The Indians, the Cavs, and the quest to save Cleveland

On Sunday evening I sat in Starbucks for an hour an a half, finishing Now I Can Die In Peace, an excellent collection of columns by Bill Simmons chronicling the Boston Red Sox’ trials, tribulations and ultimate triumph (twice). The entire path of the book parallels the plot of the 1994 epic film The Shawshank Redemption. Simmons likens the Sox’s tragic and stunning defeat in 1986 to Dufresne being incarcerated, and eventually, after some ups and downs, the Sox found redemption in 2004, after winning the ALCS in cathartic fashion, coming back from their darkest hour against the Yankees to ultimately prevail.

I’m not a Red Sox fan. Far from it. But I understand the plight of the Red Sox fan pre-2004, since it’s what we as Indians fans are going through now. (And seriously, Simmons, you give us no respect in that book. It’s all “Cubs this”, “Cubs that”. Chicago has the White Sox, Bulls and Bears, all of whom have won a championship in the last twenty-five years.) The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948, and haven’t been in a World Series since Edgar Renteria’s soft line drive ticked off Charles Nagy’s glove and fell into center field at Dolphin Stadium.

You could argue that the 1997 Series was the darkest moment of the Indians franchise since Ray Chapman was killed by a pitch in 1920: two outs away from a win; a team that had two home run hitters who are currently in the top 20 all time; a team that will have at least 3 Hall of Famers before it’s all said and done. It was the ball rolling through Bill Buchner’s legs for the Indians.

While Simmons wrote the book about the Red Sox, he’s a Boston sports fan in general, and included the column he wrote after the Patriots upset the Rams the Super Bowl in 2002. His reasoning was that it was important for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Because a Boston team won a championship, the snakebitten Red Sox could finally win one.

Like the Sox before the Patriots, the Indians have made the playoffs since 1997, but haven’t had success even getting to the World Series.

Enter the 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers. Here’s a team that is competitive dominant because of one player, a player that may or may not be around next season. Fans are clamoring for a championship while LeBron is still in town, in case the unthinkable happens and he leaves for free agency.

I’m not a big Cavs fan. I’m not the biggest fan of LeBron, and I’m not a fan of the way the front office treated Ilgauskas this season, and I find going to a Cavs game to be a somewhat painful experience. But I’m a fan of Cleveland. And like every Clevelander, I’m rooting for them to win it all this year. But I’m subscribing to the “Simmons Trifectus” theory (as it shall henceforth be called) rooting for them so that the Indians (and *gasp* the Browns?) can possibly win one down the road.

Is all of this hocus? Maybe. But despite the Indians going 3-6 on the road trip ending tonight (on a bunt, no less), they’ve played decent ball, and with some breaks here and there, might start surprising people. If the Cavs win, and people are in a better mood for the summer, I think you’ll see people coming to the ballpark and maybe attempting to recreate that late-90s vibe. There’s no way that’s a bad thing. As a Tribe fan, and as a Clevelander, I’ll take whatever I can get.

5 movies I want to see this summer

Summer’s my favorite season for a variety of reasons: baseball season, swimming, watermelon, fireworks, trips to the beach, etc. But an underrated part of any summer is the summer movie season, which consistently outranks every other movie season. For example, 2008 gave us Iron Man (foreshadowing alert!), Wall-E and Dark Knight; 2009 gave us Up, The Hangover and District 9, just to name a few. Here are five movies I can’t wait to see this summer.

5. Robin Hood

Robin Hood (May 14)

I’ve always been partial to the Disney version of this classic, and actually, that’s the only one I’ve seen. But I’m looking forward to this darker take on the story with the never-makes-a-bad-movie Russell Crowe.

(Seriously, I just spent a couple minutes looking through Russell Crowe’s filmography to figure out if he had actually ever made a bad movie, if he has, it certainly hasn’t been in the last 10 years or so. Except maybe Master and Commander.)


4. The A-Team

The A-Team (June 11)

Once again, a remake for a franchise I don’t have a lot of familiarity with. But I see this as either a big hit or a big miss, but Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper can be trusted to not make something that’s completely unwatchable.

(Okay, I understand Liam Neeson was in Clash of the Titans. So seriously, what are the odds of him making TWO bad movies in one year? Wait, don’t answer that.)


3. Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 (June 18)

I’m not one of those traditional Pixar junkies who think Toy Story is the Holy Grail of all things CGI, but more importantly, I am a Pixar junkie. And while some of the other ideas being floated around Pixar intrigue me more than another Toy Story, Pixar will either have to make about 10 bad movies in a row or have a movie sing the praises of Hitler in sepia tone to a Michael Jackson soundtrack (okay, I’ll admit, despite being completely offended, I’d have to see this. How could you not?). I’m not banking on either one. Ever since being pleasantly surprised by Cars, I’m willing to give the Pixar folks the benefit of the doubt.


2. Get Him to the Greek

Get Him to the Greek (June 4)


This one might seem out of place. And it is, sort of. I heard of this film a couple days ago because Jonah Hill is in it. When I found out that Elton Brand is also in it, reprising his role as Aldous Snow from Forgetting Sarah Marshall I was sold. Judd Apatow as the producer seals the deal. I fully expect this movie to be every bit as funny as Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

(I can’t really explain why I like Jonah Hill so much, but no one plays the “I’m incredibly awkward so I’m just gonna’ stand here and smile stupidly” role funnier than him. Oh, also, him singing along with Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall while Jason Segel looks on, astonished. Yeah, this movie is gonna’ be funny.)


1. Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 (May 7)


Iron Man was the classic “surprisingly good movie sneaking up on everyone” of 2008 (District 9 was 2009′s), and I, like everyone else, didn’t expect as much as Iron Man delivered. It leapfrogged into second place on my favorite superhero movie franchise, just behind the Christopher Nolan Batman films.

Needless to say, Iron Man 2 won’t have that luxury. It’s got higher expectations, a higher marketing budget and has been on people’s radar since the first movie came out. Another red flag for me is the AC/DC Wal-mart exclusive soundtrack; part of what made Iron Man great was the rock-laden score by Ramin Djawadi, and hopefully whatever ends up being the actual soundtrack to the movie is similar.

They have added Scarlett Johansson, though, and seriously, how can you go wrong with that? The trailers with Warmachine footage also looks incredible, and ultimately, Robert Downey Jr. is still Tony Stark (he was as important to that role as Johnny Depp was to Capt. Jack Sparrow). I will be seeing Iron Man 2 at midnight in…good golly, less than two weeks. Where does the time go?

I’m sure this list won’t be the exact list of my favorite movies in 2010, but hopefully at least some of them make it. Got any others that I missed? Let me know!

Leaving behind that empty feeling inside

Man, it’s good to have baseball back.

We’re three games into the season and I’m already addicted again. I originally planned on going to bed around ten tonight, but ten turned into “after the seventh”. In the seventh inning, the White Sox took the lead on a two-run homer by Carlos Quentin, and I was disgusted that the Indians bullpen gave up a lead (a sign, I was sure, of things to come). This added to my disgust at the home plate umpiring throughout the rest of the game (one particular call cost the Indians a White Sox run), and I prepared to go to bed.

As I got in bed, I grabbed my iPod and started surfing around the web, catching up on the important news and not-so-important news of the day. And like an addict, I checked ESPN, and I was sure that the Indians were still losing.

The game was tied at 3-3.

I retrieved my laptop from my backpack and resumed watching the game and watched ’til the end, when Asdrubal Cabrera drove in Luis Valbuena on a go-ahead single, Grady Sizemore added an RBI double, and Chris Perez recorded his second consecutive save in routine fashion. And now, here I am, blogging about it, knowing that I’ll pay for it in the morning.

I just watched my team take two of three from the Chicago White Sox. It wasn’t the World Series; it wasn’t the Yankees; it wasn’t even a division rival that’s considered a front-runner. It was the first series of the year, an insignificant three-game stretch in a 162 game season. And yet, I’m excited.

It wasn’t that the Indians won two games; it was how they won those two games. They scrapped. They clawed. They played flawless and sometimes spectacular defense. And they recovered fully from the goose egg on Opening Day.

Asdrubal Cabrera is making me wonder why he hasn’t always batted leadoff. Grady Sizemore’s displacement to the number two spot is already paying off (5 RBI in three games). Michael Brantley doesn’t look intimidated, Matt LaPorta looks worlds ahead of where he was last year, Lou Marson is holding his own behind the plate. Jhonny Peralta looks more comfortable at third and has made some nice plays, and had the clutch game-tying hit tonight. Travis Hafner has a couple hits and has put some good swings on the ball. And I’m not worried about Shin Soo Choo’s slow start.

Justin Masterson’s outing tonight was, at times, dominant, and could have been better if not for the aforementioned umpiring. Fausto Carmona’s performance last night was just downright gutty. Even the bullpen looks decent, with Chris Perez anchoring the back end.

This might be the only series the Indians win all year. But I’m reminded that the last time the Indians were above .500, it was 2008 and C.C. Sabathia was still an Indian. So rather than focusing on how this start in no way proves anything, I’m going to focus on the fact that this start is certainly better than last year, and is certainly better than a lot of people expected. This team is going to surprise people.

This weekend the Indians go into Detroit, where the competition will be far stronger, and will give us a better idea of where the Indians are.

You never know. Maybe. Welcome back, baseball.

Anyone can understand the way I feel

As I write this post from a beautiful 90 degree day in Columbia, it’s only been three years since this:

April 7, 2007: Blizzard, meet baseball. Baseball, meet blizzard. Everyone else, meet a bunch of guys with leaf blowers to try and clear the snow away.

My, how times change.

In any case, I’m excited for Opening Day. Heck, who am I kidding? I was excited for Opening Day back in February, which explains why I wrote my 2010 season preview back on February 18. Much has happened in those six weeks since spring training has ramped up, progressed, and is now winding down to a close, so here are a few things I’m excited about as the season begins.

  • Baseball season means summer. Except in South Carolina, apparently, where summer went ahead and started without waiting for baseball season. This is heresy. I mean seriously, what’s opening day without snow, freezing rain, slushy streets and players who want to be there less than the fans?
  • The Indians won’t be that bad. (I hope.) Overall, I’m pretty encouraged by what I saw in spring training from the Indians. Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner look good, and while I’m not convinced Jake Westbrook will look good against the other aces in the league, I think he’ll do okay in most of his starts. Fausto Carmona has looked solid too, and if he can keep up this form in the regular season the Indians will be in much better shape (and much better shape than I was hoping for).
  • Manny Acta wasn’t my first choice, but he’s growing on me. He’s already shown he’s not afraid to try some new things (batting Cabrera leadoff, starting Michael Brantley instead of a veteran left fielder) and he seems to relate to the players well (particularly the Hispanic players).
  • The season gets underway with a Sunday night game between the Red Sox and Yankees. Look, I bleed scarlet and grey, but the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is without question the best in sports. It’s great theater every time these two storied teams get together and this year, with the Yankees defending their 27th World Series title, it should be even better.
  • Jim Thome is no longer on the White Sox. Or the Dodgers. Or any other team that I hate. He’s on the Twins, who are my favorite team in the AL Central besides the Indians, and it’ll make it easier to root for one of the classiest guys in baseball this year. If it’s not the Indians this year, I hope the Twins win the World Series. (Unfortunately, since the Twins lost Joe Nathan for the season, this will probably be quite difficult.)
  • Ozzie Guillen has a Twitter account. I may not like the White Sox (I blame A.J. Pierzynski), but I do like Ozzie Guillen both for his management style and his Michael-Richards-but-with-less-racism “what will he say next” attitude. Joe Maddon (Rays manager) is also on Twitter, but his tweets are all about “preparation” and “getting in the right place mentally”. I have a feeling Ozzie’s will be less politically correct (and therefore more hilarious).
  • Bobby Cox is managing his last season. The all-time ejections leader is hanging it up after this season and I hope he goes out with a bang. He’s definitely a first ballot Hall of Famer and one of baseball’s best managers (even if his choice in teams is abysmal).
  • I will finally see PNC Park. PNC Park is the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates and is widely regarded as one of the prettiest parks in baseball. I’m personally ashamed I haven’t been there yet, having lived a mere three hours from the city for most of my life. This year, on Memorial Day weekend, no less, that will be corrected.

And frankly, one of the things I love about Opening Day is that for one day, everyone’s equal. There is no head start, there is no entitlement, everyone starts at 0-0. Optimism springs eternal. So while the rest of the season I’m happy with around .500 for this team, on Opening Day, we’re allowed to dream.

Will the Indians win the World Series? Probably not. But maybe. Because on Opening Day, everyone starts fresh. So maybe.