Tag Archives: Mark Shapiro

Job Security, Health, and Midges Dominate Cleveland

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 ManzielHis 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..

[Read – The Browns Broke Me – by Jeff Rich]

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.

Let’s also not forget that this headline happened today; “Browns coach Mike Pettine acknowledges discussion about his future could be in Jimmy Haslam’s plans.3This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.

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.

[Subscribe – Railbird’s Nest Podcast. Recent guests include Ken Carman, Hayden Grove, and Tony Mazur.]

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. 

The Indians signed Joba Chamberlain.  There’s no punchline.

Mark Shapiro lured Indians VP of Player Personnel Ross Atkins away to become the General Manager in Toronto. This is a cool promotion for Atkins, who gets to put GM in front of his name, and work with a colleague with whom he’s comfortable in the process.

This looks like bad news for Blue Jays fans. Don’t believe me?

“But increasingly, front-office executives with GM experience, like Shapiro, are hiring GMs who function, in many ways, like an assistant would in the old model.” – Brendan Kennedy Toronto Star

Mark Shapiro, the not-GM who will act like a GM, even though he hired a GM.

I’m sorry, Canada.

Picks

Packers @Lions
Jets @Giants
Cardinals @Rams
Falcons @Buccaneers
Panthers @Saints
Seahawks @Vikings
Texans @Bills
Ravens @Dolphins
Bengals @Browns
Jaguars @Titans
49ers @Bears
Broncos @Chargers
Chiefs @Raiders
Eagles @Patriots
Colts @Steelers
Cowboys @Redskins

 

References
1 Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned.
2 /pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
3 This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.
4 Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.

Why Did Alex Anthopoulos Really Walk Away?

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.

Former Blue Jays General Manager had every opportunity to stick around, but he chose to leave.

To summarize what we know:

  1. Both parties confirmed that the team had offered Anthopoulos a five year extension, to continue as General Manager of the ball club.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Incoming club president Mark Shapiro (right) acted quickly in naming Tony LaCava (left) Toronto’s new general manager.

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.

All we can say is good luck Alex and thank you.

References
1 FAN 590 is an all-sports station owned by Rogers
2 He holds a degree from a McMaster University, a well-respected Canadian institution

A Eulogy For the 2015 Indians

What can you say about the 2015 Cleveland Indians? They had their moments, sure, but to compare the end result to where we figured they would be in late September before the whole party began in April, leaves an almost unexplainable discrepancy.

When the front office pulled off the coup of landing Terry Francona, straight out of the ESPN broadcast booth in 2013, it was supposed to be different. When they pulled out all of the stops for Nick Swisher, and then signed Michael Bourn, under the RADAR, it promised to be a new day in Cleveland.

All three had grossly underperformed in Cleveland, and two of them didn’t last three full seasons. The third, Francona, was brought aboard by someone who opted not to stick around to watch it all crumble. It crumbled in Boston, but they had a couple of shiny trophies on the mantle to remind them of the good times. Progressive Field has only a painted grey flag with the numbers “2013” to show for all of they hype that came with the 2012-2013 off-season.

The 2015 season didn’t mean the arrival of too many new faces; the headliner of the group was Brandon Moss, but the former Oakland Athletic was damaged goods, and the Indians’ brass was all about the reclamation projects (see: Kazmir, Scott). Gavin Floyd and Jeff Manship decided to come along for the ride, joining the pitching staff. They didn’t figure to need a lot of new faces, as the familiar faces were supposed to carry this squad to a title, said the experts at Sports Illustrated.

After all, they had the reigning Cy Young winner, in Corey Kluber1no longer Hans set to take the ball on Opening Day, and pick up where he left off in 2014. Carlos Carrasco showed the accountants enough in the second half of the prior season, that the club decided to extend him 5 years. Trevor Bauer was expected to turn the corner this season, Danny Salazar was expected to bounce back from a sophomore slump of sorts, and Gavin Floyd was the big veteran the team needed to eat up innings at the back of the rotation every fifth day.

It turned out to be the rookie Cody Anderson, and not Floyd, due to completely foreseeable injury, that owned the 5th spot, after Bruce Chen and Shawn Marcum reminded everyone why they were available to anyone willing to give them a shot. Bauer had his glimpses, but finds himself in a battle with Josh Tomlin for a 2016 rotation spot, after Tomlin showed flashes of brilliance, but no consistency in 2015.

Those who did start on the bump, on a semi-regular basis, all flirted with no-hitters. Trevor Bauer was first, but it was early in the season, so he combined with the bullpen for about 8 innings in Tampa, before Nick Hagadone blew the no-no and the shutout. Kluber went 5 or 6 on multiple occasions. Cody Anderson went 5, to kick off a remarkable streak of games in Tampa for the rotation. It was during that stretch that Carlos Carrasco came closest to finishing the job, surrendering a hit with 2 outs in the 9th. Carrasco was on a nice run last Friday against the Royals’ taxi-squad, the night after they clinched their first division title since 1985. Unless it happens in the next four games, Len Barker’s 1981 perfecto against Toronto will remain the last no-hitter of any sort from Tribe pitching.

In a time when the city has moved on to the Browns and getting Johnny Manziel on the field, you could put the celebrity quarterback in the same bucket with the group that plays 81 games a year in the building a few blocks south of First Energy Stadium. You might love the snapshots, but have to understand there’s nothing sustainable, just yet.

Carlos Santana is a first basemen; his days of catching or playing third base have gone the way of the dodo. That might be more of a Yan Gomes thing than a Santana thing, but the effect was felt when Gomes’ season was put on hold in early April, and we entered the black hole of the Roberto Perez/Brett Hayes platoon offensively. The thing offensive about that duo is that fans took offense to the lineup card, but Yan couldn’t go between suffering an injury on April 11th and returning to the lineup in late May.

Arguably, Yan never got things going with the bat all, after a 1-for-4 outing on Opening Day. It was June 6th before he broke the Mendoza line, and his water mark in the batting average category was .237, after a 3-for-4 day in a home loss to the Yankees in August.

At that point, who even cared? They were 7 games under .500, 14.5 games behind the Royals, and in the middle of spending a full month in the American League Central Division cellar. These are symptoms of a team whose clean-up hitter was batting .229, and I’m not talking about Ryan Raburn here.

Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley had some lofty expectations set on them, and despite some really badly-timed slumps, they’ve given everyone everything they can honestly expect at the plate, when you’re looking at the big picture. The problem is, that can’t do it alone, and the players who manned the left side of the infield on Opening Day in Houston weren’t cutting in the field or at the plate. Eventually, the club understood the formula for insanity, doing the same shit and expecting different results, wasn’t going to work, with Jose Ramirez at shortstop and Lonnie Chisenhall at third base, though Chisenhall was reborn as an outfielder, a la Alex Gordon, in the minor leagues.  There’s a definite “to be continued” happening there, so stay tuned.

Alas, we get the relatively unknown Giovanny Urshela up from the minor leagues to play third base, and not too far behind, but way too late for many die-hard Tribe fans, Francisco Lindor to play short. People who couldn’t pick the latter out of a lineup admired and pined for the services of Lindor in Cleveland. Going against the grain of everything not named LeBron James in Cleveland, Lindor has lived up to the hype, and should be named American League Rookie of the Year. In resetting a season that largely makes me frown, it’s all smiles when it comes to the 8th overall pick from the 2011 draft.

Lindor passes the eyeball test, even when he swings and misses. At shortstop, he turns into outs and fielder’s choices into double plays. While I liked Julio Franco, Omar Vizquel, and various stages of the Asdrubal Cabrera Experience, it’s fair to say this young man is one of a kind. He has fun, he takes instruction, and oh by the way, the numbers on the stat sheet are sexy as hell too. They’re not good for a rookie, they’re good for a baseball player. It’s all there in black and white.

The bullpen did some things, like suffer through CC Lee, Scott Atchison, and Anthony Swarzak outings. Zach McAllister and Bryan Shaw didn’t look too bad on paper, but you always cringed when Tito called to the bullpen for their services. Cody Allen was able to stay the course for what he’s been over the course of his still young career, and he will continue to be the starter until he veers obscenely off course (see: Perez, Chris). Manship and Austin Adams seemed to be better with each appearance. We also saw some nice things from Floyd and Shawn Armstrong, but in very small sample sizes.

They sent Marc Rzepcynski packing at the deadline, when Brandon Moss and David Murphy were already gone. Due to their ability to clear waivers, Swisher and Bourn were moved after the traditional July 31 deadline. The moves brought back AAA slugger Abraham Almonte and the albatross contract of Chris Johnson in return; it’s very likely that neither are long-term options, but nice placeholders until the farm system develops recent draft picks a little more.

It was clear after a 7-14 April that this team was not World Series-worthy and the ceiling was reset from 94 wins to 83, and they will be very lucky to even reach that plateau. We’ll miss them anyway.

Rest in Peace, 2015 Cleveland Indians2…or play golf, fish, and have fun with your family.  I’m just offering some parting words on the ball club.  These players should enjoy their lives..

References
1 no longer Hans
2 …or play golf, fish, and have fun with your family.  I’m just offering some parting words on the ball club.  These players should enjoy their lives.

The Tribe is Alive!

The Tribe is alive. I can’t believe it either.

The Cleveland Indians are just 4 games back of the second wildcard spot entering the final month of the season.

A month ago, I, and many others, were counting the Tribe as out. The bats were dead, the starting pitching wasn’t keeping the game in check and the bullpen was suspect. Add to that the lack of moves by the front office at the deadline and our suspicions weren’t unfounded.

This season was over, in every sense of the word.

And then, slowly but surely the Tribe won a few games.

Then the won a few series and then, they got a sweep.

The bats have been working lately, the starting pitching has been keeping opposing hitters at bay, and the bullpen, when they’ve been needed, have delivered.

The defensive play has been the hidden lynch pin to the Indians streak of success as of late. Who would have known that the addition of Abraham Almonte (seriously?) in centerfield and the return of Lonnie Chisenhall in RF along with the play of Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela on the left side of the infield.

After the current series with the Blue Jays, the Indians have games within and only within the AL Central. Those games include 6 against the Tigers (3/3 Home/Away), 6 against the White Sox (3/3 Home/Away), 7 against the Royals (4/3 Home/Away), and 6 against the Twins (3/3 Home/Away). They are going to need to win approximately 80% (20) games to cement themselves in the wildcard playoff for the American League. There is no chance anyone in the American League Central will catch the Royals. Currently, they are 13 games ahead of the second place team, the Minnesota Twins and 16 games ahead of the Indians.

The next month of baseball could be very interesting. Undoubtedly, memories of 2013 have begun to whimsically drift into the back of my head as I reminisce about one of the greatest months of baseball in recent memory.

While the next month will be interesting, the big Indians-related news of the week occurred late Sunday night

Shapiro back, back, back and gone to Toronto

Reports surfaced last week of an impending offer of the Presidency/CEO duties of the Toronto Blue Jays to current Indians President Mark Shapiro. The collective interwebs and social media were aflame with ifs, ands, and buts about the whole thing before it went quiet for a few days.

Then on Sunday, the hammer was dropped. Multiple well-known and respect sports journalists reported that Mark Shapiro would accept the offer from the Blue Jays effective at the end of the 2015 season. Soon after, the team confirmed it and a press conference was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

At the presser, Mark said he was excited about the opportunity for growth in Toronto and addressed (barely) issues he faced here in Cleveland. When asked about attendance, he side-stepped the issue and moved on to other topics of interest.

Direct reports to Shapiro will now report to Paul Dolan and Dolan also stated he will not look outside the organization for a successor for Mark. It would appear that the next era of the Cleveland Indians Presidency will take effect from within the organization and speculation has begun about who that individual will be.

When looking back over Shapiro’s impressive 24 year career in Cleveland, one can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

When John Hart left the organization in 2001 and Shapiro ascended the GM throne, he was left with a very bad situation: a fan base used to winning and winning a lot, a minor league system devoid of any serviceable talent ready for the majors, and owners who didn’t want to spend much money on talent.

With that, Mark began the process of shaping the Indians from the ground up into the team he envisioned. Unfortunately for him, his drafts were awful. In the early to mid-portions of the first decade of the 2000s, you would be hard-pressed to name one decent major leaguer that came up through the Indians farm system (and no, Matt LaPorta isn’t decent. At all). Where Mark really shined was in his ability to leverage current team assets towards futures of other teams’ farm assets.

Case and point: the Bartolo Colòn trade of 2002:

In 2002, the Cleveland Indians were out of contention and Shapiro pulled the trigger on a deal that sent staff ace Bartolo Colòn to the Montreal Expos for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips.

I don’t need to tell you about the contributions and accolades that group of players have garnered over the course of their MLB careers to prove to you how fantastic that trade was.

When Shapiro stepped aside for Chris Antonetti to assume the role of GM, he took over as team president and was able to turn his attention things outside of personnel and baseball operations. His role in the new construction at the ballpark which debuted this season and his work in making Progressive field more fan and family friendly have been enormous. I love what has been done to Progressive field and I feel way more connected to the team and the game when I’m at the stadium than when I was younger.

Mark Shapiro has been around the Indians organization for longer than I’ve been alive. He has been there with us during the highs (1994-2001), the lows (2002-2006), and the playoff runs and appearances (1995-1999; 2001; 2007, and 2013). He has felt the heartache we’ve all experienced at one point or another. He’s felt the exhilarating highs of Tom Hamilton’s walk off calls in the lazy summer evenings and the lows of a Matt Underwood curse before an opposing player does something great.

Sure he’s a part of the organization, but he is also one of us. He did the very best he could with the resources he had, and I for one, can’t blame him for anything. He’s going to a great organization north of the border with deep pockets and a handful of great hitters. I wish him nothing but the best, and hopefully, he’ll come back around Cleveland from time to time to check in on us.

Indians sign Kluber and Carrasco long-term; Buck 20 year trend in the process

In the last week, the Indians front office has bucked a trend dating back to the great teams of the 1990s

On Sunday, the Cleveland Indians announced they had signed 2014 AL Cy Young recipient and staff ace, Corey Kluber, to a 5 year $38.5 million deal and two additional club option years worth $13.5 million and $14 million respectively. The deal also includes escalators based on where Kluber finishes in the AL Cy Young race between 2015-18. Over those years, it could increase Kluber’s deal to nearly $77 million.

Kluber said that he “wanted to be here” and “that was the driving force behind it for me”.

Then, on Tuesday, the Indians announced the contract extension of SP Carlos Carrasco. His deal spans 4 years and is worth approximately $22 million. It also includes club options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Carrasco said “They never gave up on me. They always gave me the opportunity. That’s what they did last year. They gave me a big opportunity and I didn’t waste it. I took it and I think everything has worked out.”

There are two things here that are relevant and important to the story at hand:

  1. Both pitchers want to be here. They see the value in being a pitcher in this organization
  2. The Indians front office signed both pitchers to long term extensions; something they do not have a history of doing. Ever.

Both pitchers want to be here

I think the most interesting part of this collection of signings is the players involved see value in being a part of the team. The brand that the front office, Tito, and the coaching staff is building is one that appeals to players. That’s huge when teams are competing for free agents and money becomes a non-factor. The next question an agent may ask of the teams in contention are the culture in the locker room, living quality of the city in question, etc. Cleveland is on an uptick and the culture on the team is one that is contagious; players and people want to be around it.

The Indians front office signed both pitchers to long term extensions

The Indians are notorious for not signing starting pitchers to long term extensions. They’re so notorious that I even addressed the issue in an article during spring training last year – Well Masty, It was nice knowing you – and made the point several points that fly in direct conflict with what has happened over the past week. It’s funny because I ended the article with the line “Our players are assets. We must always remember that. Enjoy the time your favorites are here because you can always count on contracts staying short in Cleveland.”

It would appear that this year, my summation does not apply.

This following chart from Tony Lastoria’s (of Indians Baseball Insider) article last year around the same time (@TonyIBI) shows just how out of character these signings are with respect to history:

TABLE 1

PLAYER CONTRACT
Charles Nagy 4 years, $24 million
Jake Westbrook 3 years, $33 million
Chuck Finley 3 years, $27 million
C.C. Sabathia 3 years, $24.75 million
Paul Byrd 3 years, $21 million
Jack McDowell 2 years, $9.5 million
Dennis Martinez 2 years, $9 million
Dwight Gooden 2 years, $5.5  million
Orel Hershiser 2 years, $3 million

 

Clearly, Corey Kluber’s deal in particular surpasses anything (in terms of time) that has been agreed upon in the past 20+ years.

 

The core of the Indians is locked in and the time to compete is now

With players like Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco locked up for the long term, the Indians’ front office clearly believes they can compete and compete for years to come. With players like Lindor, Frazier and others in the minors continuing their respective developments, the Indians will continue to compete after some of the deals with current deals being to expire.

It’s an exciting time to be an Indians fan. Not just because of the short term potential of this year, but also the potential to compete over the long haul.

Go Tribe & remember to tune in to the Tribe Time Now podcast every week at tribetimenow.com/subscribe for the latest Tribe news and opinions from your favorite sports writers, bloggers, and opinionists.

Cleveland Indians Thanksgiving

 

First off, I want to wish all of you readers out there a Happy Thanksgiving!

For the first time in several years, Cleveland sports fans can actually be thankful for their teams. That got us thinking at MTAF: Cleveland — What would different members of the professional organizations be thankful for as they sat around the table sharing Thanksgiving dinner?

As a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I attempted to delve into the mindsets of several different members of the organization, trying to ascertain what they would be giving thanks for.

Chris Antonetti & Mark Shapiro

My first thought with regard to what Chris and Mark would be thankful for would be getting Terry Francona to come on board and coach the Tribe. But then I sat back and looked at the larger picture. If I was Chris or Mark, I would be thankful for how well the trades they’ve made over the past ten years have worked out. Just look at how a handful of the following trades worked out (in terms of production) for the Indians:

Year CLE Sends CLE Receives
2002 Ryan Drese & Einar Diaz Travis Hafner
2008 Casey Blake Carlos Santana
2009 Victor Martinez Justin Masterson & Nick Hagadone
2006 Ben Broussard Shin-Soo Choo
2006 Eduardo Perez Asdrubal Cabrera
2002 Bartolo Colon Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips & Cliff Lee

And those are just a few of the trades that have been made. Think about this: In a three team deal involving the Cardinals and the Padres, we gave up veteran pitcher Jake Westbrook and received 2014 AL Cy Young Winner Corey Kluber. Had Matt LaPorta worked out better, the Sabathia deal (which included 2014 MVP finalist and Silver Slugger award winner Michael Brantley) would have been seen as more genius than the Colon deal.

As Mark and Chris pass the gravy boat, they’re going to be giving thanks that so many of their trades worked out so well.

Terry Francona

As Terry Francona rides his scooter to the store to pick up cranberry sauce, I imagine he too will think about what he’s thankful for. I would venture a guess that he’s thankful for several things:

1. His health

2. Mickey Callaway

Tito has probably never worried about his health (see: Urban Meyer). I’m not old by any stretch (I’m 23). I’ve found out that older men are thankful for their health, regardless of how healthy they actually are. Next, Tito should be counting his lucky starts that he has Mickey Callaway sitting on his bench coaching up his pitchers. Think about 2013. Mickey Callaway turned around a struggling Ubaldo Jimenez into quite possibly the best pitcher of the second half in the American League. I feel that if Tito had started Ubaldo in the place of rookie Danny Salazar, the Indians may have gone on to be World Series champions. Then we look back at 2014 and (channeling my innermost LeBron here) not one, not two, but THREE examples of what Mickey Callaway can do. First, Corey Kluber. Mickey has said that he really didn’t have to do much with Klubes this past season. As much as I’d like to believe that, there’s a reason he’s the pitching coach. Mickey worked with Corey to develop his secondary pitches and propel him into the upper echelons of pitching talent in the MLB. Next, there is Trevor Bauer. Bauer’s problem in 2013 was consistency and immaturity. Unfortunately for Trevor, he is young and often impatient. He need time to develop under more mature, accomplished pitchers. He got that with Justin Masterson and Corey Kluber. This year, while he had his troubles, Bauer was much more consistent and flashed some of the greatness that made the front office go out and get him. Finally, we have Carlos Carrasco. Known affectionately as “Cookie” among die-hard Tribe fans, Cookie experienced many of the same issues that Bauer faced — inconsistency and maturity. Remember his ejection and subsequent suspension in 2011 against Kansas City? How about his ejection for plunking Kevin Youkilis in 2013? That wasn’t a wild arm. Tito and Mickey worked with Carrasco and put him in the bullpen in 2014 and boy, did he deliver. Carrasco was electric out of the pen and proved to be the long-reliever we needed, especially when one of our starters couldn’t make it out of the 4th or 5th inning. How many times can you remember Carrasco putting in three to four quality innings, saving our bullpen arms for the home stretch?

Finally, The Indians are thankful for YOU, the fans.

When you go to a game or buy a jersey, you help finance the continued journey toward that elusive World Series title. When you get on Twitter or Facebook and talk about the Indians, you help them make a branding impact on new fans or fans who just don’t know it yet. When you write odes to Tom Hamilton or romanticize what the Tribe means to you on a t-shirt, you help the Indians build an regional identity. In a city like Cleveland, our professional sports teams need their fans as much as we need our teams. In some ways, we define one another. The Indians wouldn’t have much meaning without us and we wouldn’t have much meaning without them. So when the front office, the coaching staff and the players sit around their respective tables to share food and make memories, they will probably reflect, even if it’s only for a moment, on what it means to put on the Tribe uniform day in and day out for the best fans in the major leagues.

As for me, I’m thankful for football, a lot of food and a day off to enjoy it all with my family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving fans. Enjoy your turkey.

Well Masty, It Was Nice Knowing You…

After avoiding arbitration with 1 year deal, Masterson could be gone before year’s end

 

Cleveland, we need to have an intervention:

 

As Cleveland Indians’ fans, we’ve been known to be a bit delusional. Not unlike the 7th grader who hasn’t given up hope on Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, etc. To think that Justin Masterson signs a long-term extension is, well, delusional. Like many before him, he’s going to go where his talent is appreciated. No, not in terms of applause and adoration – we’ve given him plenty of that.

 

I’m talking cash. Dinero. Fat stacks of Benjamins.

 

On Tuesday afternoon, it was reported and confirmed that members of the Indians’ front office and Justin Masterson met and sealed a 1 year deal worth approximately $9.8 million. By reaching a deal, the camps avoided an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th. That $9.8 number is a little below the $9.925 million median between Masterson’s ask of $11 million and the Indians’ offer of approximately $8 million. There had been concern among the local Cleveland media and fans that a deal would not be reached in time for the February 20th arbitration hearing thus souring any chance of a long-term extension for Masterson down the line.

 

Several individuals were quick to point out that, while fans were looking for a long-term extension, the Indians do not have a track record of doing so. In fact, according to Tony Lastoria (@TonyIBI), the Indians have only handed out 3 or 4 year deals a handful of times over the last 10-13 years:

 

Tony Lastoria tweets

 

Additionally, He provided some fantastic charts in his article (found here) that takes the reader down the rabbit hole a little further regarding the Indians’ reluctance to hand out long-term deals.

 

In some ways, I tend to agree with the mindset of the Indians. As a small-market city, we see the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers of the league signing players to obscenely large deals in terms of length and money. Off the top of my head, I think of Clayton Kershaw in LA (7 year/$215 million) and Masahiro Tanaka (7 years/$155 million). One things for certain of the former: Kershaw has proven that he deserves the $215 million. He is the best pitcher in the national league right now. Tanaka went 24-0 in Japan so I have little doubt that he deserves the money. It must be nice to have the capitol to go out and make signings like that every year. Back on Kershaw: There were only two pitchers last year that I can honestly say will challenge him this upcoming year:

 

1. Adam Wainwright (STL)
2. Jose Fernandez (MIA)

 

Fernandez in particular was ridiculous. Phenom might be an understatement in terms of description. That kid is going to have a long and lucrative career and it would be in Miami’s best interest to either:

 

A. Lock him up long-term for a price above market price or;
B. Shop him at the deadline either this year or next

 

When you start making big deals like L.A. or New York have a tendency to do, you start wrapping up more and more guaranteed money with one player. If that player gets hurt or begins to underperform, not only are you stuck with that player, but you are also paying top dollar for a lower tier of performance. Maybe that’s the genius of how the Indians front office operates. Signing players to short-term deals with incentives being the key to organization and fiduciary success? To back that up, I would argue Cleveland was the Cy Young factory between 2005 – 2008 (Bartolo Colón won it in ’05, Sabathia in ’07, and Lee in ’08) and they did it for next to nothing. Look up the contract numbers for the latter pitchers while they were in Cleveland. They got jack shit while they were in Cleveland compared to the deals they signed elsewhere. Sabathia in particular is someone who made a huge jump in pay when he landed with the Yankees after his rental half-season in Milwaukee. While Colon was with the Angels during his award-winning year, his success began and grew in Cleveland. All three of those pitchers are now elsewhere and not performing nearly to the level of dominance they had while in Cleveland.

 

On a side note:

 

Remember the Expos – Indians deal in 2002? No? Let me run you through how amazing that deal was for the Indians (and Reds!). The Indians received (for Bartolo Colón and a player to be named):

 

– Grady Sizemore
– Cliff Lee
– Brandon Phillips
– Lee Stevens

 

Colón was primed for money the Indians didn’t have and the 2002 season was a bust. He was near the end of a 4 year/$9.25 million contract (according to @TonyIBI) and the Indians were moving in a different direction (rebuilding). In a brilliant move, the Tribe got rid of the heavy weight (literally and in terms of future salary responsibility) and got a bunch of prospects in return. Look at that list? We received a future Cy Young winner, arguably one of the best center fielders between 2005 – 2008, and one of the better second base prospects over the course of the first decade of the new millennia. Of course, the Indians traded Philips to the Reds, but (creatively looking at the situation), they got Chris Perez for him. Chris Perez had his ups and downs over the course of his career in Cleveland, but for every blown save, he shut the door just as much, if not more.

 

Obviously, the Indians don’t have a track record of signing pitchers to long-term deals and we shouldn’t expect them to change that pattern for Justin Masterson. I hope to God they do, but I guess I won’t be surprised if they don’t. Maybe the signings of Swisher and Bourne last year (4 year/$56 million & 4 years/$48 million respectively) are a sign of a changing of the guard. Maybe Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti are realizing that to win, spending has to occur. We can hope that’s the case, but if it were, Ervin Santana would have been signed a long time ago for the $50+ million he’s going to get for a four year deal with another team.

 

As an engaged fan base, we need to come to terms with the fact that we are a small-market team with low attendance figures and low season ticket numbers. We need to come to terms with those facts so we don’t continue to build up a false reality where we sign big free agents every offseason. Free agents (believe it or not) don’t see Cleveland as a “prime” destination. Additionally, free agents know that they’re not going to get a long-term deal here, especially if they’re a pitcher. Finally, free agents know that the stage in Cleveland is much smaller than stages on the East and West coasts. They know that even if they hit for the cycle, ESPN will give them a two minute highlight before going back to talking about Derek Jeter’s farewell tour for a half an hour.

 

As we move forward, the front office is going to continue the tried and true method of finding and developing talent on the farm rather than augmenting our reality with free agents.

 

We need to accept that and move on.

 

The only way Justin Masterson gets a long-term extension from the Indians that is worthy of the pitcher that he is would be if (going into the all-star break), he tossed 12+ wins, had a sub-2.00 ERA, and 100+ strikeouts. Probable? Sure. Will it happen? Probably not (This is Cleveland, remember?)

 

In closing, I look for Justin Masterson to have a standout year for us. In fact, if it starts off right, and carries it into the all-star break, it could be Cy Young worthy. Regardless, the Indians will probably not make him a long-term offer and he will probably go elsewhere. If things are going badly heading toward the trade deadline, it wouldn’t surprise me if the front office sends him packing for prospects.

 

Our players are assets. We must always remember that. Enjoy the time your favorites are here because you can always count on contracts staying short in Cleveland.

If Choo, Cano Sign in the AL Central

Yesterday, I saw multiple reports that shook my inner Indians fan to its core.

First Buster Olney said this…

Then reports surfaced that Robinson Cano was on his way to Kansas City to sign with the Royals.

Gulp…

If you’re an Indians fan, this all hurts tremendously.

First of all, the Tigers, should they sign Shin-Soo Choo, might just be the best team in baseball. Take a gander at this lineup, should Shin Soo make his way to the Motor City.

Shin-Soo Choo
Ian Kinsler
Torii Hunter
Miguel Cabrera
Victor Martinez
Torii Hunter
Nick Castellanos
Alex Avila
Jose Iglesias

That lineup at its face value could easily take on any in the league. Meanwhile, Detroit houses baseball’s best pitching staff.

Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer
Anibal Sanchez
Doug Fister
Drew Smyly

The worst part of it all is that Dave Dombrowski seems to be on a World Series mission and will use all of the cash in the world to get there.

In other words, they’re not done yet. Not even close.

While the Tigers will certainly have the upper hand on the Indians seemingly regardless of the situation, the Tribe could at least compete with a Choo-less Tigers lineup. Once you put the former Indians star at the top of that order, who knows just how far the talent gap will grow.

All the while, Omar Vizquel has taken the job of first base coach in Detroit.

First Victor. Then Omar. Now Choo?

Detroit is slowly but surely destroying the Indians and their fan-base former player by former player.

Meanwhile, another AL Central team seems be on a mission and ready to spend some cash.

Rumors yesterday are showing that Robinson Cano may just be the newest member of the Kanas City Royals, in what would be an earth shattering development. Should that splash happen, the Royals could easily move into the second rung of the AL Central ladder and could become a legitimate World Series contender.

David Lough
Alex Gordon
Robinson Cano
Eric Hosmer
Billy Butler
Mike Moustakas
Lorenzo Cain
Salvador Perez
Alcides Escobar

Add in the top end of their pitching staff and they might be one of the most under-the-radar teams in all of baseball.

James Shields
Jeremy Guthrie
Ervin Santana
Wade Davis
Bruce Chen

First, the Tigers go out and get much better by moving Miguel Cabrera to first base, adding Ian Kinsler to the mix and potentially adding Shin-Soo Choo. Then, the Royals get the most highly sought after free agent in all of baseball.

Of course these are both hypothetical, but reported, circumstances, but in any case, can the Indians catch a break?
Sure, the Indians did get better on Wednesday by signing David Murphy to take over the everyday right field duties, but the Indians can’t compete with the suddenly big market teams in Detroit and Kansas City, should these deals go down.

The worst part is, there’s really nothing they can do about it.

The Indians don’t have the money to put a bid in on Robinson Cano. They can’t make a deal to bring back Choo. They just simply can’t make these splashes as, apparently, Detroit and Kansas City can.

This is all to say, Indians fans, that maybe last year, despite its heartbreak towards the end, was as good as its going to get. Maybe the magic that Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher and Ubaldo Jimenez brought to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario last season was as good as its going to get for a while.

The Tigers and Royals may be on the verge of taking over the American League and leaving the lowly Indians, White Sox and Twins in the dust.

Despite all of the good that Terry Francona, Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro have done for the Indians and for the city of Cleveland, it may all be for naught. The Indians, for the forseeable future, may be trapped in the dark, vast dungeon of the American League Central Division.

Is there anything they can do to get out, should Choo and Cano sign within this division?

Yes, but it would be very, very unlikely.

First of all could get out of the dungeon by getting lucky again and again as they did last season with Scott Kazmir, Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles. If Antonetti continues to pull off moves such as those, the Indians can compete.

Even then, however, things will still be difficult.

They would still have to spend money to solidify their rotation, which is decent but needs a little help. They would also need prospects like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Jesus Aguilar to be all that we expected and more.

Again, its not impossible, just very, very unlikely.

Other than that, just hope that these two rumors were nothing but. Hope that Choo and Cano sign with the Yankees, as that organization is a continual mess.

If you’re an Indians fan, however, just accept that should Cano and Choo sign in the Central, the new era of Indians excellence may come to a tragic and screeching halt.

All of the hope and optimism could be over with a few simple swoops of a fateful pen. Enjoy it, Tribe fans, because very soon, the fun could be over.

The Tribe Roller Coaster Continues

From August 5th to August 10th, the Cleveland Indians did their best to prove that the inevitable “August collapse” was well on it’s way and this season would be yet another disappointing one.

Coming into a huge four-game series with the Detroit Tigers, the Indians were 13 games over .500 and ready to prove they belonged.

Except, they did the opposite. They proved they didn’t belong… or so we thought.

The four-game set was the worst we’ve seen on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario in quite some time, as the Tribe lost all four games to Detroit- including two in very heart-breaking fashion.

While failing to stay relevant in the Central, the Tribe looked to bounce right back in the Wild Card race against the Los Angeles Angels.

Again, they failed.

Looking as if they would get swept by a hugely-disappointing Angels team, the season might have changed with one swing of the bat.

A Nick Swisher two-run home run awoke the Tribe bats and brought back the spirit that was taken by the ferocious Kitties of the Motor City, as the Indians avoided a seven game losing streak before a big road trip.

The nine-game stint away from home started in Minnesota and again, it seemed as if the Indians would falter.

Another swing of the bat, this time a Jason Giambi three-run home run, kept the Tribe alive and relevant in the playoff chase.

It was then off to Oakland in a battle for the AL Wild Card spot. The Indians offense failed to show as they lost two of three and once again made sure that the fair-weather Tribe fans were talking of the “August collapse” yet again.

Low and behold, after being four and a half games out in the Wild Card race, the Indians picked up two games on Oakland as they swept the Angels to complete their nine-game, West Coast road trip.

An off day yesterday sets up what we like to call “crunch time” for the Tribe.

After all of the trials and tribulations, all of the heart-break and triumph, all of the bandwagon jumping, here the they sit.

69-58.

5.0 games behind Detroit in the AL Central.

2.5 games behind Oakland in the AL Wild Card.

10-10 in the month of August.

21 games from 90 wins with 35 games left.

Primed for a September run.

The ups and downs have only proved one thing: the Indians are a roller coaster team, but they demand the attention of their riders no matter where car is on the track.

The good news is, after a tremendous drop in the middle of August, the Indians seem to be climbing back up the tracks and may reach their peak right in time for the biggest series of the season: a three-game set with the Tigers in Detroit.

We all know what happened the last time we looked ahead to a series with the Tigers and we all know that series was supposed to be the biggest of the year.

What we didn’t know, however, was that the Tigers would struggle so mightily against the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals and would therefore keep the Indians in the thick of the AL Central race.

Although the Indians are far and away over-matched by Detroit, their frame of mind may help them to succeed at Comerica Park.

In the last series in between these two teams, the pressure was entirely on the Tribe and they crumbled under it. This series, however, the pressure will be on Detroit, as they’ll fight to keep their significant lead in the AL Central.

While the Tigers are certainly capable of putting the Tribe away for good, the Indians have been a good team when the pressure is off. I’m not saying they’re going to sweep the Tigers and find themselves just two games back in the AL Central heading into September, but I’m saying there’s a much larger chance of that happening this time around than there was last time.

There’s even more great news in all of this. The week coming into the AL Central showdown holds a four game set between the Tigers and Athletics- the two teams that are currently ahead of the Indians in the playoff race.

It’s a win/win for the Tribe. If the Tigers lose the series, the Indians should make up ground in the Central. If the Tigers win the series, the Indians will make up ground in the Wild Card.

Either way- and especially if the Indians can avoid a sweep in Atlanta- the Indians will gain ground in the playoff race before the true “series of the season” begins.

We must remember however, even if things turn for the worst in Detroit, that the season isn’t done. Quite frankly, it’s not even close.

If this was 2012, sure, I’d be just as skeptical as you are.

This team is different, however, and they’ve proved it time and time again.

I’m not going to bring up attendance and tell you to “get to the ballpark”. I’m not going to tell you to “stay with the team come thick or thin”.

I’m just going to tell you the facts.

The Indians are going to stick around at least until the end of September, whether you’re on board or not. You can be in “football” mode and forget about them in place of the Browns, but they’re still going to be very relevant until the end of the season, and hopefully beyond.

That’s just how Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, and Terry Francona have put this team together. They were built for resilience and built to contend.

Thus far they’ve done both and delivered on their promise to bring excitement back to baseball in Cleveland.

Regardless of their final record, I’m excited for this final month of the regular season. This is what we, the faithful fans of the Tribe, have been waiting for all season.

A chance to play meaningful games in September. A chance to make the playoffs. A chance to bring the magic back.

It all comes down to this, Tribe fans. I hope you’re ready for a magical, heart-breaking, and exhilarating ride.

2016: Cleveland's "Next Year"

 

About a year and 99 posts ago, I joined More Than A Fan as a young and naive writer looking to gain experience in sports journalism.

A year ago, things were a lot different for me. I was at a different school, my career path was in the process of changing, and there were quite a few different writers on this site. The Cavs still had Byron Scott, the Browns had Pat Shurmur, and the Indians had Manny Acta. Swisher was still a Yankee, Bourn was still a Brave, and Reynolds was an Oriole. While many things in my life have changed, most for the better, I like to think that More Than a Fan was the first step in the positive direction, and for that, I am very grateful.

I really want to thank Josh Flagner and Ryan Isley for all that they’ve done for me in my year here at More Than A Fan. They took what I believe was quite a risk when they brought on a 19 year-old kid to expand their blog. I had very little experience, was quite opinionated, and thought I knew way more about sports than I actually did. They’ve been nothing but helpful and supportive, and for that I am truly thankful. You know when you are around quality people, and I knew within days of getting in on this website that I was surrounded by them. Josh and Ryan, thank you!

I also want to thank Damien Bowman for his guidance since his arrival. Damien was brought aboard the MTAF bandwagon much later than I, but has somehow been much more effective than I’ll probably ever be. Damien has been a source of information and help that I couldn’t do without. He’s helped me on pieces, given me advice, and has always been available whenever my seemingly endless myriad of questions come to mind. Thank you Damien, for all of your hard work!

I want to thank the other writers for helping to promote More Than A Fan and upping the quality of work that is posted on the website. Damon, Mark, Mike, Matt, Kyle, and even teenage Matt, you guys are really great at what you do, and it’s an honor to be writing on the same website as you week after week, thanks!

Finally, I want to thank you the readers. You are the people who help MTAF to grow more and more with each coming day. Thank you for taking the time to read and appreciate our work. I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone when I say we truly appreciate your readership. More Than A Fan would be nothing but a bunch of guys rambling about sports if it wasn’t for your support. I’d like to thank you again, as I truly appreciate you all.

As this is my 100th post, I hope to write 100 more and become an even larger part of the MTAF community within the coming year. It’s been an absolute joy!

In Cleveland, the term “next year” may be used more than any other. Next year is what Browns, Cavs, and Indians fans have let themselves believe for just about a half a century now. There is even a blog that’s premise is waiting on that next year. “Next year” is coming folks, and it’s not that far away.

Pretty soon, the city of Cleveland will have three new coaches in their respective sports. Terry Francona will be in the midst of his first year with the Indians, Rob Chudzinski will be in the process of his first season as the Browns Head Coach, and a new Cavaliers Head Coach will take on the challenge of leading the Wine and Gold. This is the first time I can remember the Cavs, Indians, and Browns each coming into a season with a new coach in the same calendar year. While Clevelanders love the coaching carousel, I think this one is going to stop spinning.

It’s a new era in Cleveland sports.

A new owner, a new president, a new vice president, a new general manager, a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator, and a new special teams coach will all be a part of the 2013 Cleveland Browns for the first time. Phil Dawson will not be a member of the Cleveland Browns for the first time since their return in 1999. Joshua Cribbs will no longer be the face of this franchise. Art Modell is dead. The “expansion Browns” are over.

A new manager, a new face of the franchise, a new lead off man, and a new slugger are now at the heart of the Cleveland Indians. For the first time, the Indians had an offseason worth writing home about. For the first time, Larry Dolan decided that money was to be spent. For the first time since the 1990’s, the Indians are the talk of the town. The Indians made their biggest free agent signing ever, bringing back Ohio State graduate, Nick Swisher, back to the Buckeye State. This is not your 2000’s Tribe.

A new coach, a new outset, and a new core of players have the Cavaliers primed for contention. They will have bright young prospects coming in for the third year in a row, thanks to the NBA Draft. The Cavs are on the brink, and the new coach is just what they need. While the owner and General Manager have stayed the same throughout, the Cavs are a young and exciting group that, after this disappointing season, will bring some magic back to the Q.

While things may seem gloom and doom for the city of Cleveland and it’s sports teams at the moment, (Byron Scott’s firing, the Indians getting off to a slow start, and Jimmy Haslam being accused of fraud), this may be the most exciting time to be a Cleveland sports fan within the past twenty years. The next couple of years will prove it.

The Cleveland area code is 216. It’s the number by which the city is called, and it’s been especially significant recently as Cleveland celebrated it’s 216th birthday. Well, I’m calling it right now, in 2016, the year that will numerically resemble the city of Cleveland, the Indians, the Browns, and the Cavs will be competing for Championships in their respective sports. A NBA Finals trophy, the Lombardi trophy, or a World Series trophy will be brought back to the city of Cleveland, and it’s going to happen in 2016.

This is why.

The Browns, by 2016, will be an established football team. Rob Chudzinski will establish himself as a great NFL head coach thanks to his offensive prowess, his coaching demeanor, and his overall attitude. By 2016, his experience will make him one of the better coaches in the game. Brandon Weeden will have established himself as a quality QB, who is incredibly comfortable in his coaches offensive system. Trent Richardson will keep pace with some of the top backs in the NFL and his injury bug will diminish as his number of carries dwindle. The aggression that Ray Horton preached in his time with the Browns will continue long after he is gone. Joe Thomas and the offensive line are going to be one of the most underrated and solidified groups the NFL has ever seen. The Browns are going to break that playoff barrier in 2015 and are going to return to their spot as a perennial powerhouse in the NFL thanks to Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, and Jimmy Haslam. In 2016, everything will be in place, and the Browns will be poised for a Super Bowl run.

In 2016, the Indians will finally have the pitching to compete for a World Series. A roster chalked-full of veteran players, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn will lead the way and bring the magic of the Jake back to Progressive Field. Through free agency and trades, the Indians’ starting rotation will be a solid group of young guns and veteran touch. Michael Brantley will become one of the best contact hitters in the Major League. Jason Kipnis will be among the best second basemen out there. Carlos Santana will become a bonafide slugger, and the Tribe will hit their prime after a ALDS run in 2015. Again, poised for a World Series run in 2016.

The Cavs, no matter their coach, will be NBA Finals frontrunners in 2016. In year two of LeBron’s return to Cleveland, after an ECF run in 2015, the Cavs will be the favorites to bring home the crown. With Kyrie just hitting the prime of his career, Tristan Thompson becoming a solidified double double threat, and Dion Waiters bringing his offensive game every night, in addition to the three time NBA Champion LeBron James adding his expertise to the roster, the Cavs will have a squad second-to-none come 2016. Mike Brown will get back to the Finals in Cleveland and this time he’ll win it, in 2016.

Call me crazy, but what’s the point of negativity? There is optimism abounding within these rosters, from these coaches, and from these owners. The time for Cleveland sports starts now. These rosters are being built the right way, and the right people are in place. Haslam, Banner, Lombardi, and Chudzinski will be with the Browns when they make their Super Bowl run. Gilbert, Grant, and Brown will be with the Cavs when they make the Finals again. Shapiro, Antonetti, and Francona are going to lead the Tribe back to contention. In 2016, everything is going to come into place and it’s going to be glorious.

LeBron will be back in town, Swisher Buckeye guy will be leading the Tribe, the Browns will be lead by their Brown-loving Chudzinski. Cleveland’s teams are going to be lead to championships by Cleveland guys. It couldn’t be scripted any better. It’s going to happen, I can just feel it.

I know this is horribly optimistic, but what do we have to lose? We’ve been down every road of athletic misery imaginable, what’s the worst a little optimism can do.

In 2016, Cleveland will be known as Title Town. You can mark my words.

2016 is “next year”.

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove