Is Cleveland close to a championship?

September 11th, 2014



Much has changed since I last wrote a column here in May.


Johnny Manziel, LeBron James and the Republican National Convention chose Cleveland this summer. Many are saying that Cleveland is in the midst of a resurgence.


Cleveland sports teams are the talk of the nation. The Indians are in the wild card race. The Browns have Johnny waiting in the wings while the hometown quarterback follows his dream. The Cavaliers welcomed back LeBron with open arms.


Despite the excitement swirling around the city, one question lingers in the back of my mind: “How much closer are we to a championship than we were in May?”


May’s NFL Draft seems so far away now, but the image of Johnny Football flashing the money sign after putting on his brand-new Browns jersey still stands out. The city swooned after the Browns selected Manziel late in the first round. Local media personalities hailed him as the savior of the Cleveland Browns. Fans bought into the hype.


As the summer wore on, Johnny’s partying habits became a hot topic. Though urged to slow down, Johnny kept on his merry way. That caught up with him in training camp as North Olmsted, Ohio native Brian Hoyer beat out the rookie.


It’s clear now that Manziel isn’t ready to save the Browns. At best, his preseason performance was below average. His lack of experience with a playbook showed.


Without a doubt, the media overhyped Johnny. He’s at least two years away from being the franchise quarterback this team needs. The Browns aren’t much better off than they were in May.


The media circus in Cleveland turned into a frenzy in July when LeBron announced his decision to come home.


The Cavs acted quickly, bringing in cheap, veteran free agents to fill roster space before making a blockbuster deal to get Kevin Love. The team shipped away Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins and a first round pick for the All- Star power forward.


With LeBron, Love and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs are the popular pick to win the Eastern Conference. But how close are they to winning a championship?


Answer: not as close as you think.


Two of the team’s core players, Love and Irving, have well-known injury problems. In three of his six seasons in the NBA, Love has missed 20 or more games. Irving has missed 10 or more games in each of his three seasons in the league.


Team chemistry could also be a big problem. Most of this team has not played together before. Only Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavedova and Anderson Varejao were on this team last year. Remember, LeBron didn’t win a title in his first year in Miami with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.


Also, this team’s only proven defenders are James Jones and Shawn Marion. Without at least a mediocre defense, you can’t win in the playoffs.


The Cavs will soon win a title, but not this year.


Last but not least, we come to the Indians. While the Tribe is in the Wild Card hunt, this team is clearly not ready for title contention. The starting rotation has promise, but the offense simply isn’t there.


Injuries have played some part in that. Outfielders Michael Bourn and David Murphy spent significant stints on the disabled list. First baseman Nick Swisher is out for the season.


But that doesn’t change the fact that Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana are both hitting below .250. Michael Brantley is the only consistent clutch hitter, and the only starter hitting above .300.


There’s no reason to panic, though. The Tribe has plenty of young talent in the majors and a healthy minor league system. In another two or three years, the Indians could be a pennant contender.


Don’t hold your breath waiting for a Cleveland team to win a championship this year. We’re getting close, but we’re not quite there yet.


Hang in there, fellow Cleveland fans. We’re going to win that elusive championship one day soon. It’s only a matter of time.