Three Questions

By Michael Reghi

As I see all of you around town, at the ballpark, where I sit in the seats most games, like I did Saturday night with son Cal, both of us loving another late innings, come from behind win, or at the grocery store, gym, dry cleaners, gas stations, etc., you are asking me questions with a common thread. Here are three with my candid responses.

1. ‘Can the Tribe keep up the winning, and contend’?

– In evaluating baseball teams through a 162 game, six-month marathon, I look at the 40 game level as the line of demarcation. That’s one quarter of the schedule, and usually gives you a true barometer of what a team is, or isn’t in major league baseball. Sage baseball managers, such as the late Sparky Anderson, and Earl Weaver always expressed to me that every team will ‘win 40, every team will lose 40’…it’s the other 82 that will define who you are’. Both are very true! I know this, as the month of May begins, riding a 6 game win streak, and leading the AL Central by 4 and a half   games, after 29 games, they have shown a distinct formula for winning consistently. A starting pitching staff that goes deep into games, while throwing strike one, and getting ahead of hitters, a bullpen that matches up in late innings, and an aggressive offense that values on base percentage, and with the ability to attack on the bases, even though they will always be a high volume ‘strikeout’ offense’, with Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Shin Soo Choo, among the league leaders in K’s per times at bat. Yet, much like Saturday night, in the comeback win over Detroit, when they struck out an astonishing 17 times!!!, the bullpen kept them afloat into the extra innings, until the bats produced the game winner on the Orlando Cabrera bases loaded knock. Give Manny Acta his just do as well. He has suicide squeezed to win a game, he will be aggressive on the bases in tight, low scoring games in the late innings, and he uses his bench often, so the ‘extra men’ don’t sit for ten days at a time collecting rust. Love all of that!

With five months, and 135 games to play, tough to project an AL Central division crown today, yet the division has been underwhelming, with Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota scuffling. Use that to your continued advantage Tribe, and September will be relevant for the first time since 2007! Wahoo Baseball has been a month of amazing!

2. ‘Did you like the Browns draft’?

– Initially, on Thursday night, I felt moving down twenty-one spots, from 6 to 27, even with the volume of picks received from Atlanta, was too far to move. After spending the wee hours of Thursday night, on into Friday morning speaking with two former NFL gm’s, one of whom your very familiar with….no, NOT Phil Savage, I rearranged my thinking, and see the monumental value in acquiring this type of deal, covering not only this draft, but next as well! As I tell you repeatedly, the NFL drafting business is about guys with track records, either successful, or skeptical. Heckert has been very successful in his philosophy and approach in building his roster, for many seasons in Philadelphia, and in his 2010 Browns draft.

While you may not have seen a lot of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, or edge rushing defensive end, Jabaal Sheard, Heckert was all over them, as ultra productive standouts, in high profile conferences, against excellent competition. Some consider wide receiver Greg Little, who sat out 2010, puzzling. Yet when you study his ability during the 2009 season at North Carolina to run routes, and come up with playmaking compatible to the Browns West Coast system, you see the intrigue. The same with USC’s Jordan Cameron. who played away from the football, as both a receiver and a tight end, who is viewed as another excellent west coast fit as he develops in the system.

By the way, those two ex gm’s both told me separately, that Atlanta gave up substantially too much value to the Browns in moving up to take just number 6 overall, and further cemented my belief by telling me…’you’d be hard pressed to find an NFL gm who would have passed on getting 5 picks, two firsts, a second and two fourths, in the next two drafts’. Told me 95% of the decision makers in this league jump at that. Which Heckert did, and rightfully so! And don’t you love that he took ‘tough football players’ over ‘choirboys’? I most certainly do! I, as emoted on our Saturday draft show, with Roda, and Dustin Fox, have had it with this…’let’s get high characters guys, who are average football players’ nonsense!

No, no, and no!!!! That isn’t what making advancements in the NFL is about. There has been far too much of that type of player over the past two seasons before Holmgren and Heckert arrived. Ask Baltimore and Pittsburgh if that’s how they proceed! Absolutely not. Look at their rosters. Until the Browns can compete with the Ravens and Steelers in their own division, nothing else matters. Another strong Heckert showing, just like 2010, with 3-4 more picks becoming immediate starters. Nicely conceived, now let’s get the helmets and pads on to find out!

3. ‘ Who do the Cavaliers want in the draft’?

– That’s very cut and dried. First choice will be Kyrie Irving, with Arizona’s Derek Williams, second on their board. If they select picks 3-5 at the top of the first round, which is worst-case scenario, the scramble is on, given most squads value the same two players, Irving and Williams, as the Cavaliers do. I’m very intrigued by what they’ll do at 8,9,10, the pick from the Clippers. If not Irving, I’d be very pleased with a Williams, Brandon Knight duo in the top 10. The 6-3, 18 year old lead guard from Kentucky showed he has a game ready to translate in the NBA during the recently completed NCAA tournament. Problem is, with Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, and Jared Sullinger returning to their college programs, Knight might go in the top 4-6 selections, strictly on his potential, which is what the NBA draft has become in recent years. If he’s gone, and devoid of getting Irving, I can see the Cavaliers going the European ‘big’ route, with as many as four players in that category potential lottery choices. So, they’ll work the phones if they don’t get the top choice, in a strong attempt to grab Irving, and they do have the resources to make a run, with the trade exception, and four picks this year in the two rounds. This is going to test the strength of Chris Grant, as he handles his first draft as the gm. Will he be up to the task? How he and the Cavaliers proceed, and either achieve or not in June, will define his roster for many years to come.

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3 Comments

  1. This should be 3 different blogs Reghi ! Love the draft ! You get two # 1’s. a # 2 and two # 4’s after the player you wanted was off the board. We have too many gaps.
    Keep filling them Mr. Heckert ! Little is the key. Really like the big man Taylor and Sheard. If Balt wanted him we did right to move up. Oz knows his buisness.
    Cavs – Kind of intrigued by Enes Kanter too

  2. I believe in the Indians, I remember calling in and saying that the pitching would surprise. After the 1st 2 games, I thought Carmona, and Carrasco would bounce back strong. Both threw strikes, that unfortunately found their way to bats. Indians showed great resolve in coming back.

    I like the Indians influx of young talent, nice mix of veyerans, and they are finding ways to win. It all begins with strong pitching, and defense. Best April start in team history (19-8), and Choo, and Santana, haven’t really started hitting yet, though both have shown life, as of late. I prefer Brantley stay in the leadoff spot, its working, and he’s developed a level of comfort there.

    Hafner has reaped the benefits of hitting lower in the lineup, where there’s less pressure, better pitches to hit, and he appears to have gotten his confidence back,let’s just stay healthy. Sizemore may be better suited to hit 4th, than Santana. Indians would benefit two fold with Sizemore in the middle of the lineup, driving in runs, adding punch, starting 2nd rallies, and relieve some pressure off of Santana.

    The bullpen has been lights out so far. Strong in the middle, and with Perez closing. Great effort by White on Sunday, WINNING is contagious! I can’t remember the last time the Indians swept a 6 game homestand, and vs divisiom foes.

    Manager Acta, has seemed to do everything right, creating an aggressive mindset, which refuses toose. I look for the Indians to go 4-2 on this west coast trip, setting the tone for an incredible homestand the week after.

    Its Tribe Time Now, and this locamotive has plenty good seats on board still available!

  3. I was very disappointed in the Browns draft. The more I looked at the needs of other teams, their wants, the restrictions of the lockout placed on teams, and the inability to make trades. All this put me in a different mindset of what was more likely to happen. I’m convinced that if the Cardinals would have been able to make a trade for Kolb, they’re in no position to draft Peterson, whom I had my heart set on for the Browns.

    I don’t put as much stock in the new regime as most, they’ve done nothing to earn my trust, or earn a free pass. I’m convinced more than ever, that Holmgren handpicking Delhomme, didn’t put Mangini in the best position to win, or have success, that’s s reflection of management, and/or leadership.

    As I watched the draft unfold, trading down 21 spots, out of the 6th spot, where the Browns clearly could have gotten the best player at a particular position, then too trade up 6 slots to get a DT, thats best suited to play NT in a 3-4, had me shaking my damn head.

    Unlike most, I think the Browns are closer to being a competitive force than most. It was clearly seen, by the way they competed from week to week. With all the criticisms, and so called inability to stop the run, I think the front 7 was the strength of the defense. I can’t recall a single RB, that dominated the Browns, from opening kickoff, to final whistle.

    If dominating the Saints, and Patriots weren’t convincing enough for you, the 6 turnovers vs the Jaguars, in which the pick 6 by the defense, outscored the offense on the other 5. The reality of it all is, the defense faded late, the ineptness of the offense, contributed greatly. How much more effective would the Browns defense had been on 15 fewer snaps a game?

    For me, the reference point when looking back on this draft, will start with the Browns having had the opportunity to have added Jones, and Bowers, 2 top 10 players, on both sides of the ball, moving forward. For me, picking 6 should afford you the opportunity to get an immediate impact, a difference maker, or playmaker, which should be a cornerstone to the foundation.

    Not reaching, and hoping to find a steal. Potential upside, just isn’t that appealing to me. Taylor, and Sheard may turn out to be good players, but…is that really acceptable? While Little is intriguing physically, he only played the position a year, was suspended last season, and more accomplished, and natural players at the position in Hankerson, Pettis, and Brown.

    The rest of the draft seemed to be nothing but reaches. Cameron at TE, 13 career receptions? My thinking there is this, if you’re so intrigued at what Cameron can be, how about better utilizing Moore, who is the same type player. He caught 13 passes last year in limited opportunities, for almost twice the yardage.

    Was Marecic at FB a position of need? With Hardesty virtually an unknown, no other change of pace back on the roster, which would give the opposition of different look. I remember Vardell, he scored touchdowns. If Harbaugh was so impressed, why didn’t he draft him? He isn’t the only player to ever play both ways, maybe he will be a very servicable player, I just wanted more.

    Scrine, great speed, but terrible hands, potentially a special teams contribtor, with great potential, and upside.

    Pinkston at OL, you can never have enough interior linemen, especially those with versatility, size, and good footwork.

    Hagg at S, closed out the draft. A sure tackler, and physical, another possible special team contributor, but what about local product, and standout Hines?

    My current grade is D, but that allows plenty room for upside.


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