Movie quotes are a form of friendship identification for me. If I spout off a line from “Tommy Boy” and you have no idea what I am talking about, we have to re-evaluate the grounds of our relationship. The sports movie that I most quote is a comedic classic with top-notch actors and great plot. “Major League” is the comedic sports movie EVERY person should watch when able. It has everything. Loveable losers, villainous owners and hijinks abound make this a great watch any time (only on channels allowing swearing, the PG version is lame). There is a team in the NBA that reminds me of the lovable Cleveland Indians of “Major League”, but without the winning. The LA Lakers are going nowhere fast and have a cast of characters worthy of a movie script. The line from “Major League” that pops into my mind when thinking of the Lakers this season is “a bunch of has-beens and never was.” This describes the Lakers roster minus a couple players. Let me break down this analysis cast member by cast member.
Kobe Bryant as Jake Taylor
Jake is the older, injured catcher leading a team with emotion and smarts. He solves problems in the clubhouse no coach or admin wants to touch. Kobe is the older, injured leader of the Lakers. Both Kobe and Jake’s bodies are falling apart and they are ready to walk away from the game. Kobe is trying to have fun with a young team and lead them while not wanting to kill everyone for not being better. The flaw in this comparison is everyone likes Jake.
Jordan Clarkson as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn
Ricky is a raw talent. He has control issues and doesn’t always fit in. His talent needs guidance and when he gets it he is a true star. Jordan Clarkson is a second round pick (by the Wizards) that flashed stardom last year and was named first team all-rookie. Despite his rookie year success Jordan doesn’t fit in with this team. The Indians featured Ricky the next year, the Lakers are pushing Kobe and Deangelo Russell combo. This could be a huge mistake for the Lakers moving forward.
Roy Hibbert as Roger Dorn
Roger Dorn is a veteran third baseman with an inflated sense of self. He is also deathly scared of using his body to make a play at third. A fear he conquers and becomes a valuable asset and cornerstone to winning. Roy Hibbert is a veteran big man with an inflated sense of self and fear of getting dirty in the post. He is the tallest player on the court most days and isn’t even the rebounding leader on his own team (Julius Randle has him beat by nearly 3.5 rebounds per game). Similar to Dorn, if Hibbert can learn to clang and bang on the inside he would be a valuable part of the Lakers and their rebuilding.
Julius Randle as Pedro Cerrano
Pedro Cerrano is the hot-headed power hitter with a hole in his swing. He can only hit the fastball and looks to everything from Jesus, voodoo and golf head covers to help. When he figures out the solution to his deficiency is in him he becomes the terror the Indians need. Julius Randle is not a one trick pony like Pedro is, but he hasn’t figured out pacing, team basketball or how to fit in quite yet. Julius was taken out of a game recently (after 16 minutes of total playing time) and was not a fan. This led his coach, Byron Scott to say, “He’s got to grow up. Simple as that. I think the main thing I don’t like is when you take him out of games, how he reacts sometimes. I chalk it up to immaturity and just being inexperienced in this level. It’s going to happen again. I’m going to take him out of other games that he’s not going to like.” Similar to Pedro, Julius can be the terror they need. He has the talent and the aggressiveness Hibbert is missing. He just needs to understand his role and the solution is in him.
Jim Buss as Rachel Phelps Rachel Phelps is the owner of the Indians. She wants to move them to Florida and tries to sabotage the team so they lose value and must move. The team rallies around her plan and wins despite her. Jim Buss is in charge of basketball operations for the Lakers. He doesn’t want the Lakers to move, he isn’t purposely putting a poor product on the court and the team is definitely not rallying despite him. He is the person in charge of this group of has-beens and never-was and that is a good enough reason to cast him in this role. “Major League” is a great movie. It is funny, exciting and lively. The Lakers are…not any of these things and if they don’t land a free agent to pull them out of their current state the sequel will not be worth watching.
I just got finished volunteering at a Christmas party for the resident kids at OhioGuidestone. With the backing of my fantastic day job, I was able to help provide a meal, party, and Christmas gifts to a bunch of great kids. Zoup! catered, the kids played, and I walked around having the best night I’ve had in a long time.
I’m not putting this on More Than a Fan because I want you to acknowledge me. I’m tossing this story up on the header of a sports column because it’s proof that all of us can make a difference. I tell too many stupid jokes on twitter, I drink too much coffee and vent about bad days, I have a few too many adult beverages at a party and break out a joke that makes people cringe… I do all of those things we all do. And, if I can manage to help people, you can. Trust me. I’m bad at almost everything.
Donate some money, drop off some Christmas gifts to a church, buy a cheap winter coat at Walmart and give it to someone you see shivering. Little things aren’t little to the person who gets the gift.
Johnny Manziel is starting again. This is the right decision, since Josh McCown is a walking M.A.S.H. unit and Austin Davis knows less of the offense than Johnny did last season, at this point. Is Johnny going to play well these last four games and convince us all that he’s our savior again? Maybe. I don’t know. It’s incredibly unlikely, but I survived my 20s, so anything is possible.
I will say this; don’t trust anyone who is convinced Manziel is going to be the man. Not because I think it’s impossible, but because someone with good judgment wouldn’t allow himself to be obsessively all-in with someone who’s failed for so many different reasons so recently.
I listened to some of Mike Pettine’s press conference from Monday:
Mistakes don't happen at crucial times. Mistakes cause the times they happen to be crucial. #Browns
I did a poor job of listening. I own that. But there weren’t a lot of loafs, so I’m satisfied with the effort.
Gary Barnidge signed an extension. That’s very good news. Now, we just need to get one done with Travis Benjamin, get Josh Gordon back on the field, and the offense will have a chance with whatever new quarterback, head coach, and offensive coordinator combination will be on the sidelines.
I would like to announce I have signed an extension to remain in Cleveland. Looking forward to years to come. pic.twitter.com/X75uXvggCH
Indians Twitter has had a fun week. Follow the conversation that our resident commercial actor started about trading for Todd Frazier. I mean, the Indians aren’t going to trade for Todd Frazier, or anyone else, probably, but the winter meetings happened and we do this to ourselves every year.
The Cavs are awesome. Look, there are things I don’t like that happen during losses. There are rotations I don’t always get. There are moments when LeBron James dribbles too much, or Timofey Mozgov can’t jump over a quarter, or Matthew Dellavadova throws a guys to the ground like a pro wrestler. Those moments suck.
Ok, fine, the Delly moment is awesome.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I get it. I get the frustration with the Cavs. I just don’t think the first two months of any season dictate how good teams play down the stretch. ESPECIALLY a team like the 2016 Cavs, who are working hard to get healthy and have been able to be at the top of the Eastern Conference without their superstar point guard and best defensive back court player. By the middle of January, Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert are going to allow LeBron and Kevin Love to rest more, change the offensive spacing, and create opportunities on the floor this Cavs team hasn’t had yet this season.
The formula for 2016 was to be good in the beginning, really good down the stretch, and great in the playoffs. I can’t guarantee the last two, but they started right on plan.
Welcome back to my little corner of More Than a Fan. I took last week off from the column for the holidays, but don’t worry, my terrible record of picking games this season kept right on chugging.
On Johnny Manziel: His time in Cleveland is through. Maybe he’ll end up on the field in a Browns uniform at some point to finish out 2015, but I can’t see any plausible scenario in which Johnny sticks around, regardless of anything at all that takes place on the football field…
…Unless Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer get fired. I have flip-flopped on my opinion of whether these two should get canned, whether only one of them should be shown the door, and, if one of the other, I can’t decide which should get the pink slip1Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned..
Sometimes I think that Pettine really has the veterans in the locker room. That he gets their respect because he holds players accountable and rewards guys who work hard. The flip side of that coin is the perception2/pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. that Pettine won’t play Farmer’s guys out of spite, because the two can’t get on the same page.
Oh, there’s also the terrible clock management, his buddy Jim’s terrible defense, and the offensive coordinator doing everything he can to not pass the buck while passing the buck.
#Browns OC John DeFilippo: it's not on me to call timeouts, not trying to pass buck, that's on HC, we were on ball, tough situation for Pett
Ray Farmer is terrible at picking players, and considering that’s his most important job, things aren’t looking good the former prodigy. No, Bernie Kosar could not be the GM of a football team. I would love to see him working with scouts, though.
Someday the Cavs will be healthy. With health will come more meaningful rest for LeBron James, Love, and the back court crew that started the season playing heavier than normal minutes due to Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert‘s injuries.
When isn’t important. There are plenty of things that happen in losses that can be pointed to and harped on for improvement, and the Cavs five losses so far this year are no exceptions to that rule4Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.. The Cavs are NOT a perfect team that sometimes takes a loss just because. Yes, there is real room for improvement.
That improvement will come. The players and coaching staff will settle in more each week, especially as the team’s health starts to improve. Glorious revenge will be ours.
Alright. Maybe I’m getting carried away.
I think Timofey Mozgov‘s knee is still messed up. This is a completely unsubstantiated opinion based on nothing but the fact that I’ve wasted thousands of hours watching basketball games. Maybe Mozzy’s knee is fine, but I remember trying to tell people Kevin Love looked like an old man with a back issue last season, and it turned out he was.
Sometimes, I wonder if I am, indeed, more than a fan. After all, I moved away from the city where all most of my teams reside.
The more I do this stuff, the pods, the writing, the live radio show, I wonder if it actually makes me less than a fan. After all, I’m taking on a stance of less subjectivity. In fact, if all the dysfunction and failure to see my teams reach the pinnacle doesn’t take away from my fanhood1You know, of the Cleveland teams., I’m not sure what will. I’ve come the conclusion that only an obligation, by way of occupation, the whole “no cheering in the press box” will deter me from the tears of joy. Who am I kidding? Cleveland only offers tears of agony.
My father once watched a childish demonstration2I’m not proud to admit he’s witnessed many of these immature displays, mostly when I was an actual child., and in the interest of full disclosure, it wasn’t that long ago that I pouted over a Phil Taylor offsides penalty that reduced the Browns chances of victory from slim to none against the Ravens, that begged the question, “I don’t know why he still cares so much”. I do care, and sometimes it brings me shame to show that, but it always defines my character. We see it so much, why do we settle for this shit show that is the Browns? My answer is simple…I ain’t got no place else to go. Could I shut down shop, and just root for the local Cardinals? Of course, I could, but it’s my decision not to. I don’t want to show my middle finger to my friends and family back home; I’d rather poke my own eye out3In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal I like the Cardinals. Living vicariously through my local friends, I’m thrilled with their current success.
I could take the cop out, you know, that the “real” Browns left in 1995 and they aren’t coming back. Had I left before this ridiculous knock-off stepped onto the scene, maybe I’d have grounds to do that, not for the approval of others, but for inner-peace, but I don’t go that route.
Putting the Browns on the back-burner for a moment, they’re only a fraction of the agony of my fanhood. I have more history with the Indians, and I marry myself to them more than I probably should. I remember taking on the unfathomable plan of what exactly it was that I would do when they finished the job in 2007. It wasn’t even a matter of “if”, and that was before they’d put away the Yankees in a best-of-5, even before they took a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead over Boston in the best-of-7 in the American League Championship Series, where actuality revealed a much crueler fate for the Sons of Geronimo. I’d gotten married that summer4Ironically, it was on a weekend that saw the Tribe swept by the very Yankees they took down in the playoffs, but I spent more time thinking about renting the tuxedos and limousines to celebrate the Indians’ first World Series win since 1948 than for any of the particulars of my own wedding. There was going to be champagne, and there wasn’t going to be any concern for sustaining employment. I don’t know if it’s accurate to say a state of depression followed, but I promise a very un-Christian period of hatred for all-things-Boston culminated from that point. I have a very dear friend from Cape Cod, and quite frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t kick my ass to the curb in the aftermath of that ALCS and subsequent Red Sox sweep of the Rockies in that World Series, but he’s a fan too, so I’m pretty sure got it/gets it.
If you think it’s just Cleveland, you’d be wrong. I’ve grown an affinity for a few of my new home’s local teams, specifically the Phoenix-turned-Arizona Coyotes. After Game 7 of the NHL’s 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals, things got weird with me and Detroit. I was a little more numb when the Winged CCCP swept my Desert Dogs out of the 2011 Stanley Cup Tournament, but when my hockey team actually started advancing in the playoffs, my hate, and I don’t use that word lightly, shifted to the Kings of Los Angeles. Phoenix had grown on me.
By 2013, I was a partial-season ticket holder with the Arizona Diamondbacks and a full-fledged Arizona State Sun Devil Football season ticket holder. That was the summer that Ian Kennedy put a pitch in Yasiel Puig’s earhole, which included a subsequent brawl that was the flashpoint for the Dodger ascent and Arizona’s fall to the bottom of the pack, a fall they’ve yet to fully recover from.
By the time the Dodgers clinched the National League West at Chase Field that September, I had such a low opinion of that organization, and all of Los Angeles, that the news/rumor of a few Dodgers players draining the main vein in the center field pool had me feeling like Jack’s complete lack of surprise.
I guess the point is, I don’t know how to do casual. I’ve adopted my wife’s Northern Illinois Huskies, and I sometimes feel guilty about not being all-in, not hating Toledo and Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck5Fleck was a great receiver at NIU when they first stepped on to the national scene, behind the great running Michael “The Burner” Turner, earlier this millennium.. I guess I’m getting there, but I’m pretty far in for a guy that spent the early part of his adulthood just paces away from Kent State, with friends at MAC schools in every part of Ohio.
I think leaving Ohio is as much to blame for my passion as being from there is. I feel like I have some sort of obligation to serve as an ambassador, while 2500 miles from the place I called home for so long. I don’t know how to be anything other than passionate and loyal; while it destroys any hope for normalcy in my life, I feel it can be quite the virtue. If I’m a genuine sports fan, but fake at the other things I do in life, I’m exposed as a fraud.
With Yours Truly, there isn’t anything fraudulent to be revealed. I’m the genuine article, even if it means admitting that I’m not proud. Browns fan? Duh. Tribe fan? You know it. Cavs fan? With or without LeBron, you know I am, and I’m unapologetic for being so against him and the possibility of a return for four years, until it happened. If I want to leave a legacy of any sort, it’s that I root for the home team, just like my father in my love life. He says, if you like her, I like her.
It’s a front of the jersey thing. It says Cleveland, Phoenix, Arizona, or whatever’s important to me, I’m on board. Being a fan is cool; never be ashamed.
I never claimed to be brilliant, but I think that’s a principle that gets you through life, whether that concept is subject to scrutiny or not.
After a nine win week eight, I’m pretty depressed. I never feel good when I have to start off the picks column with a number so low; I have to spell it out instead of use the numerals1Bet you degenerates didn’t think you’d get a grammar lesson today.. I’m off to a (depressingly) strong start this week after picking the Bengals to beat the Browns on Thursday night. Ho hum. My favorite football team is terrible again. I’ll just have to drown my sorrows in Cavaliers basketball.
Don’t bet on the Cavs2I’m listening to Odelay as I write this. I forgot how cool Beck was. Don’t get me wrong, Cleveland’s swashbuckling heroes are going to win a lot of games3my preseason bet was less than 56.5, but 55 is still a lot., but betting on the Cavs to cover point spreads is a risky proposition. Slow starts and managing minutes is going to leave bettors feeling differently than fans.
I know LeBron James downplayed the moment he tore the sleeves off the awful Adidas uniforms the Cavs wore against the Knicks, but I suspect LeBron is being a little less than honest in that Uninterrupted video. Not that I blame him; losing your cool at a tee shirt isn’t always the best look. Speaking of bad looks; those uniforms are the worst look. They’re tee shirts that teams should give away to fans before a playoff game. They’re not basketball uniforms.
I don’t buy that at all, especially since the Thursday night game in Cincinnati was no different. Moreover; the Browns weren’t that good in the first half of either game, anyway.
In the Cardinals game the Browns secondary was abused as much in the first half as they were in the second, but was bailed out by Karlos Dansby and K’Waun Williams forcing key turnovers. At best, the Browns defense could be called “Big Play,” considering their four forced turnovers. But, in reality, they’re just a high risk unit. Specifically, it’s risky for the Browns that this is the unit.
Against the Bengals, the only thing preventing an uglier defensive output was two seemingly miraculous scoring drives that combined to eat up 10:58 seconds of game clock. Not including Carson Palmer taking knees to end the first half and the game, the Browns defense only forced one three and out Thursday. Guys; the defense is the problem.
I would love to harp on Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell only combining for 13 carries Thursday night, but the Browns got in such a huge hole so early in the second half, they had to start throwing the ball around like a Madden game. I’m sure Duke would rather run pass routes than keep up that torrid Thursday pace of 0.0 yards per carry.
@MarkSkog@RyInCBus At 2-7, winning games doesn't secure Pettine's job. Making decisions Jimmy likes does that.
I don’t know what Jimmy Haslam wants. I don’t know what Mike Pettine wants. If it were my money, I’d have to stop paying Jim O’Neil.
I’m not breaking down anyone’s doors to wager roses this week. My favorite is a big favorite, the Patriots covering against the Redskins.
I’m comfortable admitting I was wrong about not liking Teddy Bridgewater. Honestly, being so right about not liking Colin Kaepernick really eases that sting. Quarterbacks make the world go round, and they shall continue in their two matchups. The Vikings will win easily, and the 49ers will lose ugly.
I had the hardest time with the matchup between the Raiders and Steelers. I’m taking the upset. It feels right.
Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league
At press time last week, the news about Alex Anthopoulos leaving the Toronto Blue Jays was just about to break. To say that the announcement caused some discussion in the Toronto sports media, and amongst the general public, would be an understatement.
Looking back at the situation now, it is perhaps easier to see why Anthopoulos decided to move on, and realize that most Blue Jays fans were just hoping that Anthopoulos and news Blue Jays President & CEO Mark Shapiro would work things out. When we re-examine the facts and connect the dots, it seems this was not the hasty decision it seemed to be at the time it was announced.
To summarize what we know:
Both parties confirmed that the team had offered Anthopoulos a five year extension, to continue as General Manager of the ball club.
Anthopoulos said that his reason for turning down the offer was that he didn’t see this as “the right fit” for him. He didn’t expand on that comment, other than to repeat it several times in various interviews with the media following the official announcement.
Edward Rogers, CEO of the Blue Jays parent company Rogers Communications, indicated that the offer made to Anthopoulos was for the same job he had under Paul Beeston, the retiring CEO of the Blue Jays, and there would be no change in the level of autonomy Anthopoulos would be granted under the extension, other than a change in his immediate boss, Shapiro. Shapiro was officially announced as Beeston’s successor on August 31st. Rogers went on to say that the offer included a salary increase and would have provided Anthopoulos with an “opt out clause” after twelve months.
Anthopoulos has always been very private about all matters, whether they were about his own contract, or about which pieces of the roster needed upgrading or changing.
Anthopoulos said on Bob McCown’s Prime Time Sports show on FAN 590 1FAN 590 is an all-sports station owned by Rogers on Thursday evening that he had initially turned down the offer on the evening of Monday October 26th, and that for the next two days the Blue Jays and Rogers had come back to him in an attempt to persuade him to change his mind. Anthopoulos stated that he thought about the discussions over those two days, but on the evening of Wednesday October 28th, he advised Rogers that he was standing by his initial decision to walk away. To Anthopoulos credit he took the high road, not once speaking negatively about Rogers, the Blue Jays, or the way he had been treated. He indicated he did not have another opportunity in front of him, and that he would take things day to day and enjoy time with his family.
In view of the Blue Jays success over the final 60 days of the 2015 season and their spirited post-season run, it is easy to sit back and be puzzled by the turn of events. Since both sides confirmed that a five-year deal had been offered, we can take comfort in thinking that was accurate. Anthopoulos said the offer was, “to be the General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays”. He did not offer to explain if or how the team or Rogers wanted to change his level of authority. Rogers and the team continued to stand by their earlier statement that the offer included no changes to the role that Anthopoulos had been performing for the past six seasons.
How Did We Get Here?
So, where did it break down? Now that the dust has settled somewhat, and again looking back at recent events, it is perhaps easier for fans and the media to pinpoint several situations that might have triggered Anthopoulos’ decision.
Looking at the facts of the past twelve months chronologically, the first hiccup likely came in the fall of 2014, when Rogers made it known within the industry that Beeston would be retiring no later than the end of the 2015 season. Rogers is a communications company, but apparently they forgot to inform Beeston of their decision. Rogers started looking for his successor. They targeted several individuals, all with baseball backgrounds rather than the business background, that Beeston brought to the table. We can only assume that the move to seek a new CEO with a baseball background was likely triggered by the fact that both Beeston and Anthopoulos’ contracts expired at the end of the 2015 season, so everything fitted nicely in terms of the new President and CEO being able to hire “his guy” rather than inheriting Anthopoulos, the Beeston disciple.
Several names were suggested as Beeston’s successor, but the two that were mentioned most prominently were Kenny Williams, President of the Chicago White Sox and Dan Duquette, General Manager of the Baltimore Orioles. As both Williams and Duquette were employed, Rogers needed to obtain permission from the White Sox and Orioles before approaching Williams and Duquette. The first contact was supposedly with the White Sox principal owner Jerry Reinsdorf regarding Williams. What Rogers failed to take into account was that Reinsdorf and Beeston are extremely close friends, so once he was approached; Reinsdorf’s first call was to his buddy Beeston asking him what was going on. Beeston was not pleased, as none of us would be. Then the search turned to Duquette and Orioles owner Peter Angelos requested compensation in an amount that the Blue Jays weren’t prepared to agree to.
Once it became public knowledge that Rogers wanted to replace Beeston, it was glossed over and announced that Beeston would retire at the end of the 2015 season. He would be 70 years old at that time and a Blue Jays employee for 40 years. In fact he was the team’s first employee, hired in 1976, a year before the team first took the field. Apart from a few years working in MLB headquarters in New York, Beeston has been a fixture with the Blue Jays for all those years. Even when he worked for MLB, he maintained an office at Rogers Centre (then known as SkyDome).
So the search continued for a new CEO, ending with the Shapiro hire on August 31st. While the official announcement didn’t take place until late August, obviously discussions with Shapiro and the Indians were ongoing well before the hire was announced. In fact, those discussions likely went back to at least the latter part of July, when the Blue Jays were 50-51 and it appeared they were about to enjoy another .500 season. It is very likely that Rogers made it clear to Shapiro that cleaning house would be easy to justify given the team’s on field performance at the time discussions were taking place.
While both sides have denied it, rumours persist that shortly after Shapiro came on board, during a conversation with Anthopoulos, he was critical of the numerous trades Anthopoulos had made at the July 31 deadline, giving up several good prospects in order to obtain Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. Whether Anthopoulos acted on his own in these trades, as was his mandate, or whether he and Beeston had discussed the strategy we will likely never know, but the possibility exists that if both felt their Blue Jays careers were over on October 31st, why not take a gamble and go for it all in 2015? After all, they had nothing to lose. Beeston knew he was going, and Anthopoulos must have felt that he would be gone too if the record didn’t improve, because his biggest supporter was leaving at the end of the year.
After Anthopoulos made his announcement last Thursday, Globe and Mail columnist Cathal Kelly detailed a conversation he had had with Anthopoulos in September when the Blue Jays were in New York for a four game series with the Yankees. Kelly describes the conversation as being very causal, in the visitors’ clubhouse. ”You’re coming back, right?” asked Kelly. “I’m not sure” Anthopoulos responded. Kelly interpreted that as meaning that there had been no discussions about a new contract for Anthopoulos. Anthopoulos indicated he had only met Shapiro in passing, and had no feel for him. Anthopoulos apparently told Kelly that he had no interest in staying if it meant running every move up the ladder and while he was open to collaboration, he did not want to be micro managed. If that is the way the conversation took place, then it is easy to see why Anthopoulos didn’t “see a fit” for himself in the post-Beeston era. Anthopoulos also apparently revealed he had had no discussions with ownership, which Kelly thought was odd. Anthopoulos apparently agreed. Kelly indicates he was asked not to reveal the discussion at the time it occurred, but now that it has come to light, it would seem that Anthopoulos had in fact made up his mind long before the five year contract offer last week.
Shaprio held his first press conference at Rogers Centre on Monday, his first day on the job. He said all the right things, that he wanted Anthopoulos to return and is disappointed Anthopoulos decided to seek other pastures, that he was looking forward to working with a team that not only represented a city but a whole country, that the Blue Jays had a strong management team, and that he hoped all would stay. He danced around a lot of questions. There were lots of definite maybes in his responses. Perhaps we should expect that from any executive. Perhaps we should expect that from anyone in their first day in a new job. But Shapiro did nothing to settle the minds of Blue Jays fans still enjoying the team’s first post season appearance in 22 years. Shapiro did state that in order to provide some stability, he was promoting current Vice-President and Assistant General Manager Tony LaCava to Interim General Manager, and that field manager John Gibbons would return in 2016, but when asked, he made no comment about whether LaCava would be seriously considered for the General Manager’s job on a full time basis.
What Shapiro did was damage control, essentially providing himself with a little more time before having to make a formal statement on where he saw the team going. LaCava was loyal to Anthopoulos so from a continuity standpoint the appointment makes sense. LaCava also worked for the Indians for a year in the early 2000’s when Shapiro was the General Manager in Cleveland, so there is a little history there, but the announcement was clearly not a resounding endorsement. In his November 3rd column, Kelly is suggesting that LaCava shouldn’t run out and get new business cards.
As a Blue Jays fan since day one and a long-time member of a season ticket group, I wasn’t impressed with Shapiro’s first state of the union message. I hope it gets better, but I can see why Anthopoulos made the decision he did. It likely wasn’t just his inter-action with Shapiro, or the lack of it, it was probably what he has seen over the last twelve months, starting with the way the organization treated Beeston, his good friend and mentor and the new direction the Blue Jays appear to be heading.
Ironically on the day Anthopoulos’ decision became public, he was named as the MLB Executive of the Year for 2015. A nice thing to add to your resume in an industry where opportunities arise fairly often, and an industry where hopefully Anthopoulos will find “the right fit” not too far down the road.
Could this have been resolved? Yes, but the circumstances would have had to be different. If Rogers had known the success the team would enjoy on the field after July 31st, they may have handled it differently. Looking back, and using the “if only we knew then what we know now” approach, the best move would have been to promote Anthopoulos to President and CEO 2He holds a degree from a McMaster University, a well-respected Canadian institution and let him run the baseball side. The business, marketing and stadium issues could have fallen under the responsibility of a new hire with those specific skills, reporting to Anthopoulos. What difference does it make if you have a baseball guy reporting to a President with a business background, or a business guy reporting to a President with a baseball background? From my seat, it makes no difference.
Anthopoulos has earned a lot of respect in this city as a result of his work with the Blue Jays this year and his open, friendly manner with everyone he came into contact with. He was always giving of his time while working with the Blue Jays and seems genuinely disappointed that things didn’t work out between the two parties. I think that fans saw him as “one of us”, a baseball fan and a Canadian to boot.
Do you remember what you were feeling 20 years ago this week? If you’re a Cleveland sports fan, you
The Cleveland Indians had just finished putting the finishing touches on one of the most thrilling seasons of professional sports in a generation’s history, although – in typical Cleveland fashion – they broke our hearts when they lost to the Atlanta Braves in the 1995 World Series, 4 games to 2.
Even though the loss stung, the general feeling was that the Indians were built to be contenders for many years and that they not only would get back to the World Series, but they would win it. The ’95 World Series was the first true championship game for any Cleveland team since the Browns lost in the 1969 NFL Championship Game to the Vikings (although the winner did advance to the Super Bowl), so for people my age, it was the first one we ever experienced.
And, man, it was fun.
The World Series came to an end on Saturday, Oct. 28 in Atlanta with a 1-0 loss. With Cleveland still a bit hung over from that experience, things were brewing in Berea – more specifically, a private plane in a Baltimore airport – that would make the World Series a quick afterthought.
A day after that Series loss, the Browns played the Cincinnati Bengals at the old Riverfront Stadium. Head coach Bill Belichick made the controversial decision to bench veteran Vinny Testaverde, who had taken the team to the playoffs in 1994 following an 11-5 regular season, and go with third-round rookie Eric Zeier.
Zeier completed 26-of-46 passes for 310 yards with a touchdown to much-maligned free agent signing Andre Rison – it was Rison’s first touchdown of the season and one of only three he caught that forgettable season. Despite blowing a 26-16 fourth quarter lead, Zeier led the Browns to a game-winning field goal in overtime by Matt Stover for a wild 29-26 win. That win snapped a three-game losing streak and put the Browns at 4-4 – still in contention for a winning season and a playoff berth.
A few days later, Cleveland threw a parade for the Indians, even though they lost the World Series. Cleveland fans descended upon Public Square in droves to celebrate one more time with one of the most-loved teams in the city’s history. In the meantime, while the city toasted the Indians for their first American League pennant in 41 years, their beloved Browns had been signed, sealed and delivered to a town called Baltimore in a private plane on a deserted tarmac just a week before.
The crap was about to hit the fan, and hit it quick.
As the Browns prepared for a pivotal home game against the Houston Oilers – who, ironically, would also be moving within the next two years to Nashville – rumors began to circulate that the Browns would be moving to Baltimore in the near future. Browns owner Art Modell (may he burn in eternal Hell) was in full denial mode, but as reports out of Baltimore began to come out, the Sunday game suddenly took a somber, if not an angry, tone from the fans.
Modell got his family out of town in the middle of the night and was conspicuous by his absence in that Sunday game, which turned out to be a 37-10 loss. Fans hung banners all over the old Cleveland Stadium denouncing Modell and booed the Browns not just for the hap-hazard play on the field, but for what was happening off it.
That game occurred Sunday, Nov. 5. On Monday, Nov. 6, TV stations broke in with a live report from a parking lot in Baltimore that featured then-mayor Kurt Schmoke, then-Maryland Governor Parris Glendenning and Modell on a makeshift dais announcing that the Cleveland Browns would be known as the “Baltimore Browns” effective the 1996 season.
I’ll never forget watching that news conference at my house. I was a 21-year-old college student and an aspiring sportswriter, and for the first time in my life, my heart was truly broken. I was in denial. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought it was a ruse just to get the Sin Tax extension passed in Cuyahoga County, which it did by a landslide the next day.
Cleveland Mayor Mike White, with news cameras in tow, showed up the day after Election Day to the Browns’ Berea headquarters with an agreement in hand containing a new stadium lease with plans on remodeling the existing stadium. Of course, Modell was long gone, but White still delivered the manila envelope to a Browns employee anyway. It made for good TV, but it was a hollow gesture – Modell was gone, and soon, so would the Browns.
White and other Cleveland politicians and ex-Browns athletes urged Browns fans to call, fax and – if it was available since it was relatively new at the time – e-mail NFL headquarters to let them know this move could not happen. I’ll admit to calling the NFL at least once or twice and writing a letter, and some of my friends did as well. Cleveland called and faxed so much that the NFL’s switchboard blew up. The NFL was not prepared for the backlash that occurred from Cleveland fans.
Usually, when an NFL team moves, it is leaving a disinterested fan base behind. Sure, a handful of people
might complain, but for the most part, that community is happy that that team, or that owner, is leaving. While Cleveland’s relationship with Modell had always been a tenuous one ever since the “carpetbagger” (as the Cleveland media called him in the early 60s) from New York showed up out of nowhere as the new owner of the Browns, it wasn’t about him – it was about the team. And Cleveland LOVED its Browns.
The fans’ passion and the fact that there was litigation in place that would have blocked a move from happening made the NFL think on its feet and come up with a compromise. That compromise was that Modell could move to Baltimore with the existing coaches, players and front office, but it would be treated like an expansion team with a new nickname and a clean slate. Cleveland would retain the Browns’ nickname, team history, heritage and colors, which would be given to a new franchise within the next three years, provided Cleveland build a new stadium and drop its litigation. It’s the first time that has happened in NFL history, and it hasn’t happened since.
We’re closing in on the 20-year anniversary of that fateful day known simply as “The Move.” And, if you would have told fans back then that not only would the Browns be back, but playing in a new stadium by Lake Erie, we would have been ecstatic.
Of course, if you would have added on that the team was an absolute joke in the NFL – and, by and large, has been ever since the NFL saw fit to grant us an expansion team in 1999 – how excited would you have been about it? My guess is, probably not.
Would you have wanted to fight harder so the franchise wouldn’t leave at all, knowing that the NFL would cut corners in granting the expansion team and with the building of the new stadium? Or that the expansion draft would be full of castoffs and bums? Or that they’d give the franchise to Modell’s former silent partner Al Lerner, who would turn the franchise over to Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark – the latter who was ill-prepared to be an NFL general manager?
It was one bad domino after another from that moment 20 years ago. Add in the fact that the newly-christened Baltimore Ravens would not only reach, but win two Super Bowls during that time span just makes it worse.
Today, the current Browns are 2-6 and are undergoing more turmoil than ever. A new owner is in town from Tennessee, who was promptly indicted on federal charges of embezzlement over rebates to his trucking customers at Pilot/Flying J. That new owner has already fired two coaches, two GMs and two team presidents since he came to town just before the 2011 season and it looks like that list will grow to three coaches and three GMs when it’s all said and done. The continuity is gone and the franchise is in a perpetual state of rebuilding and “five-year plans” that never seem to come to fruition. It always seems like the head coach and GM are never on the same page and they continue to try to put square pegs in round holes when it comes to evaluating and adding talent.
The Browns have hired coaches with NFL experience, college experience, hot-shot coordinators on the offensive and defensive side, brought in the hot-shot GM candidate with the supposed “eye for talent,” brought in the respected former NFL guru to run the show as the team president, and even brought back guys who used to work for the franchise in different capacities before – but nothing has worked. NOTHING!
And, while Modell wound up going bankrupt anyway because he was a shoddy businessman both before and after he left Cleveland and his family wound up losing their beloved franchise that he felt he had to move in order to save, that franchise has been one of the model NFL franchises over the last 15 years. They’ve had one GM and two head coaches since 1999. Do we really need to recount how many of each the Browns have had during that span?
This is why, 20 years later, The Move still stings. It still cuts to the core. It still hurts. It’s also why I will always hate the Baltimore Ravens and why I will argue any chance Modell has to get in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s also why I find it funny that Baltimore fans will condescendingly tell Browns fans to “get over it,” but yet they still hate the Colts and the Irsay family and still pine for the days when their football team had white helmets with blue horseshoes on them and not black helmets with a bird.
In the span of one week 20 years ago, Cleveland lost a World Series and a storied NFL franchise, and I don’t think we’ve ever fully recovered from that.
Sure, Cleveland underwent a renaissance of sorts with the building of Jacobs (Progressive) Field and Gund (Quicken Loans) Arena, and the Indians were one of the best franchises in baseball from 1994-2001. But they never could deliver that World Championship, were sold to a local owner in 2000 who ran out of money and have been run on a shoe-string budget ever since – every winning season becomes few and far between while the front office talks about things like “bottom lines” and “Snow Days” instead of wins. Now, they can’t draw fleas despite the fact that they’ve been remotely competitive for the past three seasons, even hosting a Wild Card game in 2013.
The Cavs were an afterthought in the 90s until a set of ping-pong balls bounced their way in 2003 that allowed them to draft local high school sensation LeBron James with the first-overall pick. James took the Cavs to their first NBA Finals in 2007, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs, then suffered three straight postseason letdowns before James decided to embarrass the city on national TV by announcing he was signing with Miami Heat. After four miserable years of James winning two NBA titles and finishing the runner-up in two more, he decided to come back to the Cavs last season. Now, suddenly, the Cavs are once again one of the premier teams in the NBA, having reached the NBA Finals last season, and have the best shot of ending that championship drought that will pass 51 years on Dec. 28.
And the Browns … well, that 1995 season that started with such promise – Sports Illustrated and several other national publications predicted that they would win the Super Bowl – wound up being a disaster. They only won one more game after The Move was announced, an emotional 26-10 win over the Bengals in the final game ever played at the old Stadium. Because it was blacked out, I listened to that game on the radio with my late-mother and, after that game ended, we both sobbed.
The final game of that season was held on Christmas Eve in Jacksonville. Almost fittingly, the game was lost on the final play on a Mike Hollis field goal. An expansion team literally kicked the Browns out of the NFL for three years with a 24-21 defeat. Little did we know that the way that ’95 season ended – completed with the last-second heartbreak – would serve as a mere appetizer for the way things have been here since 1999.
Hopefully the next 20 years in Cleveland sports history are better than the past 20 years have been. We can wish and hope, can’t we?
Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks and always will!
Congratulations on clicking on an experiment here at More Than a Fan. Before you flip out because you unknowingly clicked on some sort of internet test, don’t worry. We’re not the Stanford Psychology Department. We don’t do crazy things like follow the scientific method or set up control groups to test variables. We yell into the internet until enough of you listen. That’s how we set the volume around here, and we’re in the middle of finding the right level.
If you came for my NFL picks, they’re still here! Somewhere. Probably way down at the bottom, which means you have to read the rest of this stuff. The rest of the stuff here that you’re probably not used to yet is some Friday morning riffing on Cleveland sports. I haven’t quite decided on the best format for doing this on a weekly basis, but I’m sure I’ll be on solid ground by the time football season is over and there aren’t any more picks to make.
I’ll probably change the title structure of these columns, too, but too much change at once might break the internet.
The Cavs are good. Like, really good. David Blatt’s crew is merely 1-1 at this point, after a close loss to open the season in Chicago and a trip to Memphis to crush the Grizzlies, but this Cavs team is different from any other team we’ve seen here in Cleveland. Even different than last seasons’ second first season with LeBron.
You won’t hear any Mike Miller or Shawn Marion hate here1Okay, you MIGHT. But not right now., but Richard Jefferson and Mo Williams bring depth to the Cavs roster that didn’t exist last season, even during the 34-9 run that turned around a sub-.500 start.
An early season word of caution to Cavs fans: we’re not going to see the Cavs trouncing through the regular season, eviscerating teams and winning 65 games. Or 60 games. Or 56.5 games2Cavs over/under for 2015-16. David Blatt’s first priority is keeping LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving healthy and rested. Williams, Jefferson, Tristan Thompson, and the rest of the bench are going to allow Blatt to go to the bench early and often during this season. So, don’t lose your mind over losses. There will probably always be fair criticism after bad games, but 16 wins in May and June matter far more than playing the starters heavy minutes against the Knicks in December. Let Carmelo try out for the Celtics3Carmelo should get traded this season. Not as hard as Boogie Cousins should get traded, but it’s close.
Allowing Mark Shapiro to go to Toronto may have actually been a savvy move by the Cleveland Indians ownership, as the first big thing to happen under his watch is the resignation of 2015 GM of the Year Alex Anthopoulos. You heard that right. The man who JUST WON GM OF THE YEAR saw Mark Shapiro coming and bailed, without even having another GM job in his sights. It looks like the Blue Jays needed to go cheap, and Shapiro is the perfect man for the job.
Francisco Lindor got jobbed. Not snubbed, but jobbed. Major League Baseball’s Gold Glove eligibility rules are… I don’t know. Unexplainable? Confusing?
Yoenis Cespedes: 865.2 innings in LF w/ DET, nominated for AL GG. Francisco Lindor: 865.1 innings at SS, ineligible for Gold Glove.#Indians
Don’t make me talk about the Browns. Just get to the picks already. I don’t have anything nice to say about the Browns. Except, I’m apparently the only person in Cleveland who doesn’t hate the 2015 uniforms.
Some Picks Notes: The proof of my Thursday night picks are always on Twitter. If you don’t follow me there, you’re missing out.
One of the Tie-breakers in the #NomPickem League is which team will score the most and fewest points. I chose Seahawks for most and Cowboys for fewest. I really think this one will blow the roof off of Jerry World.
The Packers will be the team that finally exposes Peyton Manning‘s noodle arm, and the fact that Gary Kubiak is making a mistake trying to shoehorn an offensive system onto the golden years of the most cerebral quarterback who’s ever played the game. Manning is still more Peyton than Eli, but only when he’s running the place.
Cam Newton will continue to be an MVP candidate against the Colts. I just can’t wait to see what this week’s Andrew Luck “Dearest Martha” memes will be like.
Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league
Thirty years. Thirty-one years. Seems like a long time ago… until a Cleveland fan gets an assignment to write something about the Indians that can tie into the current baseball landscape.
In 1985, the Indians were 37 years removed from their last World Series. Hell, the Indians 1948 World Series Championship happened before the Mets or Royals even existed. It would be easy to pen another tale of woe, from another sad, jilted Indians fan. It would take almost no imagination for me to tell you my age1I’m 34. I remember when Pauly Shore was funny. and add up all those Cleveland championships that don’t exist, as if the city’s bare trophy case is justification for a lifetime of whining about sports. If I wanted to spend the next 500 words typing different combinations of “Only in Cleveland2OIC also stands for Opiod Induced Constipation, which probably also explains a lot about Cleveland fanhood.,” I could finish this column in my sleep.
Nope. I’m here to give Indians fans hope. Or, at least take away the hopelessness.
Only half of the teams in baseball have been around for as long as the Indians, which was chartered as the Cleveland Blues in 19013The Yankees are the youngest old team in baseball, with a start date of 1903.4I Hate the Yankees. That leaves a robust 15 teams that didn’t even exist before 1962. I’ll spare you the list that compares World Series Championships against league tenure. Instead, let me say that the Indians are a few unlucky bounces away from the same historical success that the Royals and Mets are experiencing this season.
Kansas City had a good ten year run, then disappeared for three generations before their recent turnaround. While the Mets haven’t even mustered a string of consistent success, instead scattering eight playoff appearances – and two championships – over 54 years. That’s what baseball is like if you’re not the Yankees527 championships gets tossed around a lot, but the Evil Empire has an astounding 40 WS appearances., Cardinals, Giants, or Dodgers.
It’s been a tough road lately for Tribe fans, but Jose Mesa’s blown save is certainly no worse than Bill Buckner’s error. Those Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner contracts don’t really stack up to the horror that Bartman inflicted upon the Chicago Cubs. It took 86 years for the Red Sox to lift the Curse of the Bambino, which is 85 years and 10 months longer than it took Francisco Lindor to the majors in 2015.
Being a sports fan in Cleveland is hard, it’s the fanhood equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck. Every season we sit on the couch and daydream about all those things we’ll do with the next season. It’s a stressful way to pay the bills and to root for teams. But next payday… let’s just say there’s hope for that vacation we’ve all been dreaming for.