Kemp to CLE? Big Ten Trophies, Thad’s Schedule and Dangerous Journalism: While We’re Waiting…

Cleveland Sports

It’s Wednesday, and your boy is back. I spent last week in Orlando for a work conference. Let me just say there is nothing worse than landing at home after a week on the road on a Friday night at 9:45.

I watched Thursday night’s Cleveland Browns from the road at a random bar and was surrounded by people cheering for the Browns. Everywhere you go, our fans are there in some way shape or form. You gotta love that and you gotta love that we have a First place Football team on November 12. Amazing. and with that, away we go…..


A Tribe Target?

Late Sunday night, back to back tweets from FOX Sports’s Ken Rosenthal caught my fancy.

Matt Kemp. Right-handed, power-hitting outfielder. Age 30. Coming off of a second half where he exploded (.309/.365/.606/17 HR/54 RBI) and was a big part of the Dodgers run to the NL West crown. I already know what you are thinking, so don’t even bother. This is a complete pipe dream for our Cleveland Indians. Especially when you consider that Kemp is on the books for five more years and $107 million. But a man can dream, can’t he?

The Dodgers are sitting on four big-money outfielders – Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Yasiel Puig. Puig isn’t going anywhere. Their top prospect, Joc Pederson, is also an outfielder and is ready. While Ethier ($56 million) and Crawford ($62.25 million) are locked in for three more seasons, do the Indians really need another left-handed hitter? Not to mention when Kemp is right like he was the last three months of 2014, he is one of the better players in the game. New Team President Andrew Friedman has lots on his plate right off the bat. Unclogging that outfield is near the top of his list.

Rosenthal also reported that the Dodgers are willing to listen to any sort of package which includes eating a lot of the contract or none of it. So what does this mean? Well obviously, if the Indians were going to be able to pull something like this off, it would require the Dodgers to eat a substantial amount of the Kemp deal. It is pretty simple: The better the players or prospects you are willing to send, the more money the other team would be willing to take on.

Friedman is not taking Nick Swisher or Michael Bourn to move Kemp, despite both having only two years left on their contracts (rather than the five for Kemp). They are loaded in the outfield already and Swisher can’t DH in the National League. Kemp in Cleveland is a long shot, but he is the kind of guy who would be perfect for this team and lineup. Anyone worried about him coming to Cleveland after years of loving it in Los Angeles should rest easy; this is why you pay Terry Francona.


The Big Ten: Trophies for everybody!

Like many of you, I grew up on Big Ten Football. I never took to one team despite living in Buckeye territory. Great games were all I cared about and rooted for. After Four plus years of Big Eight/Big 12 action when I was at Kansas, I moved to Chicago, right back in the heart of Big Ten country. So in other words, the conference is in my blood.

I remember “The Battle for Paul Bunyon’s Axe” between Minnesota and Wisconsin and Indiana taking on in-state rival Purdue for ‘The Old Oaken Bucket.” These were staples of Big Ten Football and had major significance to the schools who played in these games. What I didn’t remember and now am made aware by the great Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports: The Big(ger) Ten now has 14 trophy games. Fourteen

Nebraska and Wisconsin are playing a big game in the Big Ten West this Saturday. Did you know they are vying for “The Freedom Trophy?” Here’s Wetzel:

In fact, the mere name suggests the Big Ten marketing department that brought you Leaders and Legends don’t even believe in this.

The Freedom Trophy? What is that? Was there ever any doubt in the freedom of Wisconsin or Nebraska? Has anyone tried to invade either place and establish totalitarian rule – we’re looking at you Iowa.

Big Ten marketing person No. 1: This is ham-fisted and meaningless. Fans are going to make fun of us.

Big Ten marketing person No. 2: Call it the Freedom Trophy and say it honors veterans. The trophy will consist of two massive football stadiums merged together with an enormous American flag coming out of it. They can’t make fun of that.

The Big Ten continues to make themselves an easy target when it doesn’t have to be. The good news is that basketball season is upon us.


Thad The Bad….Scheduler

The Ohio State Men’s basketball team is starting a new era this season. Aaron Craft, the heart and soul of the program for the past four years has finally moved on. Also gone is up and down scoring small forward LaQuinton Ross, who made the ill-advised decision to turn pro after his Sophomore season. However, there is a solid veteran core remaining.

Senior Shannon Scott, who played next to Craft for the past few seasons, will take over as the primary ball-handler. Fellow Senior Forward Sam Thompson, the high-rising energy/glue guy, will be back in the starting lineup. Sophomore Swingman Marc Loving showed flashes of brilliance last year when called upon. He will play a bigger role and is expected to start. Senior Center Amir Williams is back as the man in the middle, once again backed up by Senior Trey McDonald.

However, it is the reinforcements that Head Coach Thad Matta is most excited about. Freshman D’Angelo Russell is the real deal. The Guard from Louisville is a scoring machine and may only be in Columbus for one year, so enjoy him while you can. Jae’Sean Tate an undersized forward from Pickerington, Ohio came off the bench to score 10 points and grab eight boards in an exhibition win over Walsh Monday night. Fifth-year transfer Anthony Lee averaged over 13 points and eight rebounds last season for Temple and will become an immediate impact player for the Buckeyes.

Seems like a nice group for Matta in a swing year. He is now in his 11th year as Captain of the S.S. Buckeye. He has built the program into a consistent top of the Big Ten contender. However, if there is anything to criticize about Thad, it is his scheduling leading up to the conference season.

Last year, I gave Matta a ton of flack for having loaded up on cupcakes before the turn of the year. This year is no different, and he’s been taken to task by ESPN College Hoops Insider Jeff Goodman:

10 terrible schedules I’m not fine with:

2. Ohio State Buckeyes — 11 of 13 games in Columbus, and seven of them come against top-300 teams.

Matta is probably going to make the argument that he wants his team to jell with so many players taking on bigger rolls while adding in three new pieces, therefore he isn’t scheduling a handful of tough games. I get that. Thad also is not a fan of pre-conference tournaments that most of the big boys play in each year.  So no Maui Invitational, no Preseason NIT, etc. We will see what this team is made of just twice: At Louisville in the ACC/Big 10 challenge on December 12 and in Chicago against North Carolina December 20.


One Last Note…

Let me start by saying that I do not know Joe Vardon of Northeast Ohio Media Group. I am sure he is a decent guy. He’s new to the Cleveland Sports realm, so I am trying to be as nice as I can about the following issue.

On Monday on Cleveland.com, Vardon, the LeBron James NEOMG beat reporter, posted an article surrounding the post-Dion Waiters National Anthem flap. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know the story. Waiters was quoted as saying he missed the National Anthem before Friday’s game in Denver for religious reasons. A day later, Waiters said it was a misunderstanding and his Muslim faith had nothing to do with it, he was just late out of the locker room. Waiters also started that game on the bench instead of his usual starting role. Since then, Dion has taken to his new role as the team’s sixth man.

Had Vardon left it at that, everything would have been just fine and I wouldn’t be writing this commentary. Then came these two paragraphs in succession:

Waiters’ initial response could’ve been problematic for several reasons. In 1996, the NBA suspended Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf one game for refusing to stand for the national anthem, citing his Muslim faith.

The Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt is Jewish and his family lives in Israel. Blatt had removed Waiters from the staring lineup and placed him in a reserve role Wednesday, the same night Waiters missed the national anthem.

I read it. And re-read it. And read it again. I ask Vardon, what importance is Blatt’s religion to this story? One sentence says that Blatt is Jewish. The next is that Waiters has been removed from the starting lineup. That was in the paragraph after Vardon mentions Waiters as a Muslim. Do I believe that Vardon is being malicious here? No. But what he printed is irresponsible and dangerous in its nature.

Not everyone is as smart and as worldly as we want them to be. I can guarantee you there were people who read that and thought negatively towards either Waiters or Blatt solely on the religious aspects that Vardon added to the mix. I put it out on Twitter Monday and had people respond to me in very different ways. Some thought this made Blatt look like he was benching Waiters because he is anti-Muslim. Others read into Waiters slight of Blatt as anti-semitic. The problem: None of this is true or relevant.

If Blatt was Catholic, would that have been mentioned in the article? Of course not. Even with Blatt’s open support of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians, insinuating a Muslim/Judaism conflict between a coach and his player is….i’ll say it again: Going down that path is irresponsible and dangerous. I hope it’s something we can all learn from going forward.


Your Old School Hip Hop Classic of the Week

One of my favorites when I was a young Hip Hop Head was “The Ruler” himself, Slick Rick. My dude was born in England and came to Brooklyn as a 12-year old. His lyrics were like his name, Slick. His style was all his own. Rick wore an eye patch after losing sight in his right-eye after a childhood accident. It became his signature, along with his British accent, which differentiated him from all others of his time in the game.

His first Album, “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick” was an all-time classic. The best of his best tracks is the one I will hit you with today. So here it is: Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.”