Cleveland Sports Insiders

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The Sunday Drive with Carlos Santana, Wahoo, the Browns waiting game and quarterbacks

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Santana Slam (by Jason Miller US Presswire)

Santana Slam (by Jason Miller US Presswire)

So I had this crazy idea to write about several things that DIDN’T pertain to the Browns, the Cavs or the Indians this week. The void that is now known as the “Browns’ head coaching search” has left me in such a mood, that I felt like moving as far away from sports as possible.

In a few paragraphs, you’ll note that I wrote about…the Indians, the Browns and the Cavs.

What changed?

I have no freaking clue.

My weekend has been a bust, and it’s been busy, and it’s cost me more money than I can begin to tell you, but it also left me with tons of time to think about sports, which is what I do when I’m stressed.

I sat back and started thinking about the 80’s in particular, and while my focus was far away from Cleveland sports, it rarely is ever as far as I’d like to think it is.

I was pondering the 80’s, and the players that really stood out to me. I met a rookie in 1979 at Municipal Stadium who sat and talked to me for a long, long time. He played for the A’s, and he talked to me for a long, long time. By the time I was done talking to him, he had grabbed a baseball and literally grabbed every A’s player that walked by to sign it. He signed it last.

It was Rickey Henderson, and while people remember the enigma of Rickey, I always remember that August day where he literally came up TO ME and asked me how I was doing.

After that, I followed Henderson, and then Vince Coleman after him. Tim Raines also was fun to watch, as was Willie Wilson. I loved watching these guys just decimate pitchers on the basepaths, and their teams were always such a factor because of it.That mentality slowly gave way, but not before the Indians acquired Alex Cole in 1990 from the San Diego Padres in the middle of July. He then stole 40 bases, in 63 games. The Indians moved their fences back to help accommodate Cole’s speed. Well, the Indians would steal 27 bases the following year, in 122 games, and was caught 17 times.

The Indians lost 105 games.

He wouldn’t end another season in Cleveland.

But Cole begat Lofton, and he carried the stolen base mantle in major league baseball in the 90’s. He really was the only player to excel year-after-year in the PED era. The game changed behind home runs and power hitters.

No, I’m not talking about any of that in this week’s Sunday Drive, but it’s the road that led me to the Indians, and to Carlos Santana…and all the rest.

I’ll have to save pop culture for another day…

Let’s get driving…

A recent report seemed to contradict the original sentiment that Carlos Santana asked the club to play third base. According to ESPNDeportes.com’s Enrique Rojas via MLB Trade Rumors, Santana is preparing to play third base after “the club asked him to give third a try.” According to the translation of the piece, Santana said he took nearly a month to think about the possibility before saying that he would do it.

There are a couple of things to consider here. First, the article was written in Spanish, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen several items over the years “lost in translation” when taking a Spanish article and trying to translate it into English via the several online options. It doesn’t appear that there is any way that could get misconstrued, but never-say-never. Second, does it really matter?

Certainly, it’s a better story if Santana chose to play third on his own, but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is that he DOES play third. If he does it well, all the better.

All indications are that Santana has been playing well enough for the “project” to continue, and while that ESPN article that I linked seems to state that the Indians are seemingly locked into playing their former catcher at the hot corner, I can’t imagine it’s anywhere close to a sure thing yet. Until Terry Francona gets an up close and personal view on this transition, nothing is set in stone.

What is the end game of the Indians putting Santana at third? Several are looking at him to platoon at third with Lonnie Chisenhall, and I do believe that the 2014 season could see that potential. I do believe that ultimately, the Indians could be looking at playing Santana at third in more than a platoon situation, should the need arise.

Chisenhall hasn’t panned out the way that some have thought, and while some will point to his splits as making him a valuable platoon candidate, how good would the Indians lineup look if Santana could just play third?

It’s a pipe-dream, I realize, but consider this: Santana has been working extensively with both Mike Sarbaugh, and according to the Rojas’ article, with former major leaguer Fernando Tatis, who played third, first and the outfield during his tenure with the Cardinals, Mets, Expos, Rangers and the Orioles. Now, I’m not saying this is an indicator either way, but it does sound like plans are a lot more serious than initially thought.

This isn’t to discount Chisenhall as the primary third baseman, but I always believe that you have to utilize what is available to you. A lot of people are going to point out the Chis-splits, but I would prefer to point out the fact that in September, when the Indians were in the thick of a playoff chase in September, Chisenhall started only 11 games, and played in 14 total.

Francona didn’t trust him, and it was warranted. Sure, Chisenhall hit .270 during September, but you can argue that it was BECAUSE of the way that Francona handled him that allowed him to succeed. He played in his most monthly games in August, and played the worst offensive baseball of the year. He’s been erratic at best, couldn’t beat out Mark Reynolds at third, and could be the odd man out once the season starts if the ‘Santana project’ is successful.

Now, I’m not sitting here trying to say that Carlos Santana is going to turn into an all-star third baseman here. I don’t even know if he’s going to be serviceable, and if this ultimately happens. I do think that there is more than meets the eye with this though, and it may not have anything to do with a platoon situation until it is all said and done.

Of course, the Indians could make a move for a third sacker at some point, and all of this could be long forgotten.

On a sidenote, I like the fact that I can type “Carlos Santana” into the google search engine, and the baseball player shows up in the top three results.

Chief Wahoo has become “news” over the past couple of weeks, as the Indians announced that the “Block C” was going to become the primary logo for the Indians moving forward. My first memories of being a Cleveland Indians fans were wrapped around two distinct “logos.” The first was the Crooked C cap that the Indians used in the mid-70’s. It’s the Logo that I grew up with, and it’s the Logo that I will always hold near-and-dear to my heart. I don’t have a Crooked C hat, but it will be the next one that I get.

The second logo was originally perched atop Gate D. My family owned season tickets to the Indians games at the old Muni throughout my early life, and perhaps the best part of any game was when we pulled into the Gate D lot, and Chief Wahoo cleared into view. Often, the games that took place afterwards went downhill, but there Wahoo was, greeting me, and saying goodbye. I’ll never forget walking out the last time in 1993 during the final White Sox series and saying goodbye to that Wahoo and literally crying.

He was a part of every home baseball game I ever went to from 1972 through 1993. He was quite honestly a part of my family (no, I don’t hide behind my patheticness).

That sign, by the way, can be seen at the Western Reserve Historical Society these days, having been fully restored. It’s a beautiful memory.

In 1986, when the Indians changed their hats over to the Wahoo, I loved it. I was a punk high-school kid at the time, and baseball was already the most important sport in my life. The Indians were terrible most of the time, but I did love that hat. I loved it even more in the 90’s, when the Wahoo-crested hats and jerseys were some of the best-selling in all of baseball. I had several of every color and then some.

I pledged in 1994 that if the Indians ever won the World Series, a Chief Wahoo tattoo was going on my shoulder and calf. I wanted one right then, but figured that it was only a matter of time, and if it happened to take longer than a few years, then it was a small price to pay for following my Indians.

Wahoo is a part of my life, and “he” always will be.

Now I’ve seen a lot of justifications over the past two or three weeks about why the team should keep the logo, and why the team shouldn’t. I don’t want to go too far into that discussion for the simple fact that we currently live in a day-and-age in which people don’t change their minds for any reason.

That’s fine, and I do understand all the reasoning behind people that want Wahoo to remain not only a part of the Indians on the field, but want it to be the primary piece to the Indians logos going forward.

I also understand the other point of view, and point to schools like Miami (OH), who changed their logo and their name from the Redskins to the RedHawks.

So what’s my point in all of this? It’s time for Chief Wahoo to go away as a public logo for the Cleveland Indians. The ONLY case that I can make for keeping the logo around is an entirely selfish reason. I love the logo. I’ve been to more games than anyone that I know personally, and I can honestly say that Wahoo has been as much a part of my life (or more) than many of my friends. I live and I die baseball, and you know, Wahoo and I have had far too many conversations that I can remember.

But it’s still time for him to disappear.

There’s nothing malicious about Wahoo in its delivery and how it came about, but that doesn’t mean that the appropriateness is lacking.

The history will never go away, and regardless of whether or not the Indians “use” the logo, the memories won’t either.

I’m not going to profess to having “Native American friends,” or to following some local Tribe’s hate of the caricatures used by sports that accidentally mock their culture, but I have heard enough legit reports that know there are Tribes that are affected by this.

As a history buff, I understand how the native cultures here in the United States were constantly and consistently moved from their homes, as newer and stronger cultures moved here from Europe. I know about the Trail of Tears, and all the horrors before and after.

While I’m not a huge fan of the new “political correctness” that has enveloped the country in many ridiculous ways, I’m also not ignorant of the fact that at its roots is a legit concern that there are things in this country that just aren’t right. I’m smart enough to delineate the serious things from the miniscule.

A good friend asked me a question a couple of years ago, and it didn’t take me even more than a second to answer him. “Would you wear your Wahoo hat to a reservation?”

“No,” I said quickly, without thinking. Then after a minute or two of thought, I said “No” again, realizing that if there was even a chance of it being disrespectful, I didn’t want to wear it. That’s what my parents taught me. That’s what my peer group taught me. Is that more important than a logo?

Hell no.

I do understand that there are comparisons. I do get that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a caricature that can be demeaning to the Irish, as do the Boston Celtics. We all know about the Washington Redskins as well. Just because they are out there and aren’t going to go away, that doesn’t make it right.

Am I right, and are others wrong? That’s truly not for me to say. I’ll just end with this.

I’m a Cleveland Indians fan because of the “Cleveland.” The rest is just superfluous.

I’m not a Cleveland Browns fan. My family held season tickets from the time I was a baby until the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1995, but I stopped being a legitimate fan a long time before that. Why beat around the bush about it.

I’m not going to get into the story of the whys right now, as it’s a fairly personal story, but I can tell you that it’s a good story, and it involves gambling, freezing temperature, near death and gambling. It’s truly funny how things look to a youngster.

What I am and always will be is a fan of the town that I was born in. I mean seriously, I was born in Berea, OH, and I’ve been to nearly every important home game that has happened in this city after I was born. It’s an odd relationship I’ve had with the Browns over the years…to say the least…but perhaps it does give me some interesting perspective.

I’ll revisit this again down the road, but did want to get it out there.

The Browns traded Trent Richardson on September 19th, and you can say what you want about the Cleveland Browns front office, they nailed that deal. Now, it initially sent the message that the Browns were calling it a season after an 0-2 start, but that quickly changed when other moves were made.

Well, one other move.

The Browns took the ball away from Brandon Weeden and gave it to Brian Hoyer. What happened next? They won their next three games, but Hoyer was unfortunately hurt early in that third win. Still, at the end of week five, the Browns were 3-2, had beaten the Cincinnati Bengals, had a defense that was playing extremely well, looked like a team that was going to contend, AND had two first round picks the following year.

Then the wheels came off.

There’s no sense pointing fingers at this stage of the game, because it’s clear that Rob Chudzinski was held accountable. He should be, as I’ve mentioned several times. He’s the head coach. Now, does that necessitate his need to be fired? Maybe, maybe not.

There has been a lot of scuttlebutt about the Browns seeing Chud lose complete control of the team. I get that, but I don’t buy it. There was lots of talk coming from the Browns front office all season long regarding how much they liked what Chud was doing with the team…right up until the beginning of December. Then came the Jacksonville and New England games, and in my estimation, that’s when the wheels came off.

Agree or not, Jimmy Haslam likely was annoyed, and really, it’s just a matter of opinion on whether he was right or wrong. None of that matters, since the only opinion that matters is Haslam’s himself.

You do wonder though, if the hiring of Chudzinski before the hiring of Mike Lombardi might have had something to do with it. I’m not saying that Lombardi has a massive say in the coach, but perhaps there were issues there that we aren’t aware of. Lombardi is used for leaks, but isn’t often in front of the cameras.

At the end of the day, what the fans think about all of this means nothing in the grand scheme. Fans will still be going to the games, and they’ll still sell out. A good friend, who still gets season tickets threw this gauntlet out to me: “I’m NOT GETTING SEASON TICKETS ANYMORE! Well, I’m still going to get them. I’m just going to sell them the second I get them.”

Well, THAT’S going to send a message.

My point isn’t to critique, just to back up the fact that the Front Office is working with the knowledge that they pretty much can do whatever they want to and people are going to show up.

What does matter is that the Browns need to worry about the perception of coaches, as well as players. Now, I recently got into an extensive argument with my fellow CSI pals Michael Hattery and Steve Orbanek about the job being an NFL job, therefore important.

Of course.

I’m not an idiot. Someone’s going to want this job. I liken it to having a neighborhood full of million dollar homes. People are going to want to buy a home in that neighborhood, no matter what. The Browns have a home in the neighborhood as well, but it’s starting to look a bit like a foreclose home, with holes in the wall, dirt for grass and all the copper stripped away.

The Browns need someone straight off of DIY, who can rebuild this house quickly. The good news is that there are tools that could make it a quick rebuild, including eight picks in the first five rounds, and $24 million under the cap. It’s enticing to the right person, but I don’t think that it’s one of those jobs that anyone would take.

People say perception is overrated, but I don’t agree at all. If a coach has a horrible perception of the front office, certain candidates may disappear. That’s just life. The Browns fired their first coach after a year. That does send a message.

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that the candidates that are available all seem to fall into the same category.

It also could play a part in what free agents do in the future, especially considering that the Browns tend to have to overpay to bring players in already. Think about Kruger’s deal.

It shouldn’t take the Browns front office to EARN that credibility though, if they hit a home run with the coaching hire, draft well, and use some of that under-the-cap money to make a serious move. That sounds like a lot, but it can happen.

The biggest issue right now is that there is unknown, and fans hate that. Haslam is an owner that could be in serious trouble with the Feds. The front office looks foolish, having fired their first coach after less than a year. There aren’t ANY coaches in place. It looks and sounds horrible, but by this July, things could look a lot different.

The Browns should draft TWO quarterbacks. With their first pick, I’d love them to take the best available quarterback, as long as they like one of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles. In the fourth round, I’d take another quarterback…or even in the third. I would love to see a Brett Smith on this roster to go along with whoever else they draft in the first.

It gives the team a fallback option should their first rounder falter.

Josh Gordon…is really, really good. Hopefully, he’s surrounding himself with people that will keep him OUT of trouble, and not life-suckers that can often lead to trouble. The Browns simply can’t afford to have him get a third strike. If it’s me…I’d hire someone to be his best friend.

No, it wouldn’t be Davone Bess.

There are three names that are out there right now for the Browns in my opinion, and maybe four. Buffalo’s Mike Pettine has been interviewed and apparently did a phenomenal job with the interview. Of course, the Browns are supposedly waiting to interview Mike Gase, Denver’s offensive coordinator. Dan Quinn is another guy that interviewed and impressed.

So, if you fire Chudzinski, who do you hire of the three? I love defensive coaches, so I think I’d lean to Pettine and Quinn, but I honestly don’t know much about any of the three. The key isn’t just the coach, but the staff that he can put together. Oh, and how much will the front office meddle?

Joe Banner just scares me.

I don’t want to leave without talking a bit about the Cavaliers, so I just want to say that my heart wants this team to keep winning. I’m awfully sick of rooting for draft picks.

My mind screams LOSE!!!!!

Perhaps it’s habit.

In the rearviewmirror:

  • I haven’t looked forward to a day of football more than today. On one side, you have Peyton Manning and Tom Brady…the old guard of the NFL. On the other side, you have Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, the young guard. I truly believe the four best NFL teams are playing each other right now. Who’s going to win? Who cares. I just hope they are incredible games.
  • Would you hire Peyton Manning as your head football coach if he retired after this year? He isn’t, but would you?
  • Could the Browns have a sleeper candidate in place that Haslam is waiting for? I still think there could be a wildcard here that everyone is missing. No idea who that would be, but think it’s possible.
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