Sunday Column: Why We Should All Root For Cleveland In The N.B.A. Finals

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are two wins away from winning the franchise's first N.B.A. Finals. (Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are two wins away from winning the franchise’s first N.B.A. Finals. (Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

By Matt Noonan 

The 2015 N.B.A. Finals have been a real treat.

Unlike past years that have pitted squads with championship resumes, this year’s finals features two teams representing cities desperate for hardware.

Cleveland hasn’t celebrated a championship since 1964, the year the Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts in the N.F.L. Championship.

Golden State – winners of the 1975 N.B.A. Finals – have come close to winning its fourth championship in franchise history, but have only appeared in the final round twice since defeating the Washington Bullets in four straight games.

Unlike Cleveland, Golden State, which plays its games in Oakland, has seen neighboring professional squads win titles. The Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers have won Super Bowls since the 1970’s, while the Oakland A’s captured the 1988 World Series, sweeping the San Francisco Giants in four game. The Giants have won a trio of championships since 2010, including their franchise’s eighth World Series crown last fall.

The San Jose Sharks, however, are the lone Bay Area team without a championship. San Jose has appeared in the Western Conference Finals three times since the turn of the century, but suffered setbacks to the Calgary Flames (2004), Chicago Blackhawks (2010) and Vancouver Canucks (2011).

So, who needs this title more? The answer would be both Cleveland, right?

If Cleveland wins the title then it will probably call-off school, work and everything else the following day. Yet, if the series does go the distance, I guess school would be cancelled the following Monday, right?

The Bay Area has celebrated multiple championships. So, while Oakland and San Francisco would rejoice in the Warriors’ fourth franchise crown, it may not feel as special as Cleveland finally getting over the hump and winning a title.

Cleveland has seen its baseball team come close to winning a World Series title since capturing the 1948 World Series.

In 2013, the Indians attempted to extend its campaign to the round of eight, but lost to Tampa Bay in a play-in-game, 4-0. Cleveland concluded the game with nine hits – one more than the Rays – but could not muster a single run.

In 2007, the Indians fell to the Boston Red Sox – remember when they were good? – in the American League Championship Series and dropped a pair of American League Division Series in 2001 and 1999.

Cleveland did, however, appear in 1995 and 1997 World Series, but did not win.

The Indians saw its best chance to end the city’s championship drought in 1997 when they prolonged their championship series with Florida to seven games following a 4-1 victory in the sixth game. Yet, despite an early two-run lead in the final game of the Series, the Marlins rallied to even the game at 2-2 before plating the final run in the bottom of the 11th to win their first-ever crown.

As for the Cleveland Browns, they haven’t earned a postseason victory since 1989 after defeating Buffalo, 34-30. The Browns advanced to the Conference Championship following their win against the Bills, but fell to the Denver Broncos for the second time in three seasons by a score of 37-21.

Cleveland outscored the Broncos, 21-14, during the third stanza, but did not register a single point during the final 15 minutes. John Elway connected with Sammy Winder for a 39-yard touchdown strike, while David Treadwell kicked a pair of field goals during the final session to send the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

Since the turn of the century, the Browns have posted a pair of winning seasons, including a 9-7 mark during their 2002 campaign. Yet, similar to past years, the Browns fell in the playoffs, losing to rival Pittsburgh. Cleveland registered a 10-win season in 2007 – their most wins in a single-season since 1994 – but did not qualify for the postseason.

Let the debate rage on, who needs this championship? Cleveland or the Bay Area? I guess you would say, Cleveland, right?

Initially, I chose to Golden State to hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, but after rattling off Cleveland’s frustrating postseason setbacks, I guess I have to root for the Cavaliers.

Enjoy the remainder of the N.B.A. Finals and consider rooting for Cleveland, so they can finally celebrate a championship for the first time since “Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Beatles was a chart topper.

Daily Noontime – May 14, 2012

Jarrod Saltalamacchia recorded one home run and 5 RBIs on Sunday, as Boston extended its current winning streak to three-games! (Photo Credit: Yahoo! Sports)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s Monday, which means a new week has officially begun! Let’s get it started with some news and headlines from the city of Boston!

* The Boston Red Sox won their third consecutive game on Sunday, as the local nine pounded the Cleveland Indians, 12-1. Daniel Bard picked up his third win of the season, as he pitched six innings, allowed one earned run, and fanned two batters, while Jarrod Saltalamacchia recorded one home run and 5 RBIs.

* Boston has now won 15 games, and will look to earn their eighth win at Fenway Park on Monday when they host the Seattle Mariners — Jon Lester opposes Jason Vargas — first pitch is scheduled for 7:10PM.

* According to various reports — Daisuke Matsuzaka will make two more rehab starts with the PawSox before returning to Boston. The right-hander made his most recent start on Saturday, and lasted 5.1 innings and allowed seven hits, five runs, but fanned five batters.

* The Boston Celtics will look to earn their second Eastern Conference semi-final victory on Monday when they return to the hardwood at the TD Garden. Boston defeated Philadelphia, 92-91 on Saturday, and were given the day off on Sunday.

* Finally, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was recently interviewed by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who wrote in his weekly, “Monday Morning Quarterback” an excerpt about his first start against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 30, 2001.

Daily Noontime – May 11, 2012

Kevin Garnett finished Thursday’s contest with 28 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, which helped Boston close out their first round series against Atlanta! (Photo Credit: Zimbio.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to break out in song and dance. However, before we do that let’s unload some news and headlines from the city of Boston!

* The Boston Celtics punched their ticket to the second round of the NBA playoffs on Thursday, as they defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 83-80. Kevin Garnett paced the Green and White with 28 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, while Paul Pierce added 18 points and seven assists.

* Boston will return to the hardwood on Saturday when they tip-off against the Philadelphia 76ers at 8pm at the TD Garden. The 76ers won the regular season bout against the Celtics, 2-1, and also became the fifth team since the league expanded the postseason to 16 teams to knock-off a No. 1 seed.

* After Thursday’s contest against the Hawks concluded, Garnett thanked Atlanta’s co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. for providing him with some “extra gas.” Also, Ray Allen told the media that his ankle bothered him for a majority of the match.

Josh Beckett returned to the bump 10-days after his last start, and lasted 2.1 innings against Cleveland, as the Indians defeated the Boston Red Sox, 8-3 at Fenway Park. Former Sox pitcher Derek Lowe picked up his fifth win of the season, while Jack Hannahan and Jason Kipnis smacked long balls against Beckett in Cleveland’s 18th win of the season.

* Boston has now lost eight of their last nine contests, and will once again attempt to end their current losing streak of three games on Friday.

Daily Noontime – May 10, 2012

Josh Beckett made headlines on Wednesday for his golf outing last week, while nursing an injury! (Photo Credit: Cleveland.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s Thursday, which means the weekend is right around the corner. And while we anxiously await for Friday, let’s jumpstart this particular day with some headlines and news.

* Despite tying the game in the third inning, Kansas City retained the lead with one run in the fourth, which helped the Royals defeat the Boston Red Sox, 4-3. Jon Lester earned his third loss of the season, while Adrian Gonzalez registered his 19th RBI of the season.

* Boston will return to Fenway Park on Thursday, and attempt to earn their second win in May against the Cleveland Indians. The Sox have only won win in the current month, which was against the Royals on Monday, but have lost seven of their last eight contests.

* According to reports — Josh Beckett, who is scheduled to pitch the first game against the Indians in Boston, supposedly spent an off day last week playing golf while nursing a lat muscle. Beckett did not appear in Sunday’s 17 inning contest against Baltimore due to his “injury,” and hasn’t appeared on the bump since April 29, against the Chicago White Sox.

* The Boston Celtics will attempt to end their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday at the TD Garden. Boston has a 3-2 advantage, and has won two out of three games at home.

* Finally, Hawks owner Michael Gearon Jr. told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Kevin Garnett is the dirtiest player in league. He also claimed that the Celtics are an old team, too.

Daily Noontime – August 26, 2011

The New York Yankees recorded three grand slams on Thursday against the Oakland A's in a 22-9 beat down in the Bronx!

Happy Friday, y’all and of course, happy birthday Matt Noonan, who is the creator of Noontime Sports! Here’s the Daily Noontime, so enjoy, as well as have an awesome, but also, safe weekend too! 

Headlines: 

* So, those pesky New York Yankees recorded three grand-slams on Thursday against the Oakland Athletics, which is rather frightening.

* Due to Hurricane Irene, which is giving everyone head aches, the MLB has made some schedule changes that’ll affect a majority of the east coast clubs.

* Well, it appears that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has taken a “step” backwards, which isn’t a good sign.

* Apparently the NFL is planning on donating $1 million to a new memorial in Washington D.C. that will honor Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall.

* According to sources, NBA regional meetings have continued in Chicago this past week, but again, the league remains locked out.

* The Cleveland Indians made a major acquisition on Thursday, as they acquired Jim Thome from the Minnesota Twins.

Games to Watch: 

* New York Yankees at Baltimore (MLB) – 7:05pm eastern 

* Kansas City at Cleveland (MLB) – 7:05pm eastern

* Oakland at Boston (MLB) – 7:10pm eastern 

* Green Bay at Indianapolis (NFL Preseason) – 8:00pm eastern 

* St. Louis at Kansas City (NFL Preseason) – 8:00pm eastern

Video of the Day: 

Do you remember where you were when the east coast experienced an earthquake on Wednesday? Well, I bet Torrey Smith does, especially since it was videotaped. 

Red Sox Weekly 8/8/11

By Andy Lindberg

The Red Sox kept control of first place in the American League East after a brutal week facing off against Cleveland for four games and the Yankees for three more.  Boston split the first series with Cleveland, with Jacoby Ellsbury collecting walk-off hits in two consecutive games, the second of which was a home run.  The Sox then took two of three from New York.

There are few hitters in all of baseball hotter than Ellsbury right now.  After his two-walk off performance in the Cleveland series and dropping the first game of the series to the Yankees, Ellsbury exploded on Saturday for six RBI, including a 3-run home run off of CC Sabathia to put the nail in the coffin for New York.  Sabathia is now 0-4 against Boston this year, an impressive statistic considering he is 16-6 with a 2.81 ERA even after the Beantown shelling.  For those of you who are mathematically impaired, like myself, only two of Sabathia’s losses have come from teams not named the Red Sox.  Not bad considering at this point Sabathia is the American League Cy Young front-runner, who is now 6-9 all-time against Boston with a 4.19 ERA in 19 games.

As hot as Ellsbury was, Carl Crawford was out for blood this week, raising his batting average from the mid .240’s all the way up to .260 after hits in seven consecutive at-bats (including a 4-4 performance on Saturday) and collected three more hits in the series finale against New York.  Crawford is hitting the pitches he was missing earlier in the season, either due to not seeing the ball well or pressing too hard at the plate.  Right now, Red Sox fans are seeing the Crawford Boston paid for, and now that he seems more comfortable at the plate, the rest of this season and seasons to follow should result in better numbers from Crawford.

Josh Reddick further impressed critics with a walk-off hit against Phil Hughes of the Yankees on Sunday as well, plating Darnell McDonald for the win after Marco Scutaro jump-started the Boston rally off of Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning, just as ESPN was rolling it’s montage of greatness to Rivera and giving Boston no chance of winning.  Scutaro lead off the ninth with a Green Monster double, and Ellsbury laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, which moved Scutaro to third.  Dustin Pedroia, who was -10 with five strikeouts against Rivera leading into the at-bat, clocked a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Scutaro.  The win put the Red Sox back on top in the East by one game.  This week Boston hits the road for three games in Minnesota, beginning tonight and finishing on the West Coast against Seattle over the weekend.

 

Wake Goes For 200

 

Tonight’s game against Minnesota will see Tim Wakefield log his third attempt at career win number 200.  The game will begin at 7:10 EST.

 

Boston MVP Candidates

One cannot ignore the top three hitters in the Boston lineup.  Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez are all having fantastic years.  Gonzalez still leads the Major Leagues in RBI (91), hits (159), and batting average (.348), but the power numbers are down from what most fans expected.  The point of hitting home runs is to drive in runs, and home run hitters are to do that copiously, so having Gonzalez leading baseball in RBI with only 18 homers is an extremely impressive statistic.  This may be due to the fact that Gonzalez is second in doubles with 34, and has peppered the Green Monster repeatedly in his time at Fenway.

As good as Gonzalez and Pedroia have been, the Red Sox MVP at this juncture has to be Jacoby Ellsbury.  Red Sox fans clearly has no idea what the organization was missing last season when Ellsbury was limited to only 18 games due to injury.  Ellsbury is batting .318 with 19 home runs (his previous season-high was 9 in 2008), 72 RBI and 31 stolen bases.  That’s all from the leadoff guy.  There is no better table-setter in baseball right now.  The most noticeable trend to me is that from day one of this season, Ellsbury has been much better about working the count and making opposing pitchers work hard to get him out as opposed to last year and years past in which 2-pitch groundouts to second base were frequent.  Ellsbury has been the epitome of a difference-maker this season and having him, Pedroia (who is making a great case to reclaim his number 1 AL second baseman status from Robinson Cano), and Gonzalez all bat in the first inning is one of the large reasons Boston is the offensive powerhouse is has become this season.

Jon Shepard is “Living the Dream”

Jon Shepard began his career in a Wheaton College Lyons uniform, but now, he's a member of the Rockland Boulders in the CanAm League!

By Matt Noonan 

Noontime Sports had the privilege to talk with Rockland Boulders relief pitcher and former Wheaton College (MA) standout, Jon Shepard about his Minor League baseball career, as well as his dreams and aspirations.

 On being able to play Minor League Baseball: “Right now, it feels incredible. Pretty much growing up, I never [really] had the right opportunities [or knew] the right people and then having a little bit of luck out of college, I could jump into [the CanAm League] and this is pretty much my foot in the door and I love the fact that it’s on me now. Everyone knows, if you’re good enough, they’ll find you and I’m on this stage [and] I have that opportunity to display everything I learned at Wheaton [College] or throughout life and it’s just the absolute opportunity I wanted and like I said, I’m loving life [and I] get to be a boy this summer and this whole experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

On what you learned from Wheaton College/How have you applied it to your career: “The one thing I could take away [from my college playing days] was my approach and respect for the game. Wheaton, [Eric] Podbelski, [who is the head coach of Wheaton’s varsity baseball team], players [and] all the guys who came before me, came with me, learned exactly how to respect the game and how to understand on a good day, I’m not [at] my best [and] on a bad day, I’m not at my worst, [which] really helped me understand how to turn the page real quick and go after each pitch [by attacking batters] and being aggressive, which I lost that at the beginning of the [current] season. I was more timid and had a hard time really being the aggressor, where now being the aggressor is paying off substantially.”

On connection with certain player/What have you learned from them: Eddie Lantigua, [who plays for the New York State Federals] is an independent baseball [legend] and [he’s] made the 40-man roster for the [Los Angles] Dodgers and [Cleveland] Indians, he’s taught me so much about how to appreciate the game [and] it seemed like someone who had his success and seeing his passion for the game come out [is] astonishing. It made me find the absolute love of the game. [Also] there are so many famous guys [in the league] like Tim Raines Jr. on Newark [and] it was awesome facing him and striking him out.”

On the overall competition of the CanAm League: “Everybody in this league has experience and it’s pretty cool learning things from all [the various players] and just being caught up in it and seeing all the kids in the stands, [who] ask for the autographs, helped me appreciate [the game more]. I remember exactly being [a young boy] being like, oh boy that’d be awesome to be out there on the field and now I get to do that and I’m taking every moment in and not taking anything for granted.”

On his childhood MLB hero: Ken Griffey Jr. because he was a kid. He loved the game; he was so dominant and fun to watch. [He] was always smiling [and] it looked like he actually appreciated the game and it’s definitely hands down Griffey and then after that, [Jon] Lester. I love Lester, how he approaches the game [and] how he is his worst critic, where I feel like I am the same way with myself and how he overcame so much [when he battled cancer a few seasons ago].”

On his biggest role model: “What motivates me is having the opportunity to do what I love and being paid for it. There’s nothing better than that and my [mom] obviously [motivates] me so much. Having [my mother] for support [is the best feeling] because obviously every [mother] wants to see their kid happy and I know I’m happy playing, win or lose, having this opportunity and not taking anything for granted and being able to show her that all those times she dragged [herself] out of bed at five in the morning to [drive me to my double-headers] or all the time that she put in. It’s nice to kind of give back and show her that I appreciate it more than anything and obviously with my head accident and growing up and the situations that I had, having [people around me doubt me], not to sound like LeBron James, it actually helps having all those people [who doubted men] because even the worse things you take the best from and you let it push you and make you better rather than put you down.”