ALL IN – TOGETHER – Can #Cavs Fans Just Embrace The Concept ??

I am writing this just before game 4 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. I don’t pretend to know who will win that game. I do know that, if the Cavs lose, the mountain of negativity will be almost too hard to fathom. It is for that reason I wanted to put this out there quickly.

I have been a consistent member of Cavs Twitter and Cleveland sports social media for several years now. One thing that has me baffled, even though I know the possible reasons, is the way sound minded people simply throw negativity out there like a badge of honor about Cleveland sports. Those folks frequently cover their negativity in a blanket of their being “realistic”. Well if you were a betting person, you would take those “realistic” odds every day because the fact is that Cleveland teams have not been particularly successful with no championships in 50 years. So I guess being sour and negative is being realistic in a practical sense. However, if we wanted to be “realistic” all the time, why root for sports teams to begin with?? Unless your team is a prohibitive favorite, you are never being realistic when you root for the team or even believe that they will win. So I guess, while you are secretly being “unrealistic” with your support, you spout landscapes of realism to the rest of us to prove that you are knowledgeable and realistic while the rest of us are just “fanatical” idiots.

Just recently I read a tweet from someone I consider a good fan who made a big point about how he was “right in November” when he told all of us that David Blatt was playing LeBron, Kyrie, and Love too many minutes and that is why the Cavs are breaking down like Lego blocks now. The reality is that the same three players that “oracle” twitter tweeter referred to played as a group 440 more minutes the previous year than they did this year when Blatt “overplayed” them. And only one of the three, the youngest Irving, played more minutes than the previous year. What we all do know is that the media was hammering Blatt and the Cavs on the same issue throughout the early part of the season. So, my question is whether this fan is being logical and realistic or simply trying to find a negative to spout before the Cavs lose game 4 and have a mountain to climb. I don’t know the answer but I think Cavs fans and Cleveland sports fans need to begin to embrace the positive and try to “will” the Cavs home with positive rather than negative energy.

We come up with pretty good rallying cries in Cleveland. The season started with a great one called “Together” and is finishing with another pretty good one “All IN”. For anyone that doesn’t know, this idea actually was promoted, if not originated, from the Cavalier radio color commentator Jim Chones. Jim, a former Cavalier and one who many feel could have helped win us a championship if healthy. Both ideas are intended to bring a sense of solidarity between the city, the fans and the team. It is my opinion that, if you are truly a fan of the Cavaliers and Cleveland sports, we should embrace the concept and move forward with a positive sense of purpose. It is fine to disagree. It is fine to debate. It is fine to be uncertain and fearful this team might lose despite their talent. If is fine to even be unhappy about how things are done and question. But, in the final analysis, for Cleveland to get their elusive championship it is not in any of our best interests to be “realistically” negative and focus on why Cleveland won’t win. For us to break through this wall of negativity and win, we need to believe. No matter how “unrealistic” we think it is. Why don’t we all embrace the concept? The Cavs are still the better team. We should be ALL IN …………… TOGETHER !!! Try it for a change. It might give you a good feeling.

Tragic Loss of Kevin Love Will Galvanize #Cavs Going Forward

Let’s get one thing out of the way at the beginning of this post, the injury to Kevin Love was a senseless act of a desperate player who couldn’t control his emotions in the moment. His team had just completed a game where he only played 3 minutes. He was trying to establish his position by blasting into Love’s back under the boards and was completely blocked by Kevin Love from getting the ball. Love turned to get the ball and Olynyk immediately grabbed at Love’s shoulder, locking it up, grabbed his forearm with the other hand, dropped down and turned away from the ball trying to drag Love with him away from a ball he knew he had no chance to get. This was almost a picture perfect MMA or self-defense move where a person can incapacitate an attacker and drag them to the ground even if the attacker is bigger and stronger. The person has to follow you because they know their shoulder is about to dislocate if they don’t. In the heat of the moment, Love’s momentum going the other way wouldn’t allow him to turn in time to avoid the inevitable. Within an instant, Kevin Love’s shoulder had sustained major damage and his season was ended. Olynyk, hearing Love scream in agony, immediately released the arm in a typical NBA acting move to show the officials he had done nothing wrong.

Kevin Love getting arm ripped outIf you doubt that this was not just a simple “lock up” of shoulders as so confidently and defiantly defined by Charles Barkley, take a close look at this Cleveland.com picture of the incident. Look at the grabbing of the forearm by the second arm and the look on Olynyk’s face and the look on Love’s face. And by that time neither man was looking at the ball, with Olynyk completely turned away from the ball. When you lock up you are still trying to get the ball, not drag another player’s helpless and dangerously exposed arm with your two arms.

I happen to be an experienced injury physician who has taken care of hundreds of athletes and injured people through the years. I am an expert in looking at how an injury occurs and why it occurs. I would not be so presumptuous to know that Olynyk was trying to dislocate Love’s shoulder. That would certainly give Olynyk too much credit anyway. What I do know is that this was a deliberate act of aggression in the heat of the battle that was not in any way a basketball play. Look at Olynyk’s face! He was mad he wasn’t going to get the ball and was going to show Love who was boss by dragging his arm. I doubt he even gave any thought as to what terrible harm he could do at that instant when he pulled and dropped his body away from Love. Notice carefully how much lower Olynyk’s body is than Love’s. It is that fast violent downward drop while turning away (that took less than a second) that ripped Love’s shoulder out of the socket in the most vicious way. In this case, because of all the force generated by Olynyk and the bodies in motion, major damage to the joint was done when it was dislocated.

My final piece of evidence is Kevin Love himself. How often have you EVER heard a player after they get hurt call out their opponent for a cheap play??? Virtually never. They virtually never say the opponent did it on purpose. But Love said exactly that after the incident. The victim usually knows when he has been attacked vs when an accident just occurred. In over 25 years as a sports medicine physician, I have never heard that said by an athlete after they are injured.

So for those national commentators and ex-players and the NBA league to say Cleveland fans are overreacting and this was just an unfortunate incident, I say we know better!! It is expected that this will be covered up and that the Cavs management and players cannot say anything further. They made their case to the league and the league said “We will slap him on the wrist for one game. Now be quiet.”  And Charles Barkley had the nerve to say that was “unfair” to Olynyk. And now the Cavs know the league could care less what they say and they just need to move on and keep quiet. Not being affiliated with the league in any way, I am under no such obligation.

Based on specific comments by key individuals including David Griffin and LeBron James and others, it is clear that they know the stark truth as well. They have no doubt that what I have outlined here is the truth. Kevin Love certainly knows the truth. Kyrie Irving knows the truth. The entire Cavs organization knows the truth and the only thing they can say and not get fined is that it was “not a basketball play”. That’s fine. They can move on from here and the fans must move on from here.

Sure, we can boo Olynyk for as long as he plays the game and comes to Cleveland but that’s about it. He would never be “killed” as he so loosely states but he will find it unpleasant. Cleveland fans are passionate and have long memories.

What is much more important to do is focus on the playoffs going forward and try to root for our team to win a championship. What is more important for the organization, players and coaches to do is focus on the task at hand and take care of business. Crying over losing Kevin Love to a senseless act is silly and self-defeating. But I see no reason why it can’t be used as a rallying cry and to help Galvanize the team. That is why my featured picture with the post is the new shirt made at GV Art and Design. I think finding things to bind us closer together now is more important than bemoaning the loss.

Do it for the love of the Cavs. Do it for the love of the city. Do It For Love. I personally think the playoff crowds will be more intense. The players will be even more focused. David Griffin says now that we are the hunters instead of the hunted. That is kind of true. Now we aren’t the odds on favorite to win it all this year. Vegas has changed odds to give the Warriors the gambling edge to win.

It won’t be easy. Players will have to step up. The coaches will have to step up. The team will have to play even harder. We still have the best and most experienced playoff player in LeBron, a star who rises to the challenge in Kyrie, and a ton of other good players who have contributed much to our season or contributed little but will need to contribute now.

Make no mistake, there is NO REPLACING Kevin Love. As LeBron said, “He is special for a reason”. However, we have the team to overcome this and still accomplish a goal not achieved in Cleveland since 1964. To abandon that goal because of some bad luck is defeatist and doesn’t fit Cleveland’s toughness. We can do this !!! When all were doubting them, I told you this team was still special. I am telling you now that they are still special and it will be a monumental task for ANY team to defeat the Cavs 4 times in 7 games! Until that happens, Cleveland hasn’t lost a thing.

Great Game !! Now #Indians Must Follow Through

It was certainly great to see the Indians club the Tigers last night !! It is a game we all have been waiting for. We know the Indians are not a juggernaut offensive team. That is OK. They only have to be a solid and above average offensive team to win games and have at least a fighting chance to draw fans. The potential is there in this team to become better than average with some pop in their lineup. However, I have not seen it yet and never saw it last year. Combine that with a distinctly awful defensive team and you get a boring team that over relies on it’s starting pitching and can’t win consistently without a solid bullpen.

I know this sounds distinctly negative to those who, like myself, want the Tribe to come alive and be a contender this year and beyond. But I think the reality is clear. As of now, none of that seems possible without a true transformation of this team’s emotional and talent make up.

The question that burns underneath all of this is whether or not the Indians have the ability from within to make this happen. I have not given up on that possibility and am hopeful.  But we need to understand that a grim reality might present going forward that forces a break-up and revamping of this team’s talent structure. Since we have invested so much money signing our young talent to longer term contracts, this would be a stark reality indeed and I hope it doesn’t come to that.

That brings us back to the game last night. If that game is a reflection of last year’s team and there is no follow through, we are looking at a pattern of huge numbers of games scoring three runs or less. That is the key to the 2015 Indians!!!! They must reduce dramatically the number or games they score three runs or less. So far, it is half our games over more than one year (or close to that). The Cleveland Indians must break that pattern.

Another pattern they must break is being the sorriest defensive team in the league. It is not just their number of errors. It is the number of balls Chisenhall, Ramirez, Kipnis, Santana, Murphy, Aviles and Moss don’t get to because of inferior quickness/range/speed. The best of that bunch range wise is probably Santana, what does that tell you?

Fangraphs recently had a nice article from Mike Pitriello, who outlined this “Different Kind of Problem” with the Indians defense. It is worth a read. Where we actually disagree quite a bit is on Ramirez’s SS defense. He might be our best defender, but there are many balls this year that he should have knocked down and/or made plays and he couldn’t.

That is why we need to consider a quicker call up for Francisco Lindor! Not because he will hit so much better than Ramirez. Current averages seem to indicate neither player is hitting. But he has superior range and hands. Plus, when he does hit it, he has superior pop in his bat. That will help with the less than stellar range around him. Ramirez is a superior second baseman to Kipnis as well but that is another discussion for another day. I am still rooting for Kipnis. I know all about the service time argument and I say that is irrelevant if we let this year’s team slip away from inaction. Another thing to consider, one great defensive player (and Lindor may or may not be that guy) makes the other players around him better. Just ask anyone who played with Omar.

The reason all of this seemingly negative talk is so critically important is that our starting pitching is developing into a potentially generational group. By that I mean these guys can become 4 ACES in a staff!! How often does that happen?? Almost never in the history of baseball. And, when it happens, it is generationally great. Plus, two are locked up longer term and the others will still be around for many years. Maybe they will lock them up as well going forward.

That is the vision Antonetti and Shapiro had going into all this. That is why they signed Gavin Floyd even though they knew it was a risk. That is why they signed Kluber and Carrasco. They optimistically looked at Floyd as a top notch fifth starter and a glue for these young guys. That gamble failed. But the game is not over. Veteran starters can be acquired at times without mortgaging the farm system. We will see. Clearly though, at least for now, House has been a disappointment.

Our bullpen is shaky right now but I think it can improve as the season progresses. I have finally seen progression for Nick Hagadone. I think Shaw will come around. I am almost certain Allen will be OK. Atchison has been amazing. Others have been inconsistent thus far but I think the group will come together going forward.

So, with the base of starting pitching the Indians have and the potential for another solid bullpen, they MUST find a way to get consistent offense and defense on the field night in and night out. Painful losses from costly errors and repeated failed hitting opportunities drains the starters and the bullpen. These guys are, on balance, very young. To drain them with such shoddy performances around them will eventually allow the crack in the dam to break open and it all falls apart.

Even though I don’t necessarily know how to achieve it, I know what the Indians must do. Dramatically reduce the games where they score three runs or less and pick the darn ball and throw people out!! If this can happen and there is follow through on last night’s game both offensively and defensively, the Indians can go on a monster roll and get right back into this race in a hurry. If they revert to last year, the final result will be worse than 2014. Remember, don’t be fooled by total runs scored!! Look for a reduction of games with 3 runs or less.

GO TRIBE !!!!!

#Indians Are Down But Not Out ….. Yet

Right now the Cleveland Indians do not look like a very good baseball team and are certainly not playing like one. Even though I certainly knew that the Indians roster construction was not ideal, I was hoping it would be better than last year. So far, that is not the case.

l had put together two Indian season previews before the start of the season and decided not to run them because of the plethora of preview articles out in cyberspace. However, now that the season is well on it’s way, I found reading these previews more interesting than they would have been prior to the season. That is because we now can see early returns and compare them to the previews.

I will run the preview from CWinsMichelle first and then contrast it with the start of the season. Tomorrow, I will run my preview (CwinsJim) and contrast it with the current reality. Here is how CWinsMichelle viewed the Indians going into the season:

Starting Pitching:

The Indians are going to be counting on Kluber and Carrasco to anchor their rotation, but to me the keys are the other guys.  I feel Kluber will regress a little, but his stuff and composure will still make him the ace of this staff.  The key is can Bauer finally come around? Can McAllister return to his 2013 form before his finger injury? Can House be a reliable #5 starter? Can the depth in the minors come through if needed?  Salazar has a lot to learn, but I think we might see him play a big role.  Bauer needs to keep his walks down and not lose his composure.  He can learn from Kluber.  Can Carrasco stay consistent all year? That is a big question, but I think he can.  He’s gone through a lot to get to where he was last year. We also have to remember how good Callaway is as a pitching coach.  There is actually 1 ESPN guy that picks Carrasco to win the CY Young. I don’t see that happening, but that’s how good his last couple months were.  He has some of the best stuff in our rotation. Only time will tell.  Tomlin is a big blow to the depth, but I wasn’t counting on him. Hopefully, when he recovers, he can help us if needed down the stretch.

Relief Pitching:

The bullpen is always an up in the air thing. You really never know what might happen year to year.  For once, I feel good about our closer.  We know Allen can be dominant.  Granted he’s never been a closer all year, but he’s been an 8th inning guy and totally dominated that spot for years.  I think he’s mentally tough enough to be fine.  Only time will tell.  I really like Crockett.  Great young kid with great stuff.  He’s very young and going to be a big part of our pen.  Hagadone is a guy I have never really had confidence in, but hopefully he can be another good lefty in the pen.  We pretty much know what we can expect from “Scrabble” and Shaw.  Shaw’s spring wasn’t the greatest, but I think he will be fine.  Again, like I said, the bullpen is something you just aren’t sure about until the year starts, but it’s a HUGE part of your team. Just ask the Tigers. Their bullpen is the very reason they have not gotten that World Series Championship and it’s one of the main reasons the Indians were so successful in the 90s.

Fielding:

The fielding was so awful last year, that I can’t imagine it being any worse.  It can only get better.  I think it will help knowing that Chisenhall is there at 3rd and Santana at 1st.  There’s no question this year.  Jose Ramirez is a solid SS.  I think the fielding will improve.

Hitting:

The big key to the lineup this year is if Moss can come through and provide the power he has shown this spring.  We all know Brantley will be Brantley.  He’s such a solid hitter.  He might not put up the same numbers, but there’s no one I would rather have up there in the clutch.  One of the major factors will be health.  As much as Swisher bothers us at times, he is a big part of our team.  Also can Bourne provide the top of the lineup spark that we have been waiting for?

Biggest Strength:

I feel one of our biggest strengths is our manager.  Granted you have to have the roster as well, but Francona always gets his guys to play hard. I mean last year there were so many guys having off years and he had them in contention for almost the whole year.  It’s a LONG season.  He’s been through it all.  If anyone can win with this team, it’s him.  If you ask me what is the biggest strength baseball wise?  I would say our pitching.  I think we have a nice balance in the starting rotation and bullpen.

Biggest Weakness:

I feel our biggest weakness right now is still fielding.  I saw the other day that Chisenhall had an error that lead to 2 runs.  You have to field the ball.  Last year it was the littlest plays that cost them games.  Until they prove to me otherwise, our defense is still our biggest weakness.

I’m Worried: About the hitting mostly because I don’t know what we are going to get from Moss.  Also I’m still worried about Bourne and Swisher.  Without them, we don’t contend in my opinion.

I’m Not Worried:

About our guys playing hard every day/night.  Francona will get these guys to go out and give their all every game.

Biggest Positive Surprise:

If I had to predict, the biggest surprise this year will be our hitting.  If you look up and down our lineup, I truly believe it’s well balanced even without a big RH bat.

Biggest Negative Surprise:

I hate to look at negatives, but last year it was our defense. I was surprised it was that bad. I mean who throws a ball directly into the ground? (Raburn)  I’m not really sure what to put here.  Maybe Kluber and Brantley not having as big a year, but I don’t think that’s really a surprise.

Prediction:

I predict the Indians will contend for the division this year. Will they win it? Not sure, but I don’t see them being out of contention in September.  I feel better about this year than I did last year.  The Tigers lineup is the only thing that scares me. Their pitching without Sherzer definitely does not.

Michelle hit solid singles with her analysis of the starting pitching, biggest strength, biggest weakness, and the “I’m worried”. She so far has a big “swing and miss” in her fielding and biggest positive surprise sections. I would rate her as “working toward a walk” in the other sections based on what we know so far this season.

From this first preseason analysis it seems clear that some were hopeful the hitting and fielding would improve. I am seeing no substantive improvement in either area thus far. That is, in itself, a huge disappointment. How did your preseason thoughts match up with the Indians early season reality and Michelle’s preseason thoughts? Please let us know with a comment.

Tomorrow, I will put my preseason analysis out there and critique it based on early season returns. My guess is that I didn’t do much better considering how bad the early season has gone.

#Cavs Are Now Building Toward Playoffs – Remember Early January?

We are now nearing the end of March and the uncontrollable din that accompanies the Cleveland Cavaliers is still punishing the ears. But when we look at where we all were in early January compared to where we are now, there is a Grand Canyon worth of difference. There were many, and I mean many, who were calling for David Blatt’s head and trying to read any eye movement or body language as a reason why LeBron was trying to sink his coach. Of course, none of this was really happening, but that was the perception in the blogs and by the media. Now I am not saying there wasn’t some tension when the team was losing, but it was never as polarized as the media and twitter portrayed.

David Griffin, with Dan Gilbert’s support, found a way to transform the team during the season by basically spending every chip he had left to balance the team. While they were still losing but after those trades, I made it clear that the Cavs position was far better than the media or fans portrayed. This was also before LeBron came back from his “hiatus” refreshed and playing hard. I was never of the belief that the coach should or would be fired or that the team would continue to stumble.

The key now, as I said near the end of January, is for the team to remain healthy and enter the playoffs with good momentum. Where they finish and all the other crap surrounding the team is of no consequence once they enter the playoffs. Given the team’s dominance at home, I can certainly see why Blatt would prefer to finish in the second spot in the Eastern Conference. LeBron doesn’t really care. Even though this is EXACTLY what any sensible person would expect, it is being used as yet another example of LeBron disagreeing with his coach.

Coaches are notorious at every level of sport to try and get every edge possible for their team to win. That is what they are paid to do. Since the Cavs have been so solid at home, of course Blatt would like to see his team head into the playoffs with home court advantage as long as possible. So that is completely predictable.

Star players are paid to not be intimidated by the odds put against them. They are programmed to succeed regardless of those odds or averages. So LeBron, being the best player in the game and a five time NBA finals participant, should not care at all about anything but the team playing well. As I said myself, the Cavs are put together in such a way that they are one of the few teams that could win an NBA title from an eighth seed. So, again, LeBron said exactly what you would expect from a star.

Logically then, this is another of a long line of “nonstories” that are inevitable with a team this highly scrutinized. It has now reached a point where I can finally laugh at the hyperbole instead of being disturbed by it. The story of Kevin Love leaving for LA is another predictable nonstory. That doesn’t mean he won’t leave, just that this particular speculation is a nonstory and not based on current reality. Kevin Love currently “plotting” his departure simply makes no sense. He would be undermining his best chance of winning an NBA championship being distracted by such tripe. Once the season ends and the results known, we can return to this story with some substance and reason.

Right now there are only two things I see as relevant to this season (and indirectly to the Cavs future):

  • The health of the team going into the playoffs
  • The health of the team going into the playoffs

I would like to see Kevin Love rediscover his ability to play in the post. But that is dwarfed by the importance of the health of the team.

So lets enjoy the ride down the stretch and hope doctors do not factor into any of the Cavs fortunes. If that happens, they have an excellent chance to bring home Cleveland’s first title in 50 years.

 

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