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Fourteen-year-old Nick Gilbert embodied it best Tuesday night after learning that the Cleveland Cavaliers had won the NBA lottery. He raised his hand and his face beamed with excitement. The tides may be beginning to turn for Clevelanders who have had notoriously bad luck with their sports teams. The ping pong balls fell their way twice, even better than in 2003, giving the Cavs the number four pick as well, and continuing a positive change in the Cleveland landscape since the departure of that lottery pick, LeBron James. While most of the country is experiencing Seattle-like weather, the sun is shining in Cleveland these days.
LeBron James left a black eye on the face of Cleveland sports fans, spurning his hometown for the glamour of south beach, but as always their hate has bred passion. The Bulls have proven they can stand toe to toe with the Heat, and the fans in Cleveland can bandwagon on to the team that decimated them many years ago. Michael Jordan and “The Shot” that has been played over and over again was 22 years ago. The loss in the Eastern Conference Finals once again to the Bulls was 19 years ago. Cavs fans will forget all about that for the time being if the Bulls can eliminate public enemy number one. With two picks that high in the draft, the Cavs should be back in the playoffs next year, where they could likely try to dethrone James themselves, a quick turnaround for a franchise that lost their king just a year ago.
Then there is baseball. A quarter way through the baseball season the Cleveland Indians are leading the American League Central and have the best record in baseball. This may come as a big surprise to most baseball fans, and although it’s early in the season the Indians could have the staying power to make a run at the playoffs.
If history says anything about how this team will perform, a glance at the minor leagues can give uneasy Clevelanders something to grab hold of. They have a lot of talent coming up, and their winning ways should continue on as they develop more talent at the minor league level. Two years ago the Indians AA team the Akron Aeros won the championship, and last year their AAA team the Columbus Clippers won the championship. Now that is no prediction for the big club to win it all this year, but the franchise is developing winners, and a winning attitude, something that has been absent from Cleveland, and perhaps an ingredient that will finally put them over the top.
The crystal ball and development of youth has not been the sheer reasons why the Indians have been so successful this year. Manny Acta’s team is doing it in every phase of the game. Their offense ranks in the top three in runs, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. Their pitching staff ranks in the top seven in ERA, quality starts, WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched), and batting average against. Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson are both 5-1 and boast ERA’s under three. With a five game lead over the Tigers, and the Twins and White Sox underachieving, the division is there for the taking keeping Clevelanders engaged and excited throughout the summer.
All seems well in Cleveland these days, and if the NFL gets its act together, maybe it will be a good year for even the Browns.