Game Plan, Horrible QB Play Are Today’s Culprits For Browns.

Sometimes what the Cleveland Browns do can’t be described in words.

The Jacksonville Jaguars pretty much did nothing on offense the entire day, yet somehow managed to put 19 points on the board in a 19-7 win over the Browns at First Energy Stadium.

The Browns are now 0-10 on the season.

Let’s start with a crazy game plan by the “quarterback whisperer”, Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson.

The Jaguars rank #1 in the NFL in pass defense by yardage, and are 25th in rush defense.  So, in a game that was pretty much a three point spread the entire game, the Browns ran the ball 18 times and threw it 32 times.

Of those 18 rushing attempts, five were by DeShone Kizer, and we remember only two were designed runs, and throw in five sacks by Jacksonville, and really, Cleveland called 37 passes and just 16 runs.

Does that make any sense at all?

If you are going to throw against the Jags, the time to do it is on first down, when they are playing a base defense.

On the Browns’ lone TD drive, they threw on first down three times, moving the ball 66 yards in five plays.  The touchdown itself was on a first down throw, a 27 yard strike to Duke Johnson.

The next time the Browns got the football, they ran on first down.  The following possession?  Again, a run on first down.  When they got the ball again, once again, they ran the football on first down.

When they threw the ball on first down again, the result was a 14 yard gain on a pass to Corey Coleman, who did catch 6 passes for 80 yards.

We aren’t advocating passing every time on first down, but if you don’t gain yardage doing it, you are playing right into the Jaguars’ plans by throwing in obvious passing situations.  If you don’t gain yardage on first down, run it again on second down and see what you get.

Then you have Kizer’s performance which can basically be described as horrific.

He threw two bad interceptions, the second on a throw we aren’t sure who it was intended for, and fumbled twice as well, including the play which ended the Browns’ hopes for a win.

And that play was set up on a terrible decision after Cleveland got a first down on the Jags’ 40.

Kizer was rushed, stepped up in the pocket, and looked like he could have run for at least ten yards, keeping momentum on the drive.

Instead, he made an ill-advised heave down the field into coverage, and was lucky the ball wasn’t picked off.

You would think he would have more awareness by this point in the year.

Also, think about the countless throws behind receivers or too low for them, particularly when they could have gained yardage if the ball was thrown properly.

We aren’t saying every throw should be perfect, but the rap on Kizer coming out of Notre Dame was inaccuracy, and that hasn’t been fixed.

Other things to note.  David Njoku and Seth DeValve, two players we believe can make plays, caught a total of two passes.  Johnson, another playmaker, touched the ball six times.

Jabrill Peppers fumbled two punts.  His confidence appears to be very shaky.

The defense performed admirably despite being on the field for 36 minutes due to the abominable offensive showing.

Despite claims by the media that they really aren’t good players, Emmanuel Ogbah and Danny Shelton look pretty good to us.

Cincinnati is the next opponent for the Browns, this one in the Queen City, and it is a winnable game.

However, the turnovers have to cease.  Jackson’s team hasn’t won the turnover battle once this year and has been even just twice.  You simply can’t keep shooting yourself in the foot.

JD

 

 

Advertisements

Cavs Starting To Turn A Corner?

There is no question the Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled starting this season.  They’ve lost games to several of the NBA’s supposed also ran, losing at home to Atlanta, New York, and Indiana.

But just maybe, things are starting to turnaround just a bit as the wine and gold took three out of four on the road, losing only to Houston in the opening game.  That game was close at the end too, as the Cavs had a chance to win.

Yes, the defense could be better, but Tyronn Lue’s team does seem to be able to play at that end of the floor in spurts, such as the fourth quarter in New York on Monday, and in the second half last night in Charlotte.

With three of the next four and four of the next six at Quicken Loans Arena, it would be a good time to start playing better at home and in turn start climbing up the Eastern Conference standings.

Want another sign the Cavs aren’t as bad off as many in the national media think?  Cleveland has won 5 road games this season, and only Boston and Houston (both 7-1) have won more.

You don’t find many bad teams having success on the road.

On the other hand, good teams win games in blowout fashion, and right now the Cavaliers are just 1-4 in games decided by 10 points or more, their win in Milwaukee in the second game of the season being the lone triumph.

They have also been outscored on the season, another sign of a mediocre team.  However, remember Cleveland has played the entire season without Isaiah Thomas, a legitimate 20 points per game scorer, and their best interior defender in Tristan Thompson for most of the schedule.

There will be a period of adjustment when those players return, obviously, but it’s tough to get a good read on this team until they do.

And we say this every year, but we wish the media and fans alike would stop comparing the Cavs to the Golden State Warriors.

First, the Warriors top four players are the same as last year.  Second, most of the games they play their opponents are mesmerized by their style of play and that creates an advantage right from the opening tip.

Also, why should anybody care?  The wine and gold play just two games in the regular season against Golden State, and after that, they won’t see them in the playoffs until the NBA Finals if both teams get to that point.

To compare the Cavs start to the Warriors’ start is an exercise in frustration.  Really, the only thing to be watching right now is how this pretty much new group of players is gelling, and what team in the East may pose a threat to Lue’s squad.

And don’t forget the Cavaliers have made deals during the season in each of the last three seasons to shore up a weakness.  Why wouldn’t you think the same thing will happen this season.

Hopefully, losing to the dregs of the NBA on a regular basis is done, and the momentum gained on this trip will continue.  At the very least, people can breathe a little easier about the Cavs.

JK

Could Be A Busy Winter For Tribe

The hot stove league has officially started in Major League Baseball with the GM Meetings this week, and the Winter Meetings taking place in a few weeks.

After the past few years when the 25 man roster was pretty much set in stone, the next few weeks could be filled with several moves for the Cleveland Indians.

It was not surprise that the Tribe offered free agent Carlos Santana the qualifying offer, nor was it a shock when he turned it down.

Many experts expect Santana to return to the Indians after seeing what offers are out there, but president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have plenty of questions to answer before the team reconvenes in Goodyear in February.

Santana is the key to Cleveland’s off-season in our opinion.

The team would probably be interested in a reunion with Jay Bruce if the market comes back down much like it did with Edwin Encarnacion a year ago.  But they probably won’t go more than two or three years for the veteran outfielder.

And what to do with Jason Kipnis?  If Santana returns, there doesn’t seem to be a fit for him, as Michael Brantley would play LF in that scenario.  However, if Santana departs, Brantley would likely go to 1B, with Kipnis playing left field.

The Indians do have some trade assets, although we believe they aren’t interested in trading their top prospect C/3B Francisco Mejia, one of the top 10 prospects in all of the minor leagues, nor would they be anxious to move Triston McKenzie, one of the premier pitching prospects in baseball.

We would think the organization would want to keep Mejia and OF Greg Allen in AAA to start the season and get them more experience.

However, we could see players such as Erik Gonzalez, Yu-Cheng Chang, and Willi Castro, all shortstops by trade who would seem to be blocked here by the presence of Francisco Lindor.

We also don’t know how the organization feels about the future of 1B Bobby Bradley, whose power is unquestioned, but he has a lot of swing and miss in his style.  Does the front office think he can be a viable big league hitter?

With reliever Bryan Shaw also likely to be elsewhere in ’18, who fills his role in the bullpen.  It has been rumored that perhaps Danny Salazar moves to the bullpen with his electric stuff as a bridge between the starter and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

If not, no doubt the brass will be looking for another bullpen arm.

The rotation shouldn’t see changes, but if Salazar does go to the ‘pen, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Tribe look for a starter on the free agent market, probably toward spring training when the prices come down.

The Indians have a strong core with Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Miller, and Allen.  Unless he fails with the bat, Bradley Zimmer probably has a lock on centerfield.

The rest of the spots are fluid and the front office has some choices that are currently on the roster, young players on the uptick, and perhaps adding more pieces in deals.

There could be plenty of new faces in spring training for the Indians, and many of those spots hinge on Santana’s decision.

MW

 

 

 

Two Big Errors Sink The Browns In Motor City.

The Cleveland Browns came out of their bye week like they were a different team.  After kicking off to start the game, the defense caused a loss on each of the first three plays.

The offense converted the punt into a field goal, and on Detroit’s next possession, Jamie Collins intercepted, and this time, DeShone Kizer got the Browns into the end zone courtesy of a 19 yard TD pass to Kenny Britt.

Then they remembered they were the Browns and were outscored by the Lions 38-14 the rest of the game, losing their ninth straight contest, 38-24.

Actually, Hue Jackson’s crew was quite competitive, outgaining the Lions 413-345 yards for the game, and grinding out over 200 yards (201) on the ground, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

However, three key mistakes were made by the Browns, and were a huge factor in keeping the team out of the win column.

First was a fumble by TE Seth DeValve with the score 10-10.  Nevin Lawson picked up the loose ball and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown to give Detroit a 17-10 lead.

The second was what only can be called a fiasco at the end of the first half.  Following the aforementioned fumble, Kizer marched the Browns down the field in ten plays, and when the quarterback scrambled for 18 yards to the Lions’ 2 yard line with 19 seconds left, Jackson’s team looked poised to tie the game going into halftime.

After an incomplete pass on first down, the QB decided to audible to a quarterback running play with no timeouts left, instead of passing where an incomplete pass would stop the clock.

Kizer was stopped, the Lions took their sweet time lining up, and Cleveland came away with no points, where they should have had at least three.

Any chance for a comeback ended late in the 4th quarter when Kizer threw another red zone interception when they could have closed to 38-31 and have a possible onside kick.

Cleveland has not had one game this year where they won the turnover battle.  They have lost in this category in seven of the nine games played, with it being even twice, vs. Pittsburgh in the season opener, a 21-18 loss, and in the shellacking (31-7) against Cincinnati.

The defense has had just one game with more than one turnover caused, in week two against the Ravens.

Today, the defense got off to a good start as mentioned above, but they allowed way too many big plays, two runs of over 20 yards and three pass plays over 29 yards.  That made it way too easy for Matthew Stafford.

Lions S Glover Quin said after the game that the Browns had more athletes than 24 of the 32 NFL teams, and one of those athletes continues to not get the ball, TE David Njoku.

Yes, the rookie dropped two passes, but he caught just one pass for three yards.

And once again, when the Lions got a touchdown lead in the second half, Jackson abandoned the running game, especially curious because Kizer was out of the game nursing some bruised ribs.

Five out of the six plays following the score which gave Detroit a 31-24 lead where passes.  Keep in mind, the Browns ran for over 200 yards in the game.

Next week, one of the surprise teams in the NFL, Jacksonville (6-3) comes to First Energy Stadium.  The Jaguars are using the blueprint many thought the Browns would use this season, that is, running the ball and playing defense.

At least the Browns are putting a good half together.  Unfortunately, the last two weeks they’ve been outclassed in the second half.

JD

 

 

Cavs Defense Might Need A Legitimate Center.

It is no secret that the NBA is going small.

In the 60’s and 70’s, it was thought that you couldn’t win in the league without a dominant big man.

The Celtics were led by Bill Russell, and the only man who could challenge him in those days was Wilt Chamberlain.  Then came Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton.  Even in the late 70’s when the Washington Bullets and Seattle Supersonics were exchanging titles, the Bullets had Wes Unseld and the Sonics had Jack Sikma.

The only anomaly was 1975 when the Warriors led by Rick Barry won the title.

Yes, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird dominated the 80’s, but those teams still had Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish manning the middle.  And the Isiah Thomas led Pistons had a very good center in Bill Laimbeer.

It wasn’t until Michael Jordan won with the Bulls was the center not a factor, but the Rockets won with Hakeem Olajuwon, and after Jordan retired, Shaquille O’Neal was the dominant force in the sport.

Despite all this history, the Cavs seem to have no desire to have a true center on the roster.

Even Golden State, the poster boys for today’s NBA have centers on the roster with Zaza Pachulia starting and JeVale McGee backing him up.

Cleveland has no seven footer on the roster.  Their tallest players are 6’11” Channing Frye, who is really a stretch four, and rookie Ante Zizic, who has garnered just 21 minutes on the season, mostly in mop up roles.

Tristan Thompson plays a lot of center, but he is just 6’9″ and not really a shot blocker.  Kevin Love, ideally a power forward, also gets some time in the pivot.

By contrast, Pachulia and McGee log about 22 minutes per night for the Warriors.

The other elite teams in the NBA also have centers.  Houston has Nene (6’11”) and Clint Capela (6’10”) who averages 1.6 blocks per night in 24 minutes.

Oklahoma City has seven footer Steven Adams, and in the East, the Wizards have Marcin Gortat and Toronto has Jonas Valenciunas.

And we haven’t mentioned Marc Gasol (Memphis) and Pau Gasol (San Antonio).

When Timofey Mozgov departed via free agency after the 2015-16 championship season, so did any interior defensive force Tyronn Lue had at his disposal.

To be fair, the Cavs did sign Chris Andersen and Andrew Bogut a year ago to play that role, but both were injured shortly after arriving in town.

We understand Lue wants his squad to play with pace and be able to spread the floor to open up driving lanes for LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and Dwyane Wade.

That seems to negate the need for a traditional center, however, there are times when you have to put a legitimate rim protector on the floor.

Right now, opposing teams know there is no penalty in getting to the basket against Cleveland.

We know James is a master at the chase down block, and Wade is a very good shot blocker for a guard, but it’s not quite the same.

If there is one thing that should be on GM Koby Altman’s “to do” list, it should be to get a legitimate inside defensive force.

Thompson is more known for his ability to defend away from the basket on pick and rolls, and his offensive rebounding ability than as an interior defender, and Lue doesn’t seem to want to develop Zizic.

The Cavs need to improve their defensive schemes and principals for sure, but getting someone who can clog the middle and discourage a parade to the rim for the opponents in needed too.

The wine and gold seem to have forgotten that fact.

JK

 

 

 

Reflecting On Kluber’s Magnificence

The Cleveland Indians lost the American League Division Series about a month ago, and it still is a disappointment, not in the team, but considering how well the Tribe was playing going into the post-season, we all fantasized about winning the World Series.

That feeling should not make everyone overlook the fact the Indians won 102 games, the second highest total in franchise history and had the best record in the American League.

They have four finalists for the Gold Glove.  SS Francisco Lindor is trying to win his second in a row, and he is joined by Jose Ramirez at third base, Carlos Santana at first, and Yan Gomes behind the plate in finishing in the top three in the voting.

Yesterday, more accolades came the Indians’ way.

Terry Francona is a finalist for AL Manager of the Year, an award he has won twice before, in 2013 and 2016.

Jose Ramirez is second Tribesman in the last four years (Michael Brantley in 2014) to finish in the top three of the MVP voting.  Ramirez had a remarkable season, setting career highs in every major statistical category save for stolen bases.

However, the highest honor will probably go to Corey Kluber.  Kluber should become the first Indian pitcher to win two Cy Young Awards during his tenure with the Indians, capping a season in which he went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and 265 strikeouts in 203 innings.

He would be the 19th pitcher in the history of the award (started in 1956) to win it multiple times.

It will also mean that Kluber will have finished in the top three for this award three times, finishing third a year ago.

There are four dominant starting pitchers in the sport right now:  Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, and Kluber.

In the past four years, the right-hander has led in the AL in wins twice (’14 and ’17), in complete games twice (’15 and ’17), in shutouts the past two seasons, and in ERA this past campaign.

He has finished in the top four in strikeouts each of the past four seasons, and has ranked first or second in pitchers’ WAR in three of the past four years.

Kluber’s career WAR total (according to BaseballReference.com) is now at 26.9.  Consider the franchise’s all time leaders among pitchers in this category:

Bob Feller              63
Stan Coveleski      51
Bob Lemon           48
Mel Harder           43
Addie Joss             43
Sam McDowell    41
Early Wynn         39
George Uhle         37
Wes Farrell          36
Willis Hudlin       33

With a season with a WAR of six next season (that was Kluber’s 2016 season), he would tie Hudlin for the 10th highest total in club history.  And he would have done it in a five year span.

It would not be a reach for Kluber to wind up as high as 4th in Tribe history among hurlers, behind the Indians’ Hall of Fame triumvirate of Feller, Coveleski, and Lemon.

If he wins in 2017, keep in mind there are only nine pitchers (could be a 10th if Scherzer wins this year) to win three or more Cy Youngs.

And those pitchers are a who’s who of the greatest pitchers in the last 60 years:  Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, and Kershaw.

He won’t turn 32 until early next season (April 10th).

That’s a historical perspective on Kluber, who will find out next week if he will be recognized once again as the best pitcher in the AL.

It’s been a remarkable four years indeed.

MW

 

Best Thing For Cavs’ Defense? Make Shots.

There is no question that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense has been hugely disappointing so far in this young NBA season.

And the biggest thing needed to help the defense might be for the Cavs to start making shots.

That seems ridiculous, right?

Let’s start with the fact that the Cavs’ transition defense is terrible.  Besides giving up easy layups on fast break opportunities, the new NBA has three point shooters spotting up in transition, and they are getting wide open opportunities.

In the wine and gold’s four victories this season, the lowest shooting percentage for the team was an Opening Night 45.8% vs. Boston.  In the other three games, the Cavs shot over 50%.

In their five losses, they shot 50% or better in just one game, the loss last Wednesday night to Indiana.

Overall, Cleveland ranks 5th in the NBA in field goal percentage, but that is misleading because LeBron James has started the season on fire.

James has been taking roughly a quarter of the team’s shots (23.1%), and he is making a crazy 61% of those attempts.

However Kevin Love, who has taken the next most shots, is hitting just 41.4% of his attempts.  Derrick Rose is third in attempts per game, and is making 50%, but he has missed four games, and the Cavs lost three of those contests.

It gets worse from there, though.

Dwyane Wade is making just 40.3%, Jae Crowder is hitting on 39.7% of his shots, and JR Smith is at a horrific 27.4% total, and only 21% from behind the arc.

And those players rank 4th through 6th on the team in field goals attempted.

Combined, that sextet combines for 88% of the Cavaliers’ field goal attempts on the season.  And four of those players are in major shooting slumps.

When those guys start making more shots, and yes, we understand James won’t be able to maintain that torrid pace (we think), there will be less transition opportunities, which will help the defense.

That’s not the only thing that needs to improve.

For some reason, the Cavs’ organization seems to ignore the impact of having big men on the floor.

Even Golden State, for all of their small ball tendencies, still have made it a priority to have some size on the roster.  Besides Kevin Durant, they have Zaza Pachulia, JeVale McGee, and David West, and brought in rookie Jordan Bell, who Steve Kerr is giving some playing time.

Without Tristan Thompson available, coach Tyronn Lue needs to start giving rookie Ante Zizic some time because outside of Love and Jeff Green, he doesn’t have a lot of height on the roster.

Sometimes, we think the Cavs forget that height is a big factor in the sport of basketball.

We also believe the Cavaliers play too fast for their own good.

In 2015-16, Cleveland was 28th in pace and 10th in defensive efficiency.  That number dropped to 21st last season, with the Cavs ranking 15th in pace.

This season, albeit very early, Lue’s team ranks 14th in pace, and last in defense.  Perhaps some sort of compromise is in order.

We believe the shooting issues will take care of themselves.  Players like Love, Crowder, and Smith have proven track records of making shots.

The other issues are incumbent on the coaching staff.  There is a time to play bigger and slower, particularly with a roster that is one of the league’s oldest.

We will see if Lue can adjust.

JK

 

Might Be Unpopular, But It’s Time For Hue To Go.

The Cleveland Browns played a competitive game for three quarters last Sunday in London, before their defense tired and they lost by 17 to Minnesota.

So far, that loss has been the highlight of the week.

Monday, the New England Patriots traded reserve QB Jimmy Garoppolo to another 0-8 team, the San Francisco 49ers for a second round pick.  The Browns had interest in Garoppolo last spring, but the Patriots didn’t want to make a deal.

Then came the fiasco on Tuesday, in which, supposedly the team was dealing two picks (2nd and 3rd rounders) to Cincinnati for their backup QB, A.J. McCarron.

Yes, a guy who sits behind Andy Dalton.

However, allegedly a paperwork snafu nixed the deal, which is good because it’s not a good trade for the Browns.

The organization is looking bad and it appears the coaching staff is leaking tales of organizational dysfunction to the media.

Our solution is simple.  It’s time to fire Hue Jackson.

There is an obvious disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff, and quite frankly in our opinion, Jackson isn’t living up to his end of the bargain.

Most football people felt the best way to protect a 21-year-old rookie quarterback would be to run the ball and play solid defense.  No one expected a .500 season, but that formula should get the Browns a few victories, an improvement over last year’s single win.

This is a football team that really lost one player who was a major contributor a year ago, WR Terrelle Pryor.  They added two free agent offensive linemen, a solid veteran CB in Jason McCourty, and three rookies who start, #1 overall pick Myles Garrett, S Jabrill Peppers, and TE David Njoku.

Yet, somehow they are worse.

The defense, which ranked 29th in the NFL in average yards per running play a year ago, now leads the league in that category.

To compound things, Jackson is consistently throwing the front office under the bus, claiming a lack of talent and needing to play “perfect football” to win.

Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, and Andrew Berry take the criticism for passing on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, but it has been reported that the head coach wanted Jared Goff last season, and wanted to draft Malik Hooker at #12 last spring, not Watson.

Meanwhile, the front office has overhauled a roster that was starting these players for most of the 2015 season–

Karlos Dansby, now 36 years old with Arizona
Donte Whitner, 32, no longer in NFL
Tramon Williams, 34, now with Arizona
Paul Kruger, 31, no longer in NFL
Randy Starks, 34, no longer in NFL

All those players started 14 games for Cleveland in 2015.

Is the front office perfect?  No, they let Mitchell Schwartz, now starting for perhaps the best team in the league in Kansas City, walk away.

They traded LB Demario Davis, who could help the current roster as well.

The roster isn’t a finished product.  The Browns still need help at quarterback and wide receiver, a stud running back, and help in the defensive secondary.

In our opinion the Brown and his crew know this, and this will be the focus of the off-season.

Jackson is supposed to be an expert on quarterbacks, but just what is that based on?  Who has he really made an top flite passer? Dalton?  Joe Flacco?  Certainly, not any of the men he has had with the Browns.

The Browns need everyone in the organization to be on the same page.  And right now, that is not the case.

We get it would not be a popular decision.  Jackson is well liked within NFL circles, while Brown and DePodesta are seen as outsiders.

But who has done a better job over the last two years?  It seems silly to reward the guy who seems to be coaching an offensive scheme for players he wishes he had, not the players currently on the roster.

JD

 

 

 

More Tribe Decisions: Kipnis, Gomes, Shaw.

Last week, we wrote about the dilemma the Cleveland Indians have surrounding the club option they hold on Michael Brantley, and the free agency of Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce.

There are also other decisions that need to be made regarding the make up of next year’s roster for the Tribe.

The first involves longtime Indian Jason Kipnis.  Kipnis is scheduled to take a huge jump in pay in 2018, a $4.5 million raise, and he’s coming off an injury plagued poor season, hitting just .232 (705 OPS) with 12 home runs last season.

It appears by their actions at the end of the season that Kipnis no longer is the Indians’ second baseman either.  When the veteran returned from a hamstring issue in September, he moved to centerfield, with Jose Ramirez staying at second.

So, with Bradley Zimmer seemingly the incumbent in center, and a likely platoon (if Bruce doesn’t return) in rightfield of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer, if Brantley does return in ’18, where does that leave Kipnis?

Many have speculated that Kipnis will be dealt, but with the off year in ’17, a deal this winter will not bring the return the club would receive with a bounce-back season next summer.

So, it looks right now like the front office will be forced to choose between Brantley and Kipnis.  Certainly not what they thought when the two signed contract extensions prior to the 2014 season.

The third player inked at that time and identified as a core piece was catcher Yan Gomes.

Gomes had a stellar ’14 season, hitting .278 (785 OPS) with 21 homers and winning the Silver Slugger Award.

Since then, it’s been all downhill.  Injuries haunted the catcher in 2015 and 2016, with his offense all but disappearing in the latter year (.167 batting average, 527 OPS).

He rebounded a bit last season (.232, 14 HR, 56 RBI), but seemed to lose playing time down the stretch to Roberto Perez, a better pitch framer.

Gomes is still a very good defensive catcher with a plus arm, and could be a significant trade chip to a team looking for stability at the catching position.

If the organization wants to give Perez the bulk of the playing time going forward, Gomes could be a player who can bring something very valuable in return.  We believe that will be the direction the front office is going in.

Bryan Shaw is also a free agent this off-season.  For all the back and forth between his fans and critics, Shaw is durable and dependable, leading the AL in appearances three of the last four years.

With the bullpen craze the sport has seen in recent years, Shaw is going to get paid.

We would be interested in keeping him at a reasonable deal, but we feel another team is going to make him an unbelievable offer.

And with the wear and tear on the right-hander’s arm, it’s a risk to sign him long term.

Our fear is Shaw could follow the same career path as Scott Linebrink, who appeared in 70+ games from 2004-08 with San Diego and Milwaukee.  The veteran went to the White Sox in 2009 and never had the same effectiveness, and was out of baseball at age 35.

Again, as a non-large market team, the Indians can’t afford to be paying a lot of money to someone who cannot contribute to the major league team.

With the World Series ending this week, these decisions will have to be made as early as this weekend.

Coming off an 102 win season and a division title, the Tribe front office has some tough calls to make.

MW

 

Browns Need To Decide What Kind Of Team They Are During Break

The Cleveland Browns played a solid game for three quarters, but ultimately ran out of gas in London, dropping to 0-8 on the season, with a 33-16 loss to Minnesota.

Today, the Browns led after the first quarter, and actually led at the half, 13-12, and were getting the ball to start the second half.

It looked like today might be the day the Browns could get their first win of the season!  And the Minnesota Vikings are a solid football team, coming into the game at 5-2 on the season.

But Isaiah Crowell fumbled on the first play of the second half, the Vikings recovered, kicked a field goal three plays later to take the lead.

Hue Jackson’s team regained the lead after a Zane Gonzalez field goal a few minutes later, but after that it was all Minnesota.

Despite leading late, the Browns’ defense was getting tired.  The offense only controlled the ball only 22 minutes, and with Myles Garrett, Jason McCourty, Larry Ogunjobi, and Jabrill Peppers all inactive today, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams didn’t have enough bodies to keep his troops fresh.

And although DeShone Kizer played his first NFL game without a turnover, there were plenty of other mistakes to go around in this game.

On special teams, Gonzalez missed an extra point following the first Browns’ TD, and then missed a 35 yarder in the second half.  That’s four misses in the last three games for the rookie, two of them inside the 40.  You can’t miss those kicks in the pros.

It wouldn’t be a shock if there was a kicking audition during the time off.

Also, Bryce Treggs muffed a punt in the first quarter, leading to a Vikings field goal.

On offense, the use of the running game, or lack of use, we should say, continues to baffle.

The Browns averaged 5.2 yards per carry today, but Crowell and Duke Johnson had just 17 attempts.  That accounts for the 22 minutes of possession, and a very tired defense in the second half.

The defense was plagued by horrible officiating.  The last Vikings’ touchdown was a result of a series of penalties, and really, only one was obvious.  The others could have went either way, and the first Minnesota TD after the half was also created by an interference call on a pass that Vikings’ QB Case Keenum was obviously throwing away.

Joe Schobert has an outstanding game with 11 tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble.  Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib deflected several passes as well.

The defense held Minnesota to 2.6 yards per carry, and that is becoming a regular occurrence.

Another questionable decision was having WR Kenny Britt active and then not playing him.  If that was the plan, then why have him active?  The rules say you can have 53 active players, but the Browns chose to play with 52.

This situation needs to be resolved, and the proper move is to release the veteran wideout.

And where was Kasen Williams again today?

With the bye week to follow, hopefully the front office and coaching staff can get together and determine what kind of team this should be (hint:  run the ball and play defense), and who should be getting the bulk of the playing time.

Regardless of what media people think in Cleveland, the Browns have more talent than they did a year ago.  However, the record is the same, and that is cause for concern going forward.

JD