Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

From the editor’s notebook …

Nrendan-Rodgers_AP_2900575bWhile Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko may not have officially buried Liverpool’s title hopes on Saturday, he went as close to putting the final shovel of dirt on the dream as possible.

Dzeko’s two goals helped push City past Everton, 3-2, at Goodison Park and level with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table. Most importantly, City had a nine-goal lead over Liverpool in goal differential, so it will take one more miracle from Brendan Rodgers’ squad to finish off the dream season with a league title.

Even though his team is in control of its own destiny, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is not ready to make room in the trophy case just yet.

“We have to play teams (Aston Villa and West Ham) who are not fighting for anything, they can play without pressure,” he said in published reports. “We must try to win our last two games at home, then we will see what happens.”

“Not fighting for anything” is a polite way of saying that Aston Villa (38 points on the season) and West Ham (40 points) are not very good. And holding out hope for a Randy Lerner-owned team is a road we have been down before with disappointing results.

Absent a loss by Manchester City in the season’s final two games, Liverpool needs to win (Monday at Crystal Palace and Sunday at home to Newcastle United) in a flurry of goals to give them any hope of winning the league on goal differential.

“If there is any team that can score goals and turn it around, it will be us,” Rodgers said. “That will be our aim. We aim to score goals and be defensively strong.”

So while the title race may not officially come to a close until next Sunday, the ending is becoming clearer every day.

But even though they are going to probably fall just short of the title, the season has still been one to remember as Liverpool has secured a place in next year’s Champions League. Not only will that help the club attract better players (hopefully ones who can play defense) and provide the money to pay them, but the experience of battling for the top spot will make the players and Rodgers better.

“I’ve really enjoyed this season,” Rodgers told The Telegraph. “Being able to work at the top end of the table and fighting at the leading edge of the most competitive league in the world, there is obviously huge pressure. But I have really enjoyed working with that pressure. There’s still a long way for me to go. It’s only my fifth year as a manager. I’m still only 41 years old, so hopefully I’ve got a few more years and I think I will become a better manager with every season.

“There’s no doubt we’re on the right track as a football club. I’ve said all season that we are ahead of schedule and the owners agree with that. I believe we are only going to get better, but we are in a position that no one expected us to be before the start of the season.”

It may be a long shot for Liverpool to win the title now, but with the way the season has gone so far, and with Rodgers in charge, there may still be one miracle left.

A slippery slope indeed

rich devosNBA commissioner Adam Silver took a hard stand last week against Donald Sterling, issuing a lifetime ban over racist comments the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers made in a private conversation that was recorded.

“We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views,” Silver said in announcing the ban. “They simply have no place in the NBA.”

While we applaud Silver for taking a stand (while also wondering what took the NBA so long as apparently everyone associated with the league knew what kind of person Sterling is), we can’t help but think that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was right when he called the decision a “slippery slope.”

“What Donald said was wrong. It was abhorrent,” Cuban said in published reports. “There’s no place for racism in the NBA, any business I’m associated with. But at the same time, that’s a decision I make. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope.”

What people do – as opposed to what they say or think – is the key point in Cuban’s comments. Because if people like Sterling “have no place in the NBA,” as Silver said, then where does that leave Orlando owner Rich DeVos?

DeVos is openly anti-gay, saying in a 2009 interview that gay people need to pipe down about being treated as equals.

“Don’t keep trying to change things,” he said. “Don’t keep asking for favors.”

He also sees no reason to fund AIDS research since people with the disease deserve it.

“AIDS is a disease that people gain because of their actions,” he said in the same interview. “Actions have consequences, and you are responsible for yours.”

But those are just words and, as Cuban pointed out, the league should think twice about punishing someone because of what they say or think.

DeVos doesn’t just stop at talking; he is actively funding efforts to ban gay marriage in both Florida and Michigan, his home state. According to an article at Pridesource.com, some of the causes that DeVos and his family have funded include:

  • In 2004 Betsy and Dick DeVos led the effort to put the anti-marriage amendment on the ballot and contributed over $200,000 to the campaign to write discrimination into the Michigan constitution.
  • In 2008, Richard DeVos gave $100,000 to Florida4Marriage, which successfully campaigned to add a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
  • In 2009, DeVos’ son, Doug, through the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation, donated $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage to help in the fight against marriage equality for same-gender couples. NOM has funded and run anti-gay marriage campaigns throughout the country since California’s Proposition 8 in 2008.

And gay rights activists have boycotted Orlando games and Amway, which DeVos co-founded in 1959, because of his views.

The NBA, where racism “has no place” but homophobia gets a courtside seat.

What a league.

Nice rebound series by the Tribe

tribe loses white soxGood work by the Cleveland Indians this weekend, bouncing back from an 0-6 road trip to take two-out-of-three from the Chicago White Sox.

Corey Kluber would normally have been the story of the day after striking out 13 – including a club record seven in a row at one point – in going eight innings in Sunday’s game.

Kluber’s seven consecutive strikeouts were two short of the American League record, set by Doug Fister in 2012, and three short of the major league record, set by Tom Seaver in 1970.

He beat the Tribe’s previous high of six consecutive strikeouts, previously done by Bob Feller, Bartolo Colon, Chuck Finley and Mitch Talbot. (Bet you didn’t see that last one coming, did you?)

Or fans would be talking about George Kottaras, who homered in his first two at bats after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus while catcher Yan Gomes in on paternity leave. Kottaras is the first Tribe player to homer in his first two at bats with the team.

But closer John Axford stole the spotlight by allowing a three-run home run to Dayan Viciedo in the top of the ninth to turn a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 Tribe loss. It was Axford’s second blown save of the season, both at the hands of the White Sox.

“Two walks, falling behind guys didn’t work out in that sense,” Axford said after the game. “Two guys were on without even me really challenging them. It wasn’t until the guy I challenged, who put the ball in play, that things didn’t go well.”

No they did not.

The loss broke the Tribe’s eight-game winning streak at home against the White Sox, the longest against any team in Progressive Field history.

Sunday’s loss was disappointing, certainly, but the Indians still won the series, so they have that going for them.

It’s not all good news, of course, as second baseman Jason Kipnis is expected to miss three to five weeks with an oblique muscle strain, and center field Michael Bourn is day to day with soreness in his left hamstring.

“It’s nothing major, just something lingering,” Bourn said on the team’s website. “I’m just going to take it one day at a time, see how it feels (Monday), and go from there.”

While Bourn may be back in the lineup on Monday, why do we get the feeling we are going to be hearing about his hamstring all season?

The Tribe opens up a four-game series with the Minnesota Twins on Monday night at Progressive Field.

In case you didn’t know

It’s going to be a busy week as the NFL Draft rolls around Thursday night from New York City.

Between now and then, we’re finishing our look at the quarterbacks the Browns have drafted in the first round over the years, running the latest 5 Questions with an august panel of Browns thinkers, and take a final look at what the Browns may do next weekend in their annual quest to turn the team around.

(Photos courtesy of The Associated Press and The Plain Dealer)

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