The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for August, 2007

Ohio State Football Buckeyes predictions

Posted by disappointmentzone on 31 August 2007

The Ohio State Football Buckeyes being their defense of march back to the BCS Championship Game Saturday afternoon. All of Buckeyes Nation will be turned to televisions in local bars or neighbors’ houses because the Big Ten Network is holding college football fans hostage. (1)

But that’s neither here nor there because right now all that matters is that this iteration of the OSU Football Buckeyes is perfect in every way possible. For the next few hours they are the Platonic ideal of a football team, untarnished by defeat or overzealous victory. That’ll change soon enough, though, and when it does you’ll want to be prepared. You’ll want to know what to expect.

That’s where the Disappointment Zone comes in.

Below are the authoritative predictions for each of the twelve regular season games. Now you’ll know what to expect and where to set your standards.

The predictions come in typical Disappointment Zone fashion, complete with the emotional barometer and confidence scale (1-100 where 1 is no confidence in pick). Why? Because words are fun and absolute prognostications are macho and generate bad karma.

Week 1: Youngstown State: Unexpected cheerfulness (97)
Week 2: Akron: Mild boredom (95)
Week 3: at Washington: Cocksure satisfaction (80)
Week 4: Northwestern: Rosy contentment (92)
Week 5: at Minnesota: Lighthearted delight (90)
Week 6: at Purdue: Thankful comfort (88)
Week 7: Kent State: Blind optimism (94)
Week 8: Michigan State: Distracted happiness (78)
Week 9: at Penn State: Horrified numbness (59)
Week 10: Wisconsin: Near catatonic depression (33)
Week 11: Illinois: Relief (68)
Week 12: at Michigan: Suicidal (83)

Final regular season record: 9-3.

Yes, the Buckeyes will lose three games and it’ll happen in the span of four weeks. Let’s not all try to kill ourselves at once. What will the BTN do for ratings come basketball season?

Anyway.

First will be a loss at Penn State, where the whiteout will get to the Bucks just as it did two years ago. This is the first legitimate road test of the season and Penn State is too hostile an environment to earn one’s chops without scars.

The second loss will be the following week against Wisconsin. Wisconsin always plays Ohio State tough and will have three weeks to prepare for OSU after facing only Northern Illinois and Indiana in the two weeks preceding the showdown in the Horseshoe.

Here is where things get interesting. Wisconsin plays Michigan the following week while OSU plays Illinois. Michigan will be coming off of playing MSU, but prior to that they have essentially six weeks to prep for Wisconsin and MSU shouldn’t be much of a challenge. I have Michigan beating Wisconsin solely because Michigan can prepare longer for Wisconsin than Wisconsin can prepare for Michigan.

Riding the crest of a victory over Wisconsin and knowing that a victory over OSU will give them the Big Ten title, Michigan will march into Columbus and beat OSU. (2) Sorry folks.

fn 1: Much to my great disappointment it’s not clear if anyone will actually be able to partake in my favorite Saturday activity: waking up just in time to flip on College Game Day and then fluidly moving between half wake and half asleep until getting up for the final time to see an overhead shot of a packed Horseshoe just moments before kickoff of another glorious OSU football game. I know this won’t be how I’m spending my Saturday. Thanks, Big Ten Network. Thanks, Comcast.

fn 2: I mean, Lloyd Carr can’t always be Tressel’s [bad word], can he? Michigan has to win one eventually. This looks like the year it happens.

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Posted in Ohio State Buckeyes | 6 Comments »

The difference of a week

Posted by disappointmentzone on 30 August 2007

Last week I was practically salivating at the opportunity to write a scathing blog post about how the Indians were getting screwed in making up these Seattle games. (1) Seattle had over the last couple of months transformed into a powerhouse in the AL West while the Indians had turned into the team that couldn’t hit straight. This from how the teams had been playing at the beginning of the year, when the Indians looked like a mighty force and the Mariners looked like, well, the Mariners. Playing them at home (and then on the road) in August and September was going to be a far cry from playing them at home in April.

Now? Not so much. The Indians are riding a five game winning streak and the Mariners are on a five game losing streak. Seattle played yesterday on the West Coast and have had to travel to Cleveland without a day’s rest. Plus the Mariners are trotting out a pitcher with the worst ERA of any of their starters.

Needless to say, things change quickly and a week in baseball can be like a month in the regular world. Now I’m not so upset. But should the Indians lose….

fn 1: Hyperbole intended here as a bit tongue-in-cheek. Something mildly funny about a ‘scathing blog post’, as if it matters. I’ve gone from the intellectual form of masturbation (grad school in the humanities) to the fanatical form of masturbation (scathing blog posts) and all I have left is the…well, never mind.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 4 Comments »

Grading the Cavs’ offseason

Posted by disappointmentzone on 30 August 2007

Sports Illustrated writer Marty Burns has published his brief take on the Cavs’ offseason. Here it is:

Cleveland Cavaliers

What Went Right:

They didn’t lose Varejao or Pavlovic (at least not yet).
With Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic both restricted free agents, the Cavs were looking at the possibility of losing two key members of their rotation. It now appears that GM Danny Ferry’s strategy of waiting will pay off. Varejao and Pavlovic have seen the free agent market dry up, meaning each likely will re-sign with Cleveland — at least for one more season. It is also possible Ferry could still use one or both in a sign-and-trade.

What Went Wrong:

They didn’t land Bibby.
After last year’s Finals sweep at the hands of the Spurs, it was clear the Cavs could use a true point guard and clutch shot-maker to help LeBron James. Ferry revisited talks with the Kings, but was unable to swing a deal for Mike Bibby. Barring something unexpected, it appears as if the Cavs will be forced to go into the season with combo guards Larry Hughes and Daniel Gibson once again running the point.

They didn’t get in the Draft.
With no draft picks, the Cavs were forced to sit on the sidelines on Draft night. Meanwhile, the Bulls, Pistons and Bucks all picked up decent young prospects. The Cavs might not have been able to find a player to help them much this season anyway, but they at least could have stockpiled some talent for down the road.

GRADE: C

This is a pretty fair analysis of what has transpired, although not landing Bibby is arguably one of the things that went right for the team. Why? Because Bibby would have handcuffed the Cavs over the next few seasons with his bloated salary. If you think Larry Hughes and the Men of 05 are hard to stomach then you would have had problems with Bibby. The reason the Cavs didn’t sign anyone this offseason is because it makes no financial sense to do so. The Cavs are rubbing up against the luxury tax and cannot afford to take on any new big contracts. And the luxury tax is no joke. Just as Steve Kurr, president of the Suns, whose summer has been spent trading away talented (and heavily paid) stars for nothing in an attempt to get under the luxury tax threshold.

As for getting into the draft…No one should be too bummed about that one. There was no way the Cavs were going to get into the top 20 after trading away the 2007 first round pick for Jeri Welch a few years ago and buying their way into the mid-20s range was a multimillion dollar crap shoot that no one should be too bummed about missing. The 2007 class was deep, but not 30-outstanding-prospects deep.

The fact is, the Cavs probably deserve a C for this offseason due only to the fact that the team hasn’t improved. (Although if LBJ can now make jumpers then watch out) But the Cavs also haven’t done enough to drastically implode. Doing nothing is about all the team could do, which is the larger point: This offseason was dictated to the Cavs by the last few years’ worth of offseason moves. There was the Jeri Welch trade that took the team out of the draft and there was the cash orgy of 2005 that hamstrung the team this offseason w/r/t signing or trading for new talent. The only moves the team can make are lateral.

Your 2006 Cavs will be your 2007 Cavs. Let’s just hope that’s enough to make it back to the promise land of the NBA Finals.

UPDATE: ESPN’s David Thorpe answers some questions about LeBron’s sudden shooting ability and shooting form in this TrueHoop post.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 6 Comments »

Cleveland Browns notes

Posted by disappointmentzone on 29 August 2007

Peter King has released his list of the best 500 players in football, ranked 1-500. Nine Browns make the list, or 1.8% of all players in the top 500. Considering that there are 32 teams in the NFL, the Browns are considerably under represented, especially were the talent equally distributed across the league, which it clearly is not. General Managers matter, it seems, although I’ve yet to run a regression on players in the top 500 and wins, which I probably won’t do.

Given the Browns’ record last season no one should be too surprised by the lack of Browns players in King’s top 500. The bright side is that five of the nine players are Savage draft picks and two of the first three Browns on the list are first overall picks, which is quite a change from the recent past (Tim Couch anyone?). Another encouraging sign is that the old man on the list is Jamal Lewis, who’s signed to a cheap one-year contract and who is only 28 and who Peter King is very high on this season. Everyone else on the list was born in the 1980s. Oh, and seven of the nine were Browns picks, which lends the list a nice Cleveland Indians-like charm, what with the homegrown talent and all.

81. Kamerion Wimbley, LB.

139. Eric Steinbach, G.

170. Joe Thomas, T.

176. Jamal Lewis, RB.

178. Leigh Bodden, CB.

189. Kellen Winslow, TE.

318. Braylon Edwards, WR.

361. Brady Quinn, QB.

456. D’Qwell Jackson, LB.

Meanwhile, fellow SI scribe Don Banks has the Browns finishing in the cellar of the AFC North.

ESPN.com has also posted its preview of the Browns, which is about what you’d expect. Browns will finish fourth; Wimbley is underrated talent; Browns finally drafting well. In the only interesting part of the preview they have Bengals DT John Thorton assess Eric Steinbach. Thorton says that Steinbach actually weighs about 270 (not the 295 he’s listed at), is the best pulling guard in the NFL, and wears the arm brace to make opponents think he’s vulnerable and breaking down physically, which Thorton adamantly says is not the case.

Posted in Cleveland Browns | Leave a Comment »

Quick link: CSU

Posted by disappointmentzone on 29 August 2007

Disappointment Zone regular Ryan A. has started a blog about all things CSU Vikings, Let’s Go Vikes! Make sure to bookmark it and check back often.

Posted in Cleveland Sports | 3 Comments »

Two-out closer

Posted by disappointmentzone on 23 August 2007

If you watched this afternoon’s Indians-Tigers game you saw a number of usual sights: a great performance from a starting pitcher, an uninspiring (to put it kindly) performance from the offense, and a win (70!). But that’s not all. You also saw closer Joe Borowski come into the the game for a save, retire the first two batters he faced, and then nearly collapse with two outs. From no out and no on Borowski quickly gave up a run and had runners on second and third. This is about the nineteenth time this has happened to Borowski. (1)

Borowski is fairly good with fewer than two outs in save situations. (2) Should Wedge only use Borowski in those situations? You know, put him in for the first two batters and then pull him. Obviously this is a stupid idea, but so is Borowski giving Indians fans unnecessary heart attacks.

Anyway, up 2.5 games heading into a weekend series with the Royals — while the Tigers face the Yankees — is a pretty nice spot to be in, so for the time being there will be only minor grumbling about matters that are really big but have no obvious solutions. (3)

fn 1: Most infamous time: first Yankees series, game thre.

fn 2: Not so good in those non-save situations. See: first Yankees series, game three.

fn 3: There are, in fact, obvious solutions, but none of them is a solution Wedge would actually implement.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 4 Comments »

Let’s go tribe

Posted by disappointmentzone on 22 August 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the moniker “worst first place team”: the Indians, for the first time in team history, only had one hit in a game where the one hit was a home run. Once again the tribe had a dominating performance from its pitcher — this time Fausto Carmona through a 77-pitch complete game — and once again the offense decided to take the night off. The Indians are now just .5 games up on the Tigers with two games to go in the series.

That the Indians are actually leading the AL Central is incredibly surprising, especially if you woke up from a coma in early July and have only seen the team play over the last month and a half. The team is mired in a team-wide slump, one that has lasted much longer than any typical slump, and the solution seems to be…something unclear. Here is a quick suggestion: shake up the batting order. Casey Blake continues to bat second; his batting average hasn’t cracked .270 since July 25th. Trot Nixon continues to play; he’s been terrible all season. Wedge finally moved Sizemore down in the order, but this isn’t going to do much good if the guys in front of him keep crapping the bed whenever they bat.

Anyway, the Indians are on the verge of falling off the mountain. The AL Central is only sending one team to the playoffs. The Indians need to win the division. The Indians are going to leave Detroit in second place, which means they’ll probably be 3-4 games back in the wild card. Things are not looking pretty, but at the end of September we’ll all be glad if the Indians are the worst first place team.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 1 Comment »

Auspicious beginnings

Posted by disappointmentzone on 20 August 2007

[Editor’s note: Believe it or not, but over the last 11 months I have written the Disappointment Zone without internet. Well, technically without internet at my apartment, which always proved to be a huge pain in the ass. I actually had to walk places to use the internet and walking is just too much work for a sports blogger. But today I boldly entered the 21st century and got myself some of these here internets. They don’t come cheap but they sure are pretty. Expect regular postings from hereon out.]

Though it’s coming about a day late and about 96% of all Cleveland sports bloggers have commented on it, Brady Quinn’s debut is worth talking about just a little bit more.

True, his gaudy numbers came against the fourth string defense of the Detroit Lions, a team whose first string defense is mediocre. True, a bulk of gaudy numbers came against a fourth string defense playing a prevent defense. But nonetheless, Quinn lead the Browns on two touchdown drives, something no other Browns quarterback had been able to do through the first 7.5 quarters of the pre-season.

Not scoring a touchdown for consecutive quarters just proves that the Browns first string offense is already in mid-season form, but that’s the problem, isn’t it? Except for when Kelley Holcomb channeled his inner talent against the Steelers a few seasons ago the Browns have been without an offense since the team returned to Cleveland. Watching Anderson and Frye duke it out for the right to be the stinker not leading the team on scoring drives this season is practically the equivalent of watching two people compete to see who can fall down a flight of stairs better. In the end you just close your eyes and hope no one gets hurt.

So watching Quinn throw two touchdown passes, watching him easily guide the offense down the field twice, watching him not mismanage the game clock — these are uncharted territory for Browns fans. You’ll have to excuse us if we emotionally and irrationally clamp our hopes onto a guy who played pretty well during scrub time of a game that doesn’t even count.

Browns fans have been able to maintain a sense of pride and hope throughout these tough times, two actions that are arguably much more irrational and emotional than suddenly turning into screaming school girls for Brady Quinn.

Posted in Cleveland Browns | 4 Comments »

Excellent. Awesome. Super.

Posted by disappointmentzone on 17 August 2007

Homegrown grittiness wins over maudlin sentimentalism every time. It’s the Rick Vaughn vs. The Natural, via College Humor. Watch it here. Fantastic.

Posted in flotsam and Jetsam | Leave a Comment »

Aston Villa: year two preview*

Posted by disappointmentzone on 17 August 2007

*Actually, AV turns 133 this year, but it’s year two under the ownership of Mr. Lerner.

Aston Villa is arguably the best professional football team associated with Cleveland. For the time being the Browns, while #1 in our hearts, are #2 in the list of best professional Cleveland football teams. Last season the Soccer Spot provided outstanding coverage of all things Aston Villa. He’s moved on to greener pastures as far as soccer blogging is concerned — he’s now your guy for all things FC Barcelona over at The Offside — but he’s still willing to slum it with us from time to time. (1)

Aston Villa begins its campaign for an EPL title tomorrow, 12e/11c. The DZ will be posted up at a local drinking hole to watch the game and in hand will certainly be this lovely guide penned by Mr. Barca Offside himself. His words follow:

Aston Villa: The 2007/08 EPL Season

Even though the season has officially begun, there’s room for a little preview of the best Cleveland-related soccer team, except for maybe the Force. After finishing 10th in last year’s English Premier League (EPL), Aston Villa is definitely looking to finish up the year with a place in European competition, though even shooting for one of the Champions League spots given to English FA by UEFA would be ridiculous.

In case you’re not particularly familiar with the EPL, here’s a very brief rundown of the league:

Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool seem to comprise the upper echelon of English soccer these days, all having made pretty serious moves in the off-season. ManU added Carlos Tevez after a protracted legal battle, as well as Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich, Nani from Sporting Lisbon, and Anderson from FC Porto. They also either sold or let go of Kieran Richardson, Giuseppe Rossi, and Alan Smith.

Liverpool’s biggest signing was Fernando Torres, who arrived from Atlético Madrid for the bargain price of €30million, which is about $40million. I’m being facetious about the price, of course (I have my own opinions about Torres), but Liverpool certainly haven’t spared any expense that I can see in also signing (among others) Andriy Voronin from Bayer Leverkusen, Yossi Benayoun from West Ham, Ryan Babel from Ajax, and Lucas from Grêmio while offloading (among others) Luis Garcia, Boudewijn Zenden, Djibril Cisse, Craig Bellamy, Jerzy Dudek, and Robbie Fowler.

Chelsea made moves too, of course: Incoming were Alex from PSV, Tal Ben Haim from Bolton, Claudio Pizarro from Bayern Munich, Steve Sidwell from Reading, and Florent Malouda from Lyon. Chelsea rid themselves of Geremi and Kalid Boularhouz (loan).

There’s Arsenal, of course, but they don’t look like they’re going to challenge for the title, especially after losing their “talisman,” Thierry Henry to Spain’s FC Barcelona. They’ve replaced him with Eduardo da Silva from Dinamo Zagreb and also brought in Bacary Sagna from Auxerre and brought back Nicklas Bendtner from a loan at Birmingham. Still they’ve also loaned out Johan Djourou, sold Jose Antonio Reyes, Fredrik Ljunberg, and Jeremie Aliadiere, and have seen Julio Baptista return to Real Madrid after finishing his loan. I’m not expecting Arsenal to finish higher than fourth, but there’s no doubt that Arsene Wenger can make magic happen with a midfield including Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky, and Alexandre Hleb, among others.

This all suggests that in order to compete in a league flush with money (from TV deals), Aston Villa needed to bring in new players and get rid of useless ones. Here is what Villa did:

In:
Nigel Reo-Coker (West Ham)
Harry Forester (Watford)
Marlon Harewood (West Ham United)
Eric Lichaj (free)
Scott Carson (Liverpool)

Out:
Juan Pablo Angel (New York Red Bulls)
Gavin McCann (Birmingham City)
Aaron Hughes (Fulham)
Stephen Henderson (Bristol City)
Robert Olejnik (Falkirk)
Jlloyd Samuel (Bolton)
Steven Davies (Fulham)
Lee Hendrie (Sheffield United)
Liam Ridgewell (Birmingham City)

It certainly sounds like a lot of players went out the door, especially compared to how many came in, but those who left were either too old to compete in the EPL (Angel) or too crappy (well, all of the rest – no doubt many will dispute that about some of these players – it’s just sour grapes, people). It’s silly that we gave up so many players to competing teams, but, of course, if they’re too bad for us, let’s hope they continue to be to be bad while they play for other teams. Angel, of course, plays in the MLS, so what he does is immaterial to Villa’s fortunes and the same can be said for Henderson, Olejnik, and Hendrie, none of whom are in the EPL either. After one game (a 1-2 home loss to Liverpool), there’s little to suggest Villa is any different from last year, despite a solid acquisition in Nigel Reo-Coker. Villa has to play Liverpool, ManU, Chelsea, and Arsenal at home in the first half of the year, which means they have a chance to enter the second half with either a good shot at attaining Europe or no shot whatsoever: having to take points at Anfield, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, and the Emirates during the second half of the season is a daunting task, really.

So to Saturday’s game: Liverpool is not an easy opening round opponent and Steven Gerrard’s 87th minute freekick was both stunning and indicative of just why they’re no fun to face. I missed all but the final 35 minutes of the match, but it seems that most writers found Torres’ addition to the squad to be very positive. I didn’t see any of that in the 20 minutes he was on while I was watching (subbed off), but Villa had trouble with the entire team, so it was hard to decide if he was causing the issues at the back. Villa seemed unable to keep up with Liverpool’s speed and ability (Gerrard won the freekick he subsequently scored by outmaneuvering Stiliyan Petrov, though Petrov did touch the ball away in one of those judgement calls that went against Villa). Despite the fact that the ref seemed to favor Liverpool 9 times out of 10, Liverpool looked far better. (2) Villa failed to make a dent in Liverpool’s uncoordinated defense, despite the fact that it was so uncoordinated. Ashley Young looked good, but that seemed to be the only bright spot in the last few minutes. John Carew should have scored about 8 times, but his lack of finishing, which I have expounded upon before, cropped up again and he fired either well wide or well and truly wide from good positions.

Despite their prestigious position in the Disappointment Zone Power Rankings (1), Aston Villa looked fairly shoddy and deserved to lose. They got lucky to score a single goal (Gareth Barry scored a PK off a Jamie Carragher handball in the box), though somewhat unlucky to be down 0-1 at that point (Laursen scored an own goal). The rest of the season should go about like the last one, with Villa eking out a few points here and there, but doing nothing fantastic and nothing horrible. They’re a solid club, though they’re not really in a position to push too hard for European competition.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say they’ll finish 8th, just missing out on European competition. So that’s my official prediction, with ManU winning the league, Chelsea and Liverpool rounding out the top 3, and Arsenal squeaking into the 4th Champions League spot. Not that I took any risks with my top 4 picks, but 8th place for Villa is perhaps hoping for a little too big a piece of the pie.

This weekend’s game is at Newcastle, a team that finished 13th last year, 7 points behind Villa. They currently sit in 5th, having beaten Bolton 1-3 at Bolton in their only game so far. They’re a solid squad and it’s their home opener, so it could very easily be 0 points from 2 games for Villa (who are in 16th on goal differential).

Here is a handy link from Wikipedia to keep you up-to-date with Villa when I’m doing my much more important stuff and can’t be bothered to do write-ups. [Editor’s note: Is this a joke? What’s the point of me having these incriminating photos of you if you are not going to honor me blackmailing you into doing write-ups?]

fn 1: The DZ and Mr. Barca Offside went to college together and knowing the reputation of both of our alma mater and Mr. Barca Offside it probably goes without saying that the DZ is blackmailing him into doing these posts. It’s the only way we can get him to write for a blog that has a small-but-loyal readership.

fn 2: I fully realize that a team who gets all of the calls will naturally look better, but in this case it was true anyway.

Posted in Aston Villa/English Premier League | 4 Comments »