Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

From the editor’s notebook …

Michael Bourn, Mike Aviles, Jason KipnisA look at a few items that warrant attention but not necessarily a full post …

The Indians make it out of Miami in one piece.

The Tribe closed out Miami on Sunday to take two-out-of-three against the Marlins and finish 6-1 in their recent stretch against the dregs of Major League Baseball.

The Tribe has now won 10-of-11 and return home, where they have the best record in the majors, to take on Detroit in a four-game series.

The Indians enter the series – the biggest the team has played since probably 2007 – three games behind the Tigers for first place in the A.L. Central Division. They also currently hold the second wild card position.

This is the series the Indians have waited for all year. They have spent the entire season trying to convince themselves, the American League and their fans that they are more than just second-class citizens in what is a Browns town. If they are serious about being contenders for the playoffs, this is the series to show it.

With just 51 games left in the season, the Tribe needs to realistically take three-of-four from the Tigers; no small feat when you consider that they are just 3-9 against the Tigers this year, including just 1-8 in the last nine games against the teams.

Anything less than winning three against the Tigers this week and the Tribe runs the risk of becoming an after thought in town – especially when you consider that the final game of the series on Thursday night coincides with the first preseason friendly for the Browns. (It will be interesting to see the TV ratings for those two games).

While the Indians don’t have to outplay the Tigers to make the playoffs, they do have to start putting up a better showing against teams with winning records if they want to hold on to the interest of the fans. Because while the wild card is a nice consolation, if you can’t beat the top teams during the regular season, what hope do you have of pulling off that feat in the post-season?

Speaking of the Detroit series.

Interesting decision by Terry Francona to skip Ubaldo Jimenez’ turn in the rotation on Wednesday, opting instead to let Danny Salazar take the starting spot.

Jimenez has not been good against the Tigers since coming to Cleveland a little more than two years ago. In 11 starts against Detroit, the most he has made against any team in the division, Jimenez is 4-5 with an ERA of 4.93 and the Tigers are hitting .265 against him. In three starts this season, Jimenez has gone 1-2 with a 6.92 ERA, lasting just 13 innings.

“It was some of that (Ubaldo’s work against Detroit),” Francona told the team’s website. “Some of it’s competitive and it also gives us a chance to give him a little (rest), too. I think we thought that would help him. There’s been some times with (Scott Kazmir) where we’ve done the same thing. For Ubaldo, I think this will do some good.”

It’s one thing to have Kazmir, the team’s No. 5 starter, skip a turn in the rotation; after all, before this season he had not pitched in a major league game since throwing 1.2 innings in 2011.

It’s something else to take a start away from a pitcher who is supposed to be one of the mainstays of your rotation and hand it to a rookie who will be making just his second start on the major league level. And, oh by the way, that start comes against your chief division rival in the biggest series the Tribe has played since probably 2007.

Credit to Francona for being willing to make a move like this to give the Tribe the best chance against Detroit.

But no matter what he says about the move, the decision says a lot about the future of Jimenez in Cleveland.

Clint Dempsey comes home

We’re still surprised at the news that Clint Dempsey is turning his back on the Premier League and coming back to the states to play in the MLS with Seattle.

A year ago we were sure that Dempsey would be wearing a Liverpool uniform. He eventually wound up with Tottenham Hotspur and missed out on a Champions League spot on the final day of the season. He’s 30 years old, the holder of the most goals scored by an American in the Premier League, and still has plenty to offer (even if Spurs were thinking about reducing his role after signing Roberto Soldado from Valencia).

And he’s going to spend the next four years playing in the MLS? That would be like Paul Kruger turning his back on the NFL to sign with a Canadian Football League team.

Dempsey becomes the second-biggest signing in MLS history, behind only David Beckham. It could be argued that Dempsey is an even bigger deal because he is younger than Beckham and an American. Whether he can replicate Beckham’s success in Los Angeles, where he helped the Galaxy win two championships, remains to be seen.

In the short term this may help Dempsey on an international level. With the World Cup coming up in 2014 – probably the last one for Dempsey in his career – spending the next 10 months playing fewer games against weaker competition should help Dempsey, captain of the U.S. Men’s team, stay fresh for the national team’s arrival in Brazil next summer.

Browns doing things as training camp rolls along

Sirius NFL Radio was in Berea last week at Browns camp (always one of the better days of the year) and Pat Kirwan had some nice things to say about the team in a follow-up post at CBSSports.com.

While Kirwan was a bit overly optimistic, there were a few points he mentioned that stuck out to us.

  • First was the observation that tackle Joe Thomas had a hard time dealing with Jabaal Sheard, who Kirwan calls “a natural two-point stance rush guy.” Sheard’s transition to linebacker is one of the bigger stories this year, and having to go up against Thomas every day in practice can only help his progress.
  • Next is the search to replace Ben Watson as the primary tight end. Watson had 154 catches in three seasons with the Browns and, while not a Pro Bowler, was a solid professional. It would have been interesting to see what Watson could have done in Norv Turner’s offense, which likes to utilize the tight end.
  • Finally was the nugget that an unnamed beat reporter for the Browns said defensive tackle Phil Taylor is not any good and that the Browns should just release him. Kirwan chose not to expose who uttered that bit of nonsense, instead opting to take a diplomatic approach and write that “there was nothing at practice to indicate that was a sound idea,” but that offers a bit of insight into the the talent-evaluating skills of at least one corner of the local media.

We will get to see the Browns in action Thursday night when they play St. Louis in their first preseason friendly of the year.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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