Monday, August 14, 2006

Harmonic Convergence

So many stories, so little time. Where to start? The Indians a.k.a. Team Streak? Nah, we’ll get to them in a minute. The Browns a.k.a. Team Injury? Nah, we’ll get to them in two minutes. The Cavs a.k.a. Team LeBron? Yes, the Cavs.

Apparently Danny Ferry hasn’t been spending his summer fishing for steelhead in Lake Erie. He did manage to get Drew Gooden to sign on the dotted line for three years at a reasonable price, $23 million. We like this deal. Gooden is not LeBron’s Scotty Pippen, not by a long shot. But Gooden is a pretty serviceable player in his own right and just the kind of piece that championship teams need. From time to time he disappears both offensively and defensively, which is why he’ll never be Scotty Pippen. He may never even be Carlos Boozer. But when he’s playing well, he’s a force on the boards and more than adequate on the offensive end as well. Gooden has been shipped around for most of his NBA career and has had precious little opportunity to really establish himself. This should provide that stability.

We wonder, though, what else Ferry has in mind. He has little if any cap money to spend and seems satisfied to see how this team, as presently constituted, will progress based on last year’s experience. That team, without a healthy Larry Hughes for the bulk of the season, still managed to win 50 games and go fairly deep into the playoffs. What has us worried, though, is whether simply another year of experience under their belt will be enough given the fact that other teams, like Chicago and Detroit (ironic, isn’t it?) have made themselves stronger this offseason. The Gordian Knot that functions as the NBA salary cap seems to always serve to keep the Cavs stuck in second gear while simultaneously allowing virtually every other elite team to improve. Or at least that’s the excuse we’re constantly fed.

It is true, though, that with a full, injury-free season by Hughes, along with Donyell Marshall possibly rediscovering his shot, along with Damon Jones possibly finding some D and his J, the Cavs look to improve. LeBron’s World Championship experience this summer with Coach K should help him tremendously as well. But stop us if you’ve heard this before—a Cleveland franchise in need of a harmonic convergence of 85 variables in order to be successful. We all know how that comes out, don't we?

Which brings us, of course, to Team Streak. We happened to witness yesterday’s bloodletting of the hapless Kansas City Royals and all we can say with some confidence is that problem seems to be solved. We can finally beat Kansas City. But as Paul Hoynes observed in yesterday’s PD, these games, particularly against dregs like the Royals, are glorified Grapefruit Season match-ups. Translated: be careful to place too much stock in such mirages.

No question, Travis Hafner is the real deal. When he hits the ball, it has a decided thwack that someone like, say, Casey Blake, will never know. Grady Sizemore appears to be a real deal as well, but for different reasons. But we hope GM Mark Shapiro is careful not to draw to sharp a conclusion about Shin-Soo Choo or some of these other “kids”, like Andy Marte. It is just this kind of thinking that will lead to more despair next year. Frankly, we’d feel better about next year if we had kept the crap we had. At least it would drive home the point to Shapiro and cheapskate owner Larry Dolan and his son Paul that this team is not one or two players away. More like 8 or 10 players away. Dolan doesn’t have that kind of money to spend and wouldn’t if he did. Shapiro doesn’t have that kind of talent to hit on that many B and C free agents, no one does. So we’re likely to go into the offseason believing that these salary dumps described as trades somehow brought us filet mignon in return and concentrate our meager free agent dollars on some B level closer.

But before we move off the Indians, a brief word about Jeremy Sowers. Bud Black, former Tribe pitcher and current Anaheim Angels pitching coach, made some great observations about Sowers in Saturday’s Plain Dealer. In essence, Black said that Sowers looked like a pitcher out there who relies more on guile than velocity. Black also observed that some have compared Sowers to Black. I suppose that’s because they’re both lefthanders. Having watched Sowers yesterday, he reminds me much more of Charlie Nagy, which is pretty good as well. If Sowers were to have that kind of career, that would be something for this beleagured team to actually celebrate.

And speaking of beleaguered, that’s been the story of the Browns since they returned. Having some depth at running back, they traded away Lee Suggs to the Jets for additional help in the defensive backfield, help they needed due to, what else?, injuries. We’re sure some fans are disappointed that they didn’t get a bona fide center for Suggs to replace Bentley, but the guess here is that GM Phil Savage is counting on LeCharles Bentley next season and thus wanted to trade Suggs for someone with more than a one-year shelf life. In that regard, we can’t disagree with the thinking. In the interim, though, quarterback Charlie Frye could pay the price.

We are amused that many fans and the media geniuses that feed them are already fretting based on the lackluster performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first preseason game. The only conclusions we could draw is that we’re probably two Dorseys over our quota. Nat Dorsey plays tackle as if he was Ken Dorsey, who plays quarterback as if he was Tommy Dorsey. The other conclusion we could draw was that Bernie Kosar is a pretty good analyst. Too bad he has a bit of a pip squeak voice. With voice lessons, and we’re being serious here, Kosar actually has a future in this kind of work. As for Brian Brennan, as an analyst he’s a pretty good stockbroker. Brennan displays the kind of enthusiasm that this town hasn’t seen since Belichick, the early years, but without the mean streak.

This week’s game should allow us all to draw a few more conclusions before inevitably pronouncing them mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. But at least here, there’s an upside, unless, of course, owner Randy Lerner gets tapped out trying to get his English Premier “Football” Club up to snuff. Now that’s an interesting development for another day.