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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “opening day”

Tribe so close to a perfect day

It was so close to being the perfect game for the Cleveland Indians in Thursday’s home opener against Toronto.

But in the end it all fell apart.

For eight innings the game played out exactly the way the Indians wanted it, showcasing the blueprint for how the Tribe will have to play to win this year.

Justin Masterson was sublime while working eight innings of two-hit, 10-strikeout baseball; his only mistake a solo homerun ball given up to Jose Bautista. Hey, no shame in that.

A three-run homer by Opening Day superstar Jack Hannahan (the third in his career) in the second inning was the key hit the Indians were looking for in building a four-run lead after two innings.

Read more…

Well that was special

Like the plot in a bad made-for-TV movie from the ’70s, the Browns broke out their schizophrenic personalities on Sunday, losing to Cincinnati in the home opener and Pat Shurmur’s debut as head coach.

There was a lot of bad, followed by some good in the 27-17 loss.

The good: rookies Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard teamed up to knock staring quarterback Andy Dalton out of the game with a wrist injury. Hopefully that is the first of many quarterback hits from the duo this season.

The bad: Ten penalties in the first half, including one we’ve never seen before: an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Shurmur for running into an official on the sidelines.

The good: Joe Haden was all over the field, batting down five passes and frustrating Cincy wide receiver A.J. Green all game.

The bad: Green’s 41-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter when the Bengals snapped the ball while the Browns were basically still in their huddle.

“They quick snapped us,” Shurmur said in published reports. “I’ll have to watch the tape, but it’s my understanding they changed personnel, lined up and then quick snapped. There’s rules that go along with that, so we’ll see. My understanding is when the offense changes personnel, the defense is allowed to do so as well and have time to do it.”

The good: Touchdown catches by Ben Watson and Evan Moore, helping the Browns come back from an early 13-0 deficit.

The bad: Cedric Benson had 121 yards rushing – including a game-clinching 39-yard touchdown run – as the Browns still can’t defend the run, giving up 4.2 yards per rush.

The good: Josh Cribbs showed that he is still a threat in the return game. Cribbs returned three kick offs for 91 yards (with a long of 51) and six punts for 58 yards (with a long of 21).

The bad: On Cribbs’ 21-yard return in the fourth quarter, Browns receiver Greg Little blew up Cincy’s punter with a block but his momentum carried him into Cribbs, essentially bringing Cribbs down short of what was shaping up as a big return.

The good: Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s new 4-3, play fast, defense produced four sacks, two by D’Qwell Jackson.

The bad: After Green’s TD gave the Bengals a 20-17 lead, the Browns had three more possessions. They ran 12 plays, gained a total of 25 yards with two first downs.

The bad: The offensive line was not good. Two false start penalties on Shaun Lauvao, one on Joe Thomas, Oniel Cousins and Artis Hicks showed why they were available on the waiver wire, the Bengals were able to pressure Colt McCoy all game, just not a good game all around.

The bad: The running game was a non-entity for the Browns. Peyton Hillis had 57 yards on the ground, Montario Hardesty added 18. Not good enough.

The bad: McCoy didn’t look comfortable in the pocket, holding the ball way too long at times. Very surprised by that.

The bad: Wide receiver Brian Robiskie was in mid-season form, putting up his all-too-familiar Blutarsky stat line of 0 receptions for 0 yards. That’s the 11th time he’s pulled off the double zero in 26 career NFL games.

The bad: Punter Richmond McGee had punts of 20, 30 and 28 yards.

OK, that’s enough.

We know some people don’t want to hear it, but it was only one game. As bad as the Browns looked in the first quarter, they looked that good in the second quarter. What happened in the second half was clearly not good, but this is a young team still working to figure things out.

If they are still playing like this in Week 10, we’ll start to get worried. But whether we like it or not as fans, the team is going to continue to have growing pains this year. They are trying to rebuild this team the right way, and there are just no shortcuts along the way.

“The biggest thing is do not let this game trickle over into a whole season,” corner back Sheldon Brown said. “That would be the most frustrating thing.”

Yes it would.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Tribe Time is finally here

Opening Day has finally arrived and the Indians are back to save us from the NFL Lockout and a Cavs team that won’t be in the playoffs for the first time in six years.

While the Indians won’t contend for the division this year in all likelihood, there is much to like about the team.

Carlos Santana will be here for the whole season.

Shin-Soo Choo is still the must underrated player in the American League.

Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley are ready to finally show that the are big-league players.

The starting pitching is going to be better than people expect.

The bullpen is settled, with Chris Perez anchoring it as closer for the whole year.

Finally, manager Manny Acta has the team believing in itself.

Throw in the fact that we are currently in Chicago and have had to hear and read about how great the White Sox are for the past few days and we’re ready for the Tribe to open it up.

We see where the over/under on wins this year is 71.5. We clearly like the over this year.

Let’s go 81-81 in what could be a fun year.

Indian Fever Starts Today

The Wahoo Warriors open their 109th season of baseball this afternoon against the White Sox. Optimism is running, well, tepid is probably the best way to put it.

The consensus puts the Tribe around 75 wins – that’s the over/under in Vegas – with the Beacon Journal’s Sheldon Ocker going high – 82 wins – and Sports Illustrated going low – 66 wins. Everyone else falls into the 75-win range, with the five Plain Dealer writers splitting at two with 75 (Bud Shaw & Bill Livingston), two with 76 (Terry Pluto & Dennis Manoloff) and Paul Hoynes with 77. The New York Times puts the Tribe in fourth place, saying “The Indians should score but will struggle on the mound as they wait for a new wave of talent to mature.”

So what to expect this year? How can the Indians top most expectations? A solid start to the season would help. It’s no secret that the Indians struggled in April & May under Eric Wedge, so a reasonably good start will help things out. If the Tribe can pick up one win they weren’t expecting each month of the season that would add six wins to the 75 and put them at .500. Since most people believe the division can be taken with 88-89 wins, can the Tribe pull out a few more and contend? It’s hard to see that happening, at least this year.

One of the best things that could happen is also one of the worst for the Indians – a deep playoff run by the Cavs. Since everyone will be hyper-focused on the Cavs until June, there will be no pressure on the Tribe early in the season. However, if we all get up the day after the Cavs season ends and find the Indians 10 games under .500 and 12 games out of first, we’ll collectively hit the snooze button until training camp starts for the Browns. Apathy is far, far worse than indifference.

We’ve all been down this road before with a rebuilding team. Sometimes, like in the ’90s, it works. More often for the Tribe it turns out more like the 1970s. The 1996 book Total Indians recalls how fans were optimistic about a young team in 1977 that seemed to be building a core of young players in Buddy Bell, Rick Manning, Charlie Spikes, Duane Kiper, Dennis Eckersley and Jim Kern. That year, the Indians added 20-game winner Wayne Garland via free agency only to see him tear his rotator cuff that spring. Manager Frank Robinson didn’t make it through the season as the team lost 90 games. Two months into the season GM Phil Seghi traded reliever Dave LaRoche for two players and $250,000 to keep the team afloat. The team lost 31 of its first 57 games.

The following year the break-up of the team continued when the Indians traded Eckersley (who ended up in the Hall of Fame) before the season and Bell (six Gold Gloves) after the season for some spare parts.

They summed up the decade by saying “The Indians’ treadmill to nowhere, as usual, was running at full speed.”

Sound familiar to anyone?

Now we’re left to wonder what to make of the coming season. Do we root for Travis Hafner to return to his old self because it will help the team, or because it will increase his trade value? Do we want Grady Sizemore to make the leap to the next level, even though it would mean he would be pricing himself out of Cleveland? That’s the joy of being a Cleveland fan in today’s unbalanced Major League Baseball.

In any event, it will be an interesting season with lots of young players who will hopefully show significant progress during the season.

For a look at what they’re saying in the other Central Division towns, check out:

Chicago Sun-Times

Detroit Free Press

Kansas City Star

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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