Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “EPL”

Liverpool ready to kick off Premier League title chase

European Football - UEFA Champions League - Semi-Final 2nd Leg MD12 - Liverpool FC v Chelsea FCThree months after seeing their title chase slip away, Liverpool return to action on Sunday against Southampton for the start of the 2014-15 Premier League season.

While a new season always brings fresh hope for the 20 clubs in England’s top flight, Liverpool has legitimate reasons to believe the upcoming season will be a good one after finishing in second place last year, just two points off the pace of Manchester City.

As Liverpool kicks-off the nine-month marathon that is the Premier League season, let’s do a quick Thumbs up/Thumbs down about the club.

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Liverpool and the art of being patient

Liverpool kicks off the English Premier League season today at West Bromwich Albion today with plenty of questions surrounding a team that finished an uncharacteristic eighth in the table last season.

Let’s see if we can find some answers.

The Reds take the field today under a new manager in Brendan Rodgers, who is used to challenges after guiding Swansea into the Premier League and leading the Swans to an 11th-place finish, just five points behind Liverpool.

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King Kenny exits the castle

Kenny Dalglish is out as manager of Liverpool, just 16 months into his second stint in charge of the club that he once starred for.

John Henry, Liverpool’s principal owner and chairman Tom Werner made the decision after meeting with Dalglish in Boston earlier this week.

“Kenny came into the club as manager at our request at a time when Liverpool Football Club really needed him,” Werner said. “He didn’t ask to be manager; he was asked to assume the role. He did so because he knew the club needed him. He did more than anyone else to stabilise Liverpool over the past year and a half and to get us once again looking forward. We owe him a great debt of gratitude.

“However, results in the Premier League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made, we need to make a change.”

In some ways it is not that surprising, as Liverpool finished the season in eighth in the Premier League, four points behind in-town rival Everton, 17 points behind fourth place Tottenham Hotspur (the final Champions League spot) and a whopping 37 points behind league champion Manchester City. It was their worst finish in 18 years and the lowest point total since the 1953-54 season.

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Clint Dempsey’s the man

Congratulations to Clint Dempsey, who on Monday became the highest-scoring American in the Premier League.

Dempsey’s goal at the 85-minute mark gave him 37 goals since joining Fulham in 2006, breaking a tie with former teammate Brian McBride, who played with Everton in 2003 and Fulham from 2004 to 2008.

We’re even willing to overlook that Dempsey’s goal came in a win against Liverpool.

And speaking of the Reds, it’s never a good sign when your £35 million investment’s performance is labeled as being “lumbering.

Yeesh.

Browns being cautious with Hillis contract

When it comes to extending the contract of third-year running back Peyton Hillis, the Browns are approaching it like a fine BBQ chef.

Low and slow.

Browns general manager Tom Heckert said on Thursday that, “Until we get a contract done with somebody, we’re not gonna talk about it.

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You can never have too much pitching

The Cleveland Indians are obviously believers in the old axiom that you can never have enough pitching, as the Tribe has selected 15 pitchers with their first 24 picks in the amateur baseball draft.

After using their first pick on shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Indians selected right-hander Dillon Howard with their second pick.

According to mlb.com:

In past drafts, there would only be a small offering of high-ceiling, projectable high school pitchers with good velocity to choose from in the first round. In 2011, there’s some depth in that category. Case in point is Howard, who doesn’t rank up with the prep arms being mentioned near the top of the draft, but isn’t far off, either. The Arkansas product has a fastball that will be plus, touching 95 mph at times. It’s not straight, either, with both sink and run to it. His hard curve, 78-80 mph, is a little slurvy now and is fringy average, but it’s got some depth to it and will be more than fine. He’s even got a good feel for a changeup, an offspeed pitch that should be a Major League average pitch as well. With a clean delivery, decent overall command — not as much with the curve — and the chance to have a solid three-pitch mix, Howard looks like he’s settled firmly into the first round, unless signability (he’s advised by Scott Boras) becomes an issue.

We’re all on board with the plan to stockpile pitchers; the more quality arms you have in the minors the better the odds you will find two or three that could reach the majors some day.

As for Lindor, mlb.com says:

He has the chance to be an impact player on both sides of the ball at a premium position. He’ll definitely be able to stay at shortstop with plus defense, showing outstanding range and a strong arm. At the plate, he’s gotten stronger and he could grow into enough power to hit 15 or so homers annually, enough to keep pitchers honest, along with hitting .290-.300 every year. While he’s a solid average runner, he could be a potential leadoff hitter in the future, thanks to his strike-zone knowledge and willingness to take a walk to go along with his ability to swing the bat from both sides of the plate. Lindor is a high-energy player with good makeup, one who is almost certainly the top high school position player, according to talent, in this draft class.

The Indians appear to be in good hands with scouting director Brad Grant. He drafted Alex White, Lonnie Chisenhall, Drew Pomeranz, Jason Kipnis and Cord Phelps.

We’ve already had a taste of White on the major league level and we like what we saw before he was injured. And it’s easy to look at the other names on that list and imagine them in Wahoo red, white and blue.

There’s no known downside to having a strong minor league system and that’s what the Indians have been building. If Grant can keep the draft magic going, the team should have a strong pipeline of talent coming to Progressive Field for years to come.

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There was a good story by Heather Havrilesky in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine on why Friday Night Lights, one of the best TV shows ever, was mostly ignored by viewers while drivel like Glee is a ratings hit.

Yet thanks to disappointing numbers in its first two seasons, Friday Night Lights was farmed out by NBC to DirecTV, which showed each new season in the fall, after which they were replayed by NBC in the spring. So the fifth and final season of Friday Night Lights has already wrapped up on DirecTV, even as it’s now completing a zombie victory lap on the network. It’s still hard not to wonder why a show so humble and all-American has struggled so mightily to attract viewers. Where are the cheering, breathless crowds?

These days, you’ll probably find them singing along with the precocious teenagers of Glee. That show covers much of the same thematic ground — high school, troubled marriages, the joys of teamwork — but in a far more spectacular, flamboyant manner. The colorful musical dramedy has been a huge hit since it shoved its way onto the schedule in 2009 in a violent burst of sequins and jazz hands. If Friday Night Lights is as American as apple pie, then Glee is more like Ben & Jerry’s deep-fried caramel-apple whipped-cream-swirl ice cream (which doesn’t exist, but really should): a dense, flavorful, genre-bending extravaganza of one-upmanship, raging hormones, teary confessions and lip-glossed warbling.

It’s a good read, but the answer is actually quite simple. If you watched Friday Night Lights you had to think, and the majority of people don’t want to do that anymore – the ongoing popularity of Sarah Palin is proof of that.

With drek like Glee, people can mindlessly watch the pretty colors and don’t have to worry about using their brains.

It’s unfortunate, too, because as long as that is the case it will be harder to get shows like FNL, The Wire and Rome on the air.

And that certainly does not fill us with glee.

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Finally, we made our debut at EPL Talk today, with a post on how the NFL lockout could have a negative impact on Randy Lerner and Aston Villa.

Yeah, about that Indians prediction

Well the Indians didn’t waste any time lowering expectations for the 2011 season, falling behind the White Sox 10-0 before rallying but falling short in a 15-10 loss.

“I can’t promise a win every day, but I can promise a team that is going to battle and fight for every out,” Indians manager Manny Acta said in published reports. “It was a weird game. All we could think of at first was there’s not many opening day games that are 14-0 right off, but we battled back. Unfortunately, we had to play catch-up baseball (but) we went down fighting.”

First the bad part. Indians No. 1 starter Fausto Carmona threw 82 pitches in just three innings of work, leaving after facing four batters in the fourth inning. The White Sox hit .555 against Carmona, with home runs from Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin.

Carmona reminds us of Paul Shuey – you can almost tell from the first two batters if the good Carmona or the bad Carmona showed up. Once Carmona gave up hits to three of the first four batters we had the feeling it was going to be a long day for the Tribe.

Now for the good part.

The Indians never gave up. After falling behind 10-0, the Tribe outscored the Sox 10-1 and pounded the Chicago bullpen for six runs in just three innings.

The Tribe pitchers also struck out 14 White Sox, with Frank Herrmann notching five strikeouts in two innings of work and Vinnie Pestano striking out the side – and looking good doing it – in the ninth inning.

Carlos Santana had three hits, including a home run, and Jack Hannahan did the same as the Indians pounded out 17 hits.

If the Tribe can keep hitting like that, a lot of our worries will be eased.

The good thing is, there’s another game today. Carlos Carrasco takes the hill as the Indians start working toward those 81 wins we were talking about.

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The Wall Street Journal came up with an interesting idea, creating a 64-team basketball to football “conversion bracket.”

They used this year’s basketball tournament results to create a football bracket, coming up with a final four of Oklahoma State, Air Force, Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois.

According to the article:

Beyond producing matchups that only the most hard-core fan would want to watch, the exercise exposed another downside of tournaments: that the most-deserving teams, the ones that had the best seasons, often don’t get anywhere near the championship – and this can affect the quality of the final games.

So teams that had the best seasons don’t get near the championship – like TCU this past season? And the quality of the final games would be affected with a tournament? Wow, that never happens under the current system.

Look, we’re not as opposed to the BCS as some people, and picking a year where the basketball tournament featured so many upsets doesn’t mean the same thing would happen in a football version of the tournament.

But we just don’t see any downside to having the national champion in football actually decided in a playoff like every other college sport.

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With just eight games to go, the race in the English Premier League to stay out of the regulation zone is reaching historic proportions.

Of the 20 teams in the top division, a dozen are still short of the 40 points typically considered a minimum for survival. Among that group are teams normally in the safety zone by this part of the season, like Aston Villa (oh Randy!) and Blackburn Rovers – one of just four teams to even win the championship in the modern era.

Any of eight different teams could wind up in the relegation places after this weekend’s matches and just six points currently separate the entire bottom half of the table, the smallest margin since the Premier League was cut to 20 teams in 1995.

Relegation means big bucks, as teams dropping down a spot can lose an estimated $80 million or more per year in revenue. And even with Randy Lerner’s deep pockets, that’s a big number.

In addition, most players have contract clauses that will halve their salaries overnight in the event their team is relegated, while coaches rarely survive the experience of guiding a team that goes down.

Should be an interesting last month of the season.

Duo writes the book on bad owners

It’s clear following Monday’s 3-0 loss that Liverpool is a mess under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

As we pointed out a few weeks ago, the (soon to be) outgoing owners have turned one of England’s most-storied clubs into a struggling squad with an uncertain future.

We know bad owners in Cleveland, from Ted Stepien to Art Modell to just about everyone who owned the Indians prior to the Jacobs brothers. So watching these two ruin Liverpool has been painful.

Paul Bestall at EPL Talk has come out with a spot-on look at the current state of the squad under Hicks and Gillett. Some of the “highlights” include:

  • Hicks and Gillett want not just ridiculous, but utterly stupid amounts of money for a club they’ve effectively bankrupted.
  • A fan base determined to run the owners out of town.
  • A stadium that has never made it off the drawing board.
  • Manchester City pulled Liverpool to bits tonight at times without really playing that well. Couple this with some performances on the tail end of last season and it reminded me of the last time a Liverpool squad looked this thin on quality. Under Graeme Souness, Liverpool had become a shadow of a side within 3 years, struggling to qualify for the UEFA Cup as it was then, never mind the Champions League.
  • The arrival of Roy Hodgson cannot paper over the cracks in this Liverpool squad. Hopelessly weak in areas it used to excel in, players shuffled about to try and make do and an attack so lightweight it looked made of paper. This is the worst Liverpool squad in 15 years, no question about it.

And the blame rests solely in the owners’ box for this mess. It seemed like Kenny Huang was going to finally start cleaning-up this mess with his bid for the club, but Huang pulled out last week after reportedly growing impatient.

Now what? Hicks and Gillett are determined to hold onto the team until they can sell it for a payoff they clearly haven’t earned. When Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool FC, the club reportedly had a debt of approximately £44 million. That debt has now grown to £237 million.

And if the team continues slipping down the table? Apparently Hicks and Gillett have taken the position that will be the next owner’s problem.

Just lovely.

Spanning the Web on a Friday

Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk has joined the bandwagon in claiming Eric Mangini is on the hot seat, writing that:

“Throughout much of the 2009 season, the question regarding Mangini wasn’t if he’d be fired or when he’d be fired, but whether the Browns would try to do it with ’cause’ and thus cut off his ongoing payments.

“His first year in Cleveland had been a disaster, damaged by a string of reports that he was too hard on the players and destroyed by a horrendous win-loss record. But then the Browns caught fire late in the season, and new team president Mike Holmgren apparently decided that giving Mangini at least one more year represented a no-lose proposition.

“If Mangini loses, Holmgren will make the easy decision to move on. And then Holmgren likely will give Jon Gruden a call.”

Can’t we even wait until the season starts to see if the team can carry over any momentum from last year? Maybe see if the offense can be a bit more productive this year? If the defense – with all the new faces – can push some people around?

Is that too much to ask?

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Via The Spoiler comes news that the England Department of Health released the findings of a survey into which soccer fans drank, smoke and ate the most. Turns out Sunderland fans are the most unhealthy, although you can’t tell from that photo of a Newcastle fan.

It would be interesting to see a similar study of NFL fans. You know Pittsburgh would be at the top.

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This collection of artwork from the covers of AFL game programs is great. The cartoon illustrations are sweet and it’s an interesting reminder of how attitudes have changed over the past 40 years. The one image I found confusing was this one: since the Browns were 52-4-3 in league play and won all four league championships, shouldn’t they have been the ones driving the steamroller? Thanks to Uni Watch for the initial link.

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EPL Talk checks in with its weekend viewing guide.

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It didn’t take very long for the Miami media to become LeBron’s new apologists. Interesting to see how long that will last.

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Finally, the Browns take the field Saturday night against St. Louis in their second preseason game. The struggles on defense were understandable with T.J. Ward and Joe Haden getting their first game experience and several new faces on defense, plus they were going against Green Bay’s talented offense.

This week they get Sam Bradford and the weak Rams offense. It’s not unreasonable to expect a better showing from the defense this week.

It will be interesting to see if the offense can show the same sense of purpose and success they had last week. It would be nice to see Jake Delhomme for a few additional series, as well, so the starters can start rounding in to shape.

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