What Did You Expect From Browns?

It was shocking to read and listen to both fans and media alike being irritated by the Browns’ performance Friday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What did these people expect?  Did they believe Hue Jackson’s team was suddenly going to dominate another NFL team?

After Jackson was hired and Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta took over control of the franchise, the management has made no bones about the direction of the team.  They were going to get younger and build through the draft, really the only tried and true method of building a winning football team.

If you have read this blog since the beginning of 2016, we have advocated and predicted that Brown and DePodesta were going to rid the roster of most of the over 30 years of age crew.

After all, the only thing worse than being a bad team is being a bad, old team.

The purge started with Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby, Dwayne Bowe followed, and now Paul Kruger and even punter Andy Lee were moved off the squad.

And we believe that Tramon Williams, Andrew Hawkins won’t be here for week one, and we have a feeling that Josh McCown won’t be either.

The Browns are accumulating young players and draft picks, and when you play a lot of inexperienced players, losing usually follows.  At least at the beginning.

The expectation is the team will build around the players taken last season that weren’t really given a chance to play, the 14 draft picks taken last April, and all of the picks the front office has accumulated in the 2017 and 2018 NFL Drafts.

That doesn’t mean the players and coaching staff will not try to win every week, of course they will, that’s imbedded in the DNA of competitive people.

However, they are usually going to be outmanned in each game, mostly because of a lack of experience.

What the front office is trying to decide is who can be a contributing player in 2018 or 2019, when this team is ready to make a legitimate playoff run.  If it happens sooner, then great, all that means is the Browns will be winners and still have a boatload of draft picks.

Gone is the philosophy of bringing veterans to patch some holes and keep the team somewhat competitive, perhaps winning five or six games so the coaching staff can say the Browns are improving.

Instead, the organization is throwing a lot of stuff against the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

The rookies and second year players are going to get to play and prove themselves.  If they get better as the season progresses, the coaches and front office will determine them to be keepers.  If they can’t get it done, they will be replaced by younger players acquired in the next two drafts.

It’s not a mystery.  Every signal given by the folks in Berea indicate just that.

So, don’t be surprised if this team loses in the early part of the season, and sometimes, the games will be flat out ugly.

And if the team doesn’t show some improvement as the season goes on, then you can be concerned, because that’s the plan.

In the meantime, get ready for more veterans to depart and more young players, particularly players cut after the final cut this weekend, to be brought in.

Frankly, we are puzzled as to why people were expecting anything different.

JD

 

 

Tribe’s Strength Is Failing Them

At the All Star break, the Cleveland Indians were sitting in first place with a 52-36 record and considered a favorite for the American League pennant because of their dominant starting pitching.

Two of the rotation members, Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar made the AL roster for the Midsummer Classic, and a case could be made for Josh Tomlin (9-2, 3.51 ERA) as well.

Carlos Carrasco wasn’t considered because he missed a good chunk of the first half with a hamstring injury and Trevor Bauer (7-3, 3.30 ERA) was pitching as well as he ever had in the big league tenure.

Collectively, Tribe starters had a 3.70 ERA at that point.  Surely, it would be difficult to beat them in a short series.

My, how things have changed.

The Indians still lead the Central Division by 4-1/2 games over the Tigers and 5 over the surging defending champion Royals, but the starting rotation, considered the strength of the team by nearly everyone, experts and fans alike, is leaking oil.  Badly.

Since the break, the Cleveland rotation has an ERA of 4.92, and this isn’t a ten or fifteen game stretch we are talking about.  This span has now lasted 40 games, or a quarter of the major league schedule.

And if you remove Kluber’s sterling second half (5-0, 1.84 ERA) out of the mix, the remainder of the starting pitchers have a 5.87 ERA in the second half.  If this continues, Terry Francona’s team will have a problem getting into the post-season, let alone making it all the way to the Fall Classic.

Here is how the rest of the rotation has fared since Kluber was the winning pitcher in San Diego to give the AL home field advantage in the World Series:

Bauer         2-3     5.20 ERA      45 innings
Tomlin      2-6     7.29 ERA      45-2/3 innings
Carrasco   4-4     4.25 ERA      55 inningsSalazar      1-2   10.70 ERA      17-2/3 innings

Salazar was disabled for two weeks with some discomfort in his elbow, and in his two starts since has lasted a total of five innings.  Today’s start versus Texas is a huge start for him, the manager, and the pitching coach.

Francona didn’t use Mike Clevinger last night because he knew he needed him today in case the right-hander could only give him two or three innings.

Carrasco has been the next best pitcher after Kluber, but he has had starts where he dominates early, and then starts getting hit hard.

Bauer has been a mystery for most of his big league time, but looked to have figured it out in the first half.  In the last month or so, he has started walking hitters again, and has been prone to the gopher ball.  He did out duel Max Scherzer in Washington though.

When he has been good, he’s been very good.  On the other hand…

Tomlin has been awful, with a 7.29 ERA over 45 frames.  In many of the games he has started, he’s given the Tribe no chance to win.  He has been especially bad against the better teams in the AL, and gives up dingers at an incredible rate.

Early in the year, most were solo shots, which is fine, but lately, they have been three run blasts and grand slams.  Those are killers.

Can these guys get it back?

Carrasco and Bauer’s issue seems to be consistency.  They are good some days, but horrible others.  That seems fixable.

Is Salazar healthy?  If so, he’s a dynamic third starter in the playoffs (assuming the Indians make it), capable of dominating opponents.  If not, that’s a huge chasm to fill.

Tomlin has always been a back of the rotation guy anyway, albeit a solid one.  He’s probably not going to start in the post-season anyway.  But the Tribe needs another capable starter from here on out in the regular season.

Another failure Tuesday night vs. Minnesota could force Francona and Callaway to make a change.

Right now, this should be the biggest concern for any fan of the Indians.  The team’s perceived strength as little as six weeks ago, has turned into a humongous question mark.

KM

Browns Good At One Thing: Promoting Themselves

While many fans have complained about the fortune of the Cleveland Browns on the field since they returned to the NFL in 1999, they have established excellence in one area.  And that is being in the forefront of the Cleveland sports media.

This “tradition” didn’t start in with the rebirth of the franchise.  It really goes back to the early 60’s, and Art Modell.

The former owner of the Browns was a media darling, always glib and very friendly with the local scribes and broadcast media alike.

Modell started the practice, which continues today, of having one of the local television anchors as the team’s radio play-by-play people.  Since the mid 1960’s, we have seen Gib Shanley, Jim Graner, Nev Chandler, Jim Mueller, Casey Coleman, and now Jim Donovan at the voice of the Browns.

That way, the broadcaster and station has a vested interest in covering the local professional football team.

A few years ago, when the Browns’ local radio contract was up for grabs, they did something that can be considered ingenious, making both of the city’s sports talk stations the “Home of the Browns”.

They even have their own self-serving show on daily on WKNR, Cleveland Browns Daily, which runs year round, and is hosted by Nathan Zegura, listed on the Browns’ website as Senior Media Broadcaster.

Can you imagine the Indians or Cavaliers asking any radio station in the northeast Ohio area to put a daily, hourly show to talk about either of these franchises.

Apparently as part of this deal with the two stations, listeners get to hear the head coach’s daily press conference in which he gives very little to no information.

Terry Francona and Tyronn Lue speak to the media everyday before the game during the season too, it’s just that no one is interrupting the normal broadcast schedule to put them on the air.

When the Browns’ play a game, it is hard to find a station that isn’t carrying the broadcast, as they also include 98.5 FM as a “Home of the Browns”, and they have other stations in the Akron area too.

If you do a scan on your car radio during a Browns’ game, more often than not, you will find a station broadcasting the football game.

You have to admire the job they’ve done in this regard, and wonder why the other teams in the market don’t do the same thing.

Particularly, the Cleveland Indians, who need all the help they can get getting air time on local sports talk stations.

The past two days, with the Tribe in a prime position to make the playoffs, the bulk of the air time on sports talk radio was devoted to Josh Gordon, a receiver who has been suspended for 27 of the Browns’ last 32 games.

The stations will tell you the fans will provide the direction of their shows, but why wouldn’t fans talk about the Browns when it is all around them?

We have said in the past that the Indians made a terrible miscalculation by staying on WTAM, which dedicates very little non game time air to the team.  If they had gone to either WKNR or 92.3FM, do you think there would be more discussion about the team that fills their airwaves on most summer nights?

The Cavs have LeBron James and are NBA Champions.  They will hold the area’s interest no matter what they do for the foreseeable future.

You have to tip your hats to the way the Browns handle this part of their business.  Now, about the on the field stuff…

MW

Tribe’s New Bullpen Order

We have been chronicling the Indians’ bullpen issues all year long.  There were numerous games where Cleveland led or were tied after six innings, only to lose the game late.

There were also several times where the offense came back to tie the contest, only to lose in the end.

It’s why we kept insisting that the relief corps was the top priority to address heading into the trade deadline on August 1st.

Of course, the front office did just that, getting perhaps the game’s best fireman, Andrew Miller from the Yankees.

It is the southpaw’s versatility that is the reason we call him the best reliever in the sport.  He’s not just a closer, a guy to get the last three outs of a game, sometimes with a three run lead.  He is open to be used anytime, and Terry Francona has obliged him in that regard.

The big lefty has struck out 93 hitters in 56 innings, and the skipper has used him to close, as well as in the sixth inning of one game.

When the situation is there and the opposition’s best hitters are in the way, it seems that Miller is the guy Francona is relying on, and that is perfectly fine.

That’s why it was curious to see Tito use Cody Allen in the ninth Sunday against the Blue Jays in a one run game.

Another reason Miller is so effective is his control.  He throws strikes.  In addition to the 90 strikeouts, he has walked just eight batters.  He has faced 206 batters this season, and has been behind in the count 17 times.

Cody Allen still seems to get most of the closing opportunities, and he has been very good.  The blown save last week vs. Chicago was only his third in 27 chances.  That’s very good.

But where Allen can be frustrating is in his nibbling.  That, or perhaps his stuff moves so much, it’s difficult to throw strikes.

This was issue Sunday, when he appeared to not want to be aggressive with Josh Donaldson.  If Donaldson hits one out, it’s a tie game.  If he walks the reigning AL MVP, he brings Edwin Encarnacion, who has belted 34 homers, to the plate with a chance to give Toronto the lead.

Allen has an excellent strikeout to innings pitched ratio too, fanning 68 in 52-1/3 innings.  But he was walked 23 batters.

He has been behind in the count 39 times in the 209 hitters he has faced.  For some reason, that seems like it should be higher.

The point here isn’t that Allen isn’t a very good reliever, it’s just that he’s not the best one currently on the staff.

And if Francona has to use Allen in the ninth inning because he used Miller against the opponent’s best hitters in the 7th or 8th, that should be a comforting feeling.  Allen is that good.

However, if it’s the ninth inning and Miller is rested and hasn’t been used, he should be the guy on the mound.  Because he’s the best bullpen guy on the squad.

Also, add in a more rested Bryan Shaw to the mix and you have the type of ‘pen that makes it imperative for opponents in the playoffs (assuming the Tribe is there) to have a lead after six frames.

With Shaw, Miller, and Allen waiting, their chances to score won’t be very good.

KM

 

 

 

Ramirez’ Emergence Not A Huge Surprise.

At the beginning of the season, we are sure you could have taken a lot of action on the Cleveland Indians being in first place by seven games on August 21st if people would have known Michael Brantley would only play 11 games this season.

Brantley is, after all, one of the best hitters in the game.  He’s a guy who puts his bat on the ball, has some pop, and is one of the better hitters in baseball with men in scoring position.

Surely, if he were missing, the Indians’ struggling offense (as it was thought of before the season started) would not be able to score enough to put the Tribe in contention for the post-season.

Then again, at that point, no one was figuring Jose Ramirez for anything but a “super utility” role.

Coming into the season, Terry Francona planned to use the switch-hitter in the outfield and infield, being able to give breaks to Brantley, Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, and play 3B to give Juan Uribe a break.

Brantley’s injury forced Ramirez into basically an everyday role in LF and at 3B, and when Uribe didn’t hit at all, and GM Mike Chernoff traded for Brandon Guyer to help in the outfield, the 23-year-old settled in at the hot corner.

While no one expected Ramirez to hit .311 in his first year as a regular, his pedigree in the minors, where he is a .304 hitter lifetime, shows Jose has the ability to hit.

We forget that Ramirez came up at the end of the 2013 season, when he was just 20, to provide speed and defense off the bench for the post-season push.  He started that year in Akron where he hit .272.

If not for his speed and the ability to handle three infield spots (2B, SS, 3B), he wouldn’t have been added to the roster.

He started 2014 in AAA and was called up when Jason Kipnis hurt his oblique.  He went 2 for 25 until he was sent back to Columbus on May 19th.

He did hit .302 (801 OPS) with the Clippers until he was recalled after Asdrubal Cabrera was traded to Washington at the deadline.  He batted .283 with the Indians the rest of the season, establishing himself in the organization.

Keep in mind, that Ramirez was just 21 years old at the time.

Last year, he was handed the shortstop job out of spring training, but didn’t look like the same player that took over for Cabrera the year before.  He hit just .176 and struggled in the field.

We believe there were too reasons for that.  First, Ramirez is a natural second baseman, not a shortstop and he was also probably looking over his shoulder at the progress of Lindor, the organization’s top prospect.

After Lindor arrived, and Ramirez went back to the utility role, he hit .259 (775 OPS) the rest of the year.

In between, he batted .293 in Columbus.

This year, he feels he belongs in the big leagues, and he is also getting better with age, as most good players do.  His average is at .311.  His OPS is 821.

The good news is he is still just 23 years old, so it is likely he will continue to improve.

He’s been the key player for the Indians, a team likely to make the post-season.

We have said this before.  The best thing to like about this Tribe squad is their two best position players are 22 (Lindor) and 23 (Ramirez).

That bodes well for the window of contention staying open at Progressive Field for a few years.

MW

Good And Bad So Far From Browns

Thank goodness that half of the NFL’s preseason schedule is over for the Cleveland Browns.

After the first exhibition game against Green Bay, where the Packers stopped just short of bringing fans out of Lambeau Field to play against the Browns, last night we got to see the brown and orange play against legitimate players, at least for the first half.

Yes, Cleveland lost to Atlanta at First Energy Stadium last night, but at least now we can make some judgments on this football team, as they head into a week of practices against Tampa Bay next week, followed by the “dress rehearsal” a week from today in Florida.

Robert Griffin III has shown flashes of why he was the 2nd overall pick in the draft a few years ago.  He has a big arm, has been accurate for the most part, and has learned how to slide when he runs with the football.

We said in the off-season that signing the former Heisman Trophy winner was the ultimate low risk, high reward gamble.  After all, it’s not like Griffin is replacing Tom Brady, the alternative is veteran journeyman (and media favorite) Josh McCown.

The right move is finding out if Griffin can play, and so far, so good.

A year ago, Mike Pettine and his staff cut Terrelle Pryor right before the regular season started, then brought him back later in the season and virtually ignored him.

We realize that Pryor has greatly improved his wide receiver skills in the off-season, but you still have to wonder why the previous regime didn’t feel the need to work with him more.  After all, the guy is a special athlete.

The running game looked good last night as well.  Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson have been effective and Terrell Watson has looked good against second team defenders.  We’d like to see him with the first unit next weekend.  If the Browns are going move the ball effectively and try to shorten games, they must run the football.

And we would also like to see rookie Carl Nassib with the first team defense at times.  You can’t help but notice the 6’7″ kid from Penn State, and not just because of his size.  He’s all over the field when he’s in.

The problems on defense continue to be the inability to stop the running game and not being able to get off the field on third down.  Those two issues have plagued this franchise since they returned to the NFL in 1999.

If you can’t run the ball and you can’t stop the run, you can’t win in the NFL despite it becoming a passing league.  The Cleveland defense seems to be consistently in second and short situations, and if they do get to third down, it’s usually at a make able distance.

We would also like to see more of the young wide receivers.  We still believe that Andrew Hawkins will not make the opening roster, but so far, we haven’t seen a lot of the rookie wide outs taken this spring.  We know injuries play into that, but it’s still a problem.

We understand this is still pre-season and much of the game plans are very vanilla. However, it is easy to spot these trends.

On the other hand, we are halfway done in regards to the exhibition games.  Based on the quality of these game, be very thankful for that.

JD

 

Tribe’s Struggles Vs. Good Teams: Fact or Myth?

After yesterday’s 3-2 loss in a make up game against the Boston Red Sox, the whispers surrounding the Cleveland Indians started up again.

The Indians cannot beat good teams.

There are nine teams in the American League that have records over .500 and the Tribe is 23-25 against those opponents.  That sounds okay, until you see that 11 of those victories and only one of the losses came versus the Detroit Tigers.

Against all the other winning teams in the league, the Tribe is 12-24.

Overall, the best records against teams over the .500 mark is owned by the Texas Rangers, who are 39-22, buoyed by an 11-2 mark vs. Houston.  Toronto is next at 37-26, as they are 21-14 against the other three contenders in the AL East, the Red Sox, Orioles, and Yankees.

That would make it seem that indeed Terry Francona’s squad is struggling against good teams.

Here is a breakdown against each team, excluding the Tigers.

Texas (1-2, all games in Cleveland):  The Rangers were here on Memorial Day and hammered both Josh Tomlin and Corey Kluber, defeating them 9-2 and 7-3 respectively.  Trevor Bauer stemmed the tide in the finale, but Cody Allen blew the save and the Indians won in 11 innings.

Cleveland travels to Texas at the end of the month, but the Rangers saw only one of the Indians’ best three starters.

Seattle (3-4, 1-2 at CLE, 2-2 on the road):  Carlos Carrasco beat the Mariners 3-2, and Danny Salazar lost a 2-1 decision, before the Mariners won in extras on a Robinson Cano HR off Allen in a game started by Cody Anderson.

In Seattle, Bauer won the opener 3-1, before Anderson lost 7-1 and Carrasco lost 5-0.  Tomlin pitched well in the last game, with Cleveland scoring three in the 8th for the win.

One game was a bullpen loss, and Seattle has seen the “Big Three” times.  Wouldn’t say Tribe was dominated.

Houston (1-2, all on road):  The Astros got to Kluber big time winning 7-1, before Bauer won the second game 4-0.  The last game went 16 innings with Anderson giving up a game winning HR.

The Astros come to Cleveland on Labor Day, and the last game of the series could’ve went either way.

Baltimore (1-5, 1-2 in CLE, swept in the Charm City):  The Birds won two of three at Progressive Field taking advantage of the Indians’ bullpen.  Salazar got the win.  The other starters were Bauer and Mike Clevinger.

The Tribe offense was stymied on the road, scoring just six runs in the three game series, the last game was a walk off.  Bauer, Tomlin, and Kluber started.

We would agree the Orioles have dominated the Indians.

Boston (2-4, 1-2 in both CLE and BOS):  The Sox won the season opener vs. Kluber and lost late in a game started by Carrasco.

At Fenway, Kluber shutdown Boston, but Bauer and Salazar struggled before the make up game loss yesterday in which Tomlin pitched well.

This is a little concerning as well.

Toronto (2-2, all in Canada):  Carrasco carved up the Jays in the series opener and the second game was the 19 inning epic battle started by Tomlin.

Because of that game, Zack McAllister was pressed into service in the third game and Kluber simply didn’t have it in the finale.

The Jays are here this weekend so we will get a truer test.

New York (2-5, 1-3 in CLE, 1-2 in the Bronx):  The series in Cleveland was right after the 14 game winning streak, and the Tribe was on fumes heading into the All Star break.

At Yankee Stadium, Tomlin struggled, but Kluber shutdown the Yanks bats.  The third game was a tough 3-2 loss by Carrasco.

The Yankees aren’t really a contender for a division title, and the performance just before the break makes this hard to evaluate.

The only excuse we would make is the Cleveland bullpen is much better with the arrival of Andrew Miller.  We see four games blown late because of the relief corps.  Reversing these games makes the Tribe 20-24 on the year against these teams.

These teams have also taken advantage of the back of the Indians’ rotation, winning 10 of the 15 games started by pitchers other than Kluber, Carrasco, or Salazar.

Tomlin, in particular, has struggled against these teams, with the Tribe winning just two games he started against these squads.

The good news is outside of the Tigers (seven more games), there aren’t too many games left vs. these teams, only nine, and six of those (Toronto and Houston) are at home.

Francona’s team struggled against the Orioles and Red Sox, and we can’t come to a conclusion against Toronto or Texas.

Otherwise, you shouldn’t be too concerned about the lack of success against the AL’s better teams.  Remember, in 2007, the Yankees beat the Indians in all six games in the regular season, only to lose in the Division Series three games to one.

KM

 

 

 

 

Tribe Wise To Wait On Inking Napoli, Davis

The Cleveland Indians are sitting pretty on top of the American League Central Division with a record of 66-48, five games ahead of the Detroit Tigers.

Two big reasons for their success offensively have been the players they signed to one year contracts over the off-season, Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.

Napoli has provided the right-handed hitting slugger the franchise has needed for years, and to date has belted 29 homers and knocked in 83 runs with an OPS of 875.  The home runs and RBIs rank in the top ten in the AL.

Davis, at 35 years of age, currently leads the junior circuit in stolen bases with 31, and has led the Tribe’s aggressive base running style which started on Opening Day.  Davis has also contributed a career high in HRs with 10 this season.

The Indians’ success has fans excited and rightfully so, but talk of extensions for both players should be responded too by hitting the brakes just a bit.

First of all, remember how the Tribe acquired both players.  They took one year contracts for a reason, because they were both coming off down years.

Napoli hit just .224 a year ago, with 18 HR and 50 RBI and a 734 OPS splitting time between the Red Sox and Rangers.  His last season, prior to 2016, where he has an OPS of over 800 was 2013, when he hit 23 dingers and knocked in 92 runs for the World Series Champions.

Players who have career bests in home runs and runs batted in at age 34, don’t usually repeat those numbers going forward.

We understand that Napoli has been a great guy in the clubhouse and has become a fan favorite with his “Party At Napoli’s” t-shirts.  But the front office’s job is too make an honest evaluation of what the slugger can do in the future, and how long he can do it.

Davis is a different case in that he did have a career renaissance in Detroit in 2014 and 2015.  He had an OPS under 700 from 2010 to 2013 in Oakland and Toronto before signing with the Tigers, where his numbers picked up mostly as a result of Comerica Park, where he flourished.

We were skeptical as to how he would perform at Progressive Field, but he is putting some similar numbers with Cleveland, and leads the league in steals at age 35.

Look, it is great that fans feel connected to this current Tribe roster, and that Napoli and Davis have contributed greatly to this team’s success.

And it’s not as though we don’t want them back.  However, remember the problems this organization had giving Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn multi-year deals?

If either player or both would sign one year contracts over the winter, it would be easy for Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff to say yes.

Our guess is that some team will offer Napoli a three year contract at over $10 million per year, and that’s something the Indians need to stay away from.

It’s more likely Davis could be back on a one year deal because he’s more of a platoon player.

Fans shouldn’t forget that the Tribe’s three best position players are Francisco Lindor (22), Jason Kipnis (29), and Jose Ramirez (23).  And those guys will be here for awhile.

Our opinion is it is more likely the front office will be looking at guys similar to Napoli and Davis who will take a one year deal for 2017.

There’s no such thing as a bad one year contract.

We love Napoli and Davis and how they have impacted this roster.  But the front office has to remember the sins of the past.  And those sins are named Swisher and Bourn.

MW

Did Tribe Give Up Too Much For Miller?

It has now been a little over a week since the Cleveland Indians made their big deadline deal, trading four prospects, two of them in the top 100 in the sport for left-handed reliever Andrew Miller.

We have heard people, media and fans alike, still debating the merits of the Tribe’s biggest trade since getting Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011.

Did the Indians give up too much to get Miller?

The cost was steep as Cleveland gave up their top prospect (or #1A with Bradley Zimmer) in Clint Frazier, perhaps their top pitching prospect in Justus Sheffield, and two bullpen arms in Ben Heller and J.P. Freyereisen.

For the most part, the Indians dealt from strength.  They have Zimmer coming, and with the emergence of Tyler Naquin, and prospects like Greg Allen and Anthony Santander having outstanding minor league seasons, the front office felt they could make this move.

We like Frazier, in fact, we would have rather moved Zimmer in this deal, but at the time of the trade, he had 21 at bats at the AAA level.  Remember, when you are a good team, prospects aren’t valued as heavy as they are when you are building.

Sheffield has been very good, but we all know that pitchers are a volatile commodity.  He’s just 5’10”, and we have seen reports that he can be a big time starting pitcher, while others see his future in the bullpen.

As for the other the bullpen arms in the deal, the Indians have a lot of guys who are profiled as relievers, even if they haven’t been given a good shot in the big leagues.  Again, the organization was dealing from strength.

Ordinarily this would be a hefty price for a relief pitcher, particularly a closer, which is how many have perceived the trade.

However, the way Terry Francona has used Miller so far, he is much more valuable than a closer.

Yes, we have problems at times regarding how the skipper uses his relievers, but to date, he has been using out of the box thinking on using his primary guys at the end of the game, namely Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen.

So far, we have seen Francona use Miller in the 6th inning in a game where the Tribe wanted to end a three game losing streak to the Twins and his starter gave him less than five innings.

He also used him Tuesday night in the 7th inning to close out an inning in a 2-0 game, and then used him for two more hitters in the 8th.

So, he’s using Miller at the key point of the game, not strictly the ninth inning.  Really, it would be a waste to use this weapon simply to get the last three outs of a game when you are winning.

This versatility is what makes Miller perhaps the best reliever in the game.  And his ego isn’t such that he has to pitch the ninth.  And neither is Allen’s which makes this all work.

Because Francona can use Miller at the most important part of the game, ninth inning or not, means the Indians haven’t paid too much to get the big lefty.

And we can see Miller being even more of a weapon if the Tribe gets to the playoffs.

This ability also means that perhaps Cleveland took care of their bullpen woes with just one addition.

If the Indians win the World Series this season and Miller is a big part of that, which he will have to be, then the price is not excessive.

KM

 

 

 

Hue’s Decision At QB Was A Logical, Simple One

Imagine you are an NFL head coach and you are taking over a team that went 3-13 a year ago, and hasn’t had a winning season since 2007.

Your bosses have tried several way to build a successful franchise, and in the off-season, they traded away or cut several veterans, and let a few more leave via free agency.

So, there isn’t a lot of pressure on you to win immediately, but the owner, the front office, and the fan base would like to see some progress as the season goes on.

You have several candidates for the starting quarterback position–

One is the former second overall pick in the draft after winning the Heisman Trophy, and in his rookie year took his team to the NFL playoffs.  He blew out his knee in that game, and hasn’t been the same since.

The second candidate is a 37-year-old journeyman with a career record as a starter of 18-39, and over the last two years, seasons in which he started 19 of 32 games, his record is 2-17.

He has started just 57 games in a 13 year career.

You also have on the roster a third year QB who started five games in his second year in the league and was pressed into service to start two more games with your team a season ago, both of which were losses.

And you have a rookie third round draft pick from one of the elite college programs in the country.  He’s a guy you really like and you went out on a limb to take him where you did.  Still, he’s a rookie and you don’t want to expose him to the NFL before he’s ready to play.

The team in question of course are the Cleveland Browns and the quarterbacks at Hue Jackson’s disposal are Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Austin Davis, and Cody Kessler.

Jackson picked Griffin, and really, didn’t have much of a decision.  That’s the logical move.

The Browns’ players and coaching staff will no doubt try to win every game, but there is little expectation going into the regular season of the playoffs.

Let’s face it, the only QBs currently on the roster who have a chance to be a quality NFL signal caller are Griffin and Kessler, and once again, the latter is a rookie.

The organization knows what McCown is.  He’s a terrific teammate, a hard worker, and a guy you can put into a game without your franchise being embarrassed.

They also know what he isn’t, and that’s a quality NFL starter, and a guy with a history of winning football games.  McCown is good enough to give you a decent performance and he will keep you in a game, but likely you won’t win.

Heck, the guy who started two of the three victories by the Browns a year ago, isn’t even in the NFL right now.

We have no idea if Griffin can become a successful passer from the pocket, because his success in Washington was with a hybrid offense.  But in a rebuilding season?  Why not find out.

If Griffin can make the transformation, the Browns have caught lightning in a bottle.  If he doesn’t, you still have Kessler and a likely a high draft pick in next year’s draft.

But this is a year to experiment.  That’s why Jackson’s decision was just the logical move.

JD