall has had a hugely productive career, including putting on one of the most incredible receiving days I’ve ever seen in person when his Denver Broncos lost at the hands of Peyton Manning’s Colts.1 Marshall went off for 200 yards on 21 receptions and two TDs as the Broncos lost 28-16. He was catching passes from Kyle Orton that day, by the way. That was 2009, and five seasons later, Marshall could be on the move in the middle of his Bears contract. The Cleveland Browns need wide receivers, so should they be interested?

It’s hard to say for sure, but let’s break it down.

  • Brandon Marshall will be 31 years old by the time the 2015 season begins.
  • He’s averaged more than 15 games per season over the course of his career, so he’s played a lot and hasn’t missed much due to injury.
  • He’s been over 1,000 yards in each of his seasons excepting his first and his last in 2014.

The 2014 season was a disaster in Chicago in general. The Bears went 5-11, Jay Cutler was benched at one point and their coach Marc Trestman was fired following the season. So, to simply say Brandon Marshall is done because he had a down year wouldn’t necessarily be fair.

The devil’s always in the details of course. What would the Browns have to trade to acquire Brandon Marshall and his remaining contract? Considering Marshall is going to be 31 and will be owed three years at about $8 million per year, the Browns wouldn’t have to trade a whole lot at all. They’d be taking on a big salary for a player whose best years are certainly behind him. Additionally, Marshall is only the 16th highest paid wide receiver in the league, and the Browns only pay their entire current wide receiver position group about $8 million.

In the end, if the Browns traded for Brandon Marshall it might not be the most efficient way to improve the receiving corps, but it would probably be pretty effective. Marshall can probably still play at a decent level for a year or two more. While his contract isn’t inexpensive, he’s also not making Mike Wallace or Andre Johnson money, which are the other types of players that are available via trade this time of year.

I wouldn’t expect the Browns to do it, but I could justify it if they did.

  1. Pretty weird now that Marshall is not with the Broncos, but Manning is.

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Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest is all about the linemen http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/cleveland-browns-nfl-mock-draft/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/cleveland-browns-nfl-mock-draft/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 18:01:03 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=141018 The 2015 NFL Draft is inching closer and closer with mock drafts popping up almost every day. The Browns are (once again) a team with a lot of holes to fill, but have two first-round picks at their disposal. ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. released his third mock draft on Thursday, forecasting what he sees happening in the

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The 2015 NFL Draft is inching closer and closer with mock drafts popping up almost every day. The Browns are (once again) a team with a lot of holes to fill, but have two first-round picks at their disposal. ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. released his third mock draft on Thursday, forecasting what he sees happening in the first round.

The team’s biggest needs continue to be defensive line, pass rusher, wide receiver and quarterback In Kiper’s previous mock draft, he had the Browns selecting wide receiver Devante Parker of Louisville and defensive tackle Eddie Goldman of Florida State; his first iteration had the team going defensive line and offensive line.

With the 12th pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, Kiper has the Browns (once again) selecting defensive tackle Danny Shelton of Washington. Shelton is a huge nose tackle at 6-foot-2, 339-pounds. In his senior season last year, he had 93 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, five fumble recoveries. He is a mammoth of player, who will come in right away and help stop the run. Besides being a great run stopper, he also has the ability to collapse the pocket by pushing the lineman back into the pocket. Shelton definitely fits a huge need for the Browns. Here is what Kiper says about the selection:

Danny Shelton

COLLEGE: Washington Class: Sr HT: 6-2 WT: 339 POS: DT

Analysis: Teams ran consistently and effectively on the Browns last season, and it started in the middle of the line, where they just didn’t have the block-eaters after Phil Taylor was lost with an injury. And while we know the Browns need to add at least one pass-catcher who can come in and help early, Shelton landing here would be a gift. He’s not as disruptive as sack and TFL totals indicate, but he can eat up double-teams at the point of attack and make others around him better. He has great awareness and will occasionally simply discard blocks and make the tackle himself. He can also eat up snaps. At 340 pounds, he’s exactly what the Browns need in the middle.

With the 19th pick, Kiper has the Browns selecting offensive tackle Ereck Flowers of Miami (FL). The 6-foot-6-inch, 329-pound offensive tackle has a great combination of size and athleticism. He moves very well for a 329-pound lineman, which will allow him to be a left tackle in the NFL. Here is what Kiper says about the selection:

Ereck Flowers

COLLEGE: Miami (FL) Class: Jr HT: 6-6 WT: 329 POS: OT

Analysis: I can see Browns fans cringing at the thought of a first round with two picks that doesn’t deliver a wide receiver. But let’s remember this draft is packed with pass-catching talent, and if the board breaks this way I think the Browns could target a potential high-impact offensive lineman rather than taking the fifth receiver available at No. 19 overall. The Browns were really set back on offense last year when they lost Alex Mack, and while Flowers isn’t a center, a player like him would have helped offset the brutal ripple effect we saw last year. For a team that has to run the ball to be successful on offense, making sure things are in a good place up front is crucial. The Browns can still get a couple of good pass-catchers from this draft.

Flowers has a lot of potential, but is still very raw in his technique. He is a very good run blocker because of his size and athleticism to make holes for the runner. He must improve his pass protection in order to fully achieve his highest potential. Flowers could conceivably take over the Browns’ right tackle spot for Mitchell Schwartz if this is the route they did indeed choose to take. Doing so would obviously infer that the later rounds would be used to address the perennial weaknesses at the offensive skill positions.

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Ohio State Men’s Basketball with the 14th best odds to win the title http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/ohio-state-mens-basketball-with-the-14th-best-odds-to-win-the-title/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/ohio-state-mens-basketball-with-the-14th-best-odds-to-win-the-title/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 17:30:22 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140978 With just over a week before Selection Sunday and the regular season coming to an end Sunday afternoon, Bovada has given the Buckeyes the 14th best odds to finish atop the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and bring yet another championship back to Columbus. Tied with such powerhouses like Northern Iowa and Wichita State, Ohio State has

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With just over a week before Selection Sunday and the regular season coming to an end Sunday afternoon, Bovada has given the Buckeyes the 14th best odds to finish atop the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and bring yet another championship back to Columbus. Tied with such powerhouses like Northern Iowa and Wichita State, Ohio State has 50/1 odds of winning the NCAA Tournament.

Thad Matta brings out the best in his Buckeyes when it comes to basketball in March and April. In fact as head coach of Ohio State, he is 58-17 in March and April. With one of the best players in the country, D’Angelo Russell, anything is possible once March Madness begins. The team is currently 22-8 on the season after their victory over Penn State on Wednesday. It is a young squad with a lot of talent, but they have had their share of ups and downs during the season. This team could be a tough out in the tournament, especially if Russell turns his game up even more and puts the Bucks on his back. It’s for this reason why the Buckeyes, ranked No. 23 in the country, currently hold the 14th best odds.

Obviously, the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats (1/1) have the best odds of winning the championship come early April. Duke (17/2), The Big Ten’s Wisconsin (9/1), Arizona (12/1), and Virginia (12/1) round out the top five. Defending champion, UConn Huskies, currently hold 150/1 odds.

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Spring Training Notes: Tomlin, House audition for starting role with the Tribe http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/josh-tomlin-cleveland-indians-francisco-lindor/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/josh-tomlin-cleveland-indians-francisco-lindor/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 16:44:09 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140961 The Cleveland Indians added another Spring Training contest to their 2015 resume. Here’s a look at the last 24 (or so) hours of Tribe baseball. Giddyup: Josh Tomlin got the start on Wednesday and T.J. House received his first innings of the year. Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn, and Francisco Lindor also made their 2015 debuts. The

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The Cleveland Indians added another Spring Training contest to their 2015 resume. Here’s a look at the last 24 (or so) hours of Tribe baseball.

Giddyup: Josh Tomlin got the start on Wednesday and T.J. House received his first innings of the year. Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn, and Francisco Lindor also made their 2015 debuts.

The Little Cowboy is another year removed from Tommy John surgery, which is generally when people believe that a pitcher regains his prior form. Tomlin did not have a good start to 2015, however, as he gave up a towering homerun to Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton, who to this point has averaged one home run every 100 MLB plate appearances. He continued his fly ball pitching ways by giving up hard hit doubles to Skip Schumaker and non-roster invite Chris Dominguez, while also inducing a couple of harmless fly balls (Todd Frazier and Brennan Boesch). To close the inning, Tomlin recorded his first strike out against Brayan Pena, and he looked much better in the second, which he was able to get through unscathed.

T.J. House, on the other hand, had no initial struggles as he came in and immediately shut down the Reds lineup (worth noting the same lineup that Tomlin faced as the Reds kept the game’s starters in for him). He pitched 2 perfect innings and tossed in a couple of strike outs for the fans in the crowd. You might say that our House is in order1.

Lindor, Lindor, Lindor: Shortstop and All-World prospect Francicso Lindor is only going to continue to get hyped if he can match his defense (a leaping grab in the top of the second inning) with solid at bats. In his first at-bat of 2015, he worked the count and singled a hard grounder into center field for a hit from the second spot in the lineup. Lindor then followed it up with a line drive hit to left field his next time up.

Also, worth noting, is that there has been a bit of an under current of rumors that outfielder (2013 surprise and 70-and-up jersey-wearing) Carlos Moncrief has looked good thus far in spring. Today he justified those rumors with a dominant four hits in four at bats, which included hitting a double and scoring the Indians first run of 2015.

I also should give a shout-out to Ryan Raburn’s defense. The often chided outfielder had a solid day in the field including recording all three outs in the top of the fourth inning.

Other Indians Notes:

• Outfielder Brandon Moss continues to be ahead of schedule in his rehab. He was supposed to not get into a game until the middle of this month, but he might be pushing for earlier action. “He’s streaking along, actually. It’s hard to slow him down,” Francona said. “He’s passing every test they give him. … He’s coming quick. I don’t know the date he’ll be in a game, but surprisingly, it’s not going to be really far off. He’s doing a really good job.”

• The bronze medalist in the 2014 AL MVP race, Michael Brantley, is expected to make his spring debut Thursday.

• Francona has not given a firm date for second baseman Jason Kipnis, but indicated that he should make his debut this weekend.

• Do not expect to see Nick Swisher as soon though as mid-March is still the current return target. The full update on Swisher was February 26 when he struggled running, looked limited in drills, and had to have a controlled swing in the cages. I will continue to track and hopefully we get some positive news soon, but it seems like the mid-March target might be aggressive.

• And finally, MLB is doing a better job of packaging highlights already this spring. Here is Yan Gomes making Zack Cozart look like a fool for thinking he can steal second base on him in yesterday’s game. YANIMAL!

  1. it is so cheesy and terrible that I like it

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Perk on hard fouls: “We don’t have time for that s—. That ain’t cool.” http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/lebron-james-kendrick-perkins-fouls/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/lebron-james-kendrick-perkins-fouls/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 16:10:04 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=141011 It takes considerable force to knock a 6-foot-8-inch, 250-pound chiseled athlete off of his course when he is running at full speed. Unfortunately for LeBron James, he’s finding this out the hard way as he completed what was his second game in the last three for the Cavaliers wherein he received several hard fouls en

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It takes considerable force to knock a 6-foot-8-inch, 250-pound chiseled athlete off of his course when he is running at full speed. Unfortunately for LeBron James, he’s finding this out the hard way as he completed what was his second game in the last three for the Cavaliers wherein he received several hard fouls en route to the basket, the latest being a flagrant foul handed to Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, leading to some in-depth discussion as to what the future holds for those who choose to err on the dirty side of play.

With 18.8 seconds left in the third quarter, Valanciunas, Toronto’s 7-foot center, harnessed James areound the neck and shoulders leading to a few verbal altercations. The infraction was initially whistled as a standard foul before being upgraded to a flagrant foul 1 after an official’s review of the video replay. On Sunday, James was the victim of a kick to the groin from Houston’s James Harden, a play which led to the shooting guard being suspended for one game. Both fouls received very little in the way of retribution from Cavalier teammates, something that is decidedly different from the days when Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas were frontcourt bodyguards of James. The new-age Cavlaliers have a pair of bodies in Timofey Mozgov and Kendrick Perkins to handle a lot of the dirty work, but both were off of the floor when the latest infraction occurred.

“There’s time and places that you can get one off,” Perkins said of said retribution. “I feel like you just have to make sure it’s the right time. But at the end of the day, you’re just trying to go out there and play basketball. It’s a physical game, and obviously he was trying to send a message because he’d been getting beat out there on the pick-and-roll. And it happens. But it’s just bulls—. That ain’t cool.”

Valanciunas went on record saying that he was simply “protecting the rim” with his foul, but Perkins wasn’t having any of it.

It’s a difference between a hard foul and a dirty play,” Perkins said. “Obviously that was a dirty play. He was just going to the basket, you wrap him around the neck. That’s just … . We ain’t got time for that type of s—, man. They say they’re trying to deliver a message, but somebody could really get hurt. You know what I’m saying? I think it was the right call, a flagrant 1, but we just don’t have time for that type of s—. That ain’t cool.”

For all of the attention that this will get nationally, James, a target of these types of maneuvers throughout his career, is handing it well by saying all the right things.

“I don’t want to get too much involved in it because I don’t want to cry about it because it’s not like I’m not able to get back up, but it’s a lot of plays that are just not basketball plays,” said James following the Cavs’ 120-112 win over the Raptors. “And I’ve said it before, it’s just not basketball plays. But the referees, they take care of it. They decide what [type of foul] it is or not. That’s what we got rules for. And for me, I need to maintain my focus and understand how important the game is, but at the same time, protect myself as well.”

Starting the game slowly, James was apparently ignited by the foul. He went on to shoot 4-for-5 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, finishing with 29 points and tie his season high with 14 assists as the Cavaliers officially clinched the playoff tie-breaker over the then two-seeded Raptors.

 

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The Indians’ “All-Time” Spring Training Hall of Fame: Inaugural Class http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/cleveland-indians-spring-training-2/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/cleveland-indians-spring-training-2/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 15:00:48 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140976 With most of the Tribe’s roster pretty well set for 2015, some fans will look at this month’s slate of Spring Training games as a mere prelude to the “ones that count,” or as an outdated, needlessly long series of stretching exercises for guys who already train year-round anyway. For these fans, March marches on

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With most of the Tribe’s roster pretty well set for 2015, some fans will look at this month’s slate of Spring Training games as a mere prelude to the “ones that count,” or as an outdated, needlessly long series of stretching exercises for guys who already train year-round anyway. For these fans, March marches on interminably. But for some of us, these pup days of spring are something far more. For some of us, March is “our moment.” March… is October.

Across the 10 seasons since MLB finally hired an intern to track Spring Training statistics in a quasi-official capacity, a select group of preseason heroes have grabbed this month by the horns, etching their names permanently into Cleveland Indians lore (presumably using the horns as their etching utensils). These were the men who cast the longest shadows in Winterhaven and Goodyear—the journeymen, has-beens, and never-to-be’s who wore their 70-and-up jersey numbers with pride. They swung the lumber or toed the rubber with a swagger only possible when every chip is off the table. For a fleeting moment around St. Paddy’s Day, they each sold us on a dream—the kind of dream that seems cool while you’re in it, but then you wake up and realize it didn’t make any sense. These men make up your inaugural class of…

The Cleveland Indians (Spring Training) Hall of Fame

dubois-hofJason Dubois (OF) – 2006

This one is admittedly a bit of a no-brainer, but yes indeed, Jason Bradford Dubois is a first ballot HOFer. The 6-5 slugger out of Virgina Commonwealth cemented his status as a Spring Training legend long ago—not just in Cleveland, but in memorable pit stops with the Orioles, Nationals, and Cubs, as well. He was a career .356 hitter in preseason ball for his career, spanning a pretty solid sample size of 118 at-bats. But nothing matched that magical spring of ’06 in Winterhaven, when JD went 20-for-48 (a .417 clip) with a couple dingers and an OPS of 1.171. He took that momentum into the regular season, too, albeit for Buffalo, albeit without getting a September call-up, albeit without ever playing in the Bigs again for some cruel joke of a reason.

adammiller-hofAdam Miller (P) – 2007

Here we find the very definition of a guy reaching and–dare we say–eclipsing his potential. While the Indians took a real “woe is me” attitude about #1 prospect Adam Miller never throwing a single pitch for them in a regular season game, the kid was straight up MONEY in March. Sure, maybe he could have been useful to the club later in that fall of 2007 when their pitching let them down in the ALCS. But as the Spring Training statistics clearly show in the permanent record, 23 year-old Miller got the job done down in Winterhaven: 14 IP, 0 ER allowed, 8 K, 0.79 WHIP. Welcome to the Hall, Adam. Or as Rick Manning might have called you one day, “Millery.”

rouse-hofMike Rouse (2B) – 2007

If you stand in the Indians’ abandoned spring facility in Winterhaven, Florida, locals say you can still hear the echoes of Hurricane Rouse—the one-man wrecking crew who changed the way we thought about banjo hitting utility guys. In just 20 games in March of ’07, Mike Rouse hit .352, clubbed 2 dingers, knocked in 11, and stole a base. Some cynical types might point out that Rouse hit .119 in 41 games with the Indians when the season transitioned into “regular” mode, or that his OPS dipped a bit from 1.018 to .334. But they should shut their stupid mouths cuz there’s a Rouse in the house, and the house is a Hall of Fame!

fausto-hofFausto Carmona (SP) – 2010

Before his mysterious disappearance in 2012 (he has never been found), Fausto Carmona was arguably the greatest Spring Training performer in Tribe history. The man we all knew as “Mr. March” was 19-5 with a 2.73 ERA across six springs in Winterhaven and Goodyear. His standout year among standout years was 2010, when the lanky, almost obnoxiously honest Dominican went 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 0.65 WHIP—holding opponents to a .169 AVG in 26 innings. We sure hope somebody finds the young man so that he may one day take the mound in March once more.

travis-buck-hofTravis Buck (OF) – 2011

OK, so, I don’t really remember much about the spring of ’11. I was super busy at the time and baseball was just not high on the priority list. I had things to do.

But apparently Travis Buck ripped off 4 HR, 12 RBI, .393 AVG, and a 1.165 OPS, which is bonkers, because he is generally not considered very good, correct?

raburn-hofRyan Raburn (OF) – 2013/14

This year, people are saying Ryan Raburn is the odd man out in the Tribe outfield. They say the Brandon Moss trade–combined with Raburn’s penchant for spiking baseballs in lieu of throwing them—could cut down his playing time even more than last season. To this, the Indians Spring Training Hall of Fame says, Bollocks!

Ryan Raburn, you are an undeniable all-time great. In 381 career spring at-bats, you’re a .299 hitter with 23 HR, 75 RBI, and a .939 OPS. For real Tribe fans, YOU were the true free agent splash of 2013. Swisher who? Bourn who? It was all about you, Burny, and you delivered: .341 AVG, 5 HR, 12 RBI, and the highest spring OPS in recorded Tribe history—1.258. Last March, more of the same: .333, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 1.071. You’re the baseball playing equivalent of the year’s first robin on the wing, the very exhibition of an exhibition gamer—an exhibitionist, one might say. Congratulations, and welcome to the Hall.

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LeBron James wins Eastern Conference Player of the Month http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/nba-news-lebron-james-player-month/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/nba-news-lebron-james-player-month/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:46:49 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140989 The NBA announced Wednesday evening that LeBron James has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February. James notched his 28th player of the month award (an NBA record, mind you) while averaging 24.4 points (good enough for first in East), 6.6 rebounds, 7.3 assists (second), 1.6 steals (13th), and 0.3 blocks. Along

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The NBA announced Wednesday evening that LeBron James has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February. James notched his 28th player of the month award (an NBA record, mind you) while averaging 24.4 points (good enough for first in East), 6.6 rebounds, 7.3 assists (second), 1.6 steals (13th), and 0.3 blocks. Along with the player of the month honor, he led the Cavaliers to an 8-3 record in February, which were the most wins by any team in the Eastern Conference.

In the 11 games, James notched four double-doubles while reaching several historical milestones. He passed Scottie Pippen for the most assists by a forward (6,135) on February 24th in Detroit. On February 22nd, in Madison Square Garden, James moved past Allen Iverson (24,368) for #22 on all-time scoring list. He has had exceptional performances throughout the month and really helped lead the Cavs to being one of the best teams in the league. With James notching the award for February, it was the 16th time a Cavalier has been honored as player of the month.

While the playoffs are quickly approaching, James and company are still trying to improve. On Wednesday, the Cavs took down the second place Toronto Raptors 120-112 to move into a three-way tie for the second spot in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers are one of the hottest teams in the NBA after they upgraded their roster with the acquisitions of Timofey Mozgov, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert and after LeBron James took that two week sabbatical to get healthy earlier in the season. The season completely turned around after these couple of events. They are on a mission with Player of the Month LeBron James leading the way.

This monthly honor is just another notch in the book of James. He has had a storied career and he looks like he has a lot more to add to the story. Hopefully James and the rest of the Cavaliers will bring out their best basketball once the playoffs are here because well—you know—Cleveland has not had a championship in a really, really long time.

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The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance and an Unexpected Amount of Andrew Hawkins: While We’re Waiting… http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/the-unexpected-virtue-of-ignorance-and-an-unexpected-amount-of-andrew-hawkins-while-were-waiting/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/the-unexpected-virtue-of-ignorance-and-an-unexpected-amount-of-andrew-hawkins-while-were-waiting/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:17:54 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140970 Last Friday, I described the Cleveland Browns’ “chronic credibility” crisis and status as the biggest punchline in the NFL following The Orangening. Within hours of completing the column, Grantland’s Brian Phillips recreated the marketing questionnaire that resulted in the Browns new sans-serif, orangier identity; Jimmy Fallon thanked the Browns for making a nearly identical new logo (as

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Last Friday, I described the Cleveland Browns’ “chronic credibility” crisis and status as the biggest punchline in the NFL following The Orangening. Within hours of completing the column, Grantland’s Brian Phillips recreated the marketing questionnaire that resulted in the Browns new sans-serif, orangier identity; Jimmy Fallon thanked the Browns for making a nearly identical new logo (as all in the joke-telling industry should); and the Browns signed a 35-year-old quarterback who went 1-10 last season. Is it too late to add a few footnotes to my post?

The McCown signing may end up being a savvy move — maybe even a great one. But the Browns don’t enjoy the benefit of the doubt until they prove they aren’t the only team in their division unfit for the playoffs. Until then, the “Kick Me” sign remains stapled to their backside, and the public puntings will continue.

In other news, baseball is back! (even if it is 2000 miles away), and the Cavs survived the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. They remain the favorites to win the NBA Finals in spite of their obvious flaws and their having nine wins less than the Atlanta Hawks (whom they play on Friday). Last week, I introduced the Championship Watch (name pending approval), which gave us a 35.2 percent chance that we won’t be waiting until next year, largely thanks to the Cavaliers. 1 But while we’re waiting….

We love underdogs in Cleveland, and Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins unquestionably qualifies for that distinction. The 5-6, 175 pound wide receiver wrote about his journey to make it to the NFL in part one of a two-part series for The Players’ Tribune this week. In pursuit of his dream to become an NFL receiver, Hawkins competed in a reality TV show hosted by Michael Irving, stalked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, mailed out audition tapes, took an internship in the Lions front office, crashed on friends’ couches, and even sent emails to agents posing as a fictional assistant coach from Toledo (where he went to college). The following anecdote typifies the post.

I was a legit 5’6 ½” without shoes on, and even though I was able to pack on a few pounds through my workouts, I was still pretty light.

I had to get creative again [for Pro Day].

Before my Pro Day, I made a pit-stop at Michael’s — you know, the craft store — to pick up some clay. I bought clay that matched my skin tone, molded it to the heels of my feet and taped my feet up all the way past the ankle, like I would for a game. When it came time to measure me, it gave me about another inch and a half. Then, when I weighed in, I dropped a two-and-a-half pound weight in each of my pockets, which gave me an extra five pounds.

…. When all was said and done, I went on paper as 5’8’’ and 182 pounds. A huge step up from the 5’6’’, 161-pound guy that decided just a few months earlier to take a shot at the NFL.

I’m fascinated by The Players’ Tribune for a couple of reasons.2 First, it allows athletes an opportunity to cultivate their own brand/persona/message themselves, and deliver it directly to their target audience. Second, writing first-person articles for the consumption of fans is simultaneously the most genuine and the most artificial way to interact with fans. It’s genuine in how it grants athletes a chance to verbalize experiences or thoughts from their own perspective in an unprecedented way, and artificial in the way that expression is curated and edited to perfect the most sympathetic and publicly palatable angle possible.3

Many thanks to Hawkins for sharing his story, of which few Browns fans and even fewer NFL fans were aware. It deviates from most sports-related/Tom Rinaldi-esque human interest stories by staying away from his upbringing, focusing only on what it took for Hawkins to get his foot in the door for even a chance to make an NFL roster. The ungrateful ones make fans forget that for most professional athletes, playing their sport at the highest level has been the chief goal of their lives — one they desperately sought and for which they go great lengths on a day-to-day basis to maintain. It’s hard not to root for a guy like Andrew Hawkins, who exhausted every ounce of talent and guile he had to make an NFL roster. He’s also a smart guy (read his imposter assistant coach letter), with an adorable son (as we know from his Instagram) and aspirations to become an NFL GM one day.

As a matter of fact, wannabe GM Andrew Hawkins spoke at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference about the availability of performance data in the NFL, particularly the advent of wearable technology. In today’s edition of “THE FUTURE IS NOWWWWW,” (the Ws are to simulate the sound of foreboding voice of an omnipotent godlike figure shouting from space), ESPN’s Kevin Seifert explains:

Hawkins said the pending availability of performance data will make player evaluation “less of a conversation” and more of an objective assessment, one that can be displayed neatly on a line graph generated by software aligned with GPS-like chips embedded under their pads.

It’s a frightening proposition for many players accustomed to the subjective judgment of coaches and scouts, and leads to obvious questions. How much will objective data impact a player’s value? If a team notices, say, a player’s average speed in practice is trending downward, will he be judged to be dogging it? Or will the team conclude he is simply slowing down and cut him?

“It sucks,” Hawkins said, “but you just understand the business. Whether you like it or not, it’s going to get to that point. In football, philosophically, they would much rather use a rabbit’s foot than actual data from wearable tech to win a football game. But it’s a matter of time before it gets here. You just have to hope there is a balance.”

This is all part of a frightening vision of the future where everything is monitored at all times and every action or inaction is a data point in one universe-defining scatterplot. But in the narrower football sense, Hawkins presents a fascinating scenario, one not necessarily as cold and harsh as Hawkins’ tone suggests it is.

An abundance of quantitative data can make player evaluation more of an “objective assessment,” as Hawkins thinks, but it can also help players, coaches, and fans understand things. Cutting an old or tenacious but under-qualified player will always be difficult, but the use of information in the way Hawkins alludes to can help make sense of the abstract. If a player (and team) can say to a player, with verifiable information, “You are this much slower at this stage in your career, and cannot keep up with receivers anymore,” or, “Your sharp route-running maximizes the distance between you and opposing players,” they won’t only better understand their deficiencies, but better identify areas of improvement.

Obviously, the idea of a robot coming to tell a player he’s cut and will now be euthanized because his 40 time decreased by 10% is a heartless and depressing future. But the influx of information also presents an unheralded rookie or a struggling veteran a chance to make an impression with a statistically exceptional performance that would have been overlooked or ignored in the past. The hope is that data will make football and basketball and baseball and other sports more of a meritocracy. Furthermore, that information presents a new opportunity for organizations and players to have a more open conversation, with even more humanity than before — instead of one rooted in subjectivity and filled with cold finality: “I’m sorry, but we have to let you go.”4

And the award went to… Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

How did I do with my Oscar predictions from two weeks ago? My predictions went 4-of-9, which doesn’t sound great. But it’s within a few tenths of a percent of MVP candidate James Harden’s field goal percentage this season — so that’s not so bad, right? Right???

I saw the Birdman Oscar takeover coming from miles above, but believed what I wanted to believe instead of what I should have. Between The Artist and Argo, I thought the Academy would restrain itself from giving a statue to the one halfway decent movie this year that a studio made about making movies. I was wrong. I thought Birdman was excellent (and may give my thoughts on it some other time), but Boyhood is without question the movie people will remember most when they think back to 2014 five years from now, when we are able to think about more than surviving the ongoing zombie apocalypse. Richard Linkalter will have to keep waiting, and we’ll keep waiting here in Cleveland, too. But in the meantime, let us bask in the unexpected virtue of ignorance.

  1. The Championship Watch will be updated every other week (roughly), so expect one next week.
  2. For the unfamiliar, the Players’ Tribune, founded by The Captain Derek Jeter, describes itself as “a new media platform that will present the voices of professional athletes” primarily via “first-person stories directly from athletes.”
  3. Plus, with very few exceptions, athletes don’t write copy that clean. Without question, some of The Player’s Tribune posts undergo substantial edits. Does this make me, Mr. Spellcheck and Quadruple Re-Edited Writer, a hypocrite? Maybe. But my writing is the product in and of itself. The Player’s Tribune is an unofficial public relations arm for the images of the athletes using it.
  4. Although it’s much more likely that the objective data will be used to justify a release in an email attachment from front office software, forgoing face-to-face contact altogether.

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Cavs vs Raptors Behind the Box Score: Surviving a second half onslaught http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/cavs-vs-raptors-behind-box-score-surviving-second-half-onslaught/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/cavs-vs-raptors-behind-box-score-surviving-second-half-onslaught/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 04:05:34 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140975 Cleveland Cavaliers (39-24) 120 Toronto Raptors (38-23) 112 [Box Score] Click here to sign up for WFNY’s Cleveland Cavaliers email newsletter Whether it be on WFNY podcasts or in previous posts here on WFNY, I’ve frequently said that there’s not too much to be taken away from one regular season NBA game. The NBA is

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Cleveland Cavaliers (39-24) 120
Toronto Raptors (38-23) 112
[Box Score]

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Whether it be on WFNY podcasts or in previous posts here on WFNY, I’ve frequently said that there’s not too much to be taken away from one regular season NBA game. The NBA is less about the individual moments and games, and more about the body of work. You look for trends, habits, streaks, etc. From there, you extrapolate what you can and you formulate thoughts and opinions based on what you’ve seen.

Forget all that for one night, though. This game? I wanted this game. Going on the road in the second night of a back-to-back and walking away with a win against the #2 team in the Eastern Conference would be huge.

For a while, it appeared that it wouldn’t even be a contest as the Cavaliers built a 19 point lead in the third quarter. And then, the Raptors stopped missing shots. As Toronto went on a scorching tear hitting seemingly everything, the Cavaliers lost their composure on offense which led to them chasing their tails on defense. And before you knew it, early in the fourth quarter the Raptors had completely erased the Cavaliers’ lead and turned it into a Cavaliers deficit. It was one of the most frustrating stretches we’ve seen in recent weeks.

To the Cavaliers’ credit, though, they didn’t give in. The Raptors kept draining crazy shots and the Cavaliers would just come back down and match them. In the end, it was just too much LeBron James in the fourth quarter and Cleveland found a way to pull out a huge road game.

The Cavaliers are now in a three-way virtual tie with the Raptors and Chicago Bulls for the two seed in the East. Cleveland is one win up on the other two now, and it sets up another enormous matchup on Friday in Atlanta. The Cavaliers are simply playing great basketball right now and Friday is going to be a truly great test in what could potentially be an Eastern Conference Finals preview.

Now lets get into some numbers…

  • 77.9% – With 3:43 remaining in the third quarter, Greivis Vasquez hit a three pointer for the Raptors to cut the Cavs lead to fourteen points. From that point on, the Raptors shot a blazing 66.7% from the field including 77.9% from three point range (7 of 9). If you need to wipe out a big deficit, shooting like that is one way to do it. The Raptors also hit 13 of 14 free throws over that same period. Lou Williams alone scored 23 points in that stretch. When you see those kind of numbers, it’s really amazing that the Cavaliers found a way to win this game.
  • 29, 26, and 22 – The Cavaliers big trio played like a big trio in this one. LeBron James had 29 points, Kyrie Irving had 26 points, and Kevin Love had 22 points. In the first half, it was Kevin Love’s show as he was hitting big three after big three to help the team build an early lead. Kyrie was incredible attacking the rim throughout the game and with LeBron on the bench it was Kyrie who was trying to keep the team afloat. And then in the fourth quarter, LeBron took over scoring 15 points in the final quarter. LeBron also had 14 assists and 6 rebounds to come up a handful of rebounds shy of a triple-double. It’s been said frequently, but it bears repeating. The Cavaliers are an awfully tough team to beat when these three players are on their games. Despite the Raptors’ incredible second half performance, it still wasn’t enough to overcome the Cavaliers’ big three.
  • 14 – In a night in which the Cavaliers weren’t getting much from their bench, it was James Jones who came up big once again. Tristan Thompson went scoreless while Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova only scored two points each, it was Jones who scored a timely fourteen points to lead the bench unit. With Shawn Marion out with an injury, Coach Blatt has turned to Jones and Jones has been ready to answer the call. Jones knocked down four of his seven three-point attempts and his shooting presence also helped space the floor for LeBron and Kyrie to attack the lane.
  • 28 to 14 – In the second half, it wasn’t just outside shooting that helped the Raptors make their run. Toronto also outscored the Cavaliers 28 to 14 in the paint in the second half. If there’s one issue I take with this game, it’s Coach Blatt’s second half frontcourt rotation. Tristan Thompson had zero points and zero rebounds in the second half. Yet down the stretch it was Tristan on the floor while Love and Timofey Mozgov sat on the bench. Without Mozgov’s rim protection and Love’s rebounding, Jonas Valanciunas was pretty much able to do whatever he wanted. He scored 16 points and had 8 rebounds as he basically tore apart the Cavaliers’ interior. As the fourth quarter was winding down, the Raptors needed to catch up to the Cavaliers, and they tried to do so from the perimeter, so perhaps Blatt felt Mozgov wasn’t needed, but it was still surprising to see Love spend so much of crunch time on the bench.
  • 26, 26, and 25 – While Kyle Lowry sat out this game as he continues to try to recover from his nagging injuries and subsequent slump, the Raptors found a big three performance of their own. Valanciunas and Lou Williams had 26 points each, while DeMar DeRozan had 25 of his own. In previous seasons, the Raptors have been working on remaking themselves as a defensive team. For whatever reason, this season they have been struggling on defense, but they’ve been able to remake themselves as a very deep offensive team with plenty of guys capable of having big nights. The Cavaliers have been one of the best teams at defending the three recently, but tonight the Raptors were able to attack the Cavs defense from the inside-out. The Cavs’ defense seemed to be scrambling most of the night and the Raptors were able to use some great ball movement to keep feeding good outside looks, with Valanciunas, Williams, and DeRozan all able to find scoring opportunities in different ways.

It feels great seeing the Cavaliers pull out a win like this. It would have been awfully easy for the Cavaliers to let this one slip away. And they could have excused it as being tired from playing on the road in the second night of a back-to-back. But with a big game looming on the horizon, the Cavaliers didn’t pack it in. Instead, they rose to the Raptors’ level and came up with a couple stops in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

They won’t have long to savor this one, though. Friday night in Atlanta is going to be a huge game between the East’s two hottest teams.

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Ray Allen says ‘no thanks’ to the NBA—for this season http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/ray-allen-nba-news-rumors/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/ray-allen-nba-news-rumors/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 20:53:08 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140965 After fielding phone calls, texts and DMs from would-be suitors, veteran swingman Ray Allen has decided to pass on all offers to play in the NBA this season. In a press released issued by Tadem Sports and Entertainment, Allen told the world he will stay on the sidelines for the residual portion of the year

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After fielding phone calls, texts and DMs from would-be suitors, veteran swingman Ray Allen has decided to pass on all offers to play in the NBA this season. In a press released issued by Tadem Sports and Entertainment, Allen told the world he will stay on the sidelines for the residual portion of the year and consider his future in due time.

“Over the past several months, I have taken a lot of time to deliberate what is best for me,” Allen said. “I’ve ultimately decided that I will not play this NBA season. I’m going to take the remainder of this season, as well as the upcoming off-season, to reassess my situation, spend time with my family and determine if I will play in the 2015-16 season.”

While the Cleveland Cavaliers were hot on Allen’s trail, much of which was led by former teammate LeBron James, Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears reports that they were by no means alone.

The intriguing portion of this is that Allen appears to be going all Brett Favre on us, refusing to hang up the high-tops and still clinging to the chance that he may play again at some point.

“Ray has received enormous interest from a number of NBA teams throughout this season,” said Allen’s agent, Jim Tanner. “We will communicate with interested teams as Ray makes a decision for the 2015-16 season.”

If Allen does decide to retire, he’ll do so as a two-time NBA Champion who also happens to hold the NBA record for three-pointers made. A sure-fire Hall of Famer, Allen has played 18 seasons, posting a career average of 18.9 points per game.

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Video: LeBron James’ pre-game handshakes with his teammates http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/video-lebron-james-pre-game-handshakes-teammates/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/video-lebron-james-pre-game-handshakes-teammates/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 18:17:35 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140952 The Cleveland Cavaliers are a fun team to watch on the court with the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference at 38-24. The acquisitions of JR Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov have completely changed the course of the season. Along with the winning, the team has seemingly come together and become a family off the

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are a fun team to watch on the court with the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference at 38-24. The acquisitions of JR Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov have completely changed the course of the season. Along with the winning, the team has seemingly come together and become a family off the court. This can be seen with the funny pre-game rituals of the Cavs players. The star of the show, LeBron James, is right in the middle of the pre-game festivities. Check out the video of James’ handshakes with his teammates below, courtesy of Eric Sandy of Cleveland Scene Magazine.

The first part of the pre-game ritual for LeBron James is his hair handshake with Iman Shumpert. Shumpert silhouettes his awesome flat-top (not really flat on top though) and then James does the same (possibly wishing he had hair like his younger teammate?). Once the two are finished with their handshake, James gives a quick double fist bump to announcer Austin Carr and then moves on to James Jones. With Jones, the two simultaneous tighten up their imaginary ties, getting ready to do work. The last stop on the James’ handshake line is newly acquired Kendrick Perkins. In his last stop, James gets an earful in a loving embrace from Perkins. Perkins must be pumping up James and getting him ready for the coming game (It is one of the longest hugs of all time). What a process just to get out to the court for the LeBron James.

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Nobody’s safe in the NFL and nothing is sacred http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/nfl-news-rumors-joe-thomas-cleveland-browns/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/nfl-news-rumors-joe-thomas-cleveland-browns/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 17:19:13 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140942 Part of the reason that the signing of Josh McCown was such big news in Cleveland is because it meant the end of Brian Hoyer. As a player, there’s nothing worth talking about with Brian. Even as I’ve supported him as a player, I only did so while acknowledging that in a given year, he could

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Part of the reason that the signing of Josh McCown was such big news in Cleveland is because it meant the end of Brian Hoyer. As a player, there’s nothing worth talking about with Brian. Even as I’ve supported him as a player, I only did so while acknowledging that in a given year, he could be, at best, a mediocre quarterback. For other fans it went deeper because Brian Hoyer was a local boy. During the Indianapolis game I heard one fan in the stadium chide another for being so disrespectful of Hoyer, who both admitted was playing a horrible game. In the end, the NFL doesn’t have time for feel-good stories or storybook endings. Brian Hoyer’s situation is just a minor case. Starting next season, the Browns are staring down a major one with Joe Thomas, due to the structure of his deal.

But before we get to Thomas, let’s talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I recently read in the Pittsburgh media that the Steelers are hoping that Troy Polamalu retires before the upcoming season. The reason is that the Steelers are hoping that one of their most iconic and popular players helps save them from having to make a business decision and cut him because of his contract. The wild-haired safety is due to hit the cap for $8.25 million in 2015 and $8 million in 2016, so the Steelers could save about $3.5 million on the cap now that his highlights and productivity are starting to dwindle.


Imagine Joe Thomas finishing his career in a Panthers or Cardinals uniform. Does that make your brain hurt a little bit?

None of this is to say that Polamalu doesn’t have value or that he’s worthless on a football field. He’s just no longer the premier player that is being paid on a premier contract. He also plays on a team that has a premier player at the quarterback position who is due to count over $18 million on the cap in 2015 — the last year of his deal. Teams that have quarterbacks that need extensions can’t be flippant with their financial resources, and they can’t be overly sentimental about what a player has meant in the past. It’s the most forward-looking of the sports in that regard.1 No league chews up once-great players and spits them out the way the NFL does.

The Browns won’t be immune either. Joe Thomas has put together an amazing career in a Cleveland Browns uniform and he’s still thought to be one of the best linemen in the NFL, but it only takes one down year for that tide to change. Thomas signed a giant extension with the team that keeps him on the books until the end of the 2018 season, but let me tell you something ugly about that extension: Starting in 2016, Joe Thomas’ deal is basically a year-to-year proposition with the Browns able to save about $10 million in cap space should they find occasion to cut him loose. It was designed that way because it’s after Thomas’ 30th birthday and the team wanted to make sure it had an out available.2 Imagine Joe Thomas finishing his career in a Panthers or Cardinals uniform or something like that. Does that make your brain hurt a little bit?

There’s no conclusion here. There’s no problem to fix. It’s as old as old can be, since Joe Montana played for the Chiefs. It’s just to point it out and recognize it yet again, a day after All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy was traded for a young linebacker — Kiko Alonso — on a rookie deal that costs 10 times less than what the 26-year-old superstar runner counts against the cap. And it’s a league where what might otherwise considered to be a lopsided trade has proponents on both sides justifying both the Bills and Eagles’ maneuver as “good.”

I just find it interesting that the country’s most popular sport is so devoid of sentimentality for the individuals that give us the greatest amount of joy watching it. It can be difficult at times, but we see fans in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis with Manning, and so many other examples find a way to not only deal with it, but show up time and again, over and over. It’s notable and a total contrast to some of the other sports. We’ve all just come to expect it as part of the NFL.

  1. The NBA is a close second with iconic players like Shaq playing out their careers in weird uniforms, but I digress.
  2. Granted the people who put that clause in are no longer here, but still.

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Ohio natives: Brian Hartline decision soon, Ted Ginn visits, and Trent Cole to be released http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/ohio-natives-ted-ginn-and-brian-hartline-and-trent-cole/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/ohio-natives-ted-ginn-and-brian-hartline-and-trent-cole/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 16:51:55 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140940 As we have noted, the Browns have interest in a pair of former Buckeye wide receivers that are currently available. These receivers continue to meet with teams, but will likely sign somewhere before the free agency officially opens. PFT reports that Brian Hartline is spending today in Chicago and will likely make a choice between

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As we have noted, the Browns have interest in a pair of former Buckeye wide receivers that are currently available. These receivers continue to meet with teams, but will likely sign somewhere before the free agency officially opens.

PFT reports that Brian Hartline is spending today in Chicago and will likely make a choice between the Bears and Browns within 24 hours. Of course, he met with the Browns yesterday.

Brian Hartline hopes to make a decision in the next 24 hours, per source. He has visited the Browns and will visit the Bears.

One would think that if the money is equivalent that the Browns might have an advantage as Hartline would have to fight for scraps in Chicago with Ashlon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall locked into the starting roles. With Gordon’s newest suspension, the starting positions for the Cleveland Browns should be open for competition this season.

Adam Schefter reports that Ted Ginn continues to meet with teams but does not report that a decision is imminent from him. Despite earlier reports that Donte Whitner pushed for his former teammate and that Mike Pettine was indeed interested, the Browns have yet to appear on the list of teams that he plans to visit.

former Cardinals WR Ted Ginn Jr. visited Tennessee today and is expected to visit SF on Weds, per league source.

In addition, news broke yesterday that Philadelphia will release Ohio native Trent Cole. The Cincinnati Bearcat alum is a veteran OLB sack specialist who is second on the Eagles alltime sack leaderboard to Reggie White. While the veteran’s production has slipped in recent seasons, he is still a useful player and could still be an interesting addition for the Browns if the price is not too high.

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WFNY’s 2015 NFL Draft Coverage: Joe Gilbert’s Top Five Cornerbacks http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/wfnys-2015-nfl-draft-coverage-joe-gilberts-top-five-cornerbacks/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/wfnys-2015-nfl-draft-coverage-joe-gilberts-top-five-cornerbacks/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 16:27:40 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140935 The 2015 NFL Draft is creeping closer and closer with the first round starting on April 30th. I started my top five draft prospects by position with the safety group. I now turn to the ever-important corner position. Here were my top five cornerbacks in last year’s draft. In the pass happy NFL, cornerbacks are

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The 2015 NFL Draft is creeping closer and closer with the first round starting on April 30th. I started my top five draft prospects by position with the safety group. I now turn to the ever-important corner position. Here were my top five cornerbacks in last year’s draft. In the pass happy NFL, cornerbacks are one of the most important players on the defense. The most talented corners can single-handedly shut down the opposing offense’s best receiving weapon. This year’s class is not a star-studded group, but it contains players who could develop into very good cover corners. So, here are my top five cornerbacks in the 2015 NFL Draft.

1. Trae Waynes, Michigan State

March 2: Safeties
March 4: Cornerbacks

Trae Waynes of Michigan State has the speed and size to be a press coverage corner in the NFL. Last year, in his junior season, he had 46 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, 11 passes defended, and three interceptions. He is my, and consensus, top cornerback in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Waynes, at 6-foot and 186-pounds, is a good athlete with great speed (Running a 4.31 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine). He is an experienced corner in press coverage with the ability to cover on an island (As you can see below). His speed allows him to be a very good deep ball defender. He can keep up with most receivers and can recover from behind using his great speed. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein says, “He’s a bump-and-run cornerback with the length, deep speed and confidence to handle himself down the field against speed.” In zone coverage, he is a smart corner with the ability to read a play and use his speed to break to the ball quickly. He is also willing to help in run support.

Waynes biggest weaknesses are his strength and technique. He is not a strong corner, so bigger receivers can sometimes overpower him. His strength also comes into play when he helps in run support. He is not a great tackler because of his lack of strength. A lot of times, he has to dive at the ankles of the ball carrier to bring him down, but this technique can lead to missed tackles. His technique in coverage is also something he needs to work on. This pops up most often on short comeback routes where he is too slow to transition back toward the quarterback. But overall, his intelligence and athleticism make him the best corner prospect in the draft.

2. Marcus Peters, Washington

Washington’s Marcus Peters might be the most physical cornerback in the 2015 NFL Draft. Last year, in his junior season, he played eight games totaling 30 tackles, four tackles for loss, 10 passes defended, and three interceptions. He has the talent to be a shutdown press corner.

Peters’ best attributes are his physicality and press corner abilities. The 6-foot, 197-pound cornerback plays with a hard nose physical playing style. His physicality shows up most in his press coverage against receivers. He uses his hands well at the line of scrimmage to outmuscle the opposing receiver off his route line. He is very good at playing the ball when thrown his way (See video below). His physicality shows up in run support, too. He is an aggressive tackler in run defense and can make plays in the backfield.

Peters must answer questions about his character and speed. He was dismissed from the Huskies’ team after incidents with his coaches. He is a hot head on the field and can get called for personal fouls. His character is a major question for teams to answer before they can get comfortable drafting him. On the field, he struggles on deep balls because of his lack of long speed. He could struggle against speedy receivers, so he will need to stick to guarding big outside receivers. He also needs to play more consistent and play to his fullest potential. Rob Rang of CBSSports.com says, “Peters comes with off-field concerns but there is no questioning either cornerback’s length, aggression and ball-skills.”

3. Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest

Kevin Johnson of Wake Forest has great agility that allows him to stay with receivers. Last year, in his senior season, he had 44 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, six pass break ups, and one interception. He might be one of my favorite corners in this year’s draft class.

Johnson has the ability to play both zone coverage and press coverage at corner. He has great technique and hips that allow him to change directions and mirror receivers down field (As you can see below). He has the speed to stick with receivers and also break on passes quickly in zone coverage. His ball skills are very good, especially his ability to go high in the air to break up a pass. He is a willing run supporter with the ability to make quick reads to make a play on the ball carrier. ESPN’s Todd McShay says, “Johnson is an underrated cover corner with excellent change-of-direction skills and good size at 6-foot.” He has the ability to play both slot corner and outside corner because of athleticism, size and technique.

Johnson’s biggest weakness is his strength. He is not a big, strong corner, so he could struggle versus bigger receivers at the next level. His lack of strength also hurts him in run support. He does not have great strength to bring a ball carrier down, so he usually has to go low, which can cause missed tackles. The other thing he must improve on is his propensity to bite on pump fakes and get beat deep. He needs to stay patient and not get too aggressive. But, in my opinion, I think Johnson could end up as the best corner of the class.

4. Jalen Collins, LSU

Jalen Collins of LSU is a big corner with good athleticism to go along with his size. Last year, in his junior season, he had 38 tackles, three tackles for loss, 10 passes defended, and one interception. He has the size and speed combination that teams would covet, but he is still very raw.

Collins has great size, weight, and speed that teams would love to have at corner. He is 6-foot-1, 203-pounds with 32 1/8-inch arms and ran a 4.48 second 40-yard dash. He could develop into a versatile corner who can plan man and zone coverage. He is fast to respond to a pass and get to the ball. He has the strength and size to be very difficult at the line of scrimmage in press coverage. ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. says, “I see Collins as one of the bigger upside plays in this draft class, as he offers very good size and exceptional athletic ability.” He can stay with players on deep throws because of his speed (See below). His size makes him a very good corner in run support, too.

Collins is very raw and must work on his technique. He does not have a lot of experience with just 10 starts in his LSU career. He struggles with his footwork, which can lead good route runners to be able to get separation from him. He does not have fluid hips and can struggle changing directions quickly. He also needs to learn how to use his size and length better in press coverage. Collins must learn how to best utilize his natural talent. He has a lot to work on before he can be a fulltime contributor on defense, but he definitely has the talent to be a corner in the NFL.

5. PJ Williams, Florida State

Florida State’s PJ Williams is another corner with good size and physicality. Last year, in his junior season, he had 74 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack, 11 passes defended, one forced fumble, and one interception. He has the experience and production in college that helps make teams more comfortable in drafting him.

Williams is 6-foot, 194-pound corner with 31-inch arms and plays with physicality. His size and physicality makes him a good press corner. He can use his size to reach in front of receivers to knock the pass away from the receiver (As you can see in the video). He can recover when he is behind because of his size and length to reach out and knock the ball away from the receiver. His physicality and size really helps in the run support. He is a willing and aggressive run defender with the ability to bring down ball carriers by himself.

Williams has stiff hips and is not a very fast corner. He does not change direction as fluidly as the other corners on this list. His speed is not great, so receivers can run past him on deep routes. He also occasionally does not look for the ball in the air and allows the receiver to catch it in an area where he could have tipped it away. He does not have great skills in zone coverage because of his lack of quickness to react to the ball. But, even with these weaknesses, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has high praises for Williams saying, “With consistency of effort, Williams could become the best cornerback to come out of this draft.” I am not as high on him as Zierlein.

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Tribe baseball begins and the Cavs bounce back: While We’re Waiting… http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/cleveland-indians-cavaliers-lebron-james-anthony-mason/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/cleveland-indians-cavaliers-lebron-james-anthony-mason/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:15:05 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140898 Happy Wednesday, Blawg Pound. We’ve made it to March. It’s still frickin’ freezing out here, Mr. Bigglesworth. But we’re here and we’re presumably alive, so why not warm your loins and read on? Maybe jog in place while you’re doing it to get that blood circulating. Welcome back to Major League Baseball…sort of. The Cleveland

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Happy Wednesday, Blawg Pound. We’ve made it to March. It’s still frickin’ freezing out here, Mr. Bigglesworth. But we’re here and we’re presumably alive, so why not warm your loins and read on? Maybe jog in place while you’re doing it to get that blood circulating.

Welcome back to Major League Baseball…sort of. The Cleveland Indians played their first competitive game of the season yesterday. Allegedly, anyway, as they were drubbed by the Cincinnati Reds 10-0. Welp, happy baseball season, everybody. So much for the World Series. Thanks for coming.

I jest, of course. I wasn’t able to watch or listen to the game, being stuck with obligations like “a job,” and I especially missed hearing Tom Hamilton’s voice ringing in the baseballing year. Opening Day is the most magical one on baseball’s calendar, but spring ball starting up is a significant benchmark unto itself.

It’s not really about baseball, though. More than athletic events, Spring Training and the Cactus League (and before that, the Grapefruit League) are harbingers of winter (finally, mercifully) ending. You hear about pitchers and catchers, you see the boys doing long toss in the outfield, you read about a hurler adding a new pitch to his arsenal, and you know that all this snow will melt…eventually.

I have always enjoyed how sports provides little signposts for the year. The Masters and Opening Day nearly coincide, and by that point we’ll have seen some buds on the trees and we’ll have heard a few birds twittering away.* The Kentucky Derby unofficially announces the early days of barbecue season. Then playoff hoops takes over, and we’re in the thick of baseball season, suddenly the Fourth of July is here, and boom, summertime is halfway over.

*I mean, I hope so. Or maybe I’m just getting soft.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s plenty going on to keep us amused in the meantime. Including a certain basketball team in town…

The Cavs were back at full strength last night and they trounced the Boston Celtics 110-79. Kyrie Irving returned from his shoulder injury, and Kevin Love played despite some sickness. The Cavs built a 25-point lead against the Celtics in the first half and went on to a 31-point blowout, led by an aggressive LeBron James, a typically sublime Kyrie Irving, forceful interior defending from Timofey Mozgov, and bushels of buckets at the rim.

How lopsided was it? The Cavs bested the Celtics in every standard box score stat: points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, and fouls. No Cleveland player logged more than 26 minutes. Joe Harris played for over a quarter. James Jones scored 10 and had 6 rebounds. Kendrick Perkins threw several right hooks, and they were actual basketball shots.

It was a lovely game to watch, and an impressive win for the Cavs against a Celtics team that is as well-coached as it isn’t talented. The Cavs’ schedule is rough the rest of the way, and they play 9 of their next 12 on the road before getting a reprieve in the form of a three-game home stand. A comfortable victory should be appreciated, especially as injury concerns hang around like an unwanted cubicle visitor.

I am thoroughly excited for the Cavs’ stretch run. I have worked myself into a foamy wine-and-gold lather and spent heaps of time daydreaming about the playoffs. Playoff basketball, man. To me, there ain’t nothing better. It’s been a little while since we’ve seen top-flight summertime basketball in Cleveland, and I’ve missed it. We saw glimpses of tournament-caliber hoops recently when the Cavs played the Warriors and Rockets, and we’ll get more as they face the likes of the Hawks, Spurs, and Grizzlies in the coming weeks.

I have no idea how far this team can go, but I know that they have a damn good team, and that that team includes LeBron. That’s enough for me to think they have a shot to go all the way.

This helps, too:

Presented without comment: OTTO!

Speaking of basketball, a word on Anthony Mason: The former NBA player best known for his brawling with Pat Riley’s New York Knicks of the 1990s passed away last Saturday from congestive heart failure. He was a solid player, averaging better than 10 points and 8 rebounds for his career, but his place in Knicks lore goes deeper. He was tough in mind and body, burly in the post but capable off the dribble, and wedged himself into every Knick fan’s soul.

Rather than try tell you about it myself, I defer to Grantland’s Jason Concepcion, who you may know as netw3rk:

At 6-foot-7 with a carved-obsidian NFL physique and a scowl reminiscent of the actor Bill Duke, Mason appeared, at a glance, to be a hardwood intimidator right out of NBA central casting. Certainly, unapologetic pugnaciousness was an important facet of his game, one that comported nicely with Pat Riley’s Schenectady heel-turn philosophy for the Knicks to be “the hardest-working, best-defending, most-disliked team in the NBA.” After all, Mase broke into the team as a camp invitee in 1991 by fighting with Xavier McDaniel — the Knicks’ marquee offseason trade acquisition, he of Singles and strangling Wes Matthews’s dad fame — five minutes into the team’s first practice. Yet, if brawn, forearm shivers, and six fouls were all there was to Mase’s game, he might be well remembered within the franchise, but he wouldn’t be the revered figure he is today.

At risk of imitating Scene magazine: If you haven’t anything to do Friday evening, and you enjoy some combination of adult beverages and live music, I invite you to enjoy the music and showmanship of Injecting Strangers at Mahall’s in Lakewood. I mentioned the Strangers in this space after seeing them live a shade over a month ago, and I think highly enough of them to make the trip out to the west side, with the requisite passport stamps and all (I’m a Lake County boy). They rock, they roll, and they do it while wearing very, very loud shirts.

So come on out, gang. If you see a tall fellow dancing very poorly, tell him you read WFNY and he’ll buy you a drink. Unless that tall fellow turns out not to be me, that is. Boy, will egg be on your face in that case.

Anywho, thanks for reading, all. I leave you with Injecting Strangers’ music video for their track “Detroit.” The content is a bit adult-y. Act accordingly.

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Taking Care of Business: Celtics at Cavaliers Behind the Box Score http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/taking-care-business-celtics-cavaliers-behind-box-score/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/taking-care-business-celtics-cavaliers-behind-box-score/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 04:48:32 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140917 Boston Celtics (23-35) 79 Cleveland Cavaliers (38-24) 110 Box Score On Sunday in Houston against the Rockets, LeBron James suffered a literal kick to the junk while Cleveland Cavaliers fans endured a figurative kick to the junk. It did not feel good. But no amount of ice and frozen food items applied to the nether

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Boston Celtics (23-35) 79

Cleveland Cavaliers (38-24) 110

Box Score

On Sunday in Houston against the Rockets, LeBron James suffered a literal kick to the junk while Cleveland Cavaliers fans endured a figurative kick to the junk. It did not feel good. But no amount of ice and frozen food items applied to the nether regions of Cavs fans would make the metaphorical swelling go down. Only a victory could accomplish that, with its mysteriously magical all-healing, junk-soothing powers.

It was imperative that the Cavs put an end to their first losing streak since the time B.B. (Before Bowling), and restore some confidence to kick off a brutal four-games-in-five-nights stretch that includes two games against their chief rivals in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs won another laugher at home, but let’s take a look at the posterior of the box score.

31 – The final margin of victory was a gigantic 31 points, with the Cavs sprinting away from the Celtics through much of the game. This ties the Cavs’ 2009 beat down of the Celtics as the largest ever margin of victory for the Cavs over the much-disliked Celtics. It was was delicious, so much so that Cavs fans wanted to lick their fingers like they had just polished off a bag of Chili Cheese Fritos. The Cavs’ largest lead was 44 points. Poor Brad Stevens, a sincere and seemingly bright coach who went to the Celtics via the Butler Bulldogs, watched helplessly as the Cavs made his offensively and defensively challenged Celtics roster look like, well, the Butler Bulldogs. The Cavs needed to take care of business on Tuesday after the consecutive losses and some tough and important games on the horizon — and the Cavs took care of bid-ness.

12 – The Cavs home winning streak is now up to 12 games after Tuesday night’s win. They’re also in the midst of a seven-game win streak by a double digit margin (the team record is nine games). The Cavs are now crushing teams at home, winning by an average of 16.2 points during the 12-game streak. Before the home resurgence, the Cavs were a paltry 11-9 at home. Without a home court advantage, winning streaks (and thus progress) are difficult to start and maintain. The foundation of the lesser talented Cavs teams of 2008-10 was a dominant home court advantage, going 39-2 at home in 2008-09 and reeling off 16 and 23-game win streaks in that span. Although the mediocre 15-15 road record is disconcerting, it appears the Cavs have reestablished a fierce presence in The Q, which will serve them greatly in the playoffs.

15 – The Cavs didn’t even resemble the team that stagnated offensively against the Indiana Pacers last Friday and the Houston Rockets on Sunday. The Cavs’ 15 fast break points didn’t produce the bulk of the scoring, but they did evince a clear mentality: We are here to destroy you. The Cavs are a good team with their best players, there’s no debating that. But when they attack on the break, they become a whole different animal altogether. It’s as if the crafty, feisty Calico that claws teams into submission grows into a giant tiger ready to maul anything in its path. Why don’t they do that every game? Well, most teams are better not letting them do that. But if the Cavs bring the same defensive intensity (especially on the perimeter) every night, the same care with the ball (they had only eight turnovers through the first three quarters, on pace for nearly four less than their average), and the same mentality to push the ball once its secured as they did on Tuesday, they become nearly unstoppable.

7 – The Cavs had seven scorers in double figures on Tuesday night, showing fantastic offensive balance. LeBron James (27), Kyrie Irving (18), Kevin Love (12), J.R. Smith (12), Timofey Mozgov (10), Tristan Thompson (10), and James Jones (10!) all hit double digits for the Wine and Gold. This team looks much more capable when they share the ball without looking they’re straining to share the ball. Act naturally, fellas! The Cavs had 28 assists on 43 made field goals, an excellent assist percentage of 62.2 percent. This needs to become the norm.

33-12 – The Cavs are now 33-12 with Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love all in the lineup. They’re 4-12 without one of the trio. Obviously the team is better with its best players, but the Cavs are really really good with its best three players. The Cavs starting lineup is top-five in the NBA in total plus-minus in only 269 minutes. Irving-James-Love is the second best three-man lineup in the NBA over the last 15 games with a net rating of 30.0 — behind only Irving-Love-Mozgov. Actually, the Cavs have 12 of the top 15 three-man lineups over the last 15 games in net rating. That’s bonkers.1 Cavs fans could see it tonight, but the team has another gear with Kyrie Irving doing Kyrie Irving things.

6, 5, & 4 – Joe Harris (6), Kendrick Perkins (5), and James Jones (4) were the only players to score for the Cavs in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game. That will never happen again. Kendrick Perkins had seven field goal attempts. That will probably never happen again. Kendrick Perkins had five points in a quarter, more than tripling his cumulative point total as a Cavalier from two. That will probably never happen again. But stuff like this happens when the team goes full left shark in the first three quarters. Great win for the Cavs, but the next two games against the Toronto Raptors and the Atlanta Hawks are about as big as two regular season games can be. With the Derrick Rose injury and the Washington Wizards’ recent downward spiral, the Raptors and Hawks are the Cavs’ most threatening rivals in the Eastern Conference.

 

Edit: The post was corrected to eliminate the playoff reference to the Cavs’ 31-point victory over the Celtics. The 31-point victory was the 80th game of the season, on April 12th, 2009. The playoff game in question took place on May 7th, 2010, in which the Cavs won by 29 points over the Celtics.

  1. To be fair, Golden State still owns the season-long net ratings. But, again, the Cavs are a different team After Bowling.

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Forbes: Cavs ranked as No. 2 company to work for in all of sports http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/forbes-cleveland-cavaliers-best-organizations-sports/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/forbes-cleveland-cavaliers-best-organizations-sports/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 21:06:29 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140889 Good new for those aspiring to work in sports within the state of Ohio: You have some of the best options in the country. According to Forbes, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Ohio State University athletics department are among the best in all the land with both being among the top five and Dan Gilbert’s Cavs

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Good new for those aspiring to work in sports within the state of Ohio: You have some of the best options in the country. According to Forbes, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Ohio State University athletics department are among the best in all the land with both being among the top five and Dan Gilbert’s Cavs being ranked No. 2 in all of sports—a list that includes, professional organizations, collegiate programs and marketing/research firms.

According to Jason Belzer:

The sports industry is incredibly competitive, with a high barrier to entry and an even steeper climb to the top. Those that have spent time working in sports know how often organizations turnover employees, whether it be due to the low pay, long hours,  slow climbs up the ladder or any number of other factors that dissuade those who enter from having prolonged stays in the industry. …

I set out to determine just which leagues, teams, agencies and other organizations within the sports industry set themselves apart from the competition when it came to factors such as employee sanctification, work-life balance and career growth. I interviewed many dozens of individuals at all levels of sports, from entry-level sales staff to team presidents, as well as top executive recruiters and university leaders who have trained countless generations of top industry professionals.

The organizations that made the list are as different and varied as the industry they represent. Some employee just a few dozen individuals, others many hundreds. Among the areas of the business represented are professional teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, leagues like the NFL, college athletics departments like the Ohio State University Buckeyes, marketing and consulting agencies like Premier Partnerships and data and research firms such as Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.

The Arizona Diamondbacks take home the crown in professional sports, but the 400-person Cavs fall in right behind. One walk through Quicken Loans Arena on the night of a game and you’ll find a litany of hard-working, service-oriented folks looking to make fans feel as part of the action as possible. Rather than having season-ticket holders, the company has what is called “Wine and Gold United,” wherein their holders (full- and partial-season) are granted access to exclusive events including, but not limited to, Q&A sessions with ownership and the front office.

Sports and marketing are oftentimes are where employees are churned each season. The Cavs have had members of their sales team around since the last time LeBron James was wearing a Cavalier uniform. Long-time employee Scott MacDonald1 is quoted as saying the following:

“I’ve been a part of the Cavaliers family for 10 years and every day I am energized by an environment that inspires success. I work with the most passionate people in the industry who understand ‘yes before no’ will take us to higher places.  Our passion is fueled by an ownership group that is second-to-none in arming us with unlimited opportunities to deliver to our fans and clients, and empowers each of us to create, think and believe. It’s been great and keeps getting better.”

Coming in fourth is the Ohio State University Athletics Department, praised for their individual development. Others given recognition include Chicago’s Navigate Research, Milwaukee’s GNR Marketing, and the National Football League.

 

  1. Disclosure: Mr. MacDonald is a friend of the program.

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Play Ball: Indians spring season begins with McAllister audition http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/play-ball-indians-spring-season-begins-mcallister-audition/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/play-ball-indians-spring-season-begins-mcallister-audition/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 20:12:18 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140884 Finally, the long winter season without baseball games has ended as the Cleveland Indians opened the Cactus League season with a game against their spring baseball partner Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday afternoon. Given that the Indians brought back nearly everyone and did not make any big moves in the offseason (with apologies to Brandon Moss),

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Finally, the long winter season without baseball games has ended as the Cleveland Indians opened the Cactus League season with a game against their spring baseball partner Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday afternoon.

Given that the Indians brought back nearly everyone and did not make any big moves in the offseason (with apologies to Brandon Moss), one of the few and biggest spring training battles is anticipated to be the battle for the fifth position in the starting rotation.

Zach McAllister1 was given the first chance to impress with the first start of the 2015 season. In addition, with the Indians being careful with some injured players and allowing others to ease into their season, the initial lineup featured many of the players that will be fighting for a spot at the end of the 25-man roster including Tyler Holt, James Ramsey, and first-round pick Tyler Naquin.2

Of course, with a lineup like that it should not be a surprise to see the Indians hitters struggle as they did early in the game compiling 8 strike outs in the first 5 innings.

The initial audition from Zach had some positives and negatives. McAllister struck out 3 Reds batters in just 2 innings pitched. The negative is that he also allowed some rather loud contact as the Reds also had 3 line drive hits. Brandon Phillips continued as a Tribe-killer even though it is only Spring Training by hitting a double and scoring the only run that McAllister gave up.

As is the case with spring games, one should not read too much into the lineup or results, but it was interesting to see Francona slot Yan Gomes into the 2-hole behind Jose Ramirez and ahead of Lonnie Chisenhall.

Of course, in typical Yan fashion, he reminded everyone that he is more than just a good hitter by throwing a bullet to Mike Aviles to catch Zack Cozart’s attempt to steal 2B before Francona pulled him and Jose Ramirez to ensure we did not sustain any initial game injuries.

Being Spring Training, the Indians started putting guys out there named Destin Hood, Michael Martinez, Audy Ciriaco, Jordan Smith, and Ryan Rohlinger along with Charles Brewer and Bryan Price pitching. None of these individuals are expected to be anywhere near the 25 man roster this year and the Reds tacked on a quick 7 runs by keeping many of their starters in the game even with Destin Hood making a really nice catch against the outfield wall.

May this be the beginning of an exciting and memorable season of Indians baseball.

[Related: Indians watch parties provide chance to win Opening Day Tickets]

  1. He’s out of options and, so, likely to start April on the 25-man roster in some capacity.
  2. All of the Tylers.

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“I guarantee every team in the league would take his defense and be thrilled.” http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/terry-francona-michael-brantley-defense/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/terry-francona-michael-brantley-defense/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 19:09:25 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140877 The way defensive metrics rate Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has officially perplexed Terry Francona. In an interview conducted a few days back in Goodyear, Arizona, Francona admitted that, while he has been in the game for quite some time, he has no idea why advanced analytics rate the MVP candidate so poorly. “I have no

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The way defensive metrics rate Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has officially perplexed Terry Francona. In an interview conducted a few days back in Goodyear, Arizona, Francona admitted that, while he has been in the game for quite some time, he has no idea why advanced analytics rate the MVP candidate so poorly.

“I have no idea. For the life of me, I can’t understand it,” he said. “That’s something that perplexes me to no end. He’s one of the best left fielders in the game. I don’t get it. I don’t know if I ever will.”

While he was masterful with his bat in 2014, defensive metrics were none to kind to Brantley in the way of coverage and ability to prevent runs. In a piece published at WFNY late last season, we discussed how Brantley was one of the reasons why the team was grading out so poorly when it came to fielding the ball and stopping the opponent from crossing the plate. According to Fangraphs, Brantley ranked 42nd out of 59 left fielders with a minus-6.3 UZR 150; he ranked 37th with minus-3 defensive runs saved. As Zach Meisel from Cleveland.com points out, among 15 players who logged 800 or more innings in left field, Brantley ranked 14th in UZR.

In a piece written by WFNY’s Jacob, Brantley is compared to Derek Jeter (a Gold Glove winner) in the way that his range is the biggest downfall. He catches balls he can get to—he just doesn’t get to many. Taking a list of defensive runs saved above average, and Brantley falls in 120th with a -3. (This compares to Kansas City’s Alex Gordon, the eventual Gold Glove winner, who prevented 27 more runs than the average player—worth almost three wins with this alone.)

The Indians, as a team, had the second-best FIP (fielding independent pitching) mark in baseball last season, but had the 13th worst earned run average, large in part to the lack of coverage displayed across the board.

When it comes to counting stats, however, Brantley faired well, recording just one error and 12 outfield assists.

“The defensive metrics are still a work in progress,” added Francona. “I guarantee every team in the league would take his defense and be thrilled.”

 

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Justin Gilbert working out with Joe Haden http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/justin-gilbert-joe-haden-twitter/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/03/justin-gilbert-joe-haden-twitter/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:53:28 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=140864 Through all of the distractions that the Cleveland Browns had to endure with regard to quarterback Johnny Manziel, it was fellow first-rounder Justin Gilbert who drew the ire of his veteran teammates. One of the veterans who spoke about Gilbert was fellow cornerback and first-round draft pick Joe Haden, a player who also came in

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Through all of the distractions that the Cleveland Browns had to endure with regard to quarterback Johnny Manziel, it was fellow first-rounder Justin Gilbert who drew the ire of his veteran teammates. One of the veterans who spoke about Gilbert was fellow cornerback and first-round draft pick Joe Haden, a player who also came in to the league with a boat load of expectations, a passion for flashin’, and subsequently missed time due to poor decisions.

Fast forward to this offseason and we’ve seen encouraging words from head coach Mike Pettine, but in a world where actions speak louder than words, we now see the No. 9 overall pick in the 2014 draft working out with Haden.

“I don’t want to be the guy who beats them down,” Haden said of Gilbert and Manziel following the team’s 7-9 season. “I really like them, I like them as teammates. People make mistakes and I’m all about giving people a second chance. This, having everyone on their backs like this, I hope it can tighten them up and change them.”

UntitledGilbert, who was suspended for the team’s Week 17 finale, showed flashes throughout his rookie campaign, but largely failed to live up to the expectations that come with being the first cornerback drafted in one’s particular class. Widely criticized for his immaturity and lack of preparation, Pettine, this past February, stated that Gilbert was dealing with “more than” immaturity during his rookie season and cited a “very personal” issue that contributed to his struggles on the field.

Gilbert played in 14 games as a rookie, defensing eight passes, recording 29 tackles and hauling in an interception which he returned for a touchdown. In a season that was marred with more downs than ups, Gilbert remains the poster child for what could turn out to be a disastrous first-round for Browns GM Ray Farmer. Haden, however, believes that the supremely talented corner can turn things around—he just has to take the requisite steps to make that happen.

“They have to look in the mirror and want it for themselves,” he said. ” . . . You have to show up and do everything the right way. You know it’s going to take awhile to get that respect, not respect, but accountability to get people believing in you that you’re going to do your thing. It just takes time.”

The kid is a physical freak. It’s just been about putting all of the pieces together. Spending offseasons with a two-time Pro Bowler is a great first step in the right direction.

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