Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ohio Professional Sports: A look back and a look ahead

As Ohio boys, it’s frustrating to look at your state’s pro sports franchises and say wow, these teams stink.  So you ask yourself why do these teams stink?  The last real championship was the 1990 World Series title from the Cincinnati Reds.  The Indians haven’t won it all in most people’s lifetimes.  The Browns and Bengals both leave a lot to be desired (an understatement of dramatic proportion) and the Blue Jackets? Like Cris Carter would say, “C’MON MAN!”

Below are the 7 professional sports teams in Ohio.  It does not include minor league affiliations or odd ball sports such as lacrosse or defunct AFL teams.  Each describes a little history and a little update on where they stand currently.  We then give you the verdict on whether or not these teams have any hope for a title in the next 3 years (by 2015).  Let us know if you agree!

 A Major League Soccer squad who was a part of the founding members starting the MLS who won the MLS Championship in 2008.

VERDICT:  We almost care…

Ok, let’s be honest here, how many of you even realize there’s a professional hockey, like NHL, team in the state of Ohio?  Normally I’d say that’s a shame but I don’t blame you since this team has been awful ever since they came into existence in the 2000-01 season.  They are currently playing their 11th season (2004-05 didn’t exist because of the full year lockout which nearly killed the sport).  They are currently sitting not only dead last in the Western Conference (which doesn’t make sense, I know) but also dead last in the whole NHL.  They’ve made the playoffs once back in 2008-09 and were abruptly swept out of the first round 4-0 against the hated Detroit Red Wings.  They’ve only been really bad a couple times because they usually draft in the 6-10 range.  Only one first overall draft pick and thankfully that led to current team captain and best player Rick Nash who’s been here nearly a decade.  Columbus has a shot to be a strong hockey market but unfortunately, terrible general managers, poor coaches, crappy draft picks, and just not good hockey players have left a nasty taste in most fans’ mouths.  It looks like with the new casino being built downtown the Blue Jackets are going to be here for many decades to come but to keep the casual fan interested, a winning team on the ice is of utmost importance.  The first decade was 10 years to forget for CBJ fans, let’s hope the next 10 can be the opposite.  You may be seeing wholesale changes throughout the entire organization after this season…

VERDICT:  Let’s just hope for season ticket holders’ sake that this team can at least make the playoffs by 2015.  It’s becoming a sunk cost for the city of Columbus and management needs to figure it out quickly.

The Bengals came into the league in 1966 with owner Paul Brown (now the name of the stadium).  They’ve actually won 7 division championships and 2 AFC championships but lost both of those Super Bowls to the San Francisco 49ers in the 80s.  Unfortunately for the Bengals, when Paul Brown died in 1990, his son Mike Brown took over and everything went to crap.  They posted 14 consecutive non-winning seasons before current head coach Marvin Lewis took over.  There was the Carson Palmer era that saw them make the playoffs again and now the Andy Dalton/AJ Green show.  The crazy part is the fact this team is, historically, one of the stronger professional teams in this state.  They were just defeated by the Houston Texans in the Wild Card playoff round this past weekend.  They still only sold out 2 home games all season because the fan base, while excited about the team, has given up on the ownership.  Mike Brown has single handily destroyed this franchise with not keeping it up to par with other franchises and stadiums.  Carson Palmer literally retired instead of wanting to play for this team.  The future does look bright for this team with those 2 aforementioned rookies and a strong defensive core but you have to wonder how Mike Brown is going to screw up this time around…

VERDICT:  This team has a legit chance of winning a Super Bowl come 2015.  I’m not sure Marvin Lewis is the guy to lead them there but the talent is in the building.  There’s hope Bengals fans…WHO DEY?!

Established in 1882, the Reds back then called the “Red Stocking” were one of the first all-professional baseball teams. World Series championships in 1919 and 1940, would not win another one until the “Big Red Machine” was formed in the 1970’s. Sparky Anderson, Reds manager at the time had an All-Star line-up with players such as, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez and supported by George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, Ken Griffey, Sr. and Dave Concepcion. “The Big Red Machine” would go on to win 4 NL Pennants and two back-to-back World Series Championships (1975, beating the Red Sox in 7 games and 1976, sweeping the Yankees). Since then, the Reds have made it to the playoffs only three times (1990,1995, 2010) winning the World Series in 1990 (sweeping the Oakland A’s). Things looked to be heading in the right direction after the 2010 season, but after a disappointing 2011 season, I ask this question, “Was the 2010 season just a one-hit wonder?”

VERDICT: Championship 2015…Hey, look what the St. Louis Cardinals did this past season (just get hot at the end of the season), but even though I did predict the Reds to win it all in the upcoming World Series (see 2012 BIG BOLD PREDICTIONS), Realistically, I can’t envision the Reds led by manager Dusty Baker and the group in the clubhouse now, winning it all in either of the next three seasons.

Another Cleveland franchise just dying for a Championship.  Not since 1948, have the Indians been named World Series Champions (I know it’s nothing like being a Cubs fan, but still). The 1954 World Series, which is remembered by Willie Mays’ over the shoulder catch (Giants would end up sweeping the Indians), would be the last one for the Indians until 1995 (not even one playoff appearance). It was so bad, that in the late 80’s early 90’s two popular movies were created (Major League, Major League 2) depicing the Indians winning championships. But then with a new stadium (Jacob Field) and a new front office, the Indians enjoyed success in the mid to late 90’s. However, with 5 divisional crowns (’95-’99) the Indians only made it to 2 World Series, both ending in disappointments (’95 Game 6 vs. Braves, ’97 Game 7 vs. Marlins). Since then, the Indians have only made the playoffs twice (2001, 2007). This past season did have some promise for the future of the Indians as they competed for a division title though out the season in which nothing was expected of them. Are we entering another era like we enjoyed in the mid 90’s time will tell.

VERDICT: Championship by 2015….I’m not going as far as saying they will win a World Series, but it would be nice seeing them winning a Divisional Championship and back in the playoffs, Go Tribe!

The Cavs came into the NBA in 1970 and their first decade was a bit of a struggle but had a nice 3 year stretch of playoff appearances from 1976 to 1978.  In 1980, the original team owner Nick Mileti sold the team to minority owner Joe Zingale who then sold it to Ted Stepien.  In the 3 years that followed the Cavaliers became the laughing stock of the NBA.  In 1982, the Cavs lost their final 19 games and finished 15-67 and then started the following season with 5 straight losses.  They were averaging under 4,000 fans a game and Stepien threatened to move the team to Toronto because he’s a moron.  Luckily for Cavs fans, the Gund brothers stepped up and bought the team to keep it in Cleveland.  The late 80s and early 90s showed promise for the Cavs as they had All-Star players such as Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Ron Harper and Larry Nance and were coached by Lenny Wilkins.  However like most teams in that time period, they could never get past MJ’s Bulls and from 1993 to 2003, the Cavs were once again the most miserable team in the league.  This led to the LeBron James era from 2003 to 2010.  He single handily delivered hope and promise to an entire city as the #1 overall pick out of an Akron high school and was quickly nicknamed King James.  This included their first ever trip the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs (they were swept), a 66 win season in 2008-09, a Coach of the Year award, and LeBron’s MVP award.  The summer of 2010 again changed the fate of this franchise as “The Decision” was held and LeBron bolted to South Beach to cuddle with Dwayne Wade.  Now they are in full rebuild mode with Byron Scott leading the charge and recent #1 draft pick Kyrie Irving hoping to fill Lebron’s shoes.  Unfortunately NBA teams are built on individual talent and the NBA is chock full of losers and egotistical blowhards so it will continually be an uphill battle…

VERDICT:  Uhhhh, by 2015, if this team is a .500 squad, that would be impressive.  A great coach that is literally working with depth players and no actual talent outside of the yet unproven Irving.

A team that is close to Boomer's heart, the Cleveland Browns were established in 1946 by Arthur B. "Mickey" McBride. Mr. McBride would appoint Ohio State Buckeyes coach Paul Brown, as VP, GM and Head Coach (back then you could basically do anything and everything). Under Coach Brown, the Browns would have great success (winning 8 championships 4 in the AAFC, 4 NFL Championships). Coach Brown put together some great teams, in which included greats like quarterback Otto Graham, kicker/offensive tackle Lou Groza, wide receivers Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie, fullback Marion Motley and nose guard Bill Willis. The Browns were one of the NFL powerhouses in the pre-Super Bowl era of the NFL. After Coach Brown left, to start another franchise (Cincinnati Bengals), the Browns would go on to win one more NFL Championship (1964) led by arguably the greatest ever to play the game of football Jim Brown. Since then though, the Browns have found a number of ways to lose in the playoffs. In the 1980-81 season the Browns lost a Divisional Round game to the Oakland Raiders, in a game that most call “Red Right 88”, in which Brian Sipe (Browns QB at the time), threw an INT in the back of the end zone at the end of the game. Then again, with QB Bernie Kosar in 1987 “The Drive”, 1988 “The Fumble”, and 1990, all of which were AFC Conference Championships and all of which were against the Denver Broncos (curse you John Elway!) With only two playoff appearances since then, it’s hard to envision the Browns making the playoffs again, even if they did it would only end with another heartbreak. (Stay tune for his in depth article, directed towards the Browns and what its like being a fan).

VERDICT: Championship by 2015….NOT A CHANCE. I mean I can’t even see making the playoffs, or heck an 8-8 season. It has got pretty bad up there at the Stadium on the Lake.