The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for August 13th, 2006

The curse has wider grasp than originally thought

Posted by disappointmentzone on 13 August 2006

First it was center LeCharles Bentley. He suffered a season-ending injury during the first drill at the first practice of his first season as a Brown. Then Bob Hellen decided that he was hurt, flew to San Diego, and retired. And now Seth McKinney of the Miami Dolphins has fallen victim to the Curse of Art Modell (or whatever this thing is being called). From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The Browns also thought they had a deal this week with Miami for backup center Seth McKinney, but he suffered a back injury Tuesday and underwent season-ending surgery on Thursday.

At this point I think it’s safe to say that every player who signs a contract from this point forward ought to have his agent negotiate in a clause that specifies that the player cannot be traded to the Browns or even be rumored to be traded to the Browns unless significant financial bonuses are rewarded to the player. Kind of like a reverse-injury clause. Who wouldn’t want this?

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Twice in a season!

Posted by disappointmentzone on 13 August 2006

I was at the game against the Yankees on July 4th in which the Indians, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, batted around, scoring nine runs en route to a 19-1 beatdown of the Evil Empire. I thought I’d never see a team bat through the order without giving up an out for at least the rest of the season, if not for the rest of my life.

But then the first inning of today’s game against the Royals happened. The first 10 Indians batters reached base (and eventually scored). Shin-Soo Choo continued his hot streak, doubling in two runs immediately after Victor singled in two runs. More players reached base (Marte drew a nice walk with the bases loaded after falling behind 0-2 in the count) and then Travis Hafner–in his second at bat of the inning–tied Don Mattingly for the MLB record with his sixth grand slam of the season. Those were runs 8, 9, 10, and 11. And that was all she wrote for the first inning.

Hafner has 13 at bats with the bases loaded this season. No manager would ever do it, but at what point does it begin to make sense to walk Hafner with the bases loaded? How many more runs does he need to drive in with the bases loaded before conceding only one run when Hafter trots to the plate is a success for the opposing team? In any event, I hope this never happens, because watching Hafner bat with the bases loaded is a pleasure. I doubt there was one person in the stadium who thought Hafner would do something other than hit a grad slam. For all the talk about David Ortiz being clutch, nothing is more clutch than six grand slams in 13 at bats in one season. Give up, Boston. It’s over.

Overshadowed in all of this is that Francisco Guiterrez hit his first major league home run, Ryan Garko hit is second, and the Indians pitchers–Sowers, Brown, and Carmona; all rookies–combined for a shut out. And so the AAA Squad continues to perform above expectations. Sowers doesn’t give up runs, Choo only hits with runners in scoring position, and Carmona found the strike zone in his one inning of relief. Of all the positives in the game, perhaps the most meaningful, at least in the long run, is that Carmona located his pitches and didn’t show any signs that one week ago he one walk-off homer away from…well, let’s not think about it.

The Indians are on the up. Six wins in a row. Who would have thought?

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Cavs update 8/13

Posted by disappointmentzone on 13 August 2006

Drew Gooden is still not signed and there might not be any movement on those negotiations until restricted free agent Chris Wilcox accepts an offer, according to the Lorain Morning Journal. Wilcox, 23, compares favorably to Gooden, 24. After being traded from the Clippers to the Sonics late last season, Wilcox averaged 14.5 ppg on 59.2% shooting and 8.2 rpg, all in 30 minutes per game. For the season he averaged 8.1 ppg and 5.3 rpg. Gooden, in just less than 30 minutes per game last season, averaged 10.7 ppg on 51.2% shooting and 8.4 rpg. The Sonics have offered Wilcox a three-year deal worth approximately $21 million. Should Wilcox accept the terms of this contract expect to see the Cavs use it to move Gooden’s agent away from the $10 million per year, long-term (4-6 years) contract he’s seeking for his client.

Then there is the luxury tax. Right now the Cavs have about $55 million committed in salaries for the upcoming season. The luxury tax line is set at $64.5 million. A most unfortunate chunk of the cap is being spent on Larry Hughes, whose base salary this season, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, will be about $13.4 million, or $3 million more than last season. This after Hughes reached $2 million in incentives last season, the largest of which he earned after the Cavs won their 47th game…despite playing in only 32 games. Donyell Marshall reached $400k in incentives last season, bumping his salary this season to $5.63 million. At least he played in 81 games. The $55 million does not include Gooden.

But the Cavs already have nearly $60 million committed to the 2007-08 team, when LBJ’s new contract starts. And as the ABJ points out, “[the 2007-08] total also does not include Anderson Varejao, who will be a free agent and in line for a massive raise on his $945,000 salary this season.” Unless the Cavs turn into the Knicks, there is no way the team will pay to employ both Varejao and Gooden without first dealing away other players to clear room under the cap. The looming luxury tax, according to the ABJ, is

…the reason the Cavs haven’t been eager to use their salary-cap exceptions ($5.2 million for the mid-level and $1.8 million for the biannual) this summer – especially in a free agent market they think is weak. If Gooden takes the one-year deal to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, using both exceptions this summer would make the Cavs a taxpayer now. Simply put, the Cavs are not willing to cross that line just to sign a player like Gooden or any other free agent. Someday, Gilbert might do it if he feels his team is close to a title, and the spending could put them over the top. That day is not at hand.

It should be no surprise, then, that the Cavs have not offered Reggie Evans a contract, though the Timberwolves have ($1.75 million). The Nuggets, equally worried about the luxury tax, remain the frontrunners to sign Evans.

The big gamble facing the Cavs is the following: The Cavs can afford to out-spend the Nuggets, so if salary matters to Evans, the Cavs are in a position to pay more for his services than the other interested teams. Doing so would mean that Gooden won’t be a Cav next season, which means the Cavs would have to find a team willing to do a sign-and-trade for Gooden. This team would have to be willing to part with at least one first-round draft pick. Then the Cavs would sign Varejao. The gamble is that if the Cavs traded away Gooden this offseason they would do so at least in part to sign Varejao, a player who has not been a starter for any meaningful length of time and who still is a raw talent. A fair compliment to Varejao, however, is Reggie Evans, who is essentially a really strong, athletic big man. There are ways to rearrange the roster so that both Gooden and Varejao could remain Cavs, but those ways–get rid of Damon Jones and Eric Snow–are less gambles than savvy business moves.

That said, Eric Snow is not the problem facing the Cavs this season. Yes, his contract is crazy (owed about $20 million over the next three seasons) and, when combined with his age, makes trading him nearly impossible. But Snow was also the Cavs’ best defender last season, and the distance between Snow and whoever was #2 wasn’t even close. Snow often found himself guarding PGs, SGs, and SFs, and occasionally guarding PFs. Snow might be a liability on the offensive end since he can’t shoot, but he also doesn’t turn the ball over (4.2 apg/1.4 tpg), which is a more important quality for a PG than shooting ability. Plus, the Cavs’ offense wasn’t the problem. Per 100 possessions the Cavs averaged 108 points, which easily puts them in the upper half of all teams (the NBA average was 106.2). Snow is a perfect player to have on the roster to teach the young guards how to play–and the Cavs have a lot of young guards (Jackson, Hughes, Gibson, Brown). That Snow was the starting PG last season and will start this season as the starting PG says more about the front office than it doesn’t about Snow. If there is an aging player owed a ton of money whose utility to the team is declining each minute, it is not Snowit’s Ilguaskas, and there is nothing about Ilguaskas’s personality that leads me to believe that he’s a good player to teach up the young centers in the way that Snow is a good player to teach up the young guards. Where was Ilguaskas this past postseason? On the bench, because he’s one of the Cavs’ worst defenders and he’s as detrimental to the offense as Snow. (Which is not to say that Ilguaskas is as poor on offense as Snow–he’s much better than Snow. It’s only to say that the style of play that suits Ilguaskas is not the style of play that suits the Cavs as long as LBJ is on the court.) Varejao’s postseason coming-out party was as much the result of necessity–the Wizards and Pistons were killing Z with their athletic big men–as it was the result of Varejao playing his way into the lineup. Z can still be a great player, don’t get me wrong. Often cited during Cavs games is that Ilguaskas is one of only one or two ‘true’ centers in the Eastern Conference. It’s always meant as a compliment. But it should be a red herring, since the type of player capable of rendering Ilguaskas a liability is the type of player who will never be classified as a ‘true’ center.

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