Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s the Optometrist, checking in with one of the regular season’s final episodes of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.
Today’s installment once again originates from the great state of Texas – where Tristan Thompson, young Tyler Zeller and I have now spent three weekends since mid-February. Big Mo could drive the Team Bus blindfolded from hither to yon.
Tonight, our beloved, though shorthanded, Cavaliers face the high-octane Houston Rockets – a squad I’ve confessed to having a “Team Crush™” on before. (Of course, I'm completely satisfied with my relationship with the Wine and Gold. But every now and then, I like to spice things up with some Western Conference strange. The Rockets are still fun to watch, but I’m over them. This year’s Team Crush is the Denver Nuggets.)
The Cavaliers roll in once again without the services of their starting backcourt. But Byron Scott’s squad has adapted, improvised and overcome before. With or without Dion and Kyrie, the Wine and Gold can still put points on the Toyota Center’s mammoth scoreboard. And it’ll take several of them to top the Rockets on Friday.
After their matchup with Houston, the Cavaliers get an unprecedented four nights off before the mangy Celtics roll in next week.
Cleveland came into the previous two N.A.T.L.s following a nice win. But as you know, the Cavs fell just short of one this past Wednesday.
Yeah, the Cavaliers blew a 27-point lead to the Heat and couldn’t beat LeBron and his gang. We’re all big kids now. We can say it.
But unlike some of the nattering nabobs of negativism in Cleveland, I wasn’t completely crushed by the loss. And I don’t think Byron Scott was either. The Cavs were a C.J. Miles’ three-pointer away from going into OT against the white-hot NBA Champs, and without our starting backcourt.
The truth is that Cleveland could have won all three games against Miami this year, and have had Kyrie for only one.
The Cavaliers’ day in the sun draws nigh. They’re not ready for the postseason yet, but they’re getting there. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Watching Kyrie Irving, especially in the fourth quarter, what makes you think he won’t be an absolute killer when blood’s in the water during the playoffs?
You win this round, Miami. But remember: Every dog has his day. The Cavs still get one more crack at the Heatles before the regular season wraps up. And next year will be another story altogether.
Before we move past Wednesday’s bummer and on to our Three Pillars, I have but one question for the “Heat fans” – specifically those born and reared here in Northeast Ohio …
Have you no shame?
I’ll let it go there. Having a Team Crush is one thing. Sleeping with the enemy is another.
Now we can move past the whole ugly affair and on to what really matters: What happened Today-in-History.
At first blush, March 22 doesn’t look like it’s got much going for it. But then you realize that it’s the date that the Beatles released their first album, “Please Please Me.” It’s the date, in 1973, that Karl Wallenda – of the famous Flying Wallendas – defied death for the last time and ate pavement while trying to tightrope across two hotels in San Juan. (If you’d like to kick off your weekend with some footage of a 73-year-old bald guy plunging ten stories to his death, the video is readily available.)
But I found that the most significant usage of March 22 was by Arthur Leonard Schawlow and Charles Hard Townes, who in 1960 at the Bell Labs in New Jersey, obtained the first patent for a laser.
Without getting into too much sciencey mumbo-jumbo, a laser – originally an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation – broadcasts light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation.
Patents for the various zapping noises lasers make were obtained through the early ‘60s and “stun/kill” settings were patented later in the decade. Since those early days – from correcting eyesight to scanning barcodes to enhancing “Dark Side of the Moon” to eradicating the Death Star – there’s almost nothing lasers can’t do.
Happy Birthday, lasers! And Happy Birthday to you too, William Shatner, Reese Witherspoon, Angelo Badalamenti, Bob Costas and Shawn Bradley! But, most importantly, on this date back in 1985 in Kingston, Jamaica, little itty-bitty Justin Masterblasterson was born. The big right-hander will likely be the Tribe’s starter in the Opener, which looms one week from Tuesday.
We’ll get to the Tribe in just a darn second. Right after we complete the trifecta with a little Current Events.
Sure, there’s a lot going on internationally – Barry O’s trip to the Middle East, North Korea’s continued display of Little Man Syndrome – but I decided to focus on the state of Ohio, where Butler County prosecutor, Mike Gmoser, issued an indictment against Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog who rolled snake-eyes again on predicting an early spring.
Gmoser’s indictment states that Punxsutawney Phil is charged with misrepresentation of spring, which constitutes a felony “against the peace and dignity of the state of Ohio.” And, in true Buckeye State form, the zealous prosecutor is calling for the death penalty.
Of course, Gmoser later admitted that he was just joking about the death penalty, adding he’d gladly settle for simply cracking him with a shovel two or three times.
If the weather doesn’t warm up soon, I’ll drive his arse to Pennsylvania. But I can’t worry about that – especially here in Houston. I’ve got enough on my plate trying to finish News …Around … The … League …
Roll Tribe – Last week, we focused on our beloved Brownies and their free-wheeling spending in the opening days of NFL free agency. They’re still not done, but I thought it’d be a good time to whip out a little Tribe Preview – what, with the season less than two weeks away.
After a turrible second-half of the season last year, the Indians got a complete facelift – jettisoning manager Manny Acta as well as some long-time Tribe favorites like Travis Hafner, Roger Dorn, Shin Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, Pedro Cerrano and Fausto Carmona or Roberto Hernandez or whatever the cuss his name was.
The first big move of the offseason was landing manager Terry Francona, who brings immediate gravitas to the organization. The man knows something about combatting curses as well as the Cleveland psyche. He’s a winner.
In the outfield, the Tribe goes from the Johnny Damon-Shelly Duncan Experience to having three bona fide centerfielders across the pasture – Drew Stubbs, Michael Bourn and incumbent, Michael Brantley. All three hit for average with decent pop and can steal bases. Stubbs and Bourn have stolen 100 and 155 bases in their last three seasons, respectively.
In the infield, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall are poised for breakout seasons. Chisenhall is hitting over .400 this spring, with just four strikeouts in 39 at-bats. Kipnis faded a bit down the stretch last season, but still drove in 76 runs. Asdrubal Cabrera is in the best shape of his life and is still one of the top shortstops in the American League. And Mark Reynolds might be the underrated addition of the offseason, bringing some much-needed pop to the corner.
Reynolds will share that spot with Nick Swisher, who I predict will change the entire culture of the Indians. He’ll contribute both on and off the field. He’ll revive a team that still had a Wedgie hangover during Manny Acta’s tepid tenure. Swisher will produce and he’ll put a burr in the saddle of a sleeping franchise.
The Tribe’s starting rotation is the squad’s question mark. They were just plain awful last season. But the Indians also made changes in this department. Can Brett Myers come back in from the bullpen? Can Carlos Carrasco, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dice-K and Scott Kazmir return to their former form? Is Zach McCallister ready to step it up? Was Justin Masterblasterson really born in Kingston, Jamaica?
Only time will provide answers to those questions. (Except for that one about Masterblaster. His pops was Dean of Students at the Jamaica Theological Seminary before moving the family to Beavercreek, Ohio.)
The Indians bullpen is one of its strengths. Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith are rock solid. And my man, two-time All-Star, Kenny “Freaking” Perez, gives me offseason Optimist fodder like no other player in any other sport.
You’ve already got personalities like Swisher, Kipnis and Giambi. Perez plus future call-up Trevor Bauer – who plays 400-foot long-toss, has 19 different pitches, plays pre-game hackey-sack and is a staunch Conservative – is almost too much to imagine. But it definitely promises for an interesting summer at The Prog.
As I said a couple weeks ago, I’m so stricken with Indian Fever, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. Luckily I’ve got Cavaliers basketball and March Madness to keep me warm.
If you’re headed out – or just having some delicious drinks at home – to watch either, I implore you to call a taxi cab or designate a driver. That few bucks for a cab will be well worth it. The weekend isn’t nearly as much fun if you’re locked up in county. (You have to go No. 2 in front of everybody.)
We’ll reconvene next week – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. While we pine away the hours, please remember to …
Keep the Faith, ClevelandSincerely yours,