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.

Getting Nervous Yet?? #Cavs Game One Loss Not Pivotal

After their victory in game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Chicago Bulls might think they smell blood in the water. In reality, if you break it down with some logic, they might be smelling a Yellow Sea Anemone. As you will see in this excellent picture by National Geographic, this is a lovely creature that looks quite helpless at first glance.


Just when you are feeling real comfortable as a nice little fish next to this beauty, it pokes out a venomous spike and you are the one dead in the water. So if I were the Chicago Bulls after game one, I don’t think I would get all that full of myself quite yet. LeBron admitted to this being a “feeling out” game and sounded super excited to break down the tape from the game and find some solutions. He admitted that he needed to play better and I couldn’t agree more. The fans also need an excitement transplant but I will attribute that to the Cavs never taking the lead and squandering multiple opportunities to come back and put the Bulls on their heels. When the team looked on the verge of taking back a lifeless game, the fans were super loud and standing. So I will give the fans a pass this game. I plan to do the same for the Cavs coaches and players.

I am sure that if we are honest with ourselves, we saw this coming. The interesting thing is that the reason for seeing it coming had less to do with who the Cavs didn’t have on the court and more to do with the Cavs being set up for a lifeless performance by circumstances not all within their control. The Cavaliers dispensed of the Celtics in short order and hadn’t played in more than a week. They tried to practice and work hard, but practice can never simulate a playoff game. Plus, practice does not maintain game fitness or readiness. It actually drains game fitness and reduces readiness. Until the last game, the Bulls had been virtually embarrassed by the Bucks and had not been playing well. But, they did play well in their last game when the Bucks basically called it in early in the game. And, they had a nice rest but not too much time that their game readiness would be affected.

So on the basis of the long layoff compared to the Bulls brief rest, the Cavs might not have the stamina or “edge” they needed to knock off the Bulls with 2/5ths of the starting lineup not available and 1/5 done for the series. The Bulls knew this and counted on it. They were fully aware that they could steal game one. However, when one analyzes the game, it is clear that LeBron played passive despite his numbers and made crucial mistakes whenever they were gaining momentum or could take the lead. Both Kyrie and LeBron missed critical layups near the end of the game when the outcome was still very much in doubt.

As can happen to a team that hadn’t played together in awhile, the Cavs started nearly comatose with almost nonexistent defense and lifeless/unimaginative offense. The easy way to pass blame for this would be the coaching staff but the reality is likely quite different. The players simply couldn’t execute and were not aggressive enough early along going to the basket or getting shots in the paint. Instead they fired up longer shots (some threes) and hoped they would go in, which they didn’t. Chicago on the other hand was white hot with much of the first quarter seeing them hitting close to 70% of their shots and about 70% from beyond the arc. This was a combination of a fortunate hot shooting start for the Bulls and the Cavs nearly complete lack of resistance. Either one being different might have changed things, but they were not.

Another severe blow to a good start and a good game was the fact that the starting lineup had not played together in a game since early in the season if ever. This is not whining about who the Cavs didn’t have available to play. This is about the Cavs not using the correct starting lineup correctly. Yes, I absolutely did feel that the starting lineup was exactly what should have been done. But the offensive flow of the Cavs did not move to get some open shots for Mike Miller as the Bulls did for Dunleavy. If it had, the results might have been similar to the Bulls and we would have been able to score the ball consistently and keep the game close early. The energy expended to catch up and try to take the lead was especially difficult to overcome given the Cavs reduced endurance from the week layoff.

The lack of being able to adjust quickly to the repeated open elbow looks for Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson, especially in the third quarter, made the lead swell back to 14 and make a comeback even less certain. That falls partially on the coaching staff and partly on the player’s overall lack of effort. And, to be honest, that was the difference in the game because Gasol just stood their at his favorite spot and drained jumpers without creating any physical contact. Meanwhile Rose, a notoriously average to poor shooter, kept hitting tough jumpers and helped the team maintain their lead. Jimmy Butler did eventually get 20 points but he was contained for much of the night.

So, in a nutshell, it was Dunleavy carrying the first quarter with 13 points mostly from deep, then disappearing. It was Derek Rose dancing around and throwing up ugly floaters and good shots, when he wasn’t assisting Gasol. And it was Gasol pot shotting from the elbow with absolutely no one around him. Sprinkle in a few wide open threes and you have the Bulls offense. Nothing there was special and all of that could be defended. Unfortunately, none of it was.

LeBron James game was not a good one despite the gaudy 15 rebounds and 9 assists. His 19 points were very hard to get and he committed crucial turnovers and missed a “must make” driving layup late in the game. Kyrie Irving was absolutely awesome in spurts but only in spurts. Shumpert was basically terrific and, had other things gone better, would likely have won us the game.

Not to analyze every nuance, the Cavs simply played an almost predictable lackluster game and the Bulls did what they had to do to win. But, despite shooting over 50% for the game and well over 50% from three point range, the Bulls could muster only a close win that would have been 94-92 with plenty of time left had LeBron made his driving layup. The final 7 point differential should be no comfort for Thibodeau and the Bulls. If the Cavs play their normal game, they win this game going away.

So it is definitely NOT time to be nervous. However, it is time to expect the team to pull out a home win Wednesday with a much better effort and a better game plan going in. I have every expectation that will happen and nothing I saw from the Bulls today changes my viewpoint. The Cavs are the better team even with the player losses right now, but they will need to play better and LeBron will need to attack more for the Cavs to take back momentum in the series. Passive “feeling out” play going forward will not cut it when it comes to getting the wins they need to oust the Bulls.

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 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.


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.


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.


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.

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