Friday, November 30, 2007


I don't think I could write a cheesier headline, but I am too excited for the 2007 Cleveland Browns to care. (For the record, "Cardiac Crennels" is mine and "Believeland" belongs to Sports Illustrated. Pick up this week's issue or click above to read about how Phil Savage has finally put together the right combination for success).

At 7-4 and in the thick of the AFC wildcard chase, the Browns are a the cinderella darlings of the NFL this year. It has been difficult to follow them from Arizona, though I have done my best every Sunday with a combination Web radio snippets and gamecasts. They haven't been on local TV once this year, until this week. And it won't matter because I'll be at the game.

I don't care how you follow this team, whether it's on a Blackberry, satellite radio or Morse Code. The Browns are for real, and they are fun! Granted, they have a somewhat depleted defense that can loosen late in the game (though they're getting healthier and rookies like Kamerion Wimbley and Brandon McDonald are coming along). The Browns tend to make every game a bit of an adventure, even when it doesn't have to be, but the explosive combination of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow II has bolstered the offense to the ranks of the league's best, not to mention Rob Chudzinsky, the offensive coordinator who does not run the Original Mattress Factory. They have the potential to score 30 or more every game with Derek Anderson delivering the ball to his talented receiver corps and handing off to the resurgent Jamal Lewis. If you can forgive Phil Dawson for his blocked field goal in Oakland (that never should have happened) and for coming up short in Pittsburgh--and you probably have, after the Baltimore heroics--then there is not another kicker in the NFL the Browns would rather have in a game's closing moments.

As the SI article details, the Browns don't even resemble that sorry team that the Steelers shellacked in Week 1. Since, the Browns are 7-3 (and should be 8-2 if not for the last-minute, field goal timeout fiasco in Oakland). They've dropped two games to the 8-3 Steelers, one to the Patriots (of course) and a controversial one in Oakland. Save the latter, the Browns have lost only to some of the league's best, and they've beaten the teams they're supposed to beat, which in itself is a sign of improvement because the '06 Browns weren't "supposed to beat" anyone. The rest of the schedule is favorable, and the Steelers still have to play New England and Jacksonville. With a little luck, the Browns could, could be division champs. They would have to run the table at 5-0 or go 4-1 with the Steelers losing two or three.

Even though it's fine to be excited, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. I'm sure we would all "settle" for the wildcard. If that's the case, the Browns should be gunning for Jacksonville, who sits above them with the No. 5 seed at 8-3 and plays at Indianapolis this weekend. Winning the No. 5 spot would give the Browns a shot at the AFC West winner, who would, no doubt, be an easier opponent than the Steelers, who squeaked out a 3-0 win over winless Miami in the Mud Bowl.

I, for one, cannot be excited enough about the Browns matchup this weekend in the desert, mostly because I live close enough to hurl a rock at University of Phoenix Stadium (and considering Ohio State's history there, I've thought about it). It will also be my first Browns game in person since 1993 in old Municipal Stadium. (The weather will be a little nicer this time with a gametime high temperature of 65 degrees.) The Cardinals unlikely and stupid overtime loss last week to San Francisco has de-hyped this game a little bit, but from Arizona fans' perspectives, this is the second biggest non-conference game of the year, with the Steelers being the first. A sizeable cluster of Ohio natives and Browns fans now reside in the Valley of the Sun, including yours truly, and we will be out in full force Sunday afternoon.

I have followed the Cardinals a little this year, trying to decide whether I want to adopt them as my No. 2 team (like I have done with the Diamondbacks and the Suns). Before Leinart was injured, first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt had the Cardinals really clicking and poised to make a playoff charge in the weak NFC West. But the Cards have not done what the Browns have, win the close ones against teams they should beat. Kurt Warner has stepped in and battled his own injuries to keep the Cardinals in it, and their playoff lives are on the line Sunday. Since talent is in no short supply, especially for the Cardinals offense, if they are motivated by their close loss last week and the urgency of the situation, we should see a fantastic, high-scoring game. However, if this team proves to have little character and little energy, that will be a huge boost for the Browns.

I expect this to be your typical Browns game with them starting strong and building a two-touchdown lead or so with the Cardinals closing the gap and making it very close at the end. I hope to post pictures and video from my upper deck perch, but before I go, let me leave you with a prediction: in a high-scoring affair, the Browns win again off Phil Dawson's toe, 34-31.

Labels: , ,

Friday, November 16, 2007


I realize that by living nearly 2,000 miles away from the border war it might seem as though this year's "big" Ohio State-Michigan game is, well, not-so-big. It also doesn't help that last year the game was on the radar by mid-season, when it appeared both teams had a strong chance to go undefeated into the final week of the year (which they did, and OSU prevailed 42-39 en route to the BCS National Championship Game). The escalation in Columbus just crescendoed and crescendoed until the final whistle. Other "Game" week storylines included Bo Schembechler's death and Troy Smith's likely Heisman. It really was the game of the century.

But this year, a lot of people, particularly Buckeye people, just aren't that excited about it.

Losing to Illinois at home in the previous week will do that to you. Likewise, losing to Appalachian State in Week 1, ruining your national title hopes, and building all year toward this game will do the opposite to you.

I think the Maize and Blue will be ready for OSU in Ann Arbor.

I don't just mean the players and coaches, who themselves are fresh off an embarrassing defeat to Wisconsin. I mean the student body, the alumni, the fans, the vendors, Chad Henne and Mike Hart and definitely Lloyd Carr. If he wants to be the coach at Michigan for another year, he'd better win tomorrow or U of M. will have an assistant leading them into the Alamo Bowl.

The question really becomes who has more to lose tomorrow because the team with more to lose in this series generally loses--Ohio State: ca. 1969, 1993, 1995, 1996; Michigan: ca. 2001, 2004 (Anomaly: 2002--OSU beats Michigan 14-9 in Columbus to get invited to the Fiesta Bowl and win a share of the Big Ten).

Last year, just as in 2003, 2000, and 1997, both teams came into the game with about the same amount to lose. They both were playing for outright Big Ten titles (Michigan, by the way, has won more than any other school) and a trip to the national title game. The who-is-under-more-pressure argument didn't matter because both schools were under equally tremendous pressure. The story is the same in those other recent years I mentioned (coincidentally, Michigan won all three). Looking to tomorrow, Ohio State comes in a bit deflated after all but blowing their national title aspirations last week (Oregon's loss does add a glimmer of hope, though.) They're 10-1, 6-1 in the conference, and hoping to repeat as Big Ten outright champions and earn a de facto Rose Bowl berth. For this year's Buckeye nation and for the team--though Tressel and Co. would never say it--that's kind of like hoping for a scoop of vanilla soft serve when you found out they ran out of tierra misu.

That's not the way it used to be, though. Before all of the BCS hype and Ohio State national title in 2002, a great season in Columbus was beating Michigan, winning the Big Ten and earning a trip to Pasadena (in that order). Many talent-laden teams from Ohio State failed to complete that. You could say much of the same for Ann Arbor. Any year when they beat the Buckeyes, win the conference and go to the Rose Bowl is considered a resounding success. But this year?

That gets back to my original question: Who has more to lose? Who is under more pressure?

If you say Ohio State, you point first to their embarrassment against Florida last year. You point to a recent loss to Illinois and how a loss to Michigan and a trip to the Capital One Bowl would be demoralizing to fans. You argue that every pundit and wizard in the land says Ohio State is over-rated; they're still saying that even though the Bucks have dropped to No. 7.

If you say Michigan, you look no farther than Lloyd Carr. He's 1-5 against Jim Tressel. He hasn't beaten Ohio State since 2003. His undefeated Wolverines went into Columbus last year and lost. His team was dusted by 1-AA Appalachian State and then wiped out by Oregon, both at home. He's coming into the game with three losses, and rumors about his job have swirled all week. His team, even the underclassmen, generally support their captain and would hate to see him go, but another loss to the Scarlet and Gray could spell the end for Carr.

Wow, this really isn't an easy pick, but I'm going to say that Michigan has more to lose. Ohio State has more key players returning next year. Though they have fallen from national graces a little faster (in one week; Michigan has had all year to come to grips with that reality), Michigan has put all of its eggs in the beating Ohio State basket. Though you could say it "makes or breaks" the season for both teams, it really does for Michigan. If they win, they have a lukewarm 9-3 season and head back to the Rose Bowl with another Big Ten title. Carr's job will be secure, unless he steps down, and all will say "he did a lot, considering the injuries." If he loses, well, I've already written what I think will happen. Ohio State loses, and the diehards will head to Florida while the countdown to 2008 begins. Tressel hits the recruiting trail and goes after the stud QB from Pennsylvania.

For the real "football analysis" of this post, consider this:

1.) Ohio State will not be seeing a spread offense or an athletic quarterback this week. That means, the defense will be a lot more comfortable and can return to the form that has it still holding steady as the No. 2 in the country.

2.) The Buckeyes, as a team, received a poignant wake-up call last week. Coming in off a loss, Tressel-coached Buckeye teams are 2-0 against the Wolverines with wins in 2001 and 2004. Even the Cooper-coached teams played better against Michigan when they came in having lost the week before. Todd Boeckman knows that, especially early, he does not have to win this game for Ohio State by throwing precarious deep bombs into double coverage. It cost him three picks against Illinois and, probably, cost Ohio State the game.

3.) Chris "Beanie" Wells is healthier than Hart, though I think both will play. Hart is a warrior, but he's not healthy enough to tote the ball more than 20 times or so. Wells can and will shoulder a lot of the carries for the Buckeyes because statistics show Michigan's defense just isn't that good against the run. I liked what I saw from Maurice Wells last week, and I have a feeling he's going to make one big play in this game. The run should open up the Buckeyes' passing game, but if they learned anything from Illinois, it's that ball control can really chew up the clock.

4.) Turnovers: Usually your quarterback has the most control over whether or not your offense turns the ball over, based on his passing and play-calling. If Henne starts, the Buckeyes need to pressure him. He barely played last week and might be a little gun shy in the game if he gets hit early. Mallet is bound to throw at least one pick because--and Michigan fans will tell you this--his decision-making skills still leave something to be desired. Boeckman is better than the three interceptions he threw last week, so this advantage goes to Ohio State.

The Buckeyes have needed a whole lot of Troy Smith to defeat the Wolverines the last three years, and this year Ohio State will have to do it without him. But do the Wolverines have enough heart? (Or Hart?) Will they rise to the occasion and support their hot-seated coach? It seems they just have too much to win.

Expect a good one tomorrow with the Buckeyes making a big defensive play late in the game. Prediction: OSU 27, Michigan 17.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 15, 2007


After C.C. Sabathia earned the first Cy Young Award for the Indians since Gaylord Perry in the 70s, it's time to get serious about talking about his "New Deal." I'm guessing FDR's actually will end up being less expensive.

It's possible that Mark Shapiro will be able to sign the left-handed ace. It's also possible that Britney Spears will become a good mother. But likely?

Therefore, I've developed a contingency plan.

We all know the Indians are interested in acquiring the Pirates' Jason Bay. The Tribe is probably going to see if C.C. will go for their first contract offer before seriously pursuing Bay, a left-fielder who would fill the Lofton void. (Give up, Lofton-lovers, Kenny's encore was a great one, but it will be short-lived.) So, Plan A for off-season moves is 1.) Get C.C. a new contract and 2.) Make a trade for Bay.

If neither of those things work, here's what I propose: trade C.C. to the L.A. Dodgers for a variety of possible players including Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Takashi Saito and prospects. Here's my logic:

1.) Though a lot of things could happen in 2008, I'm guessing C.C. Sabathia will have another good campaign. His 100 career wins and 3.83 ERA indicate nothing to the contrary. But 2007 was a career year, and even though C.C. is only 27, given the depth of pitching talent in the AL, it's not likely Sabathia is going to be winning many more Cy Youngs. In fact, it's likely he has peaked and will never be quite as dominant as he was in 2007.

2.) Sabathia will likely command a $150-200 million contract. That's his going rate now. Without paralyzing their payroll, the Indians cannot pay anyone that much. Remember what happened with Thome and Ramirez? Left at the altar. This would be Round III.

3.) It may not appear the Indians have a lot of off-season needs, but in reality, they do. They need to figure out whether Andy Marte or Casey Blake are the real solution at third or whether they're going to move Peralta there, move Cabrera to shortstop and play Barfield at second. Priority No. 1 is an outfield bat. A somewhat lower priority has been to ink a genuine leadoff hitter so that Grady Sizemore can move down to the No. 3 spot in the lineup, a good move after seeing Hafner's tough 2007 (Pierre batted .293 and stole 64 bases this year, by the way, and check out this cool MLB contract site to see the inherited financial burden). Even after signing Borowski, they could stand an upgrade at closer. Dealing Sabathia would give them that flexibility.

4.) The Indians could fill several vacancies and question marks by pulling a deal like this, and of course, you all are thinking, "Sure, but then we've got a big f***ing vacancy at our No. 1 starter slot." That answer is easier than you think. The Indians are loaded with young pitching talent. Carmona is ready to be the go-to guy. If he can learn to pitch in Boston, he'll be the best right-hander in the league without question. Westbrook and Byrd will stay solid, so the Indians have to hope that of Cliff Lee, Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey, at least one of them emerges. Personally, I think both Lee and Sowers will return to form. Remember, the Tribe still has Adam Miller, who is still on the mend from arm surgery. Both Jensen Lewis and Rafael Perez have starter arm strength and experience. Looking down the road and past 2008, the Indians will be fine in the starting pitching department. Plus, they could demand a top prospect in the trade.

...but why the Dodgers, you ask?

5.) C.C. is from California (albeit Northern) and tempting to West Coast teams.

6.) L.A. just hired Joe Torre and is pursuing A-Rod, but "overpay-Rod" has decided to stay with the Yankees at 10 years, $275 million. The Blue and White still want to make a big off-season splash after finishing third in the N.L. West last year.

7.) They have three good starters and two big question marks in their rotation. They would love to add a fourth, or part with a No. 3 to add a No. 1.

8.) As part of that "big splash" mentality, the Dodgers--like the Yankees, Cubs and other big-market juggernauts--are short-sided. The fact that they know C.C. is a free agent at the end of the year doesn't scare them. They would have the resources to re-sign him anyway.

9.) They're in the National League (even though Cleveland does play them in June).

Though Sabathia stepped up as a clubhouse leader and spokesperson this year, the Indians should only let them prevent a deal if Wedge and Shapiro think it would lead to an imminent collapse of the team in 2008. Honestly, if a deal is done correctly, it can make the Indians better for 2008 and definitely better for the future.

If I could have any of the proposed players I mentioned, I would send Sabathia and try to pick up Pierre and Saito. If they wouldn't throw in Saito, I would demand some AA pitching prospect(s). The Tribe could even throw in Borowski if the Dodgers wanted him as an insurance policy at closer. If they won't part with Pierre, then the Indians get Kemp or Ethier plus Saito and prospects, or there's no deal.

Honestly, baseball is economics. Terry Pluto's book Dealing showed us how the Indians have to be cutthroat and savvy in that business to have success. C.C.'s stock has never been higher, and you know what they say: "buy low, sell high."

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

PERFECT GAME, IMPERFECT SEASON: Why Illinois toppled the formerly No. 1 Buckeyes.

As Juice Williams, Illinois' highly under-rated option quarterback, stood in front of TV cameras Saturday evening after his Illini knocked off the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, the hushed tones of the Horseshoe allowed for his emotions to carry off louder than even he expected.

"I just want to thank God and Jesus Christ," Williams said. "All the glory goes to Him."

Well, obviously. God had to be pulling for Illinois, for them to play as perfectly as they did.

As the text messages and phone calls started to swarm in after the 28-21 loss took Ohio State out of the national championship hunt, I had really only one response: "Give credit to Illinois. They played a perfect game."

Though it's debatable whether a college football team could be perfect on every play, Illinois came close. They didn't have a single penalty until a fourth-quarter holding call (they weren't flagged again, by the way). They had zero turnovers to Ohio State's three. They executed a spread option that has been the Buckeyes' achilles heal since Florida exposed it last year. Ron Zook and the Illinois coaching staff came into Ohio State with a golden game plan and the right personnel. They executed perfection.

Don't get me wrong, I'm as distraught about the Buckeyes' loss as all of you are. I had visions of national redemption for the Scarlet and Gray against an SEC foe (LSU) in the national championship game. I thought that, maybe, this Ohio State team of lower expectations and lower talent than last year's super, senior-laden squad would tiptoe into history. I say "tiptoe" because no one, no one, expected Ohio State to be a national title contender that late into the season. So, I should be still in mourning, but I'm going to say something here that will make me sound like a bad fan.

I'm a little, just a little, happy for Ohio native Ron Zook. I smiled on the inside a little bit for Illinois' Juice Williams. Illinois won the conference in 2001, and then the bottom fell out. Suddenly, they couldn't get recruits, they couldn't win close games and they became a laughingstock of the conference. It came with seemingly no explanation. I remember sitting in the 'Shoe in 2005 when Ohio State embarrassed the Illini 40-2. I thought that teams like Bowling Green and Toledo would be more competition in the Big Ten than Illinois was. Now, obviously, I have to recant that.

The Illini have two very understandable losses: one to Missouri in St. Louis near the beginning of the season and one to Wisconsin on the road. The loss that kills them is the road loss at Iowa, or else they would have been a top-20 team last week, and this week, they'd be in the BCS bowl-game conversation. Though perhaps they are deserving for even more national attention--if for no other reason than to prove the Big Ten isn't a total pushover--I have a bowl wish for Illinois: Capital One on New Year's Day.

Where would that leave the Buckeyes? Think about it. Full "Keeping Score" coverage of "The Game" is coming.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 08, 2007


You're probably perplexed by this headline, wondering how I can spin a 103-101 loss last night -- which resulted from a defensive breakdown so great it's usually seen by only Britney Spears' therapist -- into a positive. Who am I, the optimist?

To the contrary, I'm just a skeptical about the Cleveland Cavaliers having a "successful" (definition unknown...winning a championship, perhaps?) 2007-08 as all of you are. But I think the wine and gold have been "on blast" from the national media (what else is new?) since their beatdown suffered at Dallas' hands and even though they stand at 2-3, this team looks like maybe, just maybe, they can be a contender in April and May.

Let's start with last night. The Cavs are on the second end of a back-to-back, and they needed all their gusto to earn a 108-104 win over Golden State Wednesday. With probably some tired legs (you don't play back-to-backs in the preseason), they landed in Salt Lake to take on the Jazz at home, who some have penciled in to be right up their with the Spurs and Suns in the West this year.

The Jazz showed us why from the opening tip. Their offense was crisp, their passes were clean and most of their shots were falling. For most of the game, the Cavs and LeBron James were playing keep up, as Utah would build the lead up to but not exceeding nine points when Boobie Gibson would nail a three or James would grab a steal, leading to a fast break. Other than atrocious free throw shooting, the Cavaliers were playing better than one might expect on the road at Utah, and at halftime, I was bracing myself to watch the wheels come off in the second half as the Jazz would pull away.

It never happened. In fact, the Cavs got especially stingy on 'D' and took whatever the Jazz zone would give them. Similar to the first half, Utah made their runs (Brewer and Boozer absolutely killed the Cavs in the second half), but LeBron James, as he often does, put the team on his back and brought them back. His playmaking (assists to Ilgauskas and Gooden, tough rebounds in traffic, blocks) led to his 13th career triple-double, and the Cavs kept it close.

Facing a five-point deficit in the closing moments, the Cavs weathered a little clock mismanagement from Mike Brown, and managed to keep the heat on Utah. Down three, LeBron drove to the basket for an easy hoop. After Brewer's two makes, LeBron came down the floor and canned the biggest bucket of the night, a three from the top of the key that tied the game at 101 and made overtime seem likely.

Then, as the highlights will remind you today, Deron Williams (one of the quickest ballhandlers in the league, by the way) went coast-to-coast without so much as a bump from the Cavaliers to finger-roll in the winning shot. On behalf of the defense, five seconds is an eternity in basketball, perhaps even an awkward eternity. As a player, you don't want to foul with a tie game because one free throw ends it. Likewise, you have to put up enough resistance to keep from what happened last night from...well...happening.

Sure, it was a close one that got away. It was more proof that the Cavs rely so heavily on James that when he has off-nights, the Cavs will lose (gee, what a discovery! Don't 90 percent of NBA teams rely on a star? Look how well the Heat are doing in the early-going.) It was proof that even when he has all-around "on" nights like last night, the Cavs still can lose.

But it showed that the Cavaliers can play in the West against the good teams and almost win. They had Phoenix on the ropes before letting them back into the game. The road trip record so far is 2-2, and I don't think we can complain too much about that. Last night's game showed that the Cavs can and will battle back when they're all but counted out. Even though they gave up 103, at times that Mike Brown defensive tenacity reared its head, and the Cavs were forcing turnovers. If you really want to know what lost the game, it was the ugly free throw shooting, not the defensive collapse at the end.

If/when the Cavs get the Anderson Varejao situation solved (either sign him, trade him, or sign-and-trade him), they finally, FINALLY will be a cohesive unit. (Speaking of Varejao, check out how many ex-Cavs are on this list.) Once Pavlovic remembers how to play basketball and starts hitting big shots, the guard play will be a force. It's obvious to me that 'Z' is poised in the early going, and I think Drew Gooden is going to have a good season, too.

Honestly, Detroit is getting old and Chicago may not be as great as everyone says, so the Central Division is wide open for the taking. I know it's early and LeBron James is being asked to bear more of the team's weight than he has since his rookie year, I expect the Cavs to win their patented 50 games this year and maybe even win the division.

Don't worry too much, Cavs fans. The window of championship opportunity may be hard to open, but when LBJ suits up for you, it doesn't close easily, either.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


With apologies to Bill Simmons -- no, wait a minute! No apologies to Mr. Butt-Buddies-With-Boston -- I still can't die in peace. And neither can you, nor can this blog, because I have resurrected it. I chose tonight, this moment, from my new digs in Arizona, to end my blogging hiatus because after completing the five-step grieving period (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), I think I have finally finished mourning the death of the Cleveland Indians' 2007 season. I have decided the most dignified way to do that is to deliver the eulogy. So, on behalf of Tribe nation, here it goes:

Friends, we are all gathered here this evening to remember our good friend, the 2007 installment of our beloved Cleveland Indians. I'm honored to be in front of you tonight, though I know the last couple of weeks have been particulary difficult. I've heard from many of you that you've had trouble sleeping. You see Joel Skinner's stop sign, Kenny Lofton's subsequent freeze frame rounding third base, J.D. Drew's grand slam and other horrible images as you shut your weary eyes. Friends, it's time, hard as it may be, to forget these images and remember some others.

First, remember the scene at Yankee Stadium after Joe Borowski closed out Game 4 for a 3-1 series win. Remember Trot Nixon's bloop hit and Franklin Gutierrez's no-doubter in Game 2 of the ALCS at Fenway to put an exclamation point on the inning. Remember Tom Mastny's 1-2-3 10th inning in the same game. Remember our second mascot, the Canadian soldier, and his assault on Joba Chamberlain. Remember Pronk's game-winner (but only if you can manage to forget that he did bubkus in the playoffs after that.) Remember the 12-3 rout, the clutch double-plays, and Paul Byrd's double-feature of great performances. Don't you dare forget how good it felt to see Kenny Lofton take a curtain call after his home run in Game 3.

Go back to the regular season. Remember how happy you were when Rafael Betancourt fired a third strike to clinch the division, ending a six-year playoff and division-championship drought. Likewise, think back to Casey Blake's walkoff homers in September, particularly against Detroit. Recall the emergence of Asdrubal Cabrera and Jensen Lewis, who both were integral in making the season as long as it was. Think about how Fausto Carmona emerged from Day 1 as an up-and-coming Pedro Martinez, and we didn't even miss Jeremy Sowers.

Remember the unlikely comeback against Detroit at the Jake in early June, ended on a David Delucci single up the middle. Reflect on all of the come-from-behind wins, making us all nostalgic for 1995.

Think about how hard you laughed at "I'm dreaming of a white home opener," how pissed off you were at how MLB screwed the organization in the makeup of those games with Seattle and how much you ended up not caring because the good guys took three out of a four of that series anyway.

Smile at the "Major League" jokes made when the Tribe played its their first game in the home whites in Milwaukee.

Now, if you're feeling any better, let me offer a little bit of perspective. Most of you wanted to "Trade Shapiro" in 2002 (that's for you, Proto), and now you can't stop singing his praises. Only the most vicious malcontents of you still don't like Eric Wedge. Most of you are out campaigning for him to win Manager of the Year from the AP, even though he already won it from The Sporting News. In 2003, when the Indians might as well have hung up a sign in front of the ballpark saying, "We're rebuilding. Come see us in a couple of years," they dropped 94 games, struggled to score 600 runs, and the most potent hitters were Jody Gerut and Matt Lawton. This team that we remember today fared better than the 2005 installment, who choked against Tampa Bay and the White Sox (thanks for making it clear, Ozzie Guillen). The 2007ers blew away the 2006ers, except maybe for Hafner's stats. At least in '07, we could pull out the close ones. In '07, we returned to the playoffs, and it felt so good just to be watching October baseball again and truly caring about the outcome.

Remember the monniker "The Jake." After Jacobs Field is renamed, you'll eventually feel odd if you keep calling it that.

Finally, I offer you hope. Byrd, whose HGH use to combat an injury shouldn't bother you anymore than Rafael Betancourt's did, is back. JoeBo, who gives us what Wickman gave us without all the fat jokes, will be back, too. The young arms--Rafael Perez, Carmona, et al.--will all be back. C.C. still has another year left on the contract, and even though some of you might want to run him out of town because he couldn't match up with Josh Beckett, Sabathia still might win the Cy Young. Grady won a gold glove, Victor had an M.V.P.-type year, Peralta proved he can hit under pressure--and against good pithcing. All of your other favorites, with the probable exception of Lofton, will be back in 2008 with a massive-sized chip on their shoulders.

We're back. We're on top of the division. We're there to stay. Things aren't bad. They're not championship-good, yet, but I don't think any of us expected that. The 2007 Indians are gone, a memory. Like a relationship that ended badly but had so many great memories, let's put the snapshots of the seaosn on our mantels and...*sigh*..move on.

This year, it wasn't meant to be, but one year, the ring will come. Our friend 2007 was a good year. If you didn't have fun, you weren't paying attention.

Labels: ,