MIDWEST MISERY By Adam Hirschfeld
Posted by Collider
MIDWEST MISERY By Adam Hirschfeld
Hopefully, you loyal readers out there enjoyed the brief vacation from comments like “Eric Wedge is an idiot” or “Romeo Crennel is an idiot” from the three-part edition of the Misery last week.
We have some catching up to do:
Mark Shapiro and company clearly have adopted the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. The Indians picked up club options on Paul Byrd, Joe Borowski, and Aaron Fultz. Byrd is unlikely to repeat last season’s success (he is simply no longer a viable 15-game winner), and he may be headed for a suspension due to his use of HGH. However, Byrd seems to have earned respect in his own locker room, and it never hurts to have a guy who can eat innings. Fultz was injured most of the season and virtually replaced by Rafael Perez by the time he got healthy. Seeing as Perez imploded in the playoffs, it doesn’t hurt to have a left-hander. Borowski is Borowski.
Shapiro obviously doesn’t love Borowski too much, since he apparently tried to land Brad Lidge from the Astros before GM Ed Wade sent Lidge to his former club (the Phillies) in a deal that has universally been criticized as rushed. The prospects Houston received in return are considered “above average” at best, whereas the Indians probably would have dealt a starting pitcher and either of Ben Francisco or Franklin Gutierrez. Houston probably did the Indians a favor there.
The Indians also apparently threw their hat into the Miguel Cabrera sweepstakes, but as of now, have been unsuccessful. Cabrera would be controlled through 2009, has an awesome bat, and can play multiple positions. He also appears to enjoy trips to Dunkin’ Donuts and Chipotle, which is my not-so-subtle way of saying he’s a bit fat. Still, it would seem Francisco, Andy Marte, one of Aaron Laffey, Cliff Lee, or Chuck Lofgren, and another prospect would be an excellent deal to make for a right-handed hitter that will hit 25-35 home runs.
(Allegedly, the Marlins want a catching prospect, which the Indians had until trading for Kenny Lofton).
The Indians will also consider moving Josh Barfield, which I think is a mistake, seeing as pairing him with his replacement, Asdrubal Cabrera would make an awesome defensive middle (and Jake Westbrook and Francisco Carmona throw ground ball after ground ball). Plus, I can’t see Barfield struggling at the plate quite as much as last season.
The Tribe is also working on a contract that I am sure C.C. Sabathia will turn down.
Give the two Dannys (Ferry and Gilbert) some credit. They recognize that their franchise is a bit “cap crippled” with the contracts of Larry Hughes, Damon Jones, Donnyell Marshall, and Zydrunas Illgauskas (whose play has thus far justified his deal) and are not going to overpay for Anderson Varejao. The Brazilian sought a multi-year deal in the $10 million per range, which is way too much money for a guy with cool hair who takes charges but has no discernible offensive skills. Varejao then offered to accept a one-year deal, which the Cavaliers wisely responded to with the NBA version of “piss off.” This was equally smart, lest the Cavaliers forfeit Varejao’s “Larry Bird” rights (which is the only way Varejao and Bird will ever be mentioned in the same sentence without some way of saying that one is nowhere near the player the other was).
Sasha Pavlovic saw the writing on the wall and signed for a lot less than he wanted, seeing as there was no market whatsoever for him. Varejao would be wise to do the same thing.
The Cavs also threw in the towel with Shannon Brown, also likely due to not wanting to tie up money in someone who is unlikely to crack their rotation. Brown is destined to go down in history as the guy who commissioned a documentary of his first game only to spend said game in his seat on the bench the entire time.
Otherwise, the team is off to a relatively decent start. The west coast road trip yielded losses only to Phoenix and Utah (at the buzzer), neither of which is a disgrace. Lebron James is Lebron James, carrying the team and satisfying fantasy geeks everywhere. Daniel Gibson has played as he did in the post season. Hughes is injured. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Someone woke up the offense, huh? Even Sunday, when the team couldn’t get a first down until the desperation run in the game’s final minute, Derek Anderson still threw three touchdown passes, including one apiece to possible Pro Bowlers Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. The Browns are putting up points for one simple reason: they upgraded the offensive line. Eric Steinbach is Pro Bowl caliber, and Joe Thomas is exceeding expectations.
No similar upgrade has been made on defense. Until Sunday, when somehow the Browns got four sacks in Pittsburgh, the team wasn’t producing one sack per game (and still doesn’t draw so much as a holding penalty against an opposing offensive lineman. If I had a research assistant, I’d look up the last time that happened). The secondary has been average at best, but how good can you be when you have to cover for up to ten seconds per pass play? The linebackers have met expectations.
Anyone who thinks this is a playoff team is relying solely on an examination of the remaining schedule. While the offense can and has put up points on any opponent, the defense is just as capable of yielding 50. Todd Grantham is likely to be seeking new employment next year; I also wonder how much attention Crennel is paying to that side of the football given how his offense is both playing well and yielding excitement.
The team is 4-1 at home (the team hasn’t won more than four home games in a season since returning to the league) and their offense has turned a corner. Anderson has been a find, but he’ll be shopped for a first and third round pick (and Minnesota, Atlanta, Carolina, and Chicago are all NFC teams that should consider taking that bait). The defense needs to be upgraded, and given that the team is on the right side of the salary cap, should make a big run at Albert Haynesworth and any other younger, veteran defensive tackle.
What can you say about the Illinois game? Juice Williams made what Bill Simmons refers to as “The Leap.” I’ll actually be surprised if the Buckeyes rebound in Ann Arbor; they just had their season ended (I’m sick of everyone bashing the Big Ten. Every other conference has crappy teams that were in and out of the Top 25 all year. Oregon, LSU, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, are really good. Ohio State is pretty good. USC and Florida have too many losses to be in the conversation. Everyone else is interchangeable).
The Eagles won their season opener! One of their tall players scored in double figures! I’m too excited about one damned game!