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. However, this week, the article has been hijacked by EHC’s Browns writer Rich Primo.
Let’s do this:
1. Most of the talk around the Browns right now is that practice-squad QB Connor Shaw will be starting the season finale against the Baltimore Ravens, and of the comments made by Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby about rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert. I’ll talk about the former in a moment, but first the latter: The two defensive guys sounded off that Gilbert needs to care more and try more. Gilbert didn’t love the comments, but couldn’t deny them, either. He promised that e would work hard this offseason to make himself the player everyone expected him to be.
The most interesting thing about that is how Johnny Manziel said pretty much the same thing. I find this interesting that the team’s two first-round picks had to be awful in order to take the professional game seriously. Why did that happen? Did the Browns miss something in both of those guys that said they’d lack the character to work hard to be the best? They also seemed to miss this with Terrance West.
Or did those two feel this way because they were going to play for a team in turmoil and it really didn’t excite them? Even so it says something about their maturity anyway, that they wouldn’t want to try hard for themselves regardless of the team. Meanwhile, guys who were drafted late or weren’t drafted at all are working hard and making a difference.
2. Speaking of undrafted, let’s talk about our newest quarterback Connor Shaw. I have heard rumblings from Shaw fans all season long, the same as I did Manziel fans, though nowhere near as loudly. I know the backup quarterback is the most popular guy on the team, but these people love our practice squad quarterback. I don’t watch college football, so I don’t know what he was like, but he does have a solid base of fans. I’ve heard them since preseason.
I know I should roll my eyes at those people, and I can’t say I haven’t. The guy didn’t even get drafted! He was on the Browns’ practice squad and nobody tried to sign him. Look at the mess in Arizona at that position. Don’t you think they would have made a move? Well, maybe not. Bringing a QB in in the middle of the season is tough. That’s a position that really needs to feel the flow of the team’s offense. People talk about Brian Hoyer being a journeyman, but really he wasn’t. He got cut by the New England Patriots at the end of camp. Yes, Hoyer bounced around, but at that stage of the season, he was good for nothing but emergencies.
And, I did roll my eyes at people being excited about Isaiah Crowell in the final preseason game. I didn’t think he’d even make the team. Now he’s a fan favorite, including one of mine.
So maybe Shaw will show us something on Sunday. Doubtful, to be honest. But, despite their issues with the guys they took in the first round of this year’s draft, the team has done a great job of finding diamonds in the rough. Let’s hope.
3. This Browns season ended up better than expected, but still a major disappointment. You get a lot of, “If you would have told me in July that the Browns’ record would be 7-8, I would have taken it.” True. So would I. But if you told me when the team was 6-3 that they would be 7-8, I would have been depressed. Or that, at 6-3 with 7 games to go that they team may not finish .500, I would have been depressed. Yes, preseason expectations were low, but in-season expectations rose considerably.
So is 7-9 or 8-8 a success? No. It’s a step in the right direction, though. I would say that a win to finish at 8-8 would be a bit more satisfying than watching them finish under .500 yet again. I don’t care about the implications to the Ravens’ playoff chances. I want to see this team stop being a mockery.
4. The Cavaliers took on the Miami Heat on Christmas. LeBron James returns to the city he left to return to the city he left. The drama! How would the crowd react? How would Dwyane Wade receive his so-called friend?! Big game!
Not to me. Big deal. The announcers talked about how the crowd would receive him and then later broke it all down for us. This is what I hate about the national media: The make a soap opera from sports. Guys in suits and ties talking stern-faced about how the crowd should react and then how they did react. So boring.
As for the actual game, it meant nothing to me, either. I’ll be honest, I was so excited for the season to start, but now I hardly care. There is no drama of the regular games because the East is so weak that you know the Cavs will get in. This may change after the All-Star break in February. I think it will be more intriguing to see if the team can pick up momentum with the postseason approaching. But right now, it’s hard to care.
5. I have been very slow to blame Cavs head coach David Blatt for anything. People have questioned his rotations and the minutes he has played some of the starters, but I’m reserving judgment. A team with lots of new parts being coached by a guy who’s never been in the NBA. Maybe they are first learning how to make it all work and then he will give the guys time off. That makes sense to me. Get the machine running and then worry about giving the guys some time off. Better to do that now than at the end of the season only to find out there are problems that can no longer be fixed.
6. The Indians signed a guy with a 6+ ERA. That’s about what you can expect for the rest of the offseason from your Tribe. I have been kicked in the Jimmy by this team that I tend to be pessimistic about them. But I have to admit that this team is intriguing. (Thanks, EHC’s Jim Pete!) Baseball is one sport where it’s hard to judge a coming year by a past year, especially when it comes to pitchers.
The 2014 Indians had some good pitching, but that doesn’t guarantee that they will be as effective in 2015. However, if they can keep the pitching close and then get something out of the offense, then they may have a shot at being more relevant than they have for the past two seasons. Oh, and they need to be able to play defense, the one area that really doomed this year’s team.
7. This is going to be weird to say, but I am looking forward to seeing the ballpark after it’s been remodeled. Will it be more of a draw for fans? I will NEVER be the guy who blames the fans or the city for the poor attendance that team draws. I blame the product on the field. I blame the ownership for putting budget ahead of winning. They lost the fans, the fans did not lose the team. People say, “Well, they finished with the 28th worst attendance in baseball, yet they were in the playoff race in September.”
But how accurate is that, really? And with that question, let’s talk about baseball and stats.
8. I’m an old guy who still likes ERA, OPS, and batting average. I don’t discount advanced stats, but I think fans lean on them too much. I don’t care how Jason Kipnis‘s EGBDF compares to Robbie Almomar’s at the same point in his career. (If you’re a Saber guy trying to figure out what EGBDF is, it has zero to do with baseball. I’m just being a smartass.)
If I say that the Tribe’s offense was not very good last year, and you say it was because you went Fan Graphs and saw that the Tribe’s offense finished 7th in baseball wRC+, I’m going to tell you to watch the games. Personal observation is an important component to judging a team. Stats alone won’t help you. Watching games last year, I saw stretches where the pitching was there, but the team couldn’t get any runs on the board. No number is going to erase actual experience.
You can tell a batter that a pitcher throws certain pitches in certain spots, but nothing can replace the experience the batter will get from actually facing the pitcher. Arm slot, timing, movement of the ball, none of that is going to be duplicated by looking at a stat sheet.
9. I have something planned that’s a fuller explanation of this, but the same goes for attendance. Back to “Well, they finished with the 28th worst attendance in baseball, yet they were in the playoff race in September.” This is the one place where fans take the simplest stat – average attendance per game – and judge the whole by it. Some of that, I say, is because the inherent problem that stats present: They can tell you a LOT, but anyone can use the stat they need to serve the purpose they have.
Average attendance per game does not say how many people were there for important games, how empty the park was in April versus how it was in August, how it was during the week versus how it was on the weekends. When the Indians played the one-playoff game against the Tampa Rays the year before, the stadium was packed. Give the fans something to cheer for and they will be there.
Average attendance also doesn’t factor in TV, where, I heard at one point last year that the Indians ranked near the top in all of baseball. Did it finish that way? I don’t know. But the city is more engaged than they have been given credit for. And nothing pisses me off more than to hear someone blame the fans that the Indians don’t have the money for free agents.
Like I said, I have something coming on this, so I’ll digress.
10. Steve O loves to talk about wrestling in his Orbservations. Sorry, I don’t watch it, though I have friends that do. I guess it’s like watching a live TV show. I don’t know. However, I did stop and watch a minute of it the other day. But that had more to do with the scantily-clad women who were “wrestling” than it did any spark of interest in the wrestling itself.
But I’m not judging. I watch superhero TV shows on the CW. No less ridiculous.
Hey, have a good weekend everybody! Thanks for letting me fill in for the great Orbaneski. (I don’t know why I call Steve that, but I like it.) Let’s go Browns, let’s go Cavs, and, Indians: Please hurry back!