The Sunday Drive with a Tomlin masterpiece, a Carrasco slider, and a Manziel tackle?

Welcome to our first edition of “The Sunday Drive.” Every Sunday, our plan is to give you a potpourri of the site writers doing what they do, writing about their takes on whatever topic they want.

I could be Cleveland Sports.

It could be about a movie premier or a T.V. show finale.

It could be about politics, or pro wrestling or a concert that brought the house down.

Here’s my point.

We have a bunch of good writers that really deserve your readership…but don’t trust my word on that, trust theirs.

Here is our first edition, and while everyone wasn’t here today, they will be in the future. Give it a read, and let us know what you think…

Starting next week, you’ll see a real intro by yours truly, and a steady piece called ‘Rearviewmirror,’ to close up shop. Other than that…who knows what you’re going to get…

…but hopefully, it will entertain you a bit.

More than meets the eye with Josh Tomlin— Steve OrbanekWhat happened to the old Josh Tomlin we all knew and loved? You know, the one who would post around a 4.00 ERA while striking out just under five batters per nine innings.

It’s sure starting seem like that guy is a thing of the past.

Tomlin posted the best start of his career and one of the best starts in Cleveland Indians’ history on Saturday in leading the Tribe to a 5-0 win over the Seattle Mariners. Overall, Tomlin allowed just one hit and struck out 11 batters en route to a complete-game shutout victory. He also faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum.

The start was the second complete game of Tomlin’s career and the first one-hitter by a Cleveland pitcher since Billy Traber did it against the Yankees on July 8, 2003. To further put the performance in perspective, consider this:

Tomlin now joins Len Barker as the only Indians pitcher since at least 1914 to have at least 11 strikeouts with no walks and no more than one hit surrendered in a shutout.

Pretty impressive, eh?

On the year, Tomlin is now 5-5 with a 3.78 ERA. He’s also striking out 8.11 batters per nine innings.

Keep in mind that this not a small sample size either. Tomlin has made 10 starts, pitched in 11 games and 64 1/3 innings. If the strikeouts were a mirage, that would have revealed itself by now.

The truth is that Tomlin seems to be the latest beneficiary of Tommy John surgery. While he’s hardly a flamethrower, it seems as if he may have gained a slight tick on his fastball. Also, his pristine command remains a valuable asset.

The truth is that Tomlin has been a godsend for the Indians as we all know this is not a team that is rich in pitching. Tomlin appeared to be nothing more than a back-of-the-rotation starter, but both his performance and statistics show that he’s more than that.

No, he’s not an ace. However, he’s on his way to proving that he can be a serviceable middle-of-the-rotation arm. At this point, he’s been the team’s second-best starter, behind only Corey Kluber.

His performance on Saturday was a thing of beauty as he made Mariners’ hitters look silly and his curveball may have never been better.

There are plenty of players that will be important to the Indians as they move into the dog days of summer, but never discount Tomlin. Former Indians manager Manny Acta gained notoriety for referring to Tomlin as his “Little Cowboy.”

Well, giddy up. Tribe fans could be in for a helluva ride with Tomlin.

Carrasco may need to ditch his fastball?–John Grimm

It’s hard to imagine that a 97 MPH fastball could be a liability. Still, that’s how matters have transpired with Carlos Carrasco.

Time and time again, Carlos Carrasco’s effectiveness has followed a hierarchy as straightforward and unchanging as it is bizarre: namely, his 95-99 MPH fastball has been one of the most ineffective pitches on the team. Velocity is no unshakable prime mover of success, but a baseline velocity of around 90+ MPH is essentially prerequisite for major league pitching careers, unless one happens to be Mark Buehrle or Tim Hudson – freaks in their own right, freaks as gifted and rare as 100 MPH arms. Even past that requisite speed, more velocity buys one more leeway. Velocity isn’t the only requisite positive, but it’s a very substantial one.

It’s also been not at all useful for Carrasco. Carrasco’s fastball isn’t merely bad: between his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, Carrasco’s bread and butter has been worth 44.27 runs worse than league average over the course of Carrasco’s career; in essence, given an average fastball – Drew Smyly’s fastball, for instance – Carrasco would have garnered an additional 4.5 WAR. Carrasco’s career WAR to date has been 1.9. If one were searching for some reason why prized pitching prospect Carlos Carrasco has underwhelmed, the story is very short: his fourseam fastball has had a career 157 wRC+ against. His fastball, in other words, has led to the same level of offensive success as Frank Thomas.

Bearing this in mind, Carrasco is at his most effective – by far – when he does not need to use his tantalizing but ultimately tremendously ineffective fastball. As a starting pitcher, this would have been impossible; one cannot get through six innings without making heavy use of the fastball. But in brief bullpen stints, Carrasco can use his seemingly lucid secondary pitches in greater, more effective stints. The most striking example of this new bullpen utility came on June 16th, when Carrasco went 2.1 IP, throwing 33 pitches. Eighteen of those 33 pitches were sliders. Nine of those sliders were whiffs. On the back of his slider alone, Carlos Carrasco recorded an incredible 27.2% swinging strike rate.

This was unsustainable. He pitched incredibly well that night, and he was never going to pitch like that every night. It’s very likely that that, when Carrasco retires, the June 16th game will contain the highest slider-usage rate of his career.

Ultimately, however, that game was important because it demonstrated an extreme exhibition of a nevertheless true theme: the bullpen can mask Carrasco’s largest fault. As a starter, one must be complete; one must, with few exceptions, have a strong three-pitch arsenal. There are exceptions to that rule, but those exceptions are Justin Masterson: pitchers with a strong fastball and a deficiency in either offspeed or breaking pitches. The fastball is a sine qua non for a starter.

But for a reliever, deficiencies can be hidden. One day, perhaps, Carlos Carrasco’s fastball will get sorted; until such a day, however, he can carve out a solid career as a reliever. He has a 1.71 ERA from the pen, and while none of his peripherals suggest that he can keep that up, it’s a tough argument that Carrasco is a worse choice to eat innings than Mark Lowe.

Manziel and Tebow, wouldn’t that be a great sitcom?–Jim Pete

Does anyone else find it ironic that Johnny Manziel is connected to Tim Tebow?

Oh, I get it. They are both media hounds, and are certainly connected by that. They both won a Heisman trophy, and they both had a skill set and drive on the field that was hard to match in college.

But still, it is a bit ironic, isn’t it?

Tim Tebow is a devout Christian, and he wears it on his sleeve, or in this case, on his eye-black under his eyes.

Johnny Manziel is a devout partier, who spends much of his time rolling through Vegas, frolicking at pools with gorgeous women and…well…you know, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Tim Tebow…Tebows.

Johnny Manziel…signs fake autographs and counts his money.

I could go on and on with the dichotomy of each with regards to their demeanor before and after the plays are over, but ultimately, the end result was the same.

They won Heismans, they made their team winners, and they were special football players.

How does that translate on the field in the NFL?

Tim Tebow won a bunch of games for the Denver Broncos, but certainly lacked the look of an NFL quarterback. It drove John Elway mad, and ultimately, Tebow would never again get a shot at a starting NFL quarterback job.

He’s currently out of work.

The jury is out on Manziel, but most think that his game will translate to the NFL field a lot better than Tebow.

Manziel certainly has a stronger arm that Tebow, and he is more accurate as well, and this comes from better mechanics. He does have a weird throwing motion though that he often doesn’t replicate. I worry less about that than most though.

Here’s the only similarity that I care about. Like Tebow, Manziel will do anything to win a football game, and there isn’t anything off the field that he does that’s ever really stopped that drive in practice, with coaches, or on the field.

He can scramble, and he’s a QB that seems to have that intangible in which he can see everything that’s going on on the field. He can see things out of the back of his head. While many point to Tony Romo, I see a lot of Ben Roethlisberger, just not as big, and a lot faster.

How is this going to come altogether?

What typifies what Manziel is all about, to me, is a play against Louisiana Tech. The play itself doesn’t matter, but what Manziel did certainly does:

That’s the drive that you’ll get on the field that I can’t wait to see.

Does that address the off-the-field distractions that Manziel continues to get himself in, even though he says he’d prefer to stay home?


Does that address his mechanics and decision-making at a level in which players won’t be fooled, and will be faster than he is?


But boy, I can’t wait to watch and see how it all comes together.

And if it doesn’t work out…what a sitcom the Manziel and Tebow show would be…right?

Let’s hope we don’t see that sitcom for 15 or 20 years…

The Cleveland Cavaliers conundrum–Jim Pete

I love the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In many ways, I love them more than the Indians, even though baseball is my favorite sport. The two teams are always connected for me, since I grew up watching and listening to Joe Tait broadcast both teams.

The Cavaliers, though, represent perhaps the biggest problem with Cleveland sports heading into the future, and reaching back to the not-so-distant past: they can draw in-their-prime stars.

I’m not going to get into the intricacies of that statement, but instead, want to focus the attention on the current Cleveland Cavaliers product, and what they’ll have to do to be special.

No, it doesn’t include signing a star, like Kevin Love and LeBron James, because they won’t be wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers’ jersey this year.

The Cavs have everything that you need to attract stars from an outside perspective. They have a billionaire owner, who will do anything to win. They have state-of-the-art facilities, that truly are second to none in the league.

Now you can certainly question the Cavaliers organization over the year, but hey, not everyone has a guy like Pat Riley running the franchise. Say what you want about Riley, he’s a respected championship winner, and NBA players listen when he talks.

That’s deserved, regardless of what I think of him.

But, how many teams have a Pat Riley?

When the Cavs had LeBron, they couldn’t attract a star or multiple stars that were in their prime to surround him. They couldn’t keep LeBron.

Now, in Miami, he’s able to essentially convince stars to take millions less to come and play there.

In Cleveland, they listened, chuckled, then signed elsewhere. I mean, we’re talking players like Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest here. He couldn’t convince those guys to come to Cleveland.

So, here’s the conundrum.

The Cavs have an owner that wants to “win now,” and a team that has to develop from within. That constant ‘win now’ mentality will often disrupt a team’s ability to build into a winner. Think about that Luol Deng move last year. On a winning team, that move is a no brainer. On a losing team, that’s a grasp at a job. As a friend of mine in media relations for one Cleveland’s ‘big three’ sports’ teams says to me all the time: when ownership wants to win now, the entire organization is on edge.”

Sometimes that works to a team’s advantage, but for the Cavs, it hasn’t.

Where does that leave the Cavs this year?

In a scary place. They drafted Wiggins, which was the right move, but a move that will likely take two or three years to develop. Now, they have to figure out what to do next. They have Kyrie Irving in place, but have to decide if he’s to get a max contract. Past that, they have money to spend. Do you spend it on some guys? Do you hold out hope that Irving and Wiggins can work some magic, and if they do, do you count on that to attract another star to Cleveland, and one that will sign long-term?

Or, do you do what you can to bank up these #1’s in the next two or three years, and hope for the best, then swing a trade at the right time?

It’s a conundrum, that is for sure.

What I will say is this: if David Griffin can meander his way through this offseason and make this team a winner, then perhaps that will be the calling card he needs to attract free agents. My believe is ALWAYS that a GM is the guy that wheedles through all the BS I just talked about, and makes the team a winner regardless.

We haven’t seen a GM or a coach do that since LeBron was here, and we all know that was all just LeBron.

Let’s see what happens if we build a team. Perhaps the conundrum…will fix itself.

EHC 2: The Andrew Wiggins Edition

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news–Steve Orbanek

Some guys are unlucky. Then there’s Wade Barrett.

To those unaware, Barrett legitimately injured his shoulder during Tuesday’s Smackdown tapings. By all accounts, it appears as if he is likely to be pulled from tonight’s Money in the Bank ladder match.

How can you not feel for the guy?

Reports came out earlier this week that seemed to indicate that Barrett was the heavy favorite for the Money in the Bank match. That certainly seemed believable as this followed an earlier report, which stated that Vince McMahon’s current three favorite workers on the roster are Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and Barrett.

Barrett’s “Bad News” gimmick has quickly caught on, and fans have started to take notice. An argument could even be made that he’s enjoying the best stretch of his career, and that’s saying something as Nexus was a pretty solid act back in 2010.

However, the latest injury seems par for the course considering Barrett’s luck, and one now has to wonder if he will really get another chance at being a main event player.

In 2010, Barrett seemed destined to win the WWE Title when he and Nexus were entrenched in a feud with John Cena. However, the WWE called for an audible and Miz cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to win the title during that feud.

From there, Miz struggled and Barrett faded into midcard obscurity. It took him awhile to recover, but he seemed to be gaining steam toward the end of 2011 when he debuted his “Barrett Barrage” gimmick.

Heading into Wrestlemania 28, there were rumors that WWE was going to hold the Money in the Bank ladder match at that pay-per-view just so Barrett would be able to win the briefcase. Yet, unfortunately, just one month prior to the event, Barrett dislocated his elbow, and WWE decided to cancel the match.

Deja vu much?

So, here we are on Sunday, June 29, 2014, and Wade Barrett is once again in a familiar position. It’s sad because Barrett is truly a pro’s pro.

His ring psychology is spot on. His promo skills are some of the best in the company, and his ringwork is the best it’s ever been. Obviously, there’s a reason why Dolph Ziggler recently stated in an interview that there’s no one he would rather work with than Barrett.

Yet, Barrett is also already going to be 34 this August. In the world of wrestling, that’s hardly considered young. Also, one has to believe that Vince McMahon is somewhat perturbed over the fact that Barrett seems to always get injured when opportunity comes knocking.

Who knows where Barrett goes from here? Perhaps McMahon will give him another chance and be forgiving, but I wouldn’t count on it.

McMahon’s catchphrase “Don’t cross the boss,” also seems to be applicable in regard to his real-life persona and whether it’s his own fault or not, Barrett’s frequent injuries have to be somewhat aggravating for McMahon.

My Money in the Bank predictions–Jim Pete

I’m not trying to be right here, but I am trying to be real.

“Pay Per Views” should always go a certain way, and I base my predictions less on reality, and more on what should happen. Here are my calls:

Pre-Show: Daniel Bryan

I’m hoping that Bryan’s return to television is good news for the company, since it seems as though the only established star right now that WWE programming can bank on is John Cena. While you can argue that there are some newcomers on the scene that could potentially fill that hole (think Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns), Cena remains at the top of the heap, in a run as top-earner that really can’t be matched in the history of the business.

My hope is that Bryan returns and announces that he’ll be back by SummerSlam, and then returns right back to the top of the card as a top face. I don’t need him to fight for the title then, but who knows, it all could depend on what happens tonight.

What I’d love to  happen, is have Bryan return during SummerSlam, and just get demolished by an also returning Brock Lesnar. Have Lesnar wrestling for the title that night as well. Have Lesnar win the title, in whatever shape it’s in at the time, then begin the slow burn process in which Bryan tries to regain the WWE belt.

Wrestlemania 31 has Lesnar putting up the title against Daniel Bryan, with Lesnar threatening to take the belt with him, since that is his last WWE match in his contract.

If built right, the David vs. Goliath story would be massive, and one I’d pay to see in a heartbeat.

Rybaxel vs. GoldStar

I have no idea what to make of Cody Rhodes’ turn here. None of it makes any sense whatsoever. I should be completely fired up by this idiotic booking. But…it’s a trainwreck I actually want to see.

What I do like about it is how the Rhodes brothers built up Rybaxel into a somewhat respected team, and now they’ll just run them over in their quest for the top rung of a tag division that I think is about to get really interesting.

Seriously, if you don’t find yourself laughing hysterically at Dustin and Cody off stage, you have no sense of humor. The biggest joke of all though is that technically, they are as good as it gets.


Winners: GoldStar

Layla vs. Summer Rae

I seriously could care a less about this match. Fandango is in the middle, and both Layla and Rae can wrestle, but do we really buy that they don’t want to get dumped by Fandango?


Fandango beat Jericho at Wrestlemania 29. Today? He’s a guest ref at MITB for two mid-card female wrestlers.

Nice booking.

Winner: Summer Rae

WWE Divas Title: Paige vs. Naomi

This match could be interesting in that I really have no clue who is going to win here.

Paige is a phenomenal champ, and as fired up as I am at the fact that we won’t get the Paige/A.J. feud that could have been special, Paige may be the best women’s wrestler the division has seen in years.

Naomi is pretty good herself, and would likely have made a run at the title had she not gotten hurt during Wrestlemania season.

Now, I don’t follow that Divas show (and can’t remember the name of it, to be honest), but it seems as though the Funkadactyls are dysfunctional. Because of that, I think we’ll see Cameron come rolling in to cost Naomi the belt…but I wouldn’t book it that way at all.

I’d use that as a swerve.

I’d have Cameron enter the fray with everyone expecting her to bash Naomi…then bash Paige instead.

Let’s see what Paige does without the belt with the top roster to go and get it again.

Could be special.

Winner: Paige

Rusev vs. Big E

I can’t lie here. I love this match. While WWE has buried Big E for some reason, he can still wrestle. On top of that, I think they have something in Rusev as well. You add Lana to the mix, and this just has too much good to be bad. Lana is special, and I think we’ll see Rusev springboard here, because as a team…could be a fun run.

Winner: Rusev (and Lana)

Usos vs. Rowan and Harper

Rowan and Harper are finally getting the push they need, and my boy Steve Orbanek is likely ecstatic. They are special big men, and while they enhance Wyatt, and rightfully so, they are special in their own right.

Now, I consider Usos top-of-the-card right now, but they’ve had their run. My guess here is that we’ll see Rowan and Harper and the Usos have something special tonight, with the Wyatt family winning.

The Usos will likely carry a feud for another month or so, before StarDust enters the fray.

Tonight though, it’s all about new champions.

Winners: Rowan and Harper

MITB: Ambrose vs. Rollins vs. Ziggler vs. Van Dam vs. Kingston vs. Swagger vs. Barrett?

As my boy Orbanek mentioned, it looks like Barrett is out of this match, which changes things considerably for me. I had Barrett as a lock.

If he really is out, then that alters, and the real question is, do they give it to another heal to keep plans the same?

I don’t think Rollins wins, because I think his path is different, and planned, and protected. Ziggler and Van Dam would be out, because they are faces, and I think you can point to Ambrose as being a guy that they have plans for as well.

Why not mention Kofi Kingston? I think we could be ready for a rumored heel turn here, and he would be a nice place-holder until they figure things out. Turn him heel, and make him the champ.

Now, I don’t think that’s going to happen, so I won’t pick it, but boy, I’d love it.

I’m not going to mention Swagger here either, because there’s no way that’s going to happen either.

So, who do I pick?

I want Ambrose to win this belt. I think he’s special…Stone Cold special (yeah, I just said that out loud), and tonight could be his coming out party. We shall see.

Winner: Dean Ambrose

WWE Title MITB: Cena vs. Wyatt vs. Reigns vs. Orton vs. Del Rio vs. Sheamus vs. Cesaro vs. Kane

I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time with this. The going money is on Cena winning this in Boston, and I don’t doubt that Vince McMahon will do just that.

I would make it a little more special.

There are still two belts, and I think it’s for a reason. My bet is that they are ready to unveil a new logo, and with it, a new belt….or…they are planning on splitting the belts up again.

Not to split up RAW and Smackdown, mind you, but to give the WWE a chance to have a belt for future Lesnar use (WWE title), and a belt for regular TV use (World Heavyweight belt).

I’m running with that.

It’s too early for Wyatt or Reigns to win tonight. I also think we’ve seen Orton and Del Rio and Sheamus far already, and will get nothing new from any. That leaves Cena (breadwinner), Cesaro and Kane. I really have no taste to see Kane with the belt, but he certainly could be an interesting placeholder for the short-term.


I’m going a different route.

I see Cena grabbing the WWE heavyweight belt, and I see Cesaro grabbing the World Heavyweight belt. It could lead to some interesting matches all around, but giving Cesaro one of the belts (with Heyman), and having Heyman talking Lesnar for the other belt…well…boy…that could be fun.

If Heyman has both belts after SummerSlam…ponder the directions that could go, including Cesaro vs. Lesnar, which has been rumored already. Of course, that keeps a lot of options open, and you could even have Bryan run the gauntlet again next WrestleMania.

Winner (s): Cena (WWE)/Cesaro (World Heavyweight Title)

Oh…PS…I could also see Cena or Reigns win the belt tonight (both), and have Rollins cash in right away (should he win) and come home with the championship. What I worry about there is Rollins becoming Orton 2.0.

That would be a mistake.

Understand this though, Rollins can wrestle, and he was pushed in NXT prior to his Shield run. If HHH believes in his NXT program the way I think he does, it could be special as well.

We shall see…

One thought on “The Sunday Drive with a Tomlin masterpiece, a Carrasco slider, and a Manziel tackle?

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