Mismanagement and Curses in Dodgers’ Playoff Woes

By Griffin Olah

October 16, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major with a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the gold standard for success in the National League in recent years. They’ve been to the World Series in 2017 and 2018, and followed that up with a franchise record 106 wins in 2019. After losing two straight World Series, the Dodgers revamped their roster this past offseason, bringing in outfielder A.J. Pollock, righty reliever Joe Kelly and lefty reliever Adam Kolarek. Walker Buehler turned into a bona-fide ace and star shortstop Corey Seager was back healthy. They were heavy favorites, as usual, going into the postseason, led by the same cast of characters that always got them there: Dave Roberts and Clayton Kershaw.

The NLDS against the Washington Nationals was a roller coaster ride leading to a winner-take-all Game 5 in Los Angeles. Walker Buehler toed the rubber for the Dodgers, and red-hot ace Stephen Strasburg faced him. The Dodgers jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, and Buehler’s gem ended when Roberts lifted him in the 7th with 2 outs. Coming in from the bullpen was none other than three-time Cy Young winner and generational pitcher Clayton Kershaw. 

Kershaw got Adam Eaton out quickly to end the 7th, and then came out for the 8th. The first Nationals’ batter, Anthony Rendon, golfed a down and away pitch over the left field fence. 3-2 Dodgers. Lefty-killer Adam Kolarek sat in the bullpen as Kershaw stared down young phenom Juan Soto. Kolarek had great success against Soto throughout the series, not allowing Soto to reach base. Kershaw stayed on, however, and Soto took him deep to center field. Tie game. 

The entire dynamic of the game changed, and instead of cruising to a win, Kershaw let up two runs and now the Dodgers were fighting for their lives. Kershaw got out of the inning, and Roberts called on Joe Kelly to pitch the 9th. He sat down the Nationals in order, going 1-2-3. The game moved to extra innings, and Joe Kelly came out in the 10th. Joe Kelly. Not Kenley Jansen, one of the league’s premier relievers. Not Kenta Maeda, starter turned playoff reliever who has been lights out all postseason. Joe Kelly, who gave up nine runs in 12 ⅓ innings of multi-inning outings (Baer, 2019). Kelly loaded the bases, and then Howie Kendrick launched a moonshot through the night sky at Chavez Ravine and through the Dodgers’ hearts. A grand slam, game over.

The media looked at this collapse and talked mismanagement immediately. Blame was laid on the shoulders of Dave Roberts for his bullpen mismanagement. Critics pointed to Roberts’ “lack of confidence in the rest of his bullpen” (Baer, 2019, para. 6) as the main reason for the loss. Roberts had one of the best overall bullpens in the league, yet stuck with a starter carrying postseason demons and a reliever who struggled in multi-inning appearances all year. Others looked to the man who let the game get tied in the first place: Clayton Kershaw. It seems every season someone “write[s] about [his postseason] failure” (Baumann, 2019, para. 11). Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in MLB history, and has had his share of success in the postseason. Sure, he hasn’t won a World Series, but he is still one of the best we have ever seen. 

Many in the media want to push the narrative that Clayton Kershaw cannot pitch in the postseason, and this latest collapse is a major piece of evidence to support that point. Where is the talk of his dominant performances, though? Where is the talk surrounding his reign of dominance over the last decade, with only injuries and a few bad starts holding him back? Justin Verlander got shelled by the Rays in the ALDS, but he is still heralded as a great postseason pitcher. Both had bad outings, but only Kershaw’s is considered a problem across his entire career. Kershaw may have had some bad postseason outings, but he is not the reason that the Dodgers’ season came to an untimely close. That is Dave Roberts’ problem.

Dave Roberts severely mismanaged the end of the game, and that’s the main problem. The media likes to focus on a pivotal point in the game that swung the outcome one way or the other, and Kershaw’s meltdown fits the bill. The real issue, though, is Kershaw staying on to face Soto, or Kelly’s second inning of work. There was a capable bullpen, a fact many articles ignore, and Roberts left the game in the hands of two relievers that struggled mightily in the game. Will this mishap cost Roberts his job? No, and it shouldn’t but media members looking for a scapegoat point at both Roberts and Kershaw as the problem, and think they should be removed from the team.

References

Baer, B. (2019, October 10). Dodgers’ NLDS Game 5 loss is on Dave Roberts. NBC Sports. Retrieved from https://mlb.nbcsports.com/2019/10/10/dodgers-nlds-game-5-loss-is-on-dave-roberts/.

Baumann, M. (2019, October 10). NLDS Game 5: The Clayton Kershaw playoff narrative will never go away. The Ringer. Retrieved from https://www.theringer.com/2019/10/10/20907661/nlds-game-5-nationals-dodgers-clayton-kershaw-playoff-choke.

Is Acuna Jr.’s Hustle a Problem for the Braves and Baseball?

By Griffin Olah

October 13, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

Game 1 of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves was entering the bottom of the 7th with the Braves up 3-1. The first game is always among the most important, and the Braves had the ability to add to their lead. Ronald Acuna Jr., the Braves’ young phenom and leadoff hitter, stepped into the box. He worked the count to 2-2, and then unleashed a long fly ball off of Cardinals pitcher John Brebbia. The ball flew down the right field line, nearly leaving the confines of Sun Trust Park and extending the Braves’ lead. However, it came up short and careened off the wall. 

After watching the ball, Braves fans willing it to stay in the air and go over the wall, and seeing it land just short of a home run, attention turned to the bases. There, Ronald Acuna Jr was inexplicably on first base. After launching a ball 331 feet down the right field line, Acuna was stranded at first. He moved to second on a groundout by 2B Ozzie Albies, and was then doubled up after a Josh Donaldson lineout. 

It’s easy to see that something went wrong on the base paths with Acuna, though. While the double play was bad, it was almost inevitable. The real issue was his single to lead off. Acuna hyped up his long ball, as usual, but this time it came up short of the fence. Acuna stood in the box, his bat raised to the sky in celebration, for two seconds as the ball was in the air. After that, he jogged to first only for Cardinals OF Dexter Fowler to play the ball off the wall and fire it into the infield. If Acuna came running out of the box as soon as the ball left his bat, he would have easily made it to second. He would have then moved to third on Albies’s groundout and the double play would have been much more difficult to turn. Acuna could have scored. 

After the game, the Braves were understandably frustrated. Veteran 1B Freddie Freeman pointed back to when Acuna was benched in August for not running out a foul ball, believing you only need to “have that conversation once” (West, 2019, para. 4). Albies believes that Acuna “probably scores that inning if he’s on second” (West, 2019, para. 8). Acuna was a problem for the Braves in that moment, but what about the rest of baseball?

Media attention on Game 1 revolved around Acuna’s lack of hustle, much like it did last season with Manny Machado’s lack of hustle and possibly dirty play in the playoffs for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This time, however, the actions of Acuna are perceived as more representative of the entire league. New outlets point to Acuna’s hustle as evidence that “the game has changed” into something selfish and immodest (Mushnick, 2019, para. 10). While people in the game – GM’s, managers, coaches, players – have excused the actions of players like Machado and Acuna, the media feeds off of it and turns it into something it’s not. Is Acuna not hustling a problem? Sure, he might have cost the Braves a key run that would have factored heavily in the 7-6 loss. Is Acuna’s hustle emblematic of baseball as a whole falling into bat flipping ruin? No, it probably isn’t.

The traditional media – old players, managers, and GMs sitting in broadcast booths – like to talk about how baseball as a whole is changing into some unwatchable mess of strikeouts, home runs and bat flips. Former pitcher Goose Gossage said of the sport “it’s not baseball. It’s unwatchable,” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 7). Hit king Pete Rose said the game has turned into a “home run derby every night” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 14). And former manager Lou Piniella derided the shift, claiming he “won a few games without having to shift” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 14). While that is up for debate and interpretation of each person watching the game, Acuna’s hustle is not some overarching issue like the media is making it out to be. It’s a key mistake in an important playoff game, but not some egregious pattern of error that needs to be corrected. With this miscue, the focus on Ronald Acuna Jr. has shifted from his near 40-40 season and his 1.579 OPS in the Postseason so far to his inability to hustle and his selfishness (“Baseball Reference,” 2019). Acuna put together an amazing season, shouldn’t the focus be on marketing one of the league’s best young players instead of his relatively small faults?

References

Baseball Reference. (2019). Ronald Acuna Jr. Stats. Baseball Reference. Retrieved from https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/a/acunaro01.shtml

Mushnick, P. (2019, October 5). Braves’ Ronald Acuna is doing his part in ruining baseball. New York Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2019/10/05/braves-ronald-acuna-is-doing-his-part-in-ruining-baseball/

Nightengale, B. (2019, August 19). MLB lifers decry the state of the modern baseball: ‘Unwatchable’. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2019/08/19/mlb-baseballs-old-timers-decry-state-modern-game/2047025001/.

West, J. (2019, October 4). Braves critical of Ronald Acuna Jr. for lack of hustle in NLDS Game 1 loss. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/mlb/2019/10/04/ronald-acuna-jr-lack-hustle-braves

Low Expectations for Browns yet again- Playoff Chances Diminished or Rising

By Cole Kegley

October 13, 2019

Cole Kegley is a junior undergraduate student at Bowling Green State University, majoring in Sport Management and minoring in General Business. The Bucyrus, Ohio alumnus focuses on basketball and football, with an emphasis on collegiate and professional levels. 

Browns’ fans were left in worry and bewilderment when their franchise relocated, becoming the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. To the surprise of no one, joy filled Cleveland when their beloved Brownies were back in the city beginning in the 1999-2000 season, following a 3-year deactivation period. The dawg pound was alive and thriving. Though, to what degree? 

Since their return to the NFL 20 years ago, the Browns have been nothing short of a disappointment. Similarly, an exponential number of quarterbacks have taken the reigns since their homecoming in 1999- thirty to be exact (Kenyon, 2018). To make matters worse, only one Quarterback has played a full 16-game season in the past 20 years for Cleveland, Tim Couch.

Browns’ fans have struggled through the past twenty years, witnessing numerous roster changes, head coaches fired mid-year, draft pick busts, players leaving in the off-season, and many other that took a toll on the organization. However, the culture and stigma surrounding the Cleveland Browns has begun to change in the past two years. The media, players, and fans alike are beginning to gain a sense of respect for this new-look team. 

Draft picks including Denzel Ward, Nick Chubb, Baker Mayfield, and Myles Garrett are just part of the reason why the Browns are turning heads. Another reason: trades and off-season acquisitions including the likes of Pro Bowlers Jarvis Landry, Olivier Vernon, and future Hall of Famer Odell Beckham Jr. make the Cleveland Browns an exciting team to watch. However, many media members refuse to accept Cleveland’s recent changes and their view as merely the “Mistake by the Lake” remains prominent. 

Colin Cowherd is one of the more popular faces of sport media, and more specifically as of late, Baker Mayfield; he has gone so far as to say, “I will be shocked if Baker does not finish top 2 in the MVP (voting)” He was also quoted saying, “of course Baker has a shot, because Baker has a better story. This is what MVP’s have become” (Cowherd, 2019). 

Clearly, Cowherd thinks highly of Baker and his story since taking an 0-16 team to 7-8-1 while only starting 13 games and throwing the most passing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history. However, he does not want to commit to the Browns becoming a winning and respectable team. 

Fast forward to week 4 of the NFL season, and the 1-2 Cleveland Browns (with their only win coming against a Jets team missing their starting QB) were looking at the 2-1 Baltimore Ravens with a sense of urgency. Consequently, A mere 14% of NFL teams starting 1-3 have made the playoffs since 1990 (Clayton, 2016). 

ESPN broadcasters such as Max Kellerman and Dan Orlovsky voiced how the Browns were desperately striving to replicate the Sean McVay-Rams phenomenon but failing. This comparison could not be more irritating as the Browns’ head coach is 11 years older than Sean McVay, and the reasoning for McVay’s fame is his relative success at such a young age- 33 years old (Kellerman & Orlovsky, 2019). 

False analogies sway viewers to believe un-factual information which is simply not comparable. Similarly, these broadcasters along with others have prematurely written off Freddie Kitchens and the Browns following only a handful of games. 

So, what should NFL consumers believe? The star-stacked Browns with a 2nd year quarterback and 1st year head coach started off slowly, dropping their first game by a margin of 30. Since then, they are 2-1 and are now sitting atop the AFC North, which they have not won since their return to the NFL (Lukas, 2019). 

All things considered, the Cleveland Browns deserve to be respected by the media. Sports broadcasters across American seem eager to see the Browns lose, leaving them to reaffirm their doubts of the Browns being the same old team to viewers. In spite of this fact, the Browns have struggled to begin the season. Though to their defense, 2 of their losses have come at the hands of the 4-0 San Francisco 49ers, and the Los Angeles Rams, 2018 NFC Champions. 

Lastly, multiple defenders including star-studded talent such as Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, and Morgan Burnett have missed multiple games. All in all, playoffs are still intact for the Browns and hopes for success are still on the table, so do not be too quick to write off this team, as they are loaded with talent on offense and defense. 

References

Clayton, J. (2016, October 4). Ranking 1-3 NFL teams most likely to bounce back. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/17708074/ranking-1-3-nfl-teams-most-likely-turn-2016-playoffs.

Cowherd, C. [The Herd with Colin Cowherd]. (2019, July 26). Baker Mayfield’s MVP odds are due to his story, Colin says to pay Dak before Zeke | NFL | THE HERD [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogHKc0zgmu4 

Kellerman, M. & Orlovsky, D. [ESPN]. (2019, September 24). Is Freddie Kitchens failing as the Browns head coach? | Get Up [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdkWLJhUXxU

Kenyon, D. (2018, May 10). Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks: Revisiting every starting QB since Tim Couch. Bleacher Report. Retrieved from https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2773955-cleveland-browns-quarterbacks-revisiting-every-starting-qb-since-tim-couch.

Lukas, M. (2019, October 1). Cleveland Browns, AFC North 1st place, say it aloud! Dawg Pound Daily. Retrieved from https://dawgpounddaily.com/2019/10/01/cleveland-browns-afc-north-1st-place-say-it-aloud/.

 

 

 

Risky move from Shurmur?

By Alex Sabo

October 11, 2019

Alex Sabo is a senior in Sport Management with a minor in marketing at Bowling Green State University. Alex is from St. Charles, IL and is interested in Pro sports, but follows football, basketball, baseball, and college football.

The second overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft, Saquon Barkley is now in his second season as a running back for the New York Giants. Coming off a hot start from his rookie season with 1,307 rushing yards (“2018 NFL Player,” 2018), Barkley and the Giants could find themselves in trouble for 8 weeks. If this is the case, the Giants will be without their star running back until week 12 with 75% of the regular season complete. The team is currently standing at 1-2 with a near win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 3. From the looks of things, it does not appear to be a positive start for the team and having their main playmaker injured will not help the team win games.

Struggling to find players to get the job done, they are trying to get their Super Bowl quarterback Eli Manning on track as his performances rapidly slipped, having seen their star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. switch teams, and the squad is left yearning  for a way to win games. While the defense had already given up 95 points by week 3, the total points scored on offense was only 63 points by week 4. Eager to try and fix that ratio and put some points on the board, the team needs a key element to their offense which seems like their only hope. Saquon Barkley, the second year running back, was an eye opener in his rookie season, given that not many rookies gain over 1,000 yards in their rookie season.  Unfortunately, Barkley came down with a high ankle injury week 3 against the Buccaneers and was fortunate that his team won by a hair to keep their fans’ hopes alive for week 4.

The issue with week four is the Giants will be missing Barkley as they battle the Redskins. We occasionally see elite athletes come right out of college and have a breakout rookie season, but that is not always the case. Given that the Giants need a playmaker desperately, they are in dire need of their running back. As a result, Giants coach Pat Shurmur  told ESPN writer Jordan Ranaan (2019),  “Rehab him and get him ready to go, see how that plays out” (para. 6). As desperate as the coach and the team is to have their only hope back, it is looking like a dangerous move, not for the team, but for Barkley. The 22 year old back is being rushed into the game by his coach and will not be put on injury reserve (IR). The reason the team won’t put him on IR is because this would bench him up to 8 weeks. Of course, the team can’t be without their running back!

No team wants to be without an integral part of their offense, and for a team which seems to be going downhill since week 3, the Giants are going to do all they can to win games. As explosive as Barkley is, “The second-year back won Offensive Rookie of the Year last season and was off to a strong start this year. He topped 100 yards rushing each of the first two weeks” (Ranaan, 2019, para. 10). Gaining just over 200 yards on 37 carries by week 3, he was entering what appeared to be an explosive season.

The question for Barkley is whether rushing him back into play if he is not fully healed could be a foolish move. Given that the team seems to be declining, could Coach Shurmur potentially be ruining things for his running back who is showing numbers and putting New York on the map for the running game? This highlights a risky move because Barkley’s numbers may never be the same if he gets injured again.

References

Raanan, J. (2019, September). Giants won’t place RB Barkley (ankle) on IR. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/27706974/giants-place-rb-barkley-ankle-ir

2018 NFL Player Rushing Stats. (2018). ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/stats/player/_/stat/rushing/season/2018/seasontype/2/table/rushing/sort/rushingYards/dir/desc

 

 

Why was Melvin Gordon’s Holdout so Different from Le’Veon Bell’s?

By Drew Gallagher

October 7, 2019

Drew Gallagher is a second-year Sport Management student with a minor in General Business at Bowling Green State University. Drew is a proud native of Aurora, Illinois and is interested in many sports, but focuses primarily on baseball and football at the professional and collegiate levels.

On Wednesday, September 25th, Melvin Gordon of the Los Angeles Chargers decided to end his hold out and returned to his team. His hold out for a better contract began in training camp and lasted until week 4 of the NFL season (Gordon, 2019). In the middle of the holdout in early August, “Melvin Gordon’s agent Damarius Bilbo [had] requested that the Los Angeles Chargers trade his client” (Abdeldaiem, 2019, para 1). The holdout included its share of ups and downs, but still seemed relatively quiet. This is especially apparent when put side-by-side with Le’Veon Bell’s 2018 holdout which lasted the entire season.

As a reminder, Le’Veon Bell was a member of the Steelers who was also in the last year of his contract. He decided in training camp that he wanted to hold out for a long-term deal with his current team. Both his camp and the Steelers had many separate contract negotiations throughout the preseason and early 2018 season, but no new deal came about. Because of this, he ended up foregoing the entire amount of the franchise tender that the Steelers had offered him, and he sat out the entire season. Gordon however, has had very similar circumstances, but still gave in to his holdout not even a fourth of the way through the year. One of these similarities is that both teams seemed to get by equally fine with their backup running backs (Ekeler and Conner) who thrived without their first string counterparts. This begs the question: how did the differences between the two affect the outcomes of their respective holdouts?

For starters, media coverage seemed to play a big role in how people perceived both incidents. Le’Veon Bell is known to be a very outspoken individual. He was constantly doing interviews and posting on social media to talk about his displeasure with how his holdout was going. Because of this, I believe that the media had a lot more interest in the story. Gordon, on the other hand, seemed to stay relatively quiet during his holdout and therefore had less coverage coming his way. This could very well be part of the reason why Gordon decided to come out of his holdout part way through the year unlike Bell. Without the constant media coverage, fans weren’t as eager to see the deal get done. This meant that Gordon had significantly less leverage than Bell when it came to contract negotiations.

Another reason that could be equally responsible for the difference in the holdouts is that If Gordon didn’t “play at all in 2019, his contract would… just transfer to 2020, when he would then be scheduled to earn $5.6 million once again” (Graziano, 2019, para. 5). However, Bell did not “have this problem because of the franchise-tag rules, which would have forced the Steelers to pay him nearly $21 million this year if they had wanted to franchise him for the third year in a row” (Graziano, 2019, para 6).

Whether the contracts themselves had the largest impact on the differences between how the respective holdouts ended up could definitely be debated. What is clear though is that the difference in media coverage definitely affected them in some way. I can definitely see similar circumstances affecting future holdouts as well.

 

References

Abdeldaiem, A. (2019, August 1). Melvin Gordon’s agent requests trade amid contract dispute with Chargers. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/nfl/2019/08/01/melvin-gordon-trade-request-chargers-contract-dispute

Gordon, G. (2019, September 25). Melvin Gordon ending holdout, will report to Chargers. nfl.com. Retrieved from http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000001058986/article/melvin-gordon-ending-holdout-will-report-to-chargers

Graziano, D. (2019, August 8). Why you can’t compare the Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon holdouts to Le’Veon Bell’s. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/27342231/why-compare-ezekiel-elliott-melvin-gordon-holdouts-leveon-bells

The Return of Gordon Hayward?

By: Max Lewton

October 7, 2019

Max Lewton is a third-year undergraduate student from Cleveland, Ohio. He is currently studying Sport Management with a minor in Journalism at Bowling Green State University. His primary interests are basketball and football at both pro and collegiate levels, as well as baseball.

The 2017 NBA season opener between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics is one that we all remember vividly. Gordon Hayward went up to throw down an alley-oop dunk and came down hard on his left ankle, leaving a roar of gasps from the crowd. The gruesome injury occurred only minutes into the first quarter of Hayward’s Celtic debut and left the whole NBA in shock. Everyone saw how the injury affected Hayward last season. He seemed a step slower than everyone on the floor and just did not seem to have the same leaping ability as before. It was apparent that he was still suffering from the side-effects of the injury the year before. The former all-star is now coming into the 2019 season fully healthy and ready to show that he can still play at a high level.

Of course, Hayward will not be exactly the same kind of player that he used to be. An injury of that magnitude will surely effect his athleticism and speed. However, let’s not forget that prior to his injury he was averaging almost 22 points per game on 47% shooting from the field and almost 40% from behind the arc in 2017 (“Gordon Hayward Stats,” 2019). Gordon Hayward does not have to be a big bodied forward who takes it to the rack as long as he has good shooting percentages. In an article that appeared on Boston.com, Hayward comment on his improved shooting stroke  saying, “I feel like I’m shooting the ball really well, I’m still trying to figure out some of the timing and rhythm on pull-up and dribble jumpers. But I do feel a lot better shooting the ball—even better than I did before the injury” (DeCosta-Kilpa, 2018, para. 14). Hayward can transform himself into a threat from behind the arc, which if he can earn the defender’s respect from out there, he can start taking more people to the basket.

With the emergence of Jayson Tatum at small forward, Hayward will either be the sixth man off the bench or start as an undersized power forward. It really comes down to him finding his true role with the Celtics. Head coach Brad Stevens runs a great offensive system in Boston, and he will be able to find a good role for him. Honestly the level of Gordon Hayward’s play next year could be the deciding factor on whether Boston will actually compete. If he can play like he did with the Utah Jazz, then that is adding another all-star caliber player to Boston’s young and talented lineup. That could make them a legitimate threat to win the East and maybe even contend for an NBA title.

Hayward has the skill set and experience to bounce back and become a respectable player in the NBA once again. It has been two years now since the injury and even though he looked very slow on the floor last year, he will have at least some of the athleticism he once had back. With Boston having a few new faces in the starting lineup this year, Hayward will not only have to prove himself to the rest of the NBA, but to his teammates as well. Boston is a young team full of potential, if he can be that veteran leader to backup Kemba Walker then the team will flourish. Many NBA fans and others have already abandoned Hayward’s comeback, but I believe that he has still got a lot left in the tank.

References

DeCosta-Klipa, N. (2018, October 15). ‘I won’t be the same player’: How Gordon Hayward expects to be different post-injury. Boston.com. Retrieved from https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-celtics/2018/10/15/gordon-hayward-injury-return.

Gordon Hayward Stats. (2019.). Basketball Reference. Retrieved from https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/h/haywago01.html.

Whose Fault is it Anyway?

By Griffin Olah

October 3, 2019

Griffin is a second-year BGSU undergraduate student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

The Cleveland Indians’ 3-year reign over the AL Central has come to an end, and the Tribe has missed the postseason for the first time since 2015. The preseason division favorite finished in second place in the Central and third in the AL Wild Card with a 93-69 record. This season definitely did not go according to plan for anyone involved, but reasons for missing must be analyzed. 

Most media attention focuses on shoddy leadership, particularly from owner Paul Dolan, as the primary reason the Tribe sits on the outside looking in on the postseason. Before the season began, Dolan ordered the payroll to be cut. Following an embarrassing sweep in the ALDS at the hands of the Houston Astros (Torres, 2019), this was particularly puzzling. The 2018 iteration of the Indians was flawed for sure, with the top-heavy offense and top of the line rotation carrying the team to 94 wins, but there was no addition over the offseason (Perry, 2019). Following a three team trade of first basemen sluggers with the Rays and Mariners that netted the Indians Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers while losing Yandy Diaz and Edwin Encarnación, the Indians sat quiet for the offseason. 

The reasons behind the blame placed on the Dolans vary based on the article, but there are two main ideas. The first is that the Dolans either don’t care to spend or don’t care about the team’s success. Following the Astros’ sweep, the Indians had a window to improve and a few key contributors on the open market, including relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, outfielder Michael Brantley and third baseman Josh Donaldson. All four left in free agency on contracts that the Indians could have afforded if the Dolans opened up their pockets. There is also the infamous comment from Paul Dolan telling fans to “enjoy” Francisco Lindor when asked about resigning him (Meisel, 2019). The other idea is that it is the fault of ownership. This group believes that the Dolans went farther than restricting the resigning of players, they instructed President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff to cut payroll. The Indians “cut more than $15 million from the 2018 Opening Day salary obligations and reversed almost a decade-long trend of year-over-year increases” (Perry, 2019, para. 5), which led to the team not only losing key pieces of the 2018 team, but not being able to add any players at all. The Indians have a creative front office, but they were severely handicapped by the Dolans strategy and plans for the future.

Was this the reason that the team missed the playoffs? Yes, the offseason was flawed- letting Michael Brantley and Yandy Diaz leave was particularly painful for Indians’ fans both before and during their quality seasons- but there is a lot more to the picture than just the Dolans’ unwillingness to spend. The outfield was a serious issue, but one that was addressed by Antonetti and Chernoff. The Indians promoted outfield prospect Oscar Mercado in May, who went on to have a Rookie of the Year caliber season. They swung a major deadline deal with the Reds and Padres that brought in a year of Yasiel Puig and 5 of Franmil Reyes, shoring up the outfield and strengthening the overall lineup.

So, if the off-season concerns were addressed, what was the issue? Injuries. The Indians’ rotation, known across baseball as one of the most formidable in the sport, was decimated. Perennial Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber broke his arm on a comebacker to the mound, second ace Carlos Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia and missed a significant portion of the season, and surging Mike Clevenger dealt with a back issue that caused him to miss over a month of the season. Jose Ramirez disappeared for the first half and then recaptured his MVP form in the second half, only to break his hamate bone in his right hand and miss the critical end of the season.

Even with all the injuries, the Tribe were still competitive, finishing 8 games behind the surprising Twins and 3 games behind the Rays for the second Wild Card spot. When looking at the season as a whole, where can the blame truly lie? The media puts it on the tight-walleted Dolans, but it should rest on the string of bad injuries. Would Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco give the team 3 more wins over the season? If Jose Ramirez performed to his MVP caliber the first half, could the team have won a few more games? These questions directly impact the win total of the 2019 Indians, possibly even more so than questions surrounding the Dolans’ choices over the offseason. So, in the ultimate question of “Whose fault is it anyway?” The answer rests solely on the unpredictability of baseball and the Indians’ lengthy IL.

References

Meisel, Z. (2019, March 25). Paul Dolan discusses the dollars and sense behind the Indians’ payroll and Francisco Lindor’s future. The Athletic. Retrieved from https://theathletic.com/884023/2019/03/25/paul-dolan-discusses-the-dollars-and-sense-behind-the-indians-payroll-strategy-and-francisco-lindors-future/

Perry, D. (2019, September 30).The Indians have been eliminated, and it’s mostly the fault of ownership. CBS Sports. Retreived from https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/the-indians-have-been-eliminated-and-its-mostly-the-fault-of-ownership/

Torres, L. (2019, September 30). The Dolans don’t care that the Indians missed the playoffs. Beyond the Box Score. Retreived from https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2019/9/30/20889710/cleveland-indians-ownership-dolan-missed-playoffs-cheap