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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Steven Gerrard”

5 Questions – Liverpool FC edition

Nrendan-Rodgers_AP_2900575bLiverpool opened the 2014-15 Premier League season in August with high hopes for a promising year.

The club was coming off a second-place finish in the previous season’s campaign, had once again made Anfield a site that opposing teams feared, and were returning to Champions League play after a four-year hiatus.

While Luis Suarez had taken his talents to Spain, confidence was high that Daniel Sturridge would slide into the No. 1 goal scoring spot, with Raheem Sterling making a similar progression as Sturridge’s sidekick.

The club was active over the summer, bringing in Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Emre Can, Alberto Moreno and Dejan Lovren, adding youth and depth to the squad, and Rickie Lambert for experience. And just after the start of the season, Liverpool added the mercurial Mario Balotelli to bolster the offense.

One of the biggest advantages was the continued guidance of manager Brendan Rodgers, who rarely made a misstep as Liverpool battled Manchester City down to the season’s final game in 2013-14.

As the calendar turns to 2015, however, things are not going as planned at Anfield.

Read more…

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Indians quickly learning that it is no longer 2013

tribe lost in chicagoThe Cleveland Indians won 92 games and captured the second Wild Card slot in the American League in 2013 thanks in large part to two incredible, but ultimately unsustainable stats: their record against Minnesota and the Chicago White Sox (a combined 30-8) to go along with 11 walk-off wins.

Through the first two weekends of this season, it has become evident that it is no longer 2013.

The Tribe had a disappointing weekend in Chicago, dropping three-of-four to the White Sox. Add that to last weekend’s series against the Twins, when the Indians lost two-of-three, and things have taken a turn for the worse early in the season.

Read more…

Steven Gerrard remains the anti-LeBron

Good news, as Steven Gerrard has signed a new deal that should keep him at Liverpool until he retires and that includes an ambassadorial when with the team once he finishes playing.

“This is the club I love and is the club I have supported since I was a young boy,” Gerrard told The Daily Mail. “I am living the dream as the captain of one of the biggest clubs in the world. I love coming to work every day and the experiences I have had since I was eight years of age and first signed for the club, I wouldn’t change them for the world. To extend that and to hopefully have some more good times in a red shirt is what I want.”

Manager Kenny Dalglish highlighted Gerrard’s loyalty to his hometown club.

“In this day and age there’s not many people who go through their football career and represent just one club, especially people with quality like Steven,” Dalglish told The Daily Mail. “If you’re happy where you’re playing, you’re enjoying what you’re doing and you enjoy the football club I don’t see any reason to move, and it’s fantastic for us that he hasn’t.”

Dalglish’s comments remind us of what we wrote when Gerrard signed his last deal with Liverpool.

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Morris Claiborne, LSU’s All-American cornerback, announced on Thursday that he is entering the NFL draft.

Claiborne, the third-rated player on ESPN Scouts Inc.’s draft board, led the Tigers with six interceptions this season and returned one for a touchdown. The winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back also was LSU’s top kickoff returner, averaging 25 yards per return, with one touchdown that went 99 yards.

Wonder what Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton would think about lining up twice a year against a pair of SEC cornerbacks in Orange and Brown?

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The Indians are reportedly interested in free agent first baseman Carlos Pena, with general manager Chris Antonetti waiting to see if the Dolans will open their wallets.

While Pena is a name that fans will recognize, that doesn’t mean he will solve all the Tribe’s problems at first base.

According to Paul Cousineau at The Dia Tribe:

So, if we’re talking about offensive prowess, Pena’s 2011 numbers look the best…but that doesn’t mean that Pena does not come with legitimate concerns offensively, with the main concern being voiced by a scout in John Perrotto’s piece at B-Pro called “Best Players Still on the Board”: Scout’s view: “He can still help someone, but you better have a good right-handed hitter to platoon with him. He’s completely helpless against left-handers now, so you can’t play him 155-160 games anymore. At this stage of his career, he’s a complementary player rather than a major cog in a lineup, and I’d pay him accordingly.”

“Completely helpless against left-handers now”…oof, we already have a couple of those. Unfortunately, what the scout sees bears out in the numbers as Pena posted a .594 OPS vs. LHP in the NL last year, which comes on the heels of a .675 OPS vs. LHP campaign in 2010 for the Rays. In the last 3 years, Pena has a .704 OPS vs. LHP, a number that has trended down since the 2009 campaign. As a quick aside, Hafner’s OPS vs. LHP over that same timeframe (the last 3 years) is .680, so Hafner has actually been less effective than Pena vs. LHP since the beginning of the 2009 season…and since there would only be one Carlos Santana to go around, you’d still be looking for a RH platoon partner for Pena (or Hafner) if a guy like Pena is signed, warts and all.

Read the rest of Paul’s analysis of the situation here. Hopefully someone can forward the link to the Dolans to help them with their decision.

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Finally, it was one year ago today that the Browns hired Pat Shurmur as head coach.

Here’s what we had to say about the hiring.

Looking back on what we wrote when Shurmur was hired, we pretty much nailed it.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Captain Fantastic Does it Again

Not only did Steven Gerrard save Liverpool’s Europa League title hopes with a hat trick Thursday against Napoli, he may have also saved the Reds season and the job of manager Roy Hodgson, who was understandably excited about the win.

The 3-1 win puts Liverpool on the verge of qualifying for the knockout stages and should be the spark the team needs heading into its Sunday showdown with top-of-the-table Chelsea.

After a rough (to put it mildly) start to the season that saw the Reds sitting in the relegation zone, a bitter battle over the sale of the club and assorted injuries, Liverpool has pulled to within 5 points of fourth place and a return to the Champions League next season.

It won’t be easy, but if they can come away from Anfield on Sunday with a point (or points) off Chelsea there is still plenty of season left (we’re not even to Boxing Day yet) to get things turned around.

Thursday night against Napoli was a good start. Now lets see if the team can carry that over to Sunday.

Psst, want to buy a soccer team?

With Saturday bringing the start of the new Premier League season, it’s been a good summer for Liverpool.

First Steven Gerrard, aka the anti-LeBron, recommitted to the team, then Fernando Torres, fresh off a World Cup victory with Spain, announced he was staying at Anfield. Rafa Benitez, his ego and odd player rotations are in Italy, replaced by Roy Hodgson.

And it looked like, at long last, the team would be rid of goofball owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who after running the team into the ground since buying it in 2007 decided to put it up for sale last spring.

But even that hasn’t gone smoothly. At first, Chinese investor Kenny Huang appeared to be the front runner to buy the club. (His name should sound familiar to Cavs fans – he advised Chinese investors bidding to acquire a 15 percent stake in the Cavaliers, although the deal did not work out).

More potential owners have come out in recent weeks, although the Sahara Group has apparently pulled out; while the interest from Yayha Kirdi has left many fans cold.

Hicks and Gillett prefer Kirdi, of course, as he is reportedly willing to pay 600 million pounds for the club, twice the value of the other offers and enough to ensure the owners of turning a profit. The other offers would allow the pair to walk away without losing any money.

It’s not surprising that Hicks and Gillett can’t even get this right. Gillett, while he was owner of the Montreal Canadians, was part of the NHL when it closed down for a year because the owners couldn’t figure out how to control themselves from overspending on contracts.

Hicks famously bid against himself as owner of the Texas Rangers to give Alex Rodriguez $250 million, and recently sold the team out of bankruptcy.

Just the duo you want running your club.

And we think the Dolans are bad.

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Finally, more good news from the always top-notch EPL Talk.

The Anti-Lebron

Steven Gerrard is no LeBron James.

And Liverpool fans couldn’t be happier.

Gerrard, captain of Liverpool and England, decided this week to turn down the opportunity to “take his talents to South Beach,” we mean to a star-studded Real Madrid team, and remain at Anfield. Gerrard, a Merseyside native, joined his hometown team’s youth academy at age 8 and has been with them ever since.

This isn’t the first time Gerrard has turned down an opportunity to leave home. He almost moved to Chelsea – a wealthy, high-priced London team – in 2005 after leading Liverpool to the Champions League title in 2005.

But rather than turn his back on home, Gerrard remained, realizing that winning titles as the leader of your hometown team is infinitely better than joining an all-star team that is trying to buy titles.

He was 25 at the time, but was mature enough not to be lured by the bright lights and fast living of the big city. Sadly, we can’t say the same about a 25-year-old LeBron.

Now 30, Gerrard is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. It would have been easy for him to leave Anfield for one final big payday, one more chance to lift a cup, especially with:

  • a new manager, Roy Hodgson, taking over for the fired Rafa Benitez
  • one of the worst ownership situations in sports (seriously, we think the Dolans are bad, but Tom Hicks and George Gillette are worse. Google them, you’ll see)
  • the team coming off a disappointing seventh-place finish that leaves them in the wilds of the Europa League for the upcoming season, rather than the more lucrative Champions League.

But he stayed. He realizes that there truly is no place like home.

“I wanted the chance to meet Roy (Hodgson) privately and having done so, I’m very impressed with his plans for the future,” Gerrard said in The Daily Mail. “I can’t wait for the start of the new season.”

That’s right, Gerrard met with his new coach before he made his decision. LeBron, of course, couldn’t be bothered to speak with Dan Gilbert, the Cavs owner, let alone new coach Byron Scott in the days leading up to free agency.

Gerrard not only stayed, he actually spent time at the World Cup recruiting players, selling them on coming to Anfield. According to The Daily Mail:

“During the World Cup finals, while every Liverpool fan and their new manager endured sleepless nights, worried that their talismanic captain would finally be lured away from Anfield to either Madrid, Milan or Manchester, Steven Gerrard was actually busy recruiting new players for his club.

“He may have claimed he was deferring all talk surrounding his future during the difficult time leading his country in South Africa, but Gerrard appears to have made an exception when it comes to players signing for his beloved team.

“We know now the Liverpool and England skipper was actively working behind the scenes at the England camp to sell his club to one of the game’s most talented players – and this week the Merseyside giants signed Joe Cole.”

Hodgson credited Gerrard and teammate Jamie Carragher, a fellow Merseysider, with selling Cole on the move to Anfield.

“Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard did a good job in selling the club to Joe at the World Cup,” the Liverpool manager told The Daily Mail. “He was undecided about what he wanted to do and, to be fair, it takes a bit more selling to persuade a Londoner, who has played all his life in the capital, to move up to Liverpool. The simple solution would have been to stay in the London area.”

We all know about the problems the Cavs have with luring free agents to Cleveland, a city very much like Liverpool, and LeBron’s unwillingness to help out certainly didn’t help. You can’t help but wonder how effective he could have been if he’d used his status as one of the league’s best players to actively recruit players to Cleveland.

But LeBron is no Steven Gerrard.

And Cleveland fans couldn’t be sadder.

A Major Howler

England thought they had seen the worst when Robert Green let an easy goal roll past him in the opening game vs. the U.S.

Well, the Three Lions saved their worst for last, losing 4-1 to Germany in their first game of the knockout stage. And it wasn’t even that close.

I enjoy watching the England team because I know the players from being a fan of the Premier League. So a day after the U.S. was dumped from the World Cup, it was disappointing to see England not only go down, but do so weakly. In addition, the team’s history of painful losses is familiar enough to Cleveland fans that they have a special place in my sporting heart.

Sunday’s game probably brings an end to the Golden Generation of English football, an era that was marked more by disappointment than joy. It’s very likely we’ve seen the last, or are nearing the end, of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, David Beckham, etc., that held so much promise nine years ago.

And the English are left to wonder, once again, why they can’t find a decent goalkeeper. It’s funny, the Americans are derided as being second-class citizens on the world stage, but they usually are backed by a top-notch goalkeeper.

England’s media is out in full force, with The Sun going with the headline “Franks for nothing – Fabio’s flops are battered in Bloemfontein.” The Mirror made a dig about Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal, with the headline “Three Lions Muller-ed by Germans … and the ref.” The Daily Mail went with the wordy “At least the sun’s still shining. Germany crush toothless England 4-1 (with a LOT of help from a short-sighted Uruguayan linesman).” Finally, The Times checks in with “Abject England crash out.”

Makes me wish the local papers were as clever with their coverage of the Indians, Browns & Cavs.

And while it may not have impacted the final outcome – but who knows, really? – Lampard’s disallowed goal, which was clearly over the line – as well as the missed offside on Argentina’s opening goal in the second game, leave FIFA with egg on its face and a lot of explaining to do. (Let’s not even get started on the refs in the USA games). Somebody needs to wake Sepp Blatter up and make him understand these kinds of mistakes are not entertaining to fans and don’t make for good sport.

“It is often the case that, even after slow-motion replay, 10 different experts will have 10 different opinions on what the decision should have been,” Blatter has said. “Fans love to debate any given incident in a game. It is part of the human nature of our sport.”

Sorry, Sepp, but that ain’t right.

You have to wonder how Jorge Larrionda was even on the field as an official, as this is not the first major error he’s made. He was suspended by his country’s Football Association for “irregularities in a match between Brazil and Columbia; in this year’s World Cup he failed to catch Tim Cahill’s handball for Australia which ended up keeping Serbia from advancing; and he has the highest red card per match ration in international matches.

In other words, this guy is no Jim Joyce.

Finally, if losing wasn’t bad enough, a French politician is blaming England for Les Blues’s exit in the group stage.

You gotta love the World Cup.

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