10 Orbservations is a regular Saturday piece at Everybody Hates Cleveland where EHC Managing Editor Steve Orbanek offers 10 quick sports takes, both on Cleveland topics and national ones.
1. How good did it feel to see LeBron James back in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform Friday at Cavs Media Day? Admit it, you shed a tear? While I didn’t actually go that far, I have to say that it was really a surreal moment. What made it even more special were some of the quotes we heard come out of James’ mouth:
- “The most satisfaction in my career would be winning a championship right here, in Cleveland.”
- “Between Andy, Tristan and Kevin, we should never lose a rebound.”
- “Of course you dream about (winning a championship in Cleveland). You can’t control the mind when you sleep.”
Got chills yet? If you’re a true wine-and-gold fan, I don’t see how you possibly couldn’t.
2. Another cool aspect to come from James on Media Day was a little anecdote about his sons. Before he committed to rejoining the Cavaliers this July, he asked his sons for their thoughts on him returning home to Cleveland. “I didn’t explain it to them, they explained it to me first,” James said. “I was like, um, what do you think about daddy going back home to play? And they was like ‘Home, you talking about Cleveland?’ Yeah. They was like ‘OK, you get to play with Kyrie Irving?’” LeBron James, Jr. and Bryce Maximus James may be just 9 years old and 7 years old, respectively, but these are clearly some pretty smart kids. They obviously understand the potential of a James-Irving pairing, and they were all aboard. Heck, perhaps the city of Cleveland owes a debt of gratitude to LeBron Jr. and Maximus. They obviously carry a fair deal of pull when it comes to their father.
3. Those in attendance Friday noted that James was very serious when he was at the podium. That’s telling, but it’s also indicative of how much James has changed in the four years since he originally left Cleveland. We all remember the bravado he displayed alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh back in July 2010 after he announced his decision. Clearly, his time in Miami has made him a different man — a better man. This James is so calm and collected, which is a stark comparison from the James we watched grow up before our eyes, and the James we then watched break out hearts. This really made me thing back to James’ initial letter after his return to Cleveland was announced. In it he wrote, “Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man.” Need evidence of that? Look no further than the James we saw Friday at Cavs Media Day.
4. Another thing that stood out to me from Cavs Media Day was the following quote from new acquisition Mike Miller: “The best thing we learned is a 9-8 start doesn’t dictate where you finish. There will be ups and downs.” As you might know, Miller is referring to his time in Miami shared with James and fellow new acquisition James Jones. On the surface, this statement seems simplistic, but it’s also telling. Do you remember the media storm when the Heat got out to that 9-8 start back in the fall and winter of 2010? It was absolutely crazy. While this year’s Cavaliers are expected to be an excellent team, we have to accept that there will be growing pains along the way. I fully expect this team to win above 55 games and represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, but it’s not going to just happen overnight. Patience is key, and we’re going to have to remember that when the Cavs encounter some bumps in the road.
5. One last bit about Cavaliers Media Day before I move on to a new topic. How much swagger does Dion Waiters have? This guy is just so confident, and here’s the thing — I love it. On a couple of instances on Friday, Waiters spoke in the third person. That’s not always the type of behavior that we like to see from an athlete, but with Waiters, it’s just so damn cool. Since James returned earlier this summer, everyone has talked about how they can’t wait to see how he will mesh with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. While that is true, don’t overlook Waiters. On multiple occasions in the past, former Cavaliers coach Byron Scott compared Waiters to a young Dwayne Wade. What was the name of that player that James just had a great four-year run alongside in Miami? Exactly.
6. So there you have it. Corey Kluber’s 2014 Cy Young-worthy season officially came to an end on Friday after the right-hander hurled eight shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and struck out 11 batters. Kluber earned the victory in the contest to finish his season with an 18-9 record, a 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts. His ERA is just one-tenth of a run worse than Felix Hernandez, who is largely viewed as the other top threat to take home the American League Cy Young Award. I’m obviously not a baseball writer, but I do know that my vote would be going toward Kluber if I had that option. While Hernandez has been impressive, he has the benefit of having the Seattle Mariners defense behind him. Kluber, on the hand, has been crippled by the Indians defense, which leads the American League in errors. Time will tell, but given his performance on Friday, one has to believe that Kluber is in the driver’s seat for this award. Of course, we say that knowing that Hernandez has one more start on Sunday.
7. When looking at the Indians’ 2014 season, I can’t help but think about what could have been? Since August 9, the team’s rotation has an American League-low 2.49 ERA with 293 strikeouts and 57 walks in 267 innings. The starters have limited the opposition to a .225 batting average during that stretch. Those are not the type of numbers down the stretch that you would expect from a team that misses out on the postseason. It’s never fun to look back and think “What could have been,” but I can’t help but do that with this season. I witnessed the greatest Indians pitching performance of my lifetime, yet this team will be watching the postseason at home. That’s discouraging, and I have to blame the offense, which scored the second-fewest runs in the American League in August, and the fourth-fewest runs in September. It’s clear that this team left a few games on the field.
8. Also, I have to offer a bit of mini rant here. As noted above, I am irritated by the result of this season for the Indians. I’m also a tad irritated by the way they threw (or did not throw) around dollars during this past offseason. As you know, the Chicago White Sox inked Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal, and he responded with a .315/.379/.576 line, 35 home runs and 105 RBI. Yes, $68 million is a lot of money, but over six years, this is still a manageable amount, even for a team like the Indians. Power threats do not grow on trees, and the Indians have been in desperate need of one for quite some time. Abreu appeared to be a perfect fit, yet we will now have to face him almost two dozen times annually while he’s a member of the White Sox. The Indians also previously let Yoenis Cespedes (four years, $36 million) and Yasiel Puig (seven years, $42 million) get snatched up. Either of these deals would have also been manageable for the Indians. Instead, the Indians continue to sign guys like David Murphy, who the team inked to a two-year, $12 million deal. After a poor year with the Texas Rangers, Murphy looked like a potential rebound candidate but has proceeded to hit .261/.319/.379 and play an awful right field. Baseball Reference estimates that he’s been worth -0.6 WAR. FanGraphs has him at -0.4. Is that an example of $12 million well spent? I understand that signing a Cespedes, Puig or Abreu is a risky proposition, but couldn’t the same be said for signing Murphy? After all, he was downright terrible in 2013. There is probably a 90-percent chance that the Indians deal Murphy this offseason provided someone bites. Let’s just hope the team decides to spend that $6 million it saves in a different manner.
9. The Cleveland Browns sit at 1-2 after a disappointing loss on Sunday in which the Browns botched a field goal and later missed another, which led to the Baltimore Ravens earning a 23-21 victory. This was tough because the Browns really deserved to win this game. They played much better than the Ravens in almost every facet, yet still came up short. Nonetheless, something still feels different. This was a Browns loss, but it wasn’t a Browns loss. For the first time in years, it does indeed feel as if the culture is changing, and credit head coach Mike Pettine for that. This bye week has been terribly long, and I can’t wait to see this team play again. Thankfully that next game is just eight days away, and it’s looking like the Browns should be able to snag a win against the Tennessee Titans.
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