Sunday, June 24, 2007

Five things I think

Some assorted observations about Cleveland sports as the month of June draws to a close...

1. No one knows what the Cavaliers are going to do this offseason, not even the media.

Brian Windhorst says the Cavs won't bend over backward to keep Anderson Varejao. Terry Pluto says essentially the opposite, noting that the Cavs might value keeping Varejao over Sasha Pavlovic, thanks in part to the emergence of Daniel Gibson.

When two of the pillars of Northeast Ohio sports writing are contradicting each other, you know getting a gauge on the Cavs offseason is akin to reading tea leaves.

When a team enters an offseason fresh off their first-ever NBA Finals appearance, with no draft picks and virtually no salary cap space, I guess that is to be expected.

2. However, we can probably take this to the bank...

Danny Ferry is going to try like crazy to maneuver his way into a first round pick in time for Thursday's draft. Ferry knows a draft pick would be an inexpensive way to add a key piece to next year's team, and he has the expiring contracts of Ira Newble and David Wesley (plus up to $3 million in cash) to potentially offer to a team more interested in conserving cap space than having two first-round picks to sign.

Teams with multiple first-round picks include Philadelphia (12, 21 and 30), Charlotte (8 and 22), Phoenix (24 and 29) and Detroit (15 and 27). The 24th pick was originally Cleveland's, traded to Boston in the 2005 Jiri Welsch deal, then subsequently sent to Phoenix in the Rajon Rondo draft day trade of a year ago.

3. The Tigers are about to put some serious distance between themselves and the rest of the AL Central.

Detroit has won seven straight after a 5-0 blanking of Atlanta on Sunday night. They are rounding into form with the return of Kenny Rogers, and Justin Verlander looks like he is about to jump into the thick of the AL Cy Young Award discussion.

The Indians, quite simply, do not have the firepower on the mound or at the plate to compete with a Detroit team clicking on all cylinders. If Detroit is kicking into fourth gear, Tribe fans had better start thinking wild card.

4. And the wild card might be a rumor, too, if things don't change quickly.

Not to pile on the Indians too much as their June swoon continues, but ... well, yeah, let's pile on, because this team is playing like crap.

They have lost road series to the Reds and Nationals, two of the worst teams in the National League. By all rights, the Nats should have swept them.

The problem is the Tribe's dormant bats, yes, but it's also the routine brain cramps that plague every aspect of the team. Whether it's Rafael Perez forgetting about a runner at third base and letting him score, Cliff Lee forgetting about any runner on base or Grady Sizemore letting a base hit skip by him and roll to the warning track, this team's struggles go beyond the plate.

At some point, the blame has to reach the manager's chair. Mental breakdowns and an inability to sustain good baseball for long periods have become an Achilles' heel for the Indians under Eric Wedge. Having Mark Shapiro for a boss seems to give Wedge a Teflon coating against criticism, but the proof is between the white lines, every time a Tribe player goofs and makes a bad situation worse.

Is Wedge to blame? Is he an ineffectual leader? Or are there some guys who just aren't all that interested in playing for their skipper? I mean, you have to wonder why you never seem to hear anyone publicly comment about what a great manager Wedge is to play for.

5. Two first-rounders equals two agonizing holdouts.

Everybody agrees that signing Brady Quinn is probably going to be a long, drawn-out, excruciating process for Browns management. After all, Quinn was projected as a Top-5 or Top-10 pick on most teams' draft boards, yet he slipped to 22.

The Browns are probably going to want to pay Quinn like a 22nd overall pick. Quinn is going to want to be paid like the Top 5 pick he was supposed to be.

So the ongoing dialogue of "We selected you at 22" ... "Yeah, but you projected me in the Top 5" ... "Yeah, but we took you 22nd" ... "Yeah, but you projected me in the Top 5" will go on and on and on ... and on and on and on and on until we are ready to use our recently-mailed Browns season tickets to slit our wrists.

But, ahh, then there's Joe Thomas. Good ol' Joe. He's a steak-and-potatoes kind of guy who just wants to get into camp and get to work on becoming the Browns' left tackle of the future. Right?

Uhh ... maybe not quite like that. Thomas is apparently as good of a holdout candidate as anyone.

At some point, maybe the NFL will wise up and slot rookie salaries the way the NBA does. Until that day, the rookie holdout will be a midsummer staple of the NFL.


Zach said...

But Erik, 87 wins is an acceptable win total for this market.
Your friend
Mark S.

Larry Dolan said...

Correction -- it's an acceptable win total for a cheapskate fan base that won't turn out to support our product.

Sell out 455 straight games like you did for Dick Jacobs and then we'll talk.

Joel said...

Clearly, we disagree.

Stay away from the draft!!!

Joel said...

Meant to add this into my comment:

Suss said...

You're giving the Tigers a lot of credit, specifically their bullpen.

P.S. - Can you give Rafael Betancourt to them? They promise to return him back to you at the end of the year. Promise.

Eerie word verification: "neygo"

Erik said...

If the Tigers can find a way to instantly ramp Betancourt's salary up to about $8 million a year, I'm sure the Indians would be more than happy to let Detroit have him for a partially-used pouch of Big League Chew.