hopeful cleveland sports.

Browns Jets Football

Waaaaaaay back in 2007, I said I was retiring the tag “Hopeless Cleveland Sports” from Uncle Crappy. I made the decision based on a sudden rash of tolerable performance by the Cavs and the Indians and a draft by the Browns that included now-certain Hall of Famer Joe Thomas. It got even better later that year, when the Browns actually finished with a winning record for the season.

But then? More of the same.

There have been peaks since then — the Cavs title that brought grown men to tears (and by “grown men,” I mean me) and the frustrating, maddening and ridiculous — and awesome — World Series run by the Indians later that same year. But that marvelous year coincided with a 1-15 season by the Browns and a winless season the following year. The Indians got stomped by the Yankees. And there was another inevitable departure — albeit a much less acrimonious one — by King James.

But then last year happened. And things truly felt different.

It’s not perfect, not even close. The Cavs are rebuilding without LeBron, and the Indians can’t quite catch the Twins, although they still have a shot at the AL wild card.

But last night, I sat in my living room and watched the Browns win their first MNF game since 2008. A friend in Cleveland remarked that we weren’t aware that Hank Williams Jr. was still coherent enough to sing the MNF intro … although it struck both of us that we hadn’t really had a reason to pay attention to MNF for a while.

But now we do. And that’s the point. The team that beat the Jets last night isn’t good enough to win the division, but when you recall that the Browns finished last year 5-3, you understand — It’s a long season. Things can improve.

And if they do — if Baker Mayfield understands that he doesn’t have to throw for 30 yards on every play; if Freddie Kitchens finds a running game; if Myles Garrett can maybe not try to actually end the life of the opposing quarterbacks he hits — they could get to the post season for the first time since 2002.

That’s a loooooong drought, boys and girls, and I’m ready for a drink.

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time out.

The first thing:

The other thing:

Can we just stop the season now and have a Cleveland Indians-Pittsburgh Pirates World Series?

75. van meter heater.

He struck out 15 in his first start. He was 17 years old.

He willingly enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II. He was the first Major Leaguer to do so, and he gave up four years of his prime to do it.

In the off seasons, he led baseball barnstorming tours, often including players from the Negro Leagues.

He continued going to Indians games — and live in Cleveland — after his retirement. He signed anything and everything fans asked him to.

He won 266 games. His career ERA was 3.25. He threw three no-hitters — including the only one ever thrown on an opening day — 12 one-hitters and was selected to the All-Star Game eight times.

Without question, Bob Feller was the greatest player to wear the Cleveland Indians uniform. He died last night.

play ball.

The World Series begins tonight, and yeah, I’ve noticed who the Game 1 starting pitchers are:

cliff
Starting for the Phillies: Cliff Lee.

sabathia
Starting for the Yankees: C.C. Sabathia.

I was half-heartedly following the Dodgers at the outset of baseball’s postseason, on account of the fact that their roster is lousy with ex-Indians: Jim Thome, Ronnie Belliard, Casey Blake and Manny Ramirez all helped L.A. make it to the playoffs.

I’ve had people suggest to me that I should be bothered about watching guys who played for my team making it to the Series while playing for others. I’ve even had people — Pirates fans, by the way — try to draw parallels between what’s going on with my Indians and what’s happening with Cleveland’s “professional” football team.

Sorry, but there’s no comparison. The folks who own and run the football team have yet to demonstrate that they have the ability to do so, but the Indians’ front office staff has shown just the opposite. Yes, it’s a small-market team, and they’re not only aware of those limitations, but they have done a good job of working the still-flawed baseball financial system to their advantage. Following the Indians means you’re following a cycle. Every five or six years, the team will contend. When that two-season stretch is over, the superstars will be moved in exchange for younger players that the Indians have demonstrated over and over and over can be developed into solid big-leaguers.

That’s how it works in Cleveland. And while this season was frustrating, I’m OK with the big picture.

And I thank God every day that I’m not a Pirates fan.

So. Back to the Series. We’re down to the Phillies and the Yankees,  and I can’t really base any kind of rooting decision on players who used to play in Cleveland, because outside of Cliff and C.C., there aren’t any others still playing.

Other possible variables:

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. He is an ex-Indian, and I still love the idea of hard-bitten East Coast baseball writers trying to decipher his West Virginiaisms.

Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher. He’s from Columbus. He’s a Buckeye. And he did this during a visit to Progressive Jacobs Field earlier this year:

swisher

Nick’s presence in the Series makes it tough, but I’m still going to fall back on one of Uncle Crappy’s Basics of Baseball: ABY.

That stands for Anybody But the Yankees. Go Philly.

not what i expected.

So I promised a while back that I wasn’t going to write about the Indians until they reached .500 for the season. I can see by now that my pledge would mean not writing about them at all this summer, and I couldn’t really get away with that.

Could I?

Should I?

A brutal combination of injuries and horrible bullpen pitching has left my boys at 30-42 for the season (and that’ll likely fall to 30-43 by the time this post is finished). Their record is worse than that of the Pirates; relative to expectations, they are much, MUCH worse than the local team is so far this year.

I bring up the Pirates, because that’s what’s prompting what could be my only Cleveland Indians post of 2009: their biennial interleague series against Pittsburgh. As you’re aware, they’re here for three games this time; I’ll have the pleasure of watching Thursday’s game courtesy of Brother Anthony, who had a spare ticket.

That one actually shouldn’t be too bad. I’ll see Cliff Lee pitch against the Pirates, so I’d have to think the result would be good. Of course, I’d also have to think there’s no way the Indians could lose to the Pirates 10-1, as they’re an inning away from doing tonight. I’d also have to think that Kerry Wood wouldn’t have fallen so far that he could give away four ninth-inning runs to the Pirates on Tuesday night a nearly blow yet another game. It’s an embarrassment to baseball that he gets credit for a save for that one.

I think there are only a couple real questions about the Indians for the remainder of the summer:Indians Pirates Baseball

1) How long will Eric Wedge last? What’s happened this year isn’t his fault, but the team is his responsibility and, clearly, something needs to change. I think the answer is closer to “when” than “if.”

2) Does the front office go into fire-sale mode? We’ll know the answer to this one fairly soon. If Mark Shapiro feels the season is done in the next couple weeks, we may loose some of the bigger names for minor leaguers. In Pittsburgh this can be a problem, but at least the Indians have a decent track record for getting something in return. We’ll see.

In the meantime? I’m not going to sweat it. Thursday night’s game is going to be a good time. Saturday’s game — and the preceding tailgate party, hosted by the Crappys — is going to be a blast. And I’ll probably see another Pirate game or two, seeing as how we now live in the neighborhood.

I do love baseball, and it will eat at me a bit to watch the Indians struggle through the rest of the 2009 season. But there is one additional factor that’ll keep me from worrying about it too much:

Ohio State and Navy is just 73 days away.

want to go NOW.

It’s so nice today that I’m having a very hard time maintaining any kind of focus whatsoever. So? You get bullets.

* I’d like to thank everyone for their overwhelming support of me in what will be known from this point forward as The Great Lulu’s Fiasco Of 2009. Just about everyone I heard from was appropriately outraged, although there were a few of you who expressed a slightly different opinion when you took the poll. If you haven’t checked, here are the results:

  1. Mrs. Crappy has to take me to Lulu’s at the earliest possible opportunity, 50 percent (This works fine for me, and I think it’s the option she voted for as well).
  2. I should make crabcakes and not share, 21 percent (A good idea; also the one most likely to send me to the hospital with a gall bladder attack).
  3. Uncle Crappy should shut up, 18 percent (It’s a good goddamned thing I can’t tell who voted for what, is all I’m gonna say).
  4. There is no punishment severe enough, 11 percent (I appreciate the sentiment, but, jeez, I’d like to at least get dinner out of this deal).

* Last night’s Pittsburgh NHL Tweetup was a very cool night. I hope we can do it again, maybe for a road game during the current playoff run, so we can get some folks who, for whatever reason, thought it would be more fun see last night’s game in person. Thanks to Jenn and Ryan for pulling it off.

* That series against Philly? That’s going to get ugly before it’s over.

* I haven’t talked about baseball yet. I won’t until the Indians are at .500 or better.

* I’m thinking about going to see The Felice Brothers Wednesday night at Mr. Small’s. I’d be going on the recommendation of Mr. Burns, who saw them a year ago at Club Cafe and speaks highly of them. It helps that it’s a cheap show — tix are $13 at the door — and, with comparisons to The Band and Dylan, it seems like they’d be right in my musical wheelhouse. If you’re interested, let me know.

* I’m hoping we’re about 12 hours away from leaving for Athens. Things I want to do, besides the Wilco show:

  • Eat at Casa at least twice. Three times would be even better.
  • Climb Bong Hill.
  • See if my West State Street apartment has fallen down yet.
  • Have a beer at The Union and at Tony’s. And maybe at a couple other places, because that’s a long walk and, well, I’ll probably get thirsty.
  • Figure out where The Post’s offices are now.
  • Say hi to Jim and R.J., and hope we run into Lou and Cindy.
  • Do the alumni thing (our code for buying OU gear at the College Book Store).
  • Eat a Burrito Buggy burrito (although if we manage to eat at Casa three times, that much Mexican might be a bad idea).
  • Hoo. That’s a bunch. We might have to stay.