Browns MUST tank against Pittsburgh to ensure Goff is QB of future

Browns Dawg

If the Cleveland Browns want to correct recent wrongs and get better their path is clear. They need to lose this weekend.

The Browns need to lose this weekend to their arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. While this is sacrilegious for any Cleveland fan to embrace, hear me out. A win this weekend could drop the Browns from, at worst, the second overall selection in the NFL Draft to the fifth spot in the draft. For the Browns to get the player that I think they should target (Jared Goff from Cal) they must crumble against a motivated Steelers team that must win and get some help to get into the post-season. If the Browns have the number two pick in the draft, and Tennessee sits at number one, the Browns have no worry since the Titans have Marcus Mariotta and won’t be looking in Goff’s direction. A loss this weekend ensures Goff lands in the Browns laps.

With every fiber of my being I can’t stomach hoping the Browns lose to Pittsburgh. But, I am a big picture guy and the Browns big picture is a messy, convoluted mess of mis-judgements, hard headed-ness and plain swings-and-misses in the player evaluation process.

Those close to the Browns anticipate Ray Farmer will be relieved of his General Manager duties after Sunday’s game. This move is necessary. It’s actually vital. Farmer’s tenure has been one of the most injurious in the history of the franchise. The Browns were bad for a long time before Farmer was handed the keys to the franchise, but never have we seen a GM handed so many multiple first-round selections and completely muff them. Farmer has made mistake after mistake in the draft. His disastrous 2014 draft which netted complete bust Justin Gilbert at number eight and Johnny Manziel at 22 will go down as his worst. The Browns needed a wide-receiver in the 2014 draft after learning that Josh Gordon would face suspension for drug infractions. Instead of picking Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins or LSU’s Odell Beckham, the Browns went with Gilbert, a Missouri defensive back with kick return capabilities. Never mind the Browns already had a shut-down corner in Haden or a returner in Travis Benjamin. An inexcusable mistake.

The jury is still out on 2015 first round selection Danny Shelton. Much was expected and little has been returned. I advocated the Shelton selection and am not ready to declare him another bust.

One thing is clear, the Manziel experiment should end. The Browns can not depend on Manziel staying clean and being the leader the franchise needs him to be. I have no problem having Josh McCown leading the club in 2016. Let’s be honest, McCown is the least of the Browns problems.

Their run defense is a sieve. Their secondary is aging. Their linebacking core is average at best. Cleveland’s wide receivers may be the worst collective unit in the game. Their running backs are pedestrian and their special teams has allowed four field goals to be blocked  this year, including a game-winner against the hated Ravens.

This franchise needs a lobotomy. Farmer needs to be the first domino to fall. The Browns need to select Cal quarterback Jared Goff with the first round selection. But, to guarantee that, Cleveland needs to (gulp) lose to the Steelers this weekend.

Do I trust the Browns to do the right thing ? What do you think ?

A Case Against Yasiel Puig

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers have an elephant in the room and his name is Yasiel Puig.

Two summers ago he stepped foot into Dodger Stadium and set the Ravine on fire. He joined a languishing team that couldn’t get out of its own way and was in need of a healthy dose of 5-hour energy. What they got was a raw, young Cuban baseball player that hit everything in sight and didn’t stop hitting until the season ended. His jolt of energy helped propel the Dodgers to an amazing 42-8 record over an 8-week stretch and saw them surge into the NL West lead and eventually the division title.

With Puig came challenges, he was nick-named the “wild horse” by our beloved Vin Scully because he ran wild on the bases and didn’t seem to care what the third base coach wanted him to do, Puig just did. His Dave Parker like arm threw missiles from the outfield, pegging runners who were trying to take the extra 90-feet, but occasionally he completely missed the cut-off man and runners would get the extra 90. We all over-looked his lack of judgement at the plate. It was hard to criticize a guy squaring up so often, but with two strikes he never shortened his swing to either extend at bats or simply live to see another day. It was either outhouse or penthouse with Puig and Dodger fans were living on the top floor and had caviar dreams.

2014 was not a horrible year for Puig. He hit .296 with a .380 on base percentage but he fell into a tailspin at the end of the year and the much maligned former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly bench him in the playoffs. On one hand it was surprising, Puig came into Spring Training woefully out of shape and never really shed the excess pounds. When you really delved into the numbers his high strikeout numbers were not going to serve the Dodgers well against a Cardinal team where situational baseball was at a premium. Puig had some awful at-bats in the post-season and he seemed completely lost as the Dodgers were once again unceremoniously shown the door by St. Louis.

During 2014 we start hear rumblings about Puig having issues with teammates. The “issues” seem to revolve around Puig’s inability to get along with fellow Dodgers. Molly Knight’s amazing chronicle of the 2014 season in her book “The Best Team Money Can Buy” highlights numerous instances where Puig alienated himself from the team and got into skirmishes with those in Dodger Blue. There was the altercation with Justin Turner where teammates had to hold them back and then the most famous run-in came with former Dodger Zack Greinke. The Dodgers were stuck in traffic heading from the airport in Chicago to their hotel. During this traffic jam, Puig angrily got off the bus, tired of waiting and lifted the cargo bay looking for his luggage. Ignoring pleas from his teammates to close the bay, Greinke got off the bus, found Puig’s luggage and tossed into the middle of Michigan Avenue. Puig and Greinke needed to be restrained.

Fast forward to 2015. A year I like to classify as the lost year for Puig. He played in only 79 games. Pulled his hamstring twice. He was still overweight. His average sunk to .255. He struck out in roughly 23 percent of his at-bats and he had become a shell of what we knew him to be. Puig defender’s cite how difficult it is to acclimate to the American way of life after living on crumbs in Cuba. I won’t discount this. The problem is that we are now in year three, moving on to year four in the Dodger-Puig tenure and I don’t see a player who is an asset to the organization. I don’t see a player who understands responsibility to team. I don’t see a player who wants to get better. He keeps making the same mistakes on and off the field. Whether he is flailing away at a two-strike breaking ball out of the zone or is driving 120 miles per hour in South Florida, it’s simply the same crap on a different day.

His act has grown tiresome.

The entitlement crowd feels it is OK that he is still trying to grow up. They constantly make excuses for him; whether he is speeding through a stop light or a third base coach’s stop sign.

They see him as a wayward young man who deserves the patience of a fan base that is hungry for a championship but must continue to watch the “wild horse” play the game the way HE sees fit.

Chemistry matters in baseball. Puig’s periodic table is toxic.

I loved Yasiel Puig. He was fresh, new, exciting, rambunctious and played the game with a hunger that was infectious. He seemed angry with the world while playing at an “all systems go” level on the baseball field and we were angry with people who ridiculed and criticized him. I spent the better part of two years defending Puig against all comers because he was MY guy, he was OUR guy. I can’t defend him anymore.

I just don’t believe this union should continue. Whether it’s a recent scrape in a Miami hot spot or his continued lack of professionalism as a teammate I think it’s time to sell-low and rid the organization of this prima donna player who slowly chisels away at the fabric of the unit.

 

 

 

Trusting Friedman is not the easiest thing to do

There is a lot of uneasiness in Dodger-land these days as the Boys in Blue await the decision of free agent pitcher Zack Greinke. The two teams vying for his services are rivals; the Dodgers and Giants. The longer this thing drags on you have to think the worse it could be for the Dodgers.

Greinke is being courted hard by San Francisco. Ken Rosenthal reported on the MLB Network today that Buster Posey and Bruce Bochy met for the 3.5 hours with Greinke last week. No one is talking about the offers Greinke has fielded but several reports have the Giants offer as “aggressive.”

All while this takes place the Dodgers have been announcing the hiring of new manager Dave Roberts and hopefully negotiating hard to keep Greinke in Dodger Blue. But, none of us know since there is radio silence.

Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman has not had the easiest or most successful first year as the leader of the franchise. On one hand he did what almost every Dodger fan wanted him to do and that was keep the superb young talent in the Dodger system. Those of us who are not members or our lunatic fringe fan base did not want to see the kids traded for a quick fix.

While he was getting skewered nationally for not entering the Cole Hamels or David Price sweepstakes at the trade deadline, I was actually encouraged by his reticence not to trade the kids for  a rotation addition that wasn’t a pressing need at the time. It turned out Mat Latos was a disaster and Alex Wood was average and the lack of depth in the rotation certainly hurt, but wasn’t the primary reason the Dodgers were sent packing in the first round of the playoffs. Make no mistake, the Dodgers lost in the playoffs because they couldn’t generate runs. They couldn’t play small ball and that should change with their new field manager.

Now as we approach the Winter Meetings in Nashville the task of strengthening this Dodger team is more difficult and a lot more treacherous than many might think for Friedman. First, if he loses Greinke to the Giants. God help him. In my opinion it would completely shift the balance of power in the National League West. Greinke is the lynch pin for the Dodgers, which should scare the hell out of everyone right now because with the Dodgers resources, if he hasn’t signed already with Los Angeles then the deeply analytical and thoughtful Greinke could possibly be thinking this isn’t the place for him (pure nervous conjecture on my part.) If Los Angeles isn’t the place for him than San Francisco most assuredly will be……..disaster.

When Friedman was brought in to run the organization and Farham Zaidi was brought in as the General Manager it was believed these young statistical geniuses would finally have some dollars to play with as they built a dynasty with their unique vision for Los Angeles. This may be true, but I also believe owner Mark Walter and the Guggenheim Group also told them to get the finances in order. Guggenheim needed to bring credibility back to the franchise while they negotiated their record TV deal in 2012. They did that. Now it’s time to quit paying people NOT to play for the team. So, who better to do it then two small market guys in Friedman and Zaidi who were use to pinching pennies.

The problem is the Dodgers have been too busy saying “no” to their peers in other front offices around the league and eventually they will have to start saying “yes.” It may be time to start trading some prospects to bring back some proven talent that can get this team over the hump. It may be time to make De Leon or Holmes available in an Aroldis Chapman trade. It may be time to look at trading the mercurial Yasiel Puig if he can net a Shelby Miller or Carlos Carrasco. It may be time to completely eat the salaries of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier as they are both horribly overpaid and are clogging up the outfield. Certainly a line can be drawn of players the Dodgers will not and should not trade. But, the Dodgers need to start exploring ways of getting better that doesn’t involve the Jim Johnson patch-work deals we saw this year.

As you see it’s a difficult proposition for Friedman. He was handed the keys and he had a C-minus type of season. His two worst mistakes were the Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy signings, after Anderson accepted his option, those two deals will cost the Dodgers 76 million dollars. 76 million dollars for 4th and 5th starters AT BEST. Awful deals. The Dodgers were an imperfect assemblage of talent and its Friedman’s job to make the pieces fit, all while trimming long-term dead money but also investing in players that can serve the franchise into the future, but not too far into the future where they hamstring the team. Not easy.

It is unfair to bury Friedman after one year of questionable decisions. He didn’t adequately address the bullpen last year and it was a weakness once again. This year he can right-the-wrong by wrestling Chapman away from the Reds for prospects and signing the flavor of the month Darren O’Day as a free agent. If the Dodgers lose Greinke, they may HAVE to make those moves, shortening the game and giving them a lights out 7th, 8th and 9th inning option.

Lastly, if the Dodgers keep Greinke it will be in the neighborhood of 6 years and 210 million dollars with another OUT-clause. That is roughly 65-70 million dollars for two pitchers (Kershaw and Greinke) that couldn’t get you out of the first round the past two years. That is exactly why the Dodgers will need to get another quality starter, not knowing the health of Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy for next season. Whether it is Jeff Samardjzia, Mike Leake, John Lackey or a trade for a Carrasco, Shelby Miller or Chris Sale. The Dodgers will need to add to the back-end of their rotation.

When I look at the Dodgers I see way too many question marks. Do they sign Greinke ? If they don’t who do they sign ? If they do, who do they sign ? How do they rectify the log-jam in the outfield ? Is the real Joc Pederson the guy we saw before the All-Star break or after ? What do they do at second base ? What arms and how many arms do they bring in to solidify and finally strengthen a bullpen that has been an albatross for years ? Does their philosophy change under Dave Roberts ?

Three straight division titles, yet we all feel so unfulfilled.

Sleep well Andrew Friedman, you are going to need it

 

Pleasant Valley breaks 17 year title drought

On today’s BitOBaca Show we broke down Pleasant Valley’s amazing 2015 season with Chico Enterprise Record sports-writer Joseph Shufelberger. We look at their dismantling of Shasta, Their weaponry and who they might play in the upcoming state playoffs….

*DOWNLOAD KPAYSPORTS APP FOR FREE IN APP STORE*

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The Browns are the Dante’s Inferno of professional sport

In Dante Alighieri’s 14th century poem “The Divine Comedy” the Italian philosopher tells of his allegorical journey through hell. He depicts hell as nine circles of suffering.

Dante had nothing on the Cleveland Browns.

In an all to familiar refrain the Browns lose tonight on Monday Night Football when Travis Coons 51-yard field goal is blocked and returned by Will Hill as time expires giving the hated Ravens a 33-27 win. Not only do they steal our team and win two Super Bowls but they deal the Dawg Pound faithful the cruelest of losses in front of a national audience.

While many fan bases would “experience” such a defeat and call it one of the worst all time, us Browns fans know better. Honestly tonight’s loss doesn’t even rank in the top-20 for me. I am not kidding. I can rattle of dozens of other games that were more excruciating and I’m not even talking about the The Drive or The Fumble.

It takes stones to cheer for the Browns. While I call it “stones” my mother calls it stupid, but for the sake of this here blog let’s stick with STONES. The Browns are the one constant in my life where I know exactly what will happen. Fleeting moments of happiness and joy will be dashed by unexpected lightning bolts of searing pain. Searing as in frying a scallop on an open flame.

I cheer for them because I am either insanely loyal or insanely stupid. Until the gas man owner Jimmy Haslam and the texter n’ cheat Ray Farmer are gone the Browns will be second-rate. Even since their return in 1999 Browns fans have had one playoff appearance. A loss to the hated Steelers in 2002. A game in which the Browns went into Heinz Field and had a 33-21 lead with a little over five minutes left and somehow gave the game away. The past 13 years have been littered with have-nots and never-was’

I love them. I always will. But, I realize this pact I got myself into is a one-way street. I give and they always take.

On Dante’s ladder of suffering I have to believe the Browns are on the 7th or 8th circle. If we aren’t close to that 9th circle of suffering. Heaven help me, I don’t know how much more this faithful Dawg can take.