Optimism will come back to haunt me
How else can one explain that it is Jan. 1, 2013, and I'm feeling optimistic about the Browns and Indians. Maybe even the Cavaliers!?!?
Say it ain't so!
I'm probably just setting myself up for disappointment. After all, as Jim Ingraham outlined in his column today, 2012 was the ultimate stinker for Cleveland's professional sports franchises. Still, as the new year turns, there's a lot to be at least semi-optimistic about.
-- The Browns have an owner that is A) rich; and B) wants to be involved with the day-to-day dealings with his team. That's not always a good thing - i.e. Jerry Jones - but Jimmy Haslem wants to win and he wants to win now.
The Browns were one of the youngest teams in the NFL this year. Even though they had a 29-year-old rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden, the rest of the offensive playmakers - RB Trent Richardson, WR Greg Little and WR Joshua Gordon - were either rookies or first-year players. Consider also that Little and Gordon both sat out their year prior to coming to the NFL, so they had some rust to chisel off their games.
The Browns' offensive line is young and very promising. The defensive front seven, with Sheard, Rubin, Taylor, Winn, Parker and Rucker, is young and very solid. The linebackers and defensive backs need some work and some depth, but that can be addressed in the draft and with some free-agent moves.
There's a lot to like about the direction of the Browns.
-- Are the Indians playoff contenders? They might not be as far away as people think.
A lot will depend on Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez.
With ANY sort of run support two years ago, Masterson's 3.21 ERA could have translated into a better record than the 12-10 mark he had. His 4.93 ERA last year was bad, almost a full run worse than his career ERA of 4.17. If he tones it down to the 4.00 range or better, he should be fine.
Jimenez is only two years removed from a 19-8, 2.88 season - IN COLORADO. He doesn't have to be THAT good this year - he just can't be 9-17, 5.40 like he was last year.
If Trevor Bauer is ready to contribute right away (really, why not?), Carlos Carrasco keeps popping in the mid 90s and someone among David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez, Brett Myers and Zach McAllister steps up, then the rotation might not be horrible. Because the bullpen is again going to be stellar.
The possible lineup of CF Drew Stubbs, 2B Jason Kipnis, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Nick Swisher, C Carlos Santana,1B Mark Reynolds, 3B Lonnie Chisenhall and LF Michael Brantley should put some runs on the board, no matter who the DH ends up being.
-- So the Cavs have some work to do, especially on the front line. Kyrie Irving is a definite keeper, rookie Dion Waiters has some promise and Tristan Thompson is OK. Zeller is going to be an Ilgauskas-type center - solid but not flashy for a decade.
The Cavs are going to get another high lottery pick this year - plus they have another late first-rounder (from the LeBron James trade). I know Anderson Varejao is a fan favorite, but if the Cavs can trade him and the late first rounder for a high first rounder, why not?
The pieces are starting to come into place for the Cavs.
As they are with the Indians and Browns.
Then again, I've thought that before.
We'll see how this one pans out.
- John Kampf