CC SabathiaIndians Holding Back On Years For Sabathia

Sometimes the writing on the wall is so obvious, it hurts. The writing on this wall was so bright it served as a blinding beacon. For the past year, I have been telling anyone who would listen that the main factor that is going to prevent CC Sabathia from re-signing with the Tribe was going to be the number of years, not the number of dollars.

Well, it appears that this is exactly what is happening. It’s a story that has gone by surprisingly quietly without a lot written about it, but GM Mark Shapiro has indeed made the Indians’ proposal to Sabathia and his agent. And wouldn’t you know it, the Sabathia camp is not happy at all with the number of years being offered.

I first noticed this story a few days ago in one of the “Hey, Hoynsie” articles in the Plain Dealer. In that article, a question was asked of Paul Hoynes about the Sabathia contract,

“Q: Hey, Hoynsie: What’s up with C.C. Sabathia? Has there been a formal offer made by the Tribe? – Mark Lasher, Bangor, Pa.

A: Hey, Mark: GM Mark Shapiro confirmed that the offer has been made, but would say nothing else. The length of the contract, rather than the money involved, is expected to be a problem. Sabathia’s agents believe he’s earned a lengthy deal (five to seven years), but it’s unlikely the Indians would be willing to make that kind of commitment. It’s doubtful these negotiations will reach any kind of conclusion until the start of the regular season.”

Without any kind of disclosure about the terms of the proposal, it’s hard to comment. Over at Baseball Prospectus, John Perrotto offered a little insight into the negotiations, writing,

“Cleveland left-hander C.C. Sabathia will have a tough decision in the upcoming months, as he must decide whether to re-sign with the Indians or become a free agent at the end of the 2008 season. The Indians are expected to hold firm at an offer of four years and an option, while Sabathia–who genuinely wants to stay in Cleveland–will likely look for a contract similar to what Santana is seeking should he be traded.”

For his part, Tim Dierkes over at mlbtraderumors.com speculates what the Indians’ max offer might be,

“Realistically, I think the Indians could top out around four years, $72MM plus an option for 2013 in their offer to Sabathia. Will Sabathia make that concession, or will he go for the free market and maybe get seven years, $140MM?”

In all honesty, I’m surprised this hasn’t been written about any more than it has. I really wish we knew for certain what the Indians’ official offer really is. If the Indians are offering 4 years, and Sabathia would sign for 5 years, it seems hard to believe that gap couldn’t be bridged. Taken at face value, I would expect the Indians to eventually back down and guarantee the 5th year of the deal. It’s hard to make an argument that Sabathia hasn’t earned it. But again, we are only speculating at this point. Until we know for sure the true dollar figures involved, we can’t draw a line in the sand on this issue. Patience will be a virtue on this topic it seems.

I’ll try to keep updating this story as more is learned and as time draws on. With pitchers and catchers due to report before too long, it would be nice to see this time used to make some headway in closing the gap between the two sides. Nobody wants this cloud hanging over the team all season. It will be a major distraction and will just be bad business for everyone involved.

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Memphis GrizzliesCleveland Cavaliers (19-18) vs Memphis Grizzlies (10-27)
FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
Tuesday, January 15, 2008 8:00 PM

I feel like I’ve been neglecting the Cavaliers this season. With the deep playoff run by the Indians and the exciting Browns season, I must admit that I’ve left the Cavaliers fall to the back burner a bit. So allow me to introduce a new feature to the Cleveland Sports Authority site: Game Previews. Just a brief look at the upcoming games. I hope you enjoy these.

Starting Lineups (with PPG, RPG, APG, and Player Efficiency Ratings [league average=15.0])

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-G Larry Hughes (9.7 ppg, 2.7 apg, 8.33 PER)
-G Sasha Pavlovic (7.2 ppg, 1.7 apg, 5.71 PER)
-F LeBron James (29.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 7.5 apg, 29.71 PER)
-F Drew Gooden (12.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 13.26 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (13.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 17.92 PER)

Memphis Grizzlies:

-G Mike Conley Jr (7.9 ppg, 4.4 apg, 14.15 PER)
-G Mike Miller (16.4 ppg, 4.0 apg, 16.18 PER)
-F Rudy Gay (19.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 17.20 PER)
-F Pau Gasol (18.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 20.47 PER)
-C Darko Milicic (6.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 9.23 PER)

Team Efficiency Stats

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-Offense (95.6 ppg, 44.4 rpg, .430 FG%, .719 FT%, 19.1 apg, Efficiency-100.0, Eff Rank-21)
-Defense (98.1 ppg, 42.1 rpg, .459 FG%, Efficiency-103.2, Eff Rank-17)

Memphis Grizzlies:

-Offense (100.6 ppg, 41.6 rpg, .459 FG%, .752 FT%, 20.7 apg, Efficiency-102.9, Eff Rank-15)
-Defense (104.9 ppg, 43.9 rpg, .471 FG%, Efficiency-107.4, Eff Rank-28)

Game Notes:

This road game takes the Cavaliers into Memphis to take on a team with some bright young players, but a team that, frankly, plays no defense whatsoever. Rookie Mike Conley is still learning on the job, but showing some promise as of late after being slowed down by injury earlier in the season. 2nd year player Rudy Gay is having a breakout season. Mike Miller is a lethal sharp shooter when on. Pau Gasol is his steady and solid self. Where the Cavaliers can have an advantage early on is in post scoring. Z and Drew need to get established early, and the defense needs to do a good job extending on the Memphis shooters. The question will be, as always, who can guard LeBron and can the Cavs take advantage of double teams and hit open shots. Rudy Gay will have some problems with LeBron, but Gasol has the length and athleticism to help. The pick and roll with Varejao will create some opportunities as well.

The Grizzlies are a team that has won 3 in a row, but has still struggled to find its identity this season. As some of these young players continue to develop, the team should eventually find its way and be a more competitive team. For now, though, this is a game that the Cavaliers must take advantage of. They are coming off a nice 3 day rest and kicking off a road swing. This is one the Cavaliers will need to take advantage of and find a way to come out with a ‘W’ if they want to continue to show signs of a life as a team hoping to maintain its status as an Eastern Conference contender. The Cavaliers have won 3 in a row and 5 of the last 6 against Memphis, and they need to keep that string going.

Vegas Line

Memphis +2
Over/Under 197

Mike BrownCavaliers Extend Head Coach’s Contract

Mike Brown doubters, get used to him. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The Cavaliers announced today that they have extended his contract through the 2010-2011 season.

GM Danny Ferry said in a statement,

“Mike Brown brings his high character, work ethic and talent as a coach with him to work every single day. He has been, and will continue to be, important to our continued growth as a basketball team as we work towards a championship. Dan Gilbert saw this in Mike Brown on his 1st job interview two and half years ago and it is evident today more than ever.

While the stats show that Mike has been the most successful head coach in Cavaliers history, it is his great leadership and his un-flinching focus on our core values and identity that continue to make him the right guy for the job.”

No further details about the extension were released.

I don’t know what it is about Cleveland, but all the sports teams seem to be in such a hurry to sign their mediocre coaches to extensions. Lets be honest here, does anyone really think Mike Brown is the reason this franchise has experienced the level of success it has in the past 2+ years? Or does it maybe, just maybe, have a lot more to do with a certain LeBron James?

Just as with Eric Wedge and the Indians, RAC and the Browns, and now Mike Brown with the Cavaliers, the Cleveland sports franchises are consistently winning in spite of some seriously questionable decisions on the part of their coaches. In no way am I saying that Mike Brown should have been on the hot seat…..he shouldn’t be. LeBron seems to be ok with the guy, and that’s really the most important thing. But why the rush? Why not take some time and make sure that these guys are really the guys who can lead the Cleveland sports franchises into a Championship era.

Todd GranthamBrowns Fire Defensive Coordinator

Tony Grossi has just reported that the Cleveland Browns have fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. This is a stunning move that will surely send out shockwaves through the Cleveland Browns community.

The Browns finished the season almost dead last (30th) in the NFL in total defense, in a bit of a reversal of performance level from past years. Not that the Browns defense has ever been stellar, but the defense was believed to be the strength of this team coming into the season. That simply wasn’t the case, as many players on the defense seemed to regress this season.

Apparently, that’s all it took to make Grantham the fall man for this season’s shortcomings in terms of making the post season. No successor has been named yet. Grossi writes,

“It’s a stunning descent for Grantham, who was given a two-year contract extension in June.

At the time, the youthful Grantham was viewed as a potential in-house replacement for coach Romeo Crennel if the 2007 season went down the sewer. In preseason, Grantham’s television interviews were closely monitored by the Browns’ brass to determine whether he “projected” as a head coach.

Those tentative plans went awry when two surprises occurred. Grantham’s defense was the unit that tanked and Crennel supervised the Browns to a 10-6 season.

In the third season under Grantham, the defense allowed 402 points (fourth-most in Browns history) and 5,753 total yards (second-most). It finished 21st in points after hovering at the bottom of the league rankings most of the season and was 30th in total yards allowed.”

My initial reaction was that this feels premature. The Browns are coming off their most successful season overall, depending on how you look at it, since either the 2002 season or since the Browns’ return in 1999. Despite the defense’s horrible rankings, they did seem to start turning things around towards the end of the season. Grantham had to deal with an aging, weak, and thin defensive line to begin with, and that only got worse with injuries. Also, I am a huge proponent of consistency within organizations.

All that being said, though, there’s no denying the defense has been on a downward trend every year since Grantham took over. His earlier successes were simply overcome by the total failures of his unit as the season progressed. It will be interesing to watch who emerges as the lead candidates to take over the position.

UPDATE:

After writing this post, I came across a couple stories with further background information on this move and the apparent rift that developed in Berea between RAC and Grantham. You can read John Taylor’s story here for the first look at the behind the scenes side of what happened here and you can read Barry McBride’s follow up story on the topic here. Both are excellent reads and should be looked at by anyone who is curious what exactly happened in this bizarre scenario.

Jacob’s FieldProgressive Field To Open In 2008

Ok, so it’s still the same beautiful structure. But in what I can only describe as a tragically sad decision, the Cleveland Indians have sold the naming rights to Jacob’s Field to Progressive Insurance. In 2008, the Indians will play their games in….gulp….Progressive Field.

Hoynsie has the story in the Plain Dealer:

“Jacobs Field, the home of the Indians since 1994, will now be called Progressive Field.

The Indians have reached an agreement with Progressive Insurance for the naming rights of the 40,000-seat facility on the corner of Ontario Street and Carnegie Avenue, a source close to the Indians said Thursday. Progressive Insurance, a Cleveland-based company, is owned by millionaire/philanthropist Peter Lewis.

An announcement is expected to be made today. Terms of the deal were not released.”

Even though terms were not announced, expect the deal to be in the $2 million to $3 million per year range. Even though it’s really just semantics at the end of the day, I think this is a sad day in Indians’ history. Jacob’s Field, or The Jake as we fans have so lovingly called the building, has been an institution in recent Cleveland history. The name is engraved into us as a part of who we are.

I would gladly give up the name if it meant the ability to compete with the higher spending teams in baseball, but really, what is an extra $2.5 million going to do for the team? Allow them to sign more David Dellucci’s and Jason Michaels’s? Maybe bring in an aging veteran like Trot Nixon?

Well I say ‘no thank you’. The naming rights really illustrates the greedy nature of professional sports today. It’s an era where any little bump in the bottom line, no matter how small of a bump, is given credence over the history and traditions of the games we grew up loving.

So to the Dolan family, I say thank you for trashing one of the most special stadium names in all of baseball. And to Pete Lewis, I say good luck in getting me to give in to your millions of dollars…I refuse to call the stadium Progressive Field. And to my readers, I say get used to me using the name ‘Jacob’s Field’ or ‘The Jake’ to refer to the stadium. Make a mental note of this so you are not confused 5 years from now when I’m still talking about The Jake.

In summary, no, this is not the end of the world. We’ll get over it just like we got over the Gund changing to The Q. But for right now, it stings a little having to say goodbye to such a dear friend. And if the magic of The Jake is gone next season, we will all know who to blame and where to look…..as dumb as that sounds.

Romeo Crennel and Phil SavageBrowns GM Says Extensions Coming

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported today that GM Phil Savage is working on a contract extension for head coach Romeo Crennel (is it just me, or does Mary Kay seem to be much more on the ball than Tony Grossi these days?). There was no mention of length of the possible extension, but Savage is open to options. As Mary Kay writes,

“The Browns plan to extend the contract of coach Romeo Crennel, as early as the next few days, Browns general manager Phil Savage said during his post-season news conference today in Berea.

“We have every intention of doing something with Romeo and we’ll do right by him,” said Savage. “Hopefully it will be addressed in the next few days. If not, then in the next few weeks.”

Savage said he’s open to options, including a multi-year extension. Crennel is under contract for two more seasons.”

On its surface, this would seem to squash my conspiracy theory that Rob Chudzinski is being groomed to eventually take over the reigns from Crennel. RAC still needs a lot of improvement as a tactical coach, but he’s proven that his connections to his players are his strong point. These players will play their hearts out for Crennel, and you can’t say that for all coaches. RAC is still growing, still relatively inexperienced as a head coach, and for now that’s fine. But with an extension, the pressure will be on. The Browns must show improvement next season and anything short of a spot in the playoffs will be totally unacceptable.

I’m also going to go out on a limb and keep my Chudzinski theory alive as well. Crennel is currently under contract for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. I have a funny feeling the Browns will give Crennel a 2 year extension through 2011, which also happens to be the year Chudzinski’s recent extension runs out. But alas, at the end, perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on my part.

The other newsworthy story in the article is that Savage is also planning on signing DA to an extension. According to Savage,

“We have a couple of different options for Derek. We’re more apt to want to do something with Derek that would take him beyond the 2008 season. We want to go into next season with both of our quarterbacks, plus Ken Dorsey intact. We want to make sure we stay strong at that position for at least one more year.”

Um…..what?!? A couple thoughts on this. First, why are you more apt to do something with DA beyond 2008? There’s no need to. You have all the options in the world. Why eliminate all the options on your own? Why not let this play out and see if anyone makes you any offers for DA? As I have said before, the smart thing to do is to max tender DA for next season. If someone wants to give up their 1st and 3rd round picks for him, you consider it. If you don’t want the picks, you match the offer. If after 2008, you still want DA and you can’t immediately re-sign him, you can use your franchise tag on him. I do not understand what the rush is and why Savage feels the need to forfeit all of his options.

The second thing that comes to mind is when Savage says ‘We want to go into next season with both of our quarterbacks, plus Ken Dorsey intact. We want to make sure we stay strong at that position for at least one more year.’ Well, under the plan I outlined, you do precisely that. That’s the beauty of it…you can go into next season with the same group of QBs if you want, but at least it leaves you with flexibility as it continues to play out. There’s no need whatsoever to rush this.

I will say this, though. Phil Savage has earned the benefit of the doubt. He’s made so many great moves since taking over and he has the team heading in the right direction. So for now, he’s gets this common courtesy from me. I will wait and see what happens. Savage is a better talent evaluator than I am, and he must see something more in DA than I do that is causing him to want to sign DA now before his price tag is driven up too high.

One final thought on this, though. If DA really is signed to a long term extension, then Brady Quinn better go on the trade block quickly. The Browns gave up too much to move back into the first round last year to take Quinn to get nothing in return. I talked a while back about some teams who may have an interest in upgrading their QB, and most of those still hold. There will be some teams that would consider taking Quinn and giving up a little something in return. Savage said after day one of the draft last year that if the Browns were ever going to turn the corner, that draft was going to be the key component. Well, it’s looking like that’s the case, only not entirely in the way he thought. Rather than becoming the franchise QB he envisioned, Quinn is becoming little more than trade value riding on the Browns’ bench.

I’m definitely in favor of keeping the options open at QB for now, but if DA is signed long term, that changes everything. I understand injuries can happen in the NFL and having a viable backup is invaluable, but the team just simply gave up too much for Quinn for him to just be a backup. So I will defer to Savage’s better judgment for now, but I am making it known that I am very, very skeptical of this move.

Joe ThomasBrowns O-Lineman Heading To Hawaii

The Cleveland Browns’ rookie sensation, left tackle Joe Thomas has been served a bit of justice. Despite being robbed of his rightful spot on the Pro Bowl team by both voters and peers alike, despite being regarded as one of the 2 or 3 best left tackles in the entire NFL, Thomas is still getting his rightful spot on the AFC squad after all.

Tackle Jason Peters of Buffalo is injured and cannot play, and so Thomas, the first alternate, has been called up to take his spot. Thomas is the first Browns’ lineman to make the Pro Bowl since 1987.

For his part, Thomas is obviously excited, saying:

“I am thrilled to be selected for the Pro Bowl and for the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the NFL. I understand that being selected as an alternate means that someone else could not attend, so I wish the best for Jason Peters. But this is truly an honor and I will do my best to represent the Browns and the AFC in Hawaii.”

Joe Thomas becomes the third member of the Browns to make the Pro Bowl this season, joining Braylon Edwards and Josh Cribbs.

Congrats to JT on a much deserved spot on the Pro Bowl roster. I’m not alone in feeling this is just the first of many, many Pro Bowls in the young man’s career. As long as his production stays at this level, he will be a staple in the Pro Bowl for years to come.