Red Right 88

Life as a Cleveland Sports Fan

Liverpool may just be able to pull off the title quest

liverpool title hopesThings could not have gone better last week for Liverpool, who now sit alone atop the Premier League table for the first time since Christmas Day.

After a week that saw the Reds take nine points from three matches, while Chelsea lost to Crystal Palace and Manchester City drew with Arsenal, the league title is waiting to come home to Anfield for the first time in 24 years.

All Liverpool has to do is reach out and take it  - which is easier said than done.

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Time for Indian summer to return to Cleveland

Terry Francona, Jason GiambiThe Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season tonight in Oakland as Justin Masterson takes the mound for what could be his final Opening Day start in a Tribe uniform.

The Tribe surprised last year by winning 92 games and capturing the second Wild Card spot in the American League. It was the team’s first winning season and first playoff appearance since 2007. The Indians will be looking this season to post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2000-01 and make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 1998-99.

It won’t be easy, though. (Of course, this is Cleveland, so when is anything easy?) The Detroit Tigers are still the team to beat in the American League’s Central Division even though they traded Prince Fielder and Doug Fister. The Tigers can still hit, though, with Miguel Cabrera (.343 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI against the Indians over the past three seasons) and Victor Martinez (.380 vs. the Tribe over the past three years), and pitch, with Justin Verlander (7-3 with a 2.96 ERA against the Tribe in the same time frame), Anibal Sanchez (2.20 ERA in the past three years vs. Cleveland) and Max Scherzer (7-1 vs. the Tribe), so the Indians are not catching any breaks there.

The Kansas City Royals are also a trendy pick after posting their first winning season in a decade; they have also been stockpiling young talent that may be ready to pay off. And even though the Indians finished six games better than the Royals in the standings, they were only 10-9 against Kansas City last year.

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5 Questions: Cleveland Indians ready to open 2014 season

tribe giambi homerThe Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season Monday night in Oakland.

The Tribe is coming off a season that saw the team win 92 games and earn the second Wild Card slot in the American League. They did it by winning 20 of their final 25 games (including 10 consecutive to close out the season) as pretty much everything that manager Terry Francona did in his first season in town worked.

The Indians enter 2014 looking to close the gap with Detroit in the A.L. Central Division, post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the start of the millennium and go to the playoffs for the first time in consecutive years since the 1990s.

To get ready for the season, we brought together some of the best baseball minds on the Internet to talk about what is in store for the Tribe this year for an installment of 5 Questions in 5 Minutes.

Today’s participants are:

Nino Colla from The Tribe Daily. He can be found on Twitter @TheTribeDaily.

Mike Brandyberry from Did the Tribe Win Last Night? Follow him on Twitter @DidTribeWin.

Adam Burke, formerly of The Cleveland Fan, and a contributing writer at bangthebook.com. Find him on Twitter @SkatingTripods.

Andrew Clayman, founder of East of Ehlo. He is on Twitter @EastofEhlo.

Ash Day from Let’s Go Tribe. He is on Twitter @AshDay29. (He’s also an Arsenal fan, but he’s still OK, so be nice.)

Al Ciammaichella from The DiaTribe. Find him on Twitter @Gotribe31.

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Four the hard way

anniversary 4Today marks the four-year anniversary of the launch of our site.

As a lifelong Cleveland fan, we knew what we were getting into when we decided to get the voices out of our head and put them down on (virtual) paper. But even by the standards of Cleveland sports, it’s been an interesting four years.

Consider that since we made our maiden post:

  • The Browns have gone 18-46 (a .281 winning percentage), are on their fourth head coach and fourth front office combination, and have had seven different starting quarterbacks.
  • The Cavs are 90-210 and counting (a .300 winning percentage), have had three coaches (counting Mike Brown twice) and just as many general managers, had an NBA record 26-game losing streak, and have yet to post a winning record despite drafting four players in the top four of the NBA Draft – two of which were the No. 1 overall pick.
  • The Indians have gone 309-339 while employing two different managers. The Tribe is the only team of the three to have a winning season and a playoff appearance – which they promptly lost.

More than just wins and losses, though, is the fact that writing has made us enjoy sports even more. Having an outlet to vent after the never-ending losses and personnel moves has helped us learn to not carry around another dismal performance by the local sports teams. We’ve also tried to develop a different perspective on what – and most importantly why – the Browns, Indians and Cavs are doing what they are doing.

A big part of how we have been able to do that is through the people we have met – either in person or in the online world – since we started the site (if the analytics are to be believed, we’ve had visitors from 154 different countries). We’ve been fortunate enough to meet some cool people (you know who you are) and our interactions with everyone has opened up our thinking and helped redefine, in a good way, how we look at sports.

And for that we say “thanks!”

So what’s next?

The Indians open up the season next week and will try and build on last season’s 92-win team that finished the season strong and made the playoffs. The Cavs are heading into the “most important off-season” since, well, the last one. And the Browns have (yet another) new coach and (yet another) new front office and the annual hope of the NFL Draft.

In other words, just another year in the life of a Cleveland sports fan.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Are Pro Days really that important? – Part 2

johnny manziel pro dayA few days ago we raised the question of whether or not there is any real value in attending a college player’s Pro Day.

That was in response to the reaction from a few members of the local media who were furiously trying to manufacture a controversy because Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer and the team’s scouts were attending the various Pro Days – rather than head coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

We thought about that today at the gym while watching ESPN’s coverage of quarterback Johnny Manziel’s Pro Day at Texas A&M. After watching Manziel do his thing, we came away with two indisputable conclusions.

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Liverpool keeping pressure on Chelsea, but Man City looms

suarez sturridge goalsLiverpool took care of business on Saturday, beating Cardiff City 6-3 in a match that ended up being very entertaining.

The win keeps the pressure on Chelsea, who still sit at the top of the Premier League table after they beat Arsenal 6-0. (Good job, good effort by the Gunners in Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game in charge).

This weekend’s results leave Liverpool in second place, just four points back of Chelsea and with a game in hand. Liverpool will make that game up on Wednesday night and, if they can pull of their seventh consecutive win, Liverpool will head into the season’s final seven games just one point back of Chelsea.

Despite all that, Liverpool’s title hopes are still a bit dodgy, especially when you do the math and factor in Manchester City.

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Mark Sanchez? No thanks. DeSean Jackson? Maybe.

browns mark sanchezThe New York Jets made it official on Friday, releasing Mark Sanchez, their one-time franchise quarterback.

Yes, Sanchez led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game his first two years in the league. In the process, he won four road playoff games – or twice as many as the Cleveland Browns have won since joining the NFL in 1950.

The Jets won with Sanchez when they had a dominant defense and a strong running game – limiting what he needed to do on the field.

Yes, the Browns are working to build a dominant defense and, with the signing last week of Ben Tate, have remembered that you still need to run the ball, even in today’s NFL.

And, yes, the Browns are in the market for a quarterback, with just Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney currently on the roster.

But there is no way the Browns should consider bringing Sanchez to town.

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Are Pro Days really all that important?

blake bortles pro dayThere was much hand wringing earlier this week in certain quarters about the fact that no one from the Cleveland Browns coaching staff has been in attendance for the Pro Days of quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles.

Apparently it wasn’t enough that general manager Ray Farmer and the team’s scouts were in attendance as Bridgewater had a disappointing effort while Bortles fared much better. No, the fact that head coach Mike Pettine, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains were not there is just another sign of the Browns dysfunctional ways.

Or so the story goes.

The whole manufactured controversy got us wondering just how important a player’s Pro Day really is in today’s NFL.

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From the editor’s notebook …

Man U Liverpool LiveAfter five years of frustration, Liverpool walked out of Old Trafford on Sunday with their first road win against Manchester United since 2009.

The 3-0 beating pushes Liverpool 14 points clear of United in the Premier League table and, more importantly, leaves the Reds just four points back of league-leaders Chelsea (and holding a game in hand). With a spot in next year’s Champions League almost locked up with nine games to go in the season, the question now becomes: can Liverpool claim its first Premier League title in 24 years?

Captain Steven Gerrard thinks so.

“We’ve showed today that we are genuine contenders and we are going to fight to the end for this,” he said in published reports. “We believe it, but I’ve said many times that in football the easiest thing to do is talk the talk. We’ve got to go and treat Cardiff like Manchester United and we’ve got to treat Sunderland like Manchester United. If we do we will win a lot of games until the end of the season. The rest of the teams around us have to believe we’re going for it.”

The win was Liverpool’s fifth consecutive in the league – they haven’t lost since their Dec. 29 match with Chelsea – and the club has taken 26 points out of its past 10 games.

And much of the credit goes to manager Brendan Rodgers.

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Browns finally getting serious about fixing the running game

New Orleans Saints v Houston TexansThe Cleveland Browns agreed to a two-year contract with free agent running back Ben Tate on Saturday.

And, in the process, the Browns announced that they will no longer be content to roll out a repeat of last year’s clown show at the running back position.

After missing his rookie season with an ankle injury, Tate has rushed for 4.73 yards per carry over the past three seasons, showing that he can be effective in the type of offense that Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan likes to run. Tate took over as the starter in Week 8 of last season after Adrian Foster was injured, but suffered four broken ribs in that game, which limited his productivity. But he still finished the season with 771 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Those numbers may not seem gaudy, but when you put them up against what the Browns did last year in the running game – the single-worst season in franchise history – Tate comes across as a Hall of Famer. Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya, Edwin Baker and Fozzy Whitaker combined for 739 yards and four touchdowns last season, along with a 2.9 yard per carry average.

That clearly was no longer going to cut it.

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