Hall of Fame Coverage

I deeply apologize to you, dear readers. I have been quite busy with other projects and have failed you. We have two Hall of Fame ballots to discuss for baseball and I haven’t talked about either one! Shall we? Yes, I believe we shall!

Author’s note: They went and elected people to the HOF while this article was in draft mode, the jerks. Therefore, I will keep my original Veterans’ Committee piece, but will say who won at the end (so you don’t try to cheat).

First, the Veterans’ Committee will consider the “Today’s Game” Ballot, which includes players from 1988 to the Present. Like the normal HOF, you need 75% of the vote, which means 12 ballots. There are ten candidates:

Harold Baines: Baines was a very good player for a very long time, but if you’re a guy (or gal) obsessed with peak, he’s not your pick. He’s well regarded, which is a point in his favor, but he barely cracked the 5% mark. He’s a better version of Tony Perez without Joe Morgan in his corner. Compared to other OFs, he’s terrible, and he’s not a good enough DH to make it ahead of Edgar Martinez. Baines, offensively, just wasn’t a huge force. 121 OPS+ just isn’t hugely impressive. Pass.

Albert Belle: Belle is the opposite of Baines in many ways. Belle was awesome at his peak, especially 1995. He was also an asshole and made few friends. Belle’s peak is noteworthy. By rate statistics, Belle is an amazing offensive hitter. He only had two seasons of under 100+, and in one of those, he had all of 25 PAs. That said, his career was extremely short. If he’d played five more years, he could have approached 600 home runs, and this would be a much more interesting conversation. The combination of his personality and short career will doom him. Pass.

Will Clark: I kind of like the idea of Clark in the Hall of Fame. He was actually surprisingly good (I genuinely didn’t remember much about him before going to B-Ref). He’s not outstanding, but he’s a better candidate, arguably, than Baines or Belle. He was even pretty decent defensively, winning a Gold Glove. He’s even better than the average 1B in the HOF (although Perez is one of them, so…) That said, he’s not remarkable enough to really make the Hall. He lacked overwhelming power, and that’s almost sine qua non for a Hall of Fame 1B. He had one season of more than 30+ HRs, a career slugging percentage of < .500, and an OPS+ of only 137. Pass.

Orel Hershiser: Hershiser was solid. He peaked young–1987-1989–but was a perfectly serviceable innings eater for much of the rest of his career. He’s well regarded and pitched on a memorable team in 1988. That said, it’s hard to get excited about a pitcher with an ERA barely over league average and some frankly terrible FIP numbers in the 1990s. Pass.

Davey Johnson: Johnson, as a player, is not in the conversation. As a manager, he had an amazing career with the Mets, but settled into being quite good overall. In 17 seasons, he had 14 seasons over .500. He got into the playoffs seven times, but never quite reached the heights of 1986. His playoff record is a significant negative, however. Pass.

Mark McGwire: Big Mac was really, really good at hitting homers. Everything–good and bad–feeds off of that. He’s done a decent job of rehabilitating his name, especially his bizarre interview with Bob Costas. His offensive capabilities are undeniable, and in a neutral world, he’s a definite Hall of Famer. The question is the slippery slope argument: if McGwire gets in, you’ll have to let in other confirmed cheaters who were better players (see Clemens and Bonds). I would let him in, but I’m not sure the Hall will. Hit… but likely a pass from the actual committee.

Lou Pinella: A long career of barely above averaging managing. He was on some bad teams, some mediocre teams, and a single World Series title. He’s a better case than Davey Johnson, but only because of his lengthier career. Pass.

John Schuerholz: As a GM, he’s one of the best all time. Hit.

Bud Selig: I can’t imagine him not getting in. He essentially ended labor disputes, presided over significant expansions in the number of teams and playoffs spots, and saw baseball’s popularity explode. Hit.

George Steinbrenner: As an owner, it’s hard to think of a more successful individual. He took the Yankees when they were a joke and made them into a juggernaut again. Hit.

My ballot: McGwire, Steinbrenner, Selig, Schuerholz.

So who actually won? Click below!

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So long, Barkevious

I am an acknowledged fan of Barkevious Mingo, both in Madden and in real life. However, apart from his ridiculously awesome name, he produced surprisingly little on the field. He is now a New England Patriot for the price of a fifth round pick. The Patriots think he can contribute on special teams and/or act as depth. I myself suggested Mingo was a pure pass rusher and not likely to provide much else of value; it turns out he couldn’t even do that very well.

That was a pretty lousy draft for Cleveland, which is fair given the number of picks we had, but at least Armonty Bryant turned out to have some talent. He’s suspended for four games, but he’s far and away the best player from the class, so… yay?

Browns trade down

There I was, minding my own business and (successfully) defending my dissertation, when I learned that Cleveland had traded the #2 pick. I had previously hoped that Cleveland would do just that, and I am pleased that they did.

The trade was #2 and a 2017 4th rounder to Philadelphia for their first rounder this year (#8), a 3rd rounder, a 4th rounder, and a 1st rounder and 2nd rounder next year. On the surface, it looks like Cleveland got a lousy haul, but keep in mind that the Browns are still in the top ten. LA was #15, which made the #1 pick more valuable to them. Cleveland, on the other hand, only dropped six spots and got a lot for their trouble.

Now, making great trades for good picks is one thing. Cleveland has done this before (sorry, Kevin).  However, when team picks well (Watkins looks like a great pick for Buffalo) and the other doesn’t (Gilbert looks like a bust), the trades don’t look as good. It will be up to Brown and DePo to make a smart choice with pick #8. Two different mock drafts have Cleveland taking linebacker Myles Jack at #8. That would be a great pick. He’s extremely . versatile, which Cleveland needs. Other mocks have Cleveland taking DeForest Buckner, a huge defensive end who could be just what Cleveland needs; Jack Conlin, a tackle who would apparently play on the right side (I’m not keen on going tackle in the top 10 unless you’re going to trade Joe Thomas too); another trade down with Miami to take linebacker Darron Lee; Paxton Lynch, who strikes me as Brandon Weeden 2.0 but could have more upside; another tackle, Ronnie Stanley; and/or Joey Bosa, the hometown lineman and pass rusher.

I’ve heard some people suggest Cleveland take a later round QB (Connor Cook has been bandied about quite a bit), perhaps with #32. Paxton Lynch might go #7 to San Francisco, assuming LA and Philly both take QBs. Given that Philly has Sam Bradford, it’s actually conceivable they traded up to take Laremy Tunsil. I’m not sure.

One thing I haven’t seen in any mock is Cleveland going wide receiver. There’s no Calvin Johnson in this draft, true, but Cleveland is pretty desperate for receiving help. Don’t be shocked if Laquon Treadwell goes at #8.

My official preference, assuming Jalen Ramsey is gone, is probably Buckner or Jack. Jack’s knee injury has me uneasy. We have to knock it out of the park with this pick. A healthy Jack is better than Buckner, but a real beast on the defensive line is something we’ve needed for a long time. We shall see, my friends.

Rams trade for #1 overall pick

If you hadn’t heard, the St. Louis LA Rams have traded a king’s ransom for the #1 pick. In brief, the Rams are giving a first, two seconds, and a third in 2016 and a first and a third in 2017 for the #1 pick, a fourth rounder, and a sixth rounder (both 2016). According to NFL.com, a big loser as a result of this trade is the Browns.

Taken only in its own context, I’m not sure this is such a brilliant move for the Rams. They need a QB, true, since Nick Foles has finally, conclusively, proved that 2013 was the weird fluke it appeared to be. They have a great running back in Todd Gurley. Then again, Pro Football Focus ranked them 28th in offensive line play. (Cleveland was 6th.) Football Outsiders is similarly unkind to LA (and Cleveland). The Rams’ best receiver was Kenny Britt, who ranked as 31st in the league. A healthy Tavon Austin would mitigate the lack of quality somewhat. My point is that if LA wants an elite offense, they’re more than a QB away.

For Tennessee, it’s brilliant. They miss a chance for Laremy Tunsil (who will be gone long before the #15 pick rolls around), but in exchange get a whole bunch of picks in the top 100. Like Cleveland, the Titans need a lot of pieces to be competitive, and that many picks will surely help them accomplish those goals.

Now, we look at the part that really matters: how this affects Cleveland. Either Wentz or Goff is going to be gone by the time Cleveland jumps up to #1. Either is a possibility. At different times, Cleveland has been linked to both QBs, so it could be that nothing changes. Cleveland takes whomever is left. The Browns could draft Tunsil and flip Joe Thomas. They could draft Jalen Ramsey. Or, somebody even more desperate for a QB than Cleveland could trade up to #2 to take the Rams’ leavings.

I genuinely don’t know what route the new front office will go. RG3 is not a long term solution at QB. Josh McCown is probably not even a short term solution. Connor Shaw and Austin Davis are unknowns. Taking the leftover QB seems like the best play. However, there are lots of other holes to fill too, and trading down will look awfully tempting. It is highly unlikely this draft makes the Browns a Super Bowl contender, so we could grab a QB next year or late in this draft.

It’s actually kind of exciting. Let’s see what DePo and Sashi Brown can do!

Schedule analysis time!

So, the Browns released the regular season schedule. I am now going to attempt to predict the result (but not the score, because I’m not insane) of each game. Of course, once the draft is finished, this may change, but I’m basing things on who I think Cleveland is likely to pick and why.

Week 1: @ PHI. Philly and Cleveland were ranked 26 and 27 in offensive DVOA last season, despite Sam Bradford quietly having a pretty okay season. However, defensively Philly was much better. Eagles win. 0-1.

Week 2: vs. BAL. Baltimore is not a good team. They are not likely to be good soon. Cleveland will probably at least split the season series with them and I’m picking this game as a win because a) it’s at home, b) it’s Baltimore, and c) the cavalcade of injuries won’t come until later in the season. Browns win. 1-1

Week 3: @ MIA. Without some serious upgrades, Cleveland will be at best mediocre against the run. Lamar Miller will probably be healthy. Dolphins win. 1-2

Week 4: @ WAS. Do you believe in Kirk Cousins? No, you don’t. He had a very good year last season, but it’s unlikely that he’ll repeat it. RG3 is going to be playing with a huge chip on his shoulder, though, and Washington can’t run the ball. Browns win. 2-2

Week 5: vs. NE. Unless Tom Brady is abducted by aliens, there’s no way we’ll win this game. Even if he is abducted by aliens, we still probably lose. Patriots win. 2-3

Week 6: @ TEN. Before the trade with LA, I would have bet this would be a guaranteed win. If the Titans draft intelligently and the Browns don’t, we could be in some trouble. I have just enough faith in the new regime that we’ll make enough improvements to keep pace with the Titans in 2016, but next year? We’ll see. Browns win. 3-3

Week 7: @ CIN. The Bengals are objectively the better team, but Hue Jackson will be fired up to prove he can be a great coach. It’ll be closer than anyone thinks, but still… Bengals win. 3-4

Week 8: vs. NYJ. The Jets had a decent offense, but they also had Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is mediocrity personified. Also, they lost their left tackle. I think I smell an upset. Browns win. 4-4

Week 9: vs. DAL. The Cowboys were horrifically bad because they didn’t have competent QB play. If Tony Romo is even remotely healthy, I don’t have a lot of confidence in Cleveland winning here. Cowboys win. 4-5

Week 10: @ BAL. I predicted a season split earlier, so I’ll stick to my guns. Ravens win. 4-6.

Week 11: vs. PIT. Pittsburgh got reamed by injuries last season and I don’t think we’ll have that kind of luck again. Steelers win. 4-7

Week 12: vs. NYG. The Giants and Browns were very similar teams, except the Giants had Eli Manning and Cleveland didn’t. I think that still applies, so… Giants win. 4-8

Week 13: A late bye would be good if we were making a playoff run. I do not think that is going to happen.

Week 14: vs. CIN. … However, coming off the bye, Cleveland might have some momentum. And it’s a home game. Upset? Upset. Browns win. 5-8

Week 15: @ BUF. Great running game meets bad rushing defense. Bills win. 5-9.

Week 16: vs SD. See NYG game, but replace Eli Manning with Philip Rivers. Chargers win. 5-10.

Week 17: @PIT. If Pittsburgh makes the playoffs, which I think they will, they would normally rest starters. Of course, it’s still CLE-PIT, so… Steelers win. 5-11.

So, this season, I’m predicting 5-11. The biggest problem is that the Browns, right now, are clearly worse on offense than they were last year. A good draft could change that, but then there’s also the defense, which is younger but I’m not sure if it’s better. I also really don’t like Ray Horton’s defensive scheming. After all, last season I predicted an 11-5 season, based on Johnny Manziel not being a total asshat. Well, joke’s on me. I did correctly predicted we’d beat the 49ers and Titans, but I missed the third win (I had them beating Baltimore in Week 12, not Week 5).

You know what? A 5-11 season would be a sign of progress. I could even see a 7-9 record if the Chargers and Giants aren’t as good as I think they are. This isn’t a one season rebuild, after all.

Smell ya later forever, Hit-ner

We fans of the Cleveland Browns won’t have Donte Whitner to push around any more! Whitner was released unexpectedly earlier today/yesterday (depending on your time zone and frame of reference). It is something of a shame, especially since he complains the Browns waited intentionally to cost him money in free agency. The Browns also cut another defensive back, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who spent all of 2015 injured. Cleveland drafted him in the seventh round, so it’s peculiar that they’d cut somebody before practices start, but it might be that they don’t think he’ll recover (although he does, unsurprisingly).

Losing Whitner is a blow, but not an insurmountable one. Dawgs by Nature (link 2) thinks it could mean Cleveland will take Jalen Ramsey, the best DB in the draft, with #2. That puts a lot of pressure on RGIII, and I’m not sure he could handle it. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t grab a DB with #32, though. Indeed, I think we need multiple DBs.