The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for October, 2007

Pavlovic signs 3-year contract

Posted by disappointmentzone on 30 October 2007

Astute reader Will just posted in the comments that Sasha Pavlovic has re-signed with the Cavs, thus ending his holdout. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, though according to sources it is a three-year contract. Anderson Varejao remains unsigned.

What does this mean for the Cavs?

Honestly, probably not much. Pavlovic has been in Europe this entire time so it’s anyone’s guess how close to being in game shape he is. He very well could have spent this entire time sitting on his ass. He also missed out on learning the intricacies of the new Mike Brown offense, which should put him about, oh, three days behind (I assume he still knows how to stand around and watch LBJ hold the ball).

More seriously, of the two holdouts Pavlovic was of lesser importance, and in Devin Brown the Cavs had already found a player to replace him — at a fraction of the cost to boot. As I wrote at the time of the trade, Devin Brown is significantly better than Pavlovic. Signing Pavlovic is more like window dressing on a team that is in desperate need of an athletic big man who’s strong on defense and can run the floor. Someone like, oh, Varejao.

Until the terms of the deal are disclosed it’s probably best to refrain from making any final judgments. If the contract is worth in the vicinity of $30+ million then this was probably a huge mistake. If it’s worth closer to $20 million then things look much better. We’ll have to wait and see.

According to Brian Windhorst the contract is worth between $4-$5 million per year.

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Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 6 Comments »

Cleveland Browns: QB Score: Week 8

Posted by disappointmentzone on 28 October 2007

In the last four weeks Derek Anderson has played at a Pro Bowl level three times. His one sub-par game came against New England, and though no one would confuse the Rams with the Patriots Derek Anderson suddenly finds himself in the long-forgotten position of being a Browns quarterback who inspires confidence and hope. (1)

After the first seven games a few things are clear. First, drafting Joe Thomas was the right decision. Second, Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards have redeemed themselves from their idiocy in years past by playing like men possessed in the only year that matters. Third, Rod Chudzinski is quickly establishing himself as one of the best young assistant coaches in the NFL. Fourth, Derek Anderson is a good quarterback. When you add those things together you get an offense that scores 27 points on the road and actually lowers its scoring average.

What you also get is a Browns team that’s fringe playoff contender. Last week the Browns had a 19% chance of making the playoffs. When this week’s playoff odds report is published the Browns’ chances of playing in January could be even greater, and the next three weeks will go a long way to determine whether playoff tailgating on the shores of the Erie Lake is in order.

If Cleveland beats Seattle next week and Baltimore beats Pittsburgh then the following week the Browns will play Pittsburgh for the division lead. If the Browns beat Pittsburgh they will — at worst — be tied for the division lead with Baltimore, where the Browns travel the following week in what could be the game that determines the division champion. If Cleveland wins the next three games they would be — at worst — tied for the division lead and the prohibitive favorite for the Wild Card. Oh yes, the playoffs are within reach. But it gets even better.

Once you get beyond that three game stretch the Browns play, in order:

Houston (should be favorites)
at Arizona (should be a toss up, maybe slight underdog)
at New York Jets (should be favorites)
Buffalo (should be favorites)
at Cincinnati (should be a toss up, maybe slight underdog)
San Francisco (should be favorites)

All three home games are against teams that are undeniably worse than the Browns. The three road games are trickier to call, but the Jets are one of the worst teams in the NFL and both Arizona and San Francisco have issues at quarterback. Going 3-3 down the stretch is reasonable, going 4-2 is attainable, going 5-1 is possible, and going 6-0 is not completely ridiculous.

Seriously, when was the last time the Browns faced a six game stretch where winning all six games was not a ludicrous possibility?

This is a new era in Cleveland Browns history, one where they have a talented roster filled with young guys who overachieve. The team will only go as far as Derek Anderson will carry them (the defense sure as hell isn’t going to bear the load) but right now that’s a pretty rosy place to be. (2)

QB Score: 151
QB Score per play: 5.81

fn 1: To put the Patriots game in context: In eight games the Patriots have allowed an opposing quarterback to have an above average QB Score only twice. In those games the opposing quarterbacks were Tony Romo and Carson Palmer, both of whom are Pro Bowl quarterbacks, and neither of whom had a performance greater than their average performance this season. In other words, both sucked it up a little bit against the Patriots. The Patriots are quite good and Anderson played better than pretty much every non-Pro Bowl quarterback. So take that sub-par game with a grain of salt.

fn 2: Anyone else struck by the similarities between Anderson and Todd Boeckman? Both are unheralded, mostly unexperienced, mostly immobile quarterbacks with strong arms and pretty good touch and an undeniable goofy whiteness emanating from everything they do. They both are leading their teams on surprising runs during seasons in which the playoffs or a BCS Championship were pie in the sky fantasies floated during the preseason only by the most optimistic of fans, of which there aren’t many to begin with, this being Ohio and all.

Posted in Cleveland Sports | 5 Comments »

NBA Preview: 2007-08

Posted by disappointmentzone on 26 October 2007

The 2007-08 NBA season tips off Tuesday. Though the Disappointment Zone is primarily concerned with Cleveland-related teams, from time to time it’s fun to take a look at the wider sports landscape. This is one of those times. Here, then, is a mini preview of the NBA. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Sports | 13 Comments »

Cavs: Predicting the future

Posted by disappointmentzone on 25 October 2007

Before we get into the post I want to throw this tidbit out there: Anderson Varejao is better than you think. (1) He looks goofy and has a funky shooting form and is prone to doing some things on offense that make you want to cringe, but despite all of this he has tremendous value to the team. He’s a prodigy on the offensive boards, plays better defense than you’d expect from a guy who looks like a stretched out Troll Doll, and is exactly the sort of big man you want playing alongside LeBron during an up-tempo game. So much about him pushes you to believe he’s a novelty, but he’s a legitimately good basketball player. (2)

Which is why it is probably an exercise in futility to predict the season without knowing if Varejao will be on the team. Still, there are a few days to go until the season starts and there ain’t much else going on so here’s one guy’s at-a-glance guess at how the team will do in each game. (This is about as low key of an any analysis of the Cavs as there will be this season. The numbers and stuff come soon. Promise.) Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 2 Comments »

Bridesmade

Posted by disappointmentzone on 24 October 2007

The World Series is the last major sports championship in 2007. Thank god. I mean, how much more heartache can a fan take?

* The Ohio State Football Buckeyes get whooped by Florida in the BCS Championship Game

* The Ohio State Basketball Buckeyes get whooped by Florida in the NCAA National Championship

* The Cleveland Cavaliers get whooped by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals

* The Cleveland Indians lose to the Boston Red Sox in the de facto World Series, the 2007 ALCS

2007 has been one of the most rewarding and painful years in recent memory. So many teams have come so close to the sweet taste of glory only to wind up on the wrong end of a trophy presentation. Fortunately we’re out of the woods.

Wait…. What’s that? The BCS standings are in? So what?…. Huh?…. Really?….. Oh…. Good grief!

———————————

At the start of the season few people gave the Buckeyes a shot of making a return trip to the BCS Championship, but here we are, eight weeks into the season, and there they are, atop the BCS standings. If there is kindness in the world the Buckeyes will face Boston College in the BCS Championship. Because let’s be real here: LSU is scary.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians, Ohio State Buckeyes | 2 Comments »

Votes Are In: LBJ Good, Cavs…Not So Much

Posted by disappointmentzone on 23 October 2007

Each year all the GMs in the NBA gather together in a small drafty shack deep in the wilderness of upper Maine to huddle around a single flame rising from the old wingtips of Red Auerbach and divine the future of the league. ESPN publishes the results. Here’s what you need to know.

According to the GMs….

The Spurs will be the NBA Champions even though the Mavs will finish ahead of them in the Southwest Division. The Spurs will beat the Suns in the Western Conference Finals, so once again Phoenix will have to settle for being champions of the Pacific Division and nothing more. Utah is the other division winner in the West, but it’s not clear if they matter at all.

Who will the Spurs beat for the title? Well, take your pick. The Pistons are just as likely to represent the Eastern Conference as the Boston Celtics, though the Celtics have no chance in the Finals whereas the Pistons have a 7% chance of winning it all. Do not attempt to figure out how these teams are equally likely to be in the Finals but only Detroit has a chance to win the Finals. It has to do something with match-ups… or something. Things get even more twisted when you realize that the Pistons won’t even finish atop the Central Division. That honor goes to the Bulls. Accordingly, the Cavs will be in a battle with Milwaukee and Indiana for the third-best record in the Central. Miami and Boston will win their divisions, but they might as well not show up after April.

Finally, LeBron James will be the Most Valuable Player of the league. No, his team won’t repeat as Eastern Conference champions, nor will the play in the Eastern Conference Finals, nor will they win their division, nor will they have home court advantage in the playoffs, nor will they…. You get the picture.

The GMs have spoken.

LeBron James = Good.

The Cleveland Cavaliers = Less Good.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers | 5 Comments »

ALCS in perspective

Posted by disappointmentzone on 22 October 2007

The history of Cleveland sports is hung on a timeline of defeat. Born by bad luck and even worse collapses, Cleveland’s sports failures are noted by a functional shorthand for the heartbreak and pain that is the bridesmaid of all Cleveland sports successes. The Drive. The Fumble. Red Right 88. Jose Mesa. To that most inglorious of lists we can now add one more name: Joel Skinner.

Joel Skinner will be forever remembered in Cleveland lore as the guy who put up the stop sign on the Indians’ chances of winning the 2007 pennant. He made an egregious error that cost the team the tying run late in Game 7, holding Kenny Lofton at third base on a single down the left field line by Franklin Gutierrez. Skinner’s name will never be spoken without evoking that most painful of memories, the day the 2007 Cleveland Indians came to rest, aged 102 wins, 70 losses.

But Joel Skinner did not cost the Indians the pennant.

While assigning blame for such an epic failure so soon after its arrival might but be crass, it is nonetheless worth doing if only to better understand just what it is Joel Skinner’s name will be standing in for in all the years to come. Because let’s face it. There are only two undeniable truths about the 2007 ALCS: there’s a lot of blame to go around and Joel Skinner will be remembered for all of it.

* CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona finished the regular season as two of the best pitchers in all of baseball and they entered the series as the two guys everyone counted on to shut down the Red Sox. They were our aces in the hole. They were pitching four times combined. They were the biggest reason why this team had a shot at the title.

Then they pitched and came down on the wrong side of history. This was the first time ever in the ALCS that a team had two pitchers start two games each where both finished with an ERA higher than 10.00. Sabathia’s ERA was 10.45. For Carmona, 16.50. They combined for 38 wins during the regular season but when 0-3 in the ALCS. That the Indians managed to win three games is a testament to a team who, without either ace, no on would have given a chance in the series.

* Travis Hafner was a hole in the middle of the lineup. He went 4-27 with 12 strikeouts. In Game 7 he came to bat with two runners on base and the team down by three runs. Three pitches later he struck out.

* Jhonny Peralta completely disappeared after hitting what turned out to be the game-winning home run in Game 4. He had one hit in his final 10 at bats and manned the infield like a guy with shoelaces tied together. With two sinkerball pitchers on the mound in Carmona and Westbrook, Peralta’s lack of range was costly.

* Grady Sizemore failed to catch a lazy fly ball that got caught up in the wind in Game 5. The result was a 380 foot single for Manny Ramirez and a run for the Red Sox. Then he misplayed another fly ball later in the game that cost the team a couple more runs. At the plate he went 3-17 over the last five games.

* The Indians drew 16 walks in the series. The Red Sox, 31. Attribute this to the Indians’ lack of patience, Boston’s over-abundance of patience, and a healthy dose of getting squeezed by the umpires.

* Eric Wedge made a few poor decisions, the most glaring being brining in CC Sabathia to start the seventh inning in Game 5 and then not pulling him after a leadoff double by Dustin Pedroia. Youkilis was next to bat and had tagged CC for a homer to start the game. He promptly tripled. Entering the seventh the Indians trailed only 3-2, with a fully rested Betancourt waiting in the bullpen. With an off day on Friday Betancourt could have gone two innings. Instead he came in couple batters too late.

* The umpiring was comically bad, particularly behind home plate. Strike zones changed from pitch to pitch. When you face a team as patient as the Red Sox getting squeezed out of the strike zone is absolutely deadly. When you’re as aggressive as the Indians, thinking every pitch could be a strike no matter where it’s thrown is a recipe for failure. Is it any surprise that the Indians struck out 63 times compared to Boston’s 43?

And do not discount the importance of the missed call in Game 7 where Lofton attempted to stretch a Fenway single into a double. He appeared safe in real time and it was confirmed on replay. Unfortunately the 2B umpire called him out. Were he called safe he could have scored on Gutierrez’s single, with Gutierrez’s eventual run tying the game instead of bringing the Indians to within one.

There are probably other areas to find fault, and the Red Sox ought to be complimented on their victory. They earned it as much as the Indians gave it away, if not more so. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen here, at least not right now. Right now it’s about remember the Indians and the 2007 season, the one in which we came so close but ended up about 90 feet short.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 5 Comments »

ALCS Game 7: The Tag or Joel Skinner?

Posted by disappointmentzone on 21 October 2007

The Tag: Lofton attempts to stretch a Fenway single into a double but is called out sliding into second. Replay shows he safe. Indians only score one run in the inning instead of two. Two runs would have tied the game.

Joel Skinner: Indians trail by one run with Lofton on second. Gutierrez singles down the left field line, the ball caroming of the wall in front of Manny Ramirez. Lofton rounds third but is held up. Ramirez is still twenty feet from the ball. One run would have tied the game.

Take your pick, Indians fans, on which designation will enter the lexicon alongside The Drive, The Fumble, and Jose Mesa.

Both were critical plays that resulted in the Indians losing at least one run. Had either gone differently the entire fabric of the game would have changed. Had both gone differently the Indians would have entered the seventh inning leading by at least one run. As it is the Indians suffered a small implosion and the rest, as they say, is history.

My vote: Joel Skinner. Hard to fault the ump for missing an admittedly tricky call. Skinner just screwed up in the biggest way imaginable. No excuse.

[Editor’s note: We’re making the executive decision that the game turned on Skinner holding Lofton at third in the top of the seventh. That’s what killed the game. If you think Manny would have thrown him out your insane. After the game he was asked what he would have done had Lofton turned for home. His answer? “I would have thrown it to the cutoff man and let him deal with it.” Yes folks, that was the ballgame right there. If you’re Skinner you have to send Lofton. Jonathan Papelbon was set to pitch the next two innings. The chances of making up that run against Papelbon were much smaller than the chances that Manny would throw out Lofton at home. Even if he had thrown him out Gutierrez would be at second. Joel Skinner, you messed up. Now go take your place alongside Jose Mesa and Ernest Byner.]

That said…96 wins, tied for the best in baseball, even with four fewer home games than every other team in the league. Sabathia is the likely Cy Young winner and Carmona will finish in the top five. Garko showed he can man first base for years to come. Betancourt transformed into the best set-up guy in baseball. Lewis and Perez emerge as scary arms in the bullpen even though they both began the season in the minors. The rally pies and Kenny Lofton turning back the clock. This was a great season, which is why it hurts so much right now.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 40 Comments »

ALCS Game 6: strike!…er…ball

Posted by disappointmentzone on 20 October 2007

A weary fan base turns its eyes to you, Jake. Please, throw strikes.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 1 Comment »

ALCS Game 5: Gulp

Posted by disappointmentzone on 18 October 2007

You know how it’s impossible for clinically depressed people to think themselves into happiness? Well it’s impossible for Cleveland fans to think themselves into confidence. I’ve officially begun to prepare myself for the (inevitable) let down that is the ugly bride of every Cleveland sports fan.

My emotional self is beating down my rational mind. Here’s the tale of the tape:

RATIONAL MIND

* In games not started by Josh Beckett the Indians are 3-0
* Number of future games to be started by Beckett: 0
* The Indians have already won in Boston
* Fausto Carmona vs Curt Schilling = advantage Cleveland

EMOTIONAL SELF

* The Drive
* The Fumble
* Jose Mesa
* 2004 ALCS

Game 5 was a cosmic hip check to put us back in our place. We were riding too high after Game 4. Statisticians call it regressing to the mean. I call it all too expected. We should have known. We should have known!

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 5 Comments »