Cleveland Sports Weekly: Time to be optimistic in Cleveland

Jim Piascik

The baseball playoff push remains in full swing with Cleveland currently in the driver’s seat for one of the two wild card spots.

The Browns are riding high after a road win in Minnesota no one expected.

Is it possible the fans of Cleveland can finally just be happy?

Regardless of how September ends, no one should feel disappointed with the job Terry Francona’s crew did. Cleveland picked fifth in this past June’s draft thanks to finishing with the fifth-worst record in baseball in 2012. Now, a winning record is in the bag and the playoffs are within reach.

Despite how much it would sting to see Cleveland fall short of the playoffs, this year has already been a success. Any trips to the one-game wild card playoff, the American League Divisional Series or beyond is just icing on the cake.

The Browns’ low moment was more recent than a poor 2012 campaign. The trade of Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts last week following an 0-2 start pointed to yet another complete teardown and rebuild of the Browns.

The trade is absolutely defensible from the Browns’ perspective. Richardson’s poor 3.5 yards per carry in his Browns career could indicate he was not as good as he seemed. Plus, after only 35 yards on 13 carries in his Colts’ debut (good for an even lower 2.7 yards per carry), it is not as if Richardson is immediately making the Browns regret dealing him.

Setting aside Richardson’s stats, or how whether it was too early to give up on the third-overall selection in the 2012 draft, the value the Browns got back on Richardson was too good to pass up. As Justin Higdon of noted, Richardson is the first running back since Ricky Williams to get a first round pick in a trade.

The running back position is basically one big revolving door for most teams. Running backs tend to lose their effectiveness quickly and, unless they are named Adrian Peterson, just are not worth investing in. Teams can get running backs like Arian Foster and Alfred Morris either as undrafted free agents or late in the draft and save money to spend elsewhere.

Most teams do not invest a first-round pick in running backs anymore. In fact, none did in this past draft. Given that, there is nothing wrong with getting a first-round pick back for Richardson, especially given the direction of this year’s team.

Quarterbacks are still the indicator of success or failure in the NFL today. As great as Peterson is, the Vikings are 0-3 and quarterbacked by Christian Ponder. The Browns were not likely to be good again until they had a franchise quarterback, even if Richardson turned into Peterson 2.0.

Brian Hoyer’s successful debut win could be the start of something. I would not mind seeing the Browns move past the Brandon Weeden era and see if Hoyer — who is two years younger than Weeden — can get something going.

It is unlikely Hoyer is the long-term answer at quarterback. That answer will likely come from the college ranks. The draft is still months away, but there is no harm in seeing if Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, or Oregon’s Marcus Mariota are more appealing options.

The Browns look like they will at least be competitive this year despite all the tanking talk. And in between Sundays, follow Francona, Jason Kipnis, and Ubaldo Jimenez as Cleveland pushes for a playoff berth.

Optimism is not a familiar feeling for the Cleveland faithful, but as of right now, there is no reason not to be excited for the Cleveland sports scene.

Contact Jim Piascik at [email protected].