Well all that winning was sure fun while it lasted. The magical summer started with the Cleveland Cavaliers defying odds and stunning an entire league by coming back from 3-1 in the NBA Finals. If it wasn't for the RNC turning the city of Cleveland into a bit of a fence-lined maze for the last few days, one could argue that the effervescence of the Cavs' championship was still buzzing, as NBA Finals logos can still be found painted on sidewalks and the team shop cannot stop moving boxes of t-shirts and hats and countless other items commemorating the momentous win. Then we have the Cleveland Indians, six games up in the AL Central with 20 of their next 25 games coming within the confines of Progressive Field. They have an MVP-caliber shortstop and the best pitching staff in the game. This is a team worthy of the investment, and judging by the recent attendance—that investment is being made.
Then we have these guys:
So rookies, first year players, quarterbacks, and injured veterans. Doesn't this pretty much cover the entire roster? Why didn't they just say Joe Thomas can wait a few more days before heading to Berea?
Don't get me wrong—I'm sure there are plenty of folks excited about the return of the Cleveland Browns, but most of my excitement exists in the return of football more so than the Browns. I'm thrilled about the return of my Sundays of being planted on my couch and drafting my fantasy squads and all of the other things that come with the return of the NFL. But to be excited about a team that has done nothing but pillage wallets and show insane levels of ineptness to this point? No thanks. Prove that you're for real and I'll join the chorus of apologists who litter Twitter with their nonsensical passive aggressive behavior and Boomerang videos of their pom poms.
I'm thrilled about Hue Jackson—he's arguably the best coaching hire of this offseason and he landed on a team in desperate need of leadership. I'm excited about Corey Coleman and any development he can have throughout the season. I'm intrigued by Robert Griffin III as I wanted Mike Holmgren to land him back in 2012 and I believe he still has something left in the tank. But that's where it ends. Everything else is a question.
Can Ray Horton turn this defense into something that deserves an ounce of respect? Can one of the non-Coleman receivers step up? Can Gary Barnidge repeat? Do casual Browns fans have any idea who the starting defense backfield will be?
These are all questions I'm not about to sit around and wait to see develop. I'm not about to punish the current regime for the sins of their predecessors, but there are finally other options to keep my interest as a Cleveland fan. The Cavs lifted the alleged curse. There's no longer the overriding pressure of winning a championship. From here, it's just about winning and pride and respect. Cleveland is in the midst of a summer-long party, and the Browns are showing up midway through with a tray of kale. Call me when these guys win eight games.
Speaking of...Your Indians got worked by the (really, really good) Baltimore Orioles this weekend and still have the second-best record in the American League. They're heading home for a split homestand, a place where they're 26-16 on the season.
There was some knee-jerk reaction to the past weekend and the relative struggles since the All-Star break, but let's keep in mind that the Indians (at 56-41) finish the season with 89 wins if they go .500 from here. The second place Detroit Tigers will have to go 39-24 just to get to 90. Kansas City is two games behind them, and the White Sox are a half game behind the Royals.
Baseball Prospectus currently gives the Indians a 96.2 percent chance at the playoffs and a 17.9 percent shot at winning the World Series—the latter mark is the highest in baseball.
The Indians are by no means a lock for anything. Yeah, the city has a history of collapses—whatever. But all of that talk about how early wins aren't as important is straight up garbage, as this team raced out ahead of the rest of the Central and now has one gigantic safety net in the event there are some bumps in the road.
They need a bat—maybe two. They need a bullpen arm—maybe two. We're told they're going to make moves and there is literally no excuse not to. But let's not conflate losing to the AL's high-water mark with any sort of impending doom. The Indians are for real.
What does one do when they are struggling to find the motivation to work out while simultaneously possessing a thing for sneakers? They use a Father's Day gift card to help pick up a new pair of running shoes. Behold: Nike's Free RN Flyknit.
Flyknit is by no means new—Nike has been adding it to racers for years now, ensuring the world that it would be the future of athletic footwear. As someone who primarily purchases basketball shoes, however, Flyknit had yet to really make the leap, at least until recent years with the Kobe X Elite, the Kobe 11 and in 2016 when the KD9 became the first basetball shoe to feature a one-piece Flyknit upper. Now, Nike has added it to the Hyperdunk and a slew of other basketball shoes, meaning that the future may in fact be the present.
While I struggle to see how Nike could implement Flyknit for a player like LeBron James whose powerful style of play would not be suitable for such a light and flexible piece of material, for someone looking for a running shoe that may as well be a slipper (and does not want to drop $180 on a pair of UltraBoost shoes from adidas), you can't go wrong with these Frees.
Worst case scenario: I still don't get back to working out and I have a pair of shoes that double as the most comfortable slippers ever.
Cleveland Week may be over, but Reading Quality Writing Week lasts forever. Here's this week's edition of #ActualSportswriting:
"Ichiro Suzuki, Still Connecting" by Tommy Tomlinson (ESPN.com): "He is 42 now, the second-oldest player in the majors, and this is his 16th year playing in the United States. In his first year in the majors, he was both rookie of the year and MVP. He holds the single-season record for hits with 262. He owns 10 Gold Gloves as an outfielder. And sometime in the next couple of weeks, he will reach a milestone beyond dispute: 3,000 major league hits, a mark only 29 players before him have reached" 1
"Can Francisco Lindor be Cleveland's Next Superstar?" by Michael Baumann (The Ringer): "Francisco Lindor, all of 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, looks like what you’d traditionally see in the big leagues. In the field, he looks like an artist. Watching the 22-year-old Lindor play defense, you become aware of the difference between adequate and exceptional. It’s the difference between chucking a wadded-up sheet of paper at a wastebasket and building a world-record paper airplane." 2
"What the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck card means to a generation of baseball fans" by Jeff Passan (Yahoo! Sports): "Something about Ken Griffey Jr. felt right. I’m not sure why. My Griffey knowledge was limited to the frenzy his card caused. I didn’t know the only thing more gorgeous than his card was his swing. I didn’t know he had tried to kill himself at 18. I didn’t know that 15 years down the road I’d actually get to meet him, and it would be the only time I ever found myself legitimately nervous to interview someone." 3
"Major League is the Most Accurate Baseball Movie" by Danny Kelly (The Ringer): "The Sandlot is a classic, but it’s told through the lens of fantastically distorted childhood memories. Field of Dreams is about a bunch of ghosts that came out of a cornfield. The Bad News Bears and Bull Durham are certainly in the conversation, but they don’t depict the sport at its highest level. Moneyball is amazing, but it’s told through a narrow lens; it just can’t match the scope of what Major League got so right." 4
So get out there and have a fantastic Monday, you guys. Try and keep cool. You deserve it.
1 You'll want to read this entire piece. It's the perfect mix of anecdotes, reporting and stats. Hardcore baseball fans will love the kicker.
2 It's to the point where I'll share any well-written piece on Francsico Lindor. The kid is truly special.
3 This card was my childhood. Ken Griffey Jr. will forever be cemented as the clay-molding baseball player who dumped a five-gallon drum of lighter fluid on my burgeoning fandom of the game.
4 Your reminder that commentary can be #ActualSportswriting too. Enjoy.