Friday, 26 March 2010

Don't Call It A Comeback...

One of the many positives in the Cleveland Indians camp this spring (never thought I’d say that) has been the resurgence of once-upon-a-time 19 game winner, Mr Fausto Carmona. The fiery pitcher has had a tremendous spring so far, and looks a lot closer to the man who finished 4th in the 2007 Cy Young vote than the walking disaster fans have had to endure since. Nobody wants to see the Carmona of last year again, where his ERA ballooned to an incredible 6.32 and he literally fell apart; he was eventually sent to Arizona to recalibrate. Which is exactly why Fausto’s spring performances have got fans so excited about the big 26 year old from the Dominican Republic all over again.

As of today Carmona has a 0.69 ERA and has been hitting the strike zone consistently, not to mention his walks are way down. His performance against the Cubs recently has earned him some high praise indeed. Chicago manager Lou Piniella had this to say about Carmona’s exploits: “The best Spring Training start I’ve seen here of any of the Spring Training pitchers who’ve faced us... He made it look easy. He was impressive.” Mike Redmond, who is scheduled to be Fausto’s personal catcher this year, had even better things to say. “I can’t believe he was any better in ‘07 than he was today…Those last two innings, he took it to another level. He was phenomenal.” Phenomenal. That’s exactly the word to describe Mr Carmona this spring. He is 2-0, has six strikeouts, only two walks, and has allowed five hits in 13 innings. I don’t think anybody expected these kind of numbers, not after what we’ve become accustomed to over the last two years.

The 2010 rotation in Cleveland is set to experience its fair share of bumps and bruises; there is no doubt about that. However, if Carmona can re-discover some of his 2007 form (early signs are positive) then the situation at Progressive Field this year might be a little more bearable. Fans can only hope and pray, but what we’ve seen from Carmona so far indicates good things to come.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Return of Thierry

With yesterday’s Champions League draw pitting us against Barcelona, it sees the return of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry to the Emirates. Henry is one of my all time favourite players (I’m sure i’m not alone here), and I practically worshipped the ground he walked on during his time in London. The 1st leg on Wednesday 31st March will undoubtedly see the Arsenal faithful give Henry a warm welcome, similar to what David Beckham received on his return to Old Trafford. It’s set to be a brilliant night, and that’s before the game has even started.

In a way I am glad we have drawn Barca. In 2006 our early victories over Real Madrid and Juventus provided the spark of confidence which carried us all the way to the final in Paris. If the Gunners can manage a win over Barcelona, I’m hoping a similar confidence boost occurs, one that’ll take us to glory in the Santiago Bernabeu on May 22nd. If Arsenal are going to win the Champions League this season, they are going to have to beat the best teams in Europe, and you don’t get much better than Barcelona at the moment. The Catalan club are currently sharing top spot of La Liga with Real Madrid, and Arsenal are only 2 points from first place in the Premier League. Both clubs play arguably the most attractive football in the world, so it’s sure to be some show.

Arsene Wenger has summed it up well: "Of course they are a good side, but so are we. For me, we have a 50-50 game - if we turn up with our best performance we have a good chance to beat them.” It’s set to be a cracking tie; let’s hope it can live up to the potential (and a victory for the mighty Gunners!).

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Fantasy Baseball - My First Ever Draft

So Tuesday the 16th of March was the night of my first ever fantasy baseball draft with some of the fine folks at the UK MLB Supporters forum ( I’ve played fantasy football (NFL) for a good few years now and finally made the jump into my first rotisserie league for Major League Baseball. I felt my draft was relatively successful, but time will tell how my team performs over the marathon that is the MLB season. So let’s take a look at the results; my mighty team for the 2010 season:


SP - Zack Greinke KC (2nd pick)
SP - Cliff Lee SEA (4th pick)
SP - Jake Peavy CHW (11th pick)
RP - Andrew Bailey OAK (8th pick)
RP - Ryan Franklin STL (14th pick)
RP - Scott Downs TOR (21st pick)
P - James Shields TB (13th pick)
P - Ted Lilly CHC (17th pick)
P - Kevin Slowey MIN (22nd pick)

Zack Greinke, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, is the jewel of my pitching crown. I’m quite pleased about grabbing him when I did; let’s just hope he has a similar season to last year. Cliff Lee and Jake Peavy (hoping to get some form back in Chicago) round out the rest of my starters, but if things go wrong I’m counting on Ted Lilly and James Shields to pick up some of the slack. Lee has just been suspended for the first 5 games of the season, so Shields might step in for him there as he’s projected to be the Ray’s number one guy this year. I’m particularly pleased with the addition of Bailey, who is undoubtedly the finest pitcher on the Oakland roster.


C – Jorge Posada NYY (16th pick)
C – Carlos Santana CLE (20th pick)
C – Bengie Molina SF (23rd pick)

As you can see, the catcher position was not one of my top priorities in the draft and I left it late to get someone. I’m hoping Posada, who is only in the Yankees’ starting lineup for his bat now, can take advantage of the hitter’s paradise that is the new Yankee Stadium. Santana was a homer pick, and I had to get the Indian’s top prospect before anyone else did. He won’t be called up to the bigs for a while but I’m saving him for later, when I'm hoping he can put up some good numbers. Molina is strictly a backup if we get hit by injuries.


1B – Kevin Youkilis BOS (3rd pick)
2B – Ben Zobrist TB (6th pick)
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera CLE (7th pick)
3B – Alex Rodriguez NYY (1st pick)
1B/3B – Michael Cuddyer MIN (12th pick)
2B/SS – J.J. Hardy MIN (18th pick)
DH – Hideki Matsui LAA (15th pick)

My first pick of the draft was the always powerful Mr Rodriquez, whose consistency and numbers didn’t give me any choice but to get him. If he stays healthy all year, he should put up better numbers than 2009, which wasn’t half bad. I took another homer pick with Asdrubal (currently my favourite Indians player) and I’m expecting him to have a solid year. Youkilis, as everyone knows, is an on-base machine and can play third base too, so he is expected to have another good season in Boston. The rest of my infield is pretty solid, but I’m intrigued by Zobrist who is a player I don’t know too much about but is ranked rather high amongst MLB second basemen.


OF – Shin-Soo Choo CLE (5th pick)
OF – Jay Bruce CIN (9th pick)
OF – Cody Ross FLA (10th pick)
OF – Marlon Byrd CHC (19th pick)
OF – Matt LaPorta CLE (24th pick)

Choo, who had a very successful 2009 season, is the key to my outfield. He should keep improving, and I fully expect him to be even better this year. Bruce and Ross are decent and should put up good numbers, and Byrd is a bit of an unknown quantity but is expected to start in the Cubbie’s outfield this year so he’ll get his chance to shine. LaPorta was my last pick of the draft, and not a bad pickup at all, as he’s expected to start at either 1B or LF for the Indians and so has a great opportunity to flash some of that potential we’ve all heard about.

So that is my team for 2010. No doubt there will be some chopping and changing throughout the season, as injuries and frustration (namely mine) takes its toll. Good luck to everyone else out there playing fantasy baseball this year; I’m just hoping my rookie season is respectable!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Bye Bye Brady

So the Brady Quinn era has officially come to an end. The trade to Denver has ended his short and unfulfilled career in Cleveland, and I have mixed feelings about it all. As I previously posted only a couple of days ago, I felt Quinn still had a future with this team and that the organisation should have stuck with him a little longer to give him a legitimate chance at being a success with the Browns. However, Holmgren, Heckert and Mangini decided to end Quinn's tenure as Cleveland's QB of the future, resulting in his swap to the Broncos for fullback Peyton Hillis and a couple of future draft picks. I wish him the best of luck in Denver, and hopefully he can beat Orton this summer for the starting job. Craig at Waiting For Next Year has provided a good analysis of what this move means for our beloved Browns.

The Browns have certainly been busy in the last few weeks, and I don't expect the changes to stop just yet. Kamerion Wimbley has been traded to Oakland for a 3rd round pick in this year's draft (apparently), which isn't too big of a loss, with the emergence of Matt Roth last year.

It's certainly going to be odd watching the Browns start the 2010 season. There's a lot of new faces in town already, and with the draft creeping closer by the day there will be plenty more. Expect some more moving and shaking Browns fans.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Delhomme signs 2 year deal...

Jake Delhomme decided to pounce on the Browns offer, which effectively ends Brady Quinn's career in Cleveland. Of course nothing is certain, Quinn is still a Browns player and is technically still in contention to start come next season. But things don't look good with the signing of Delhomme, who I'm sure has been promised the starting role for the 2010 season.
There is a lot of negativity concerning the signing of Delhomme, which is not unexpected considering his miserable performances last year. The problem I have is that he looked very much like the bad side of Derek Anderson (the interception machine he has become). Delhomme is 35 years old and in obvious decline, which doesn't bode well for Browns fans. I just hope he can get back some of his old magic that made him a success in Carolina, and revive his career.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Case for Brady Quinn

It has recently been reported that Brady Quinn is rumoured to be on the trading block, and is currently being shopped around the league by Mike Holmgren and the Browns staff. Now this doesn’t surprise me, there are always plenty of rumours circulating around the league, and the Browns are no different. However, I’d like to think the organisation has a little bit more faith in Quinn than some of the media, and I’d also argue that Quinn should be given another shot at being the starting QB this year.

I can understand that Holmgren and Heckert may be sceptical (and it’s common knowledge Mangini has never been Quinn’s biggest fan). They’ve come into Cleveland with fresh ideas and a general plan in their minds for how they want this team to look and perform, and have unfortunately inherited the broken pieces of the Crennel and Savage era. Quinn was Savage’s choice, not Holmgren’s, so I can see why the president may be considering a total overhaul of the team beginning with the dismissal of Quinn from Cleveland. There are obviously other options at QB for the Browns to consider, and Holmgren has been busy exploring every possible avenue there is. From trying to hi-jack either McNabb or Kolb from the Eagles, to bringing in Jake Delhomme for “a chat”, Holmgren is looking far and wide for a new QB, and there’s no doubt the Browns will be looking at a few draft prospects as well. From all this activity, it’s become glaringly apparent that Quinn’s position with the Browns is in jeopardy, and his future in Cleveland is under threat.

My support for Quinn to remain with the Browns, and ultimately be given another chance to see if he has what it takes to lead them to glory, stems from a sense of loyalty and commitment that I think the NFL is lacking at times. I understand that the modern world of sport is big business and decisions are always made in light of what is good for the organisation involved. I simply feel that Quinn’s hard work should be rewarded to a certain extent, that he be given another chance and not be written off just yet. After all, what exactly has he done wrong? His rookie year was spent on the sidelines with a clipboard watching Derek Anderson emerge into a Pro-Bowler (albeit for one season). After Anderson’s spectacular collapse in 2008, Quinn was finally given the opportunity to start but an injury to his finger limited him to just 3 games. After Mangini's quarterback competition that wasn’t very competitive, Quinn was named the starter for 2009 against the Vikings. Criticism soon built up that Quinn was too conservative with his decision making, that his arm strength crippled his ability to be a successful NFL quarterback, plus much more. Mangini eventually benched him in Baltimore after a poor offensive performance from the entire offense, even though Quinn had completed 75% of his passes (and 1 stupid interception which probably cost him his job from then on). He eventually returned to starting under centre in Week 11 and had a career high performance, showing signs of what he could do as he burned the Detroit defence for 304 yards and 4 TDs. He played well against San Diego two weeks later (271 yards for 3 TDs), and led the Browns (with rather pedestrian performances) to 2 wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas City. He was then ruled out for the last two games of the season with a foot injury, but had shown briefly that he could at least play with some success in the NFL, and more importantly for the Browns.

The fact that we have yet to see Brady Quinn perform over an entire season is the major factor in the case for Quinn to remain in Cleveland. Coaching decisions, media pressures and injuries have all halted his progress from Notre Dame phenom to legitimate NFL starter. Now that Holmgren has full control of the Browns, he has already begun his own rebuilding process with the signings of Ben Watson, Scott Fujita and Tony Pashos. With the mountain of draft picks available to us, no doubt the team can only get stronger. The key to Quinn’s success is obviously giving him some decent targets to throw to. Watson is primarily a pass catching TE so that can only benefit Quinn there. Through this year’s draft the receiving core can be built upon, whereas last season it was only Massaquoi who emerged as a real target. It’s common knowledge the receivers in Cleveland suffered from “the dropsies” in 2009, which doesn’t help any quarterback whatever team they’re on, let alone the Browns. Strengthening the receiving core will benefit Quinn enormously, and naturally the Browns will be the better for it.

Quinn was drafted in 2007 with the idea he would become our franchise QB, something Cleveland have lacked ever since expansion in 1999. Franchise QBs take time to develop; this is not a new revelation. Most athletes go through difficult times in their careers, especially NFL quarterbacks, and Quinn has had his share of bad times but there is still hope. Holmgren shouldn’t give up on the Ohio native, and neither should the fans. It’s only fair the Browns don’t write Quinn off just yet.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 12 March 2010


Welcome to my blog ‘Escape to Forest City’. I will try to maintain consistent entries, and keep them as interesting as possible. This blog will mainly concentrate on the Cleveland Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers but I’ll also be blogging on some popular topics in the NFL, MLB, NCAA and NBA. I’ll be staying true to my British roots as well with entries on Arsenal FC (my first love) and some rugby from time to time.

I am simply one sports obsessed fan, infatuated with “The Forest City”, but unfortunately stuck in the wrong country. Enjoy and thanks for reading.