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Facelift improves image for Cleveland teams

May 2, 2013

By Stephanie Metzger

Cleveland is often referred to as the city of “there’s always next year”, but the year of 2013 has brought inklings of new life and whispers for a new motto.

It started with the Cleveland Indians. The team fired manager Manny Acta after a dismal 68-94 overall record. The 2012 season started out decent, as the team even held a first place position in the American League Central at one point, but an 11-game losing streak and implosion of clubhouse chemistry led to disgust and disdain from the fan base. Acta became the scapegoat as he was fired in September with seven games remaining in the season and during the first week of October, the organization shocked the city with the hiring of Terry Francona.

The Cleveland Browns made the next move. Their 5-11 record for the 2012 season was depressing but expected by realists, and the results ended in the firing of head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert. The team also found a new owner in Jimmy Haslam, who purchased the team from Randy Lerner six weeks into the season. Of course, Haslam has recently fallen into some hot water as his company, Pilot Flying J, was the target of fraud investigations by the FBI.

Finally, the Cleveland Cavs took their turn as they fired head coach Byron Scott at the end of a 24-58 season. Soon after, Scott’s three-year reign came to a close as he was replaced with Mike Brown, who previously coached the team from 2005-2010. The hiring of Brown put a halt to the rumors of the return of LeBron James, and seemed to draw positive reaction from fans.

Now, the question becomes which Cleveland team will fare the best?

The Indians are the only team currently in season and so far, they have disappointed. The additions of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn have not made up for the starting pitching woes and injuries have made an impact. That said, the remodeled roster and addition of respected Francona provided a facelift that indicates a future of better things to come.

The Browns have already incited a round of groans with Haslam’s recent scandal and an incident with linebacker Quentin Groves’ involvement in a prostitution sting, but attention shifted back to the team itself during the recent draft. In the first round, new CEO Joe Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi took Barkevious Mingo, a defensive end out of Louisiana State University.

Mingo provides speed to the Browns’ defense and it can be assumed that he’ll receive a lot of playing time this season. Overall consensus suggests the pick of Mingo was a solid pick, though it’s impossible to judge the draft before anyone sets foot on the field.

New head coach Rob Chudzinski will also be under an intense microscope as fans are tired of the revolving door of coaches. The team has seen four different head coaches in the last six years.

The Cavs have been rebuilding since the departure of King James, but fans have adhered to young star Kyrie Irving for hope. Now, Byron Scott is gone and Mike Brown is back, leaving fans hoping that Brown’s past success (though no Cleveland championships) will return. It’s clear that the addition of Brown suggests no more years of rebuilding or high draft picks – team owner Dan Gilbert said he wouldn’t be shocked if the team returned to the playoffs next year.

The team is looking to win from here on out, but Gilbert and Chris Grant will need to add a veteran or two. They also get two first and two second-round picks in the lottery, so the addition of that talent with some formidable defense could speak volumes.

It’s tough to declare which of Cleveland’s big three will have the most successful season this year. The Indians have some issues to correct in terms of their starting rotation and sinking offense. The Browns’ off-the-field issues are competing against the team itself, but the draft has been a positive component of the offseason. The Cavs aren’t starting over completely, but another reign of Mike Brown suggests a new plan for the team.

Cleveland fans are desperately awaiting a parade down Euclid Avenue. While it’s uncertain which team fares the best as they all have their share of issues, hope for all three teams is imminent. Clevelanders are waiting for next year, but next year doesn’t have to be so ugly.