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Playing the waiting game

Cleveland sports are in pretty good shape, but nobody likes to wait

By JONAH ROSENBLUM Staff Writer Published: July 6, 2017 4:00 AM
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Waiting.

That's the word.

It's not yet August, but the dog days of the sports year have struck Northeast Ohio.

They do every year, of course, but with a football team that has been oddly quiet in a good way and a basketball team that has been oddly quiet in a bad way and a baseball team that sits in first place while seemingly treading water, they burn hotter in 2017. With no high school football or college football to distract the eye from downtown Cleveland, the stillness weighs heavier than ever.

Nowhere does the weight of the public eye and the endless waiting weigh heavier than with the Cavaliers. As good as they are, with three straight NBA Finals appearances, an apocalyptic swirl hangs over them at times, at least if you listen to sports radio.

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With the Indians, it's a plane waiting for takeoff. Occasionally, it feels like the engines are whirring and liftoff is moments away. Then, the plane makes one more turn toward yet another runway.

It has been this way all season at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. They swept Texas to start the season, then got swept by Arizona, eventually losing six of seven to fall to 4-6. They started June with a 4-8 record, then swept four games in Minnesota. It seemed like a turning point, like last year's mammoth June win streak -- then the Twins returned the favor a week later at Progressive Field.

Much like the Cavaliers, a lot of things feel right -- Corey Kluber is on a devastating roll, Jose Ramirez was hitting .327 entering Wednesday's game and Edwin Encarnacion had 17 homers.

But the boat rocks back and forth, never quite leaving the shore in the distance. On Tuesday, the Indians had no offense. On Wednesday, Trevor Bauer, himself having an up-and-down kind of year, had a rough start after a good start. He gave up four runs, three earned, to the Padres over five frames, after holding a much tougher Rangers lineup to a single run over 6 1/3. Before that came five runs, four earned, in a loss to Minnesota, which followed two runs over seven the start before. Like the Indians, Bauer goes back and forth, finding himself at .500 after Wednesday night's game. And there the Indians found themselves -- losing another series, this time to the hapless San Diego Padres, all in front of a huge crowd on a lovely summer night.

As impatient as the Indians players must be, their manager, Terry Francona, must be even more so, as he waits to be released from the hospital, where he is undergoing medical tests. There at the Cleveland Clinic lies an even worse wait, as the skipper waits to figure out what's been bothering him.

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The Cavaliers can commiserate. They have been waiting ever since owner Dan Gilbert decided that the magician that was David Griffin didn't merit a big-time extension.

There has been literal waiting -- for days on end as Chauncey Billups deliberated over the Cavaliers' offer to run basketball operations. (He said no.) Then, there has been figurative waiting, with the Cavaliers holding steady while pandemonium takes place around them. Many of their opponents have gotten better. The Celtics added Gordon Hayward, the Warriors tacked on Nick Young (admittedly not a huge move), the Thunder brought in Paul George to pair with Russell Westbrook and the Timberwolves slowly build toward the future with Jimmy Butler.

It's nothing to be overly concerned about at the moment -- the Cavaliers are still the best team in the East. But time ticks and questions linger. What will the Cavaliers do to show their fans and their star, LeBron James, that they are ready to step toward the Warriors?

The talk lingers as long as the days. We need a younger bench. We need someone who can help defend Kevin Durant. Would Carmelo Anthony be a good fit? How about simply finding a general manager?

And then there are the Browns, who seem better but will not be able to prove it for a couple of months. After months of waiting to see if they would draft Myles Garrett (they did), other curiosities sit perched in the thick summer air -- from who will play quarterback to will some young draft pick finally emerge at wide receiver.

Like the dog days themselves, there are worse things than 85-degree days, Cleveland isn't in a bad spot, per se. One team is a defending American League champion that is as stable as Terminal Tower itself. Another, the Cavaliers, teeter, but have three straight Eastern Conference championships as an anchor. A third, the Browns, are steady for once, with hope to boot.

There are worse places to be -- but nobody likes to wait.


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