Written by: JP Lococo (@jp_lococo)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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The snow is falling consistently in Ohio, the temperature is dropping and people are finishing shopping for their friends and family. For me, this year means more traffic because people don't know how to drive, last minute shopping that I didn't want to do in the first place and no sunlight. But that is just me being a pessimist.
In all reality, I enjoy the "holiday" season as much as the next guy. In honor of the season of giving, I wanted to give our Cleveland fans a gift. I have decided to write this post with as much of a positive spin that is humanly possible. Who enjoys reading articles or blogs that talk smack about their hometown team anyways? The Cleveland sports scene never stops and in this post, I am going to tell you why 2014 COULD be an awesome year for Cleveland sports.
This off-season has been quite eventful for the Cleveland front office as they had multiple needs to address since they got bounced out of the 2013 playoffs. The Cleveland Indians came into the 2014 off-season with some glaring needs in the bullpen, starting rotation, on the bench and also at third base.
The team was able to remedy some of those needs by signing the likes of John Axford, Shaun Marcum, David Murphy and Jason Giambi among others.
While the off-season is not over, the Tribe has likely made the bulk of their off-season transactions. This does not mean Francona and staff won't be active for others to add depth, but realistically the Tribe made their big splash with Axford and Murphy, which should definitely help in 2014.
Murphy is a solid player with a career slash line of .275/.337/.441 and 162-game averages of 16 home runs, 31 doubles, 69 RBI and 69 runs scored.This is definitely an upgrade from Drew Stubbs who historically was a strike out king. Axford has struggled the last two seasons, but before the slump he was one of the most feared closers in the league. The Indians have one of the best pitching coaches in the league in Mickey Callaway, so if anyone can help bring him out of his slump, it is him.
If you need an example, go look at the Ubaldo situation. The guy was on top of the world and a potenial Cy Young winner for two years in a row when he falls off by only reaching 10 wins in a season one time in four seasons. Last year, he finally turned things around winning 13 games and he now has the right to ask for more money. These situations happen all the time in baseball and I think we could see some more magic out of Callaway and his staff this year.
According to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer, the Indians needed to make room behind the dish for Yan Gomes after his breakout season in 2013, and with Nick Swisher at first base, Santana volunteered to work out at third base, effectively pushing Lonnie Chisenhall down on the depth chart. If the experiment at third base doesn’t work out, the Indians shouldn’t have any issues making Santana their full-time DH.
Bottom line out of all the rambling above, the Cleveland Indians aren't far off. A team does not win 40 more games than they did in the previous year by mistake. There is legitimate talent on this roster and with the right direction and a bit of luck, 2014 could be another fun year in Cleveland. Keep this in mind Cleveland fans, the Indians, the team no one wanted to go out & support all last season, are your best chance at a championship over the next two years. Think about that.
I did not write this post in one sitting and that has made this a lot more difficult to write about the Browns because they just continue to find ways to lose games week after week. But hey, what else is new?
There is reason to believe though and I hope Cleveland gives Chud & his staff a chance. Let's reflect for a second. Week two comes around and we trade away our "best player", Trent Richardson for a first round draft pick and everyone goes CRAZY. I will admit, I was a bit taken back by the whole thing at first but after the dust settled I realized that Trent was NOT the guy the Browns thought they were getting when they took him number 4 overall in the draft.
Let's make this clear, when you draft a marquee player such as a QB, WR, or RB that early in the draft, then you expect great things out of him early and often. That did not happen in Cleveland consistently enough with Richardson and my point here is that our new personnel staff and GM saw that so they got a first round pick for a guy who was benched in Indy 4 weeks later. That my friends is called a steal.
Moving on from that trade, the Browns have seen glimpses of hope this year but nothing to write home about as they still have not even managed a .500 season. But you do get the feeling by watching this team that the ONLY thing missing is a dedicated leader at the QB position that can play.
In the past, fans have been able to use the excuse that there are no weapons around him (whomever was at QB) and that he has no chance. That can't be said anymore. Josh Gordon is leading the NFL in receiving yards in 2013 and Jordan Cameron is breaking almost every record by a Browns tight end. On top of that, Greg Little is steadily improving and the defense has shown signs of being elite. The team is slowly coming together and I personally think you can feel it. There just needs to be a steady QB that can step-in and lead.
Keep in mind that the Browns also have two first round picks in next year's draft and another two in the third round. You get the feeling that Cleveland is one solid draft away from being a playoff contender. Now, this can be said for maybe 4-6 other teams in the NFL as well, but the Browns would be on the top of my "teams on the verge" list. With a quarterback, more depth at running back and then some other draft picks that turn out well, you might have a bad situation turned really good in Cleveland.
Like my post with the Browns, this one is very difficult for me to be optimistic about because I disagree with so many things and decisions being made by the front office. But like all situations, there are bright spots.
Currently, the Cavs are 7 games under .500 as we are about a third of the way through the season. The bright side, you ask? Cleveland is only two games out of the playoffs because the East is just that bad. As of Christmas Eve, there are only three teams over .500. Toronto currently sits in fourth and they still are four games under .500.
As a Cavs fan myself, I know how hard it has been to watch this team play at times in this early season, but the bottom line is that the East is just flat out horrible. That means there is tons of opportunity to go on a streak and be that 4-6 seed come April.
Their play right now is not consistent enough to be in that conversation yet but you have to expect they will get better on offense as they team continues to grow under Mike Brown. One can hope at least right? If Bynum can begin to play at a higher level more consistently then things should begin to turn around.
Cleveland is not horrible defensively either. If there is one thing Mike Brown is good at, it is defense. Right now Cleveland is about 15th in the league in FG% against and about the same for PPG against. The team is still young and just needs more consistency to become a playoff team. I am not saying that it will for sure make them good, but it may mean that LeBron sees enough talent and promise in the CLE to come back.
Cleveland fans are a tough bunch. There has not been a whole lot to cheer about over the past couple of years and yet the fan base somehow stays around. I hope that some of the fans that read this can find some optimism with their teams because after all, if you don't have optimism then you aren't a true Cleveland sports fan.