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Summer of Love: July 1st-a good day for Cleveland sports

(photo by Michael Lebrecht)
As a Cleveland fan, you learn to appreciate the good days.

July 1, 2015 was one of those good days.

Heading into the month of July, things were definitely suspect in the sports world surrounding Cleveland, especially if you relate well to the national media. The Cavs had lost the NBA finals in six games, and the national media began questioning the return of all of the players that either had opt outs or were free agents. The Indians went 11-and-15 in July, and the offensive struggles often overshadowed the brilliant starting pitching and the Jason Kipnis explosion.

Of course, LeBron James, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith opted out of their player options, and even though we knew that was the plan from the start, the national media began questioning the reality of the return of all three, including James.

You have to love this click-bait headline: "Another Decision: LeBron to opt out of Cavs deal." To be fair, the author of that ESPN headline followed up with:
"The move, which was expected, marks the third time in the past six years that James will be an unrestricted free agent. This time is expected to have a different outcome, as James intends to re-sign with his current team, sources said."
Now it's important to mention right here that what the media presents as information regarding LeBron James, and therefore the Cavs, is often nothing at all resembling what's going on behind closed doors. This actually isn't a knock on the pretty capable reporters that follow this team, and instead gives some insight into how LeBron (and the Cavs) have changed the way they do things since the 2010 "decision" debacle.

Once Love opted out of his contract, the rumors began flying, mostly circulating around the Los Angeles Lakers, his hometown team. Love, steadfast in his "I'm staying in Cleveland mantra," of course followed up the rumors by saying, "I plan to stay in Cleveland."

The rest of the Cavs' fan angst surrounded "What Love might do," even though we all knew what Love would do.

But we're Cleveland fans. When we hear about the Lakers and ultimately meetings, we worry. While we know Dan Gilbert has $5 Billion, we worry. Even though we know LeBron couldn't possibly leave after that amazing essay, we freakin' worry.

I used to worry about that angst, and especially the way it was perceived by most everybody outside Cleveland sports, but I ceased caring when I truly realized that "Everybody Hates Cleveland," as my compadre, Miggy Hattery noted in yesterday's piece.

Let them.

The Indians had fallen into an all-to-familiar pattern of "win one, lose two," and after a middling month in which the offense only hit .249 with a .303 BABIP, only hit 18 homers, and mustered up 197 K's vs. only 79 walks (in May, they had 194 K's, and 130 walks, to put it in perspective, and they went 17-12 that month).

The rotation showed a few chinks in the armor, but for every bad start were three or four good starts, usually without any offensive support (5.03 runs per game in May, fell to 3.03...not good). The bullpen righted the ship a bit, and Giovanny Urshela, Francisco Lindor and Cody Anderson all debuted throughout the month, but the team just wasn't right.

It may still not be, but it sure started to look a little better over the past few days, culminating with a scintillating start by Carlos Carrasco.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Heading into July, the Cavs were mired in a cloud of "what's going to happen," and fans were wondering why all these opt outs and restricted free agents weren't either announcing their return at 12:01, or getting "Gilbert-ed" via his hefty checkbook.

Heading into July, the Indians weren't clicking on the field, and were wasting away perhaps the best rotation in baseball, and certainly an MVP-worthy season of Jason Kipnis.

Heading into July, it looked like a rainy, Cleveland summer.

It may still end up that way, but July 1st sure looked pretty good.

Kevin Love signs a five-year, $110 Million deal to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers

Love has been an interesting player since signing with Cleveland. Bill Simmons has noted several times over the past year that he's "one of the top ten players in the league," and he was certainly right. Love dominated in Minnesota. It's really that simple.

But Minnesota sucked.

And there were always questions about #KLove and his demeanor on and off the court. We got to see a bit of that last year in Cleveland. He wasn't a top ten player at any point in the season. There were games that he took over, and there were moments in games that made you hope he would materialize as that 25-point, 14-board player, but the realities were simple: he was the third option on a team with LeBron James.

His numbers aren't going to be what they were in Minnesota, and to be honest, the rumored Kevin Love persona made it look like he was a numbers guy.

Could Kevin Love be okay being the third wheel?

Could Kevin Love fit in with LeBron, and make sure he was in every picture with the team's star?

You could go on-and-on with the body language and the messages in the media that were presented throughout the year from Love, and to Love. There was Love talking about how LeBron wasn't the MVP, and Westbrook was. There was LeBron talking about Love taking the bull by the horns.

And through it all, most of us fans were left wondering, "Was Kevin Love a Cleveland guy?"

Don't lie, you thought it too.

Through it all, Kevin Love didn't say much about Cleveland, and his "body language," which seems to be source material these days, left no clue as to how he felt about the Cavs, and their ability to win a title.

In all honestly, the question came down to this: Does Kevin Love want to be the centerpiece of a team in Boston or L.A., or does he want to win championships in Cleveland?

What did Love say, multiple times throughout the year?

"I'm going to be back in Cleveland."

He never wavered.

Jalen Rose consistently said he was leaving.

Stephen A. Smith consistently said he was leaving.

Everyone consistently said he was leaving.

Except Love, but why believe him.

And I do want to mention this. Something happened the day that Kelly Olynyk tried to make Love a Stretch Armstrong. Kevin Love became a Cleveland Cavalier.

I'm not sure if it was a humanizing moment, or if I just wanted to get behind Kendrick Perkins in his quest to launch Olynyk into the stratosphere, but he felt like he fit.

How's that for irony. The defining moment of his "fitting in" for me was the day he got yanked out of the season.

Things started there, but obviously, it would be short lived if he never played for the Cavs again.

Reports starting circulating on June 30th that he would take a sit-down with the Lakers prior to the July 9th date in which he could sign his official deal, presumably with the Cavs. Now I don't know if most Cavs' fans thought this (most won't admit it now), but I kept thinking, "why the hell would Love take a meeting with the Lakers, when he's been saying all along that he was going to sign in Cleveland, and why wouldn't he sign the second he had a chance?'

Well, so much for that.

First came the photo that had to be a smack in the face of the media that were promoting that "LeBron wasn't going to try and re-recruit Love to the Cavs." LeBron doesn't source out anything, and neither does his camp. If he really said that, he was clearly trying to make someone look bad. If he didn't, which is equally likely, shame on the reporting. But there was Love, pulling up a chair at a pool, like it was some sort of family reunion. Some folks are eating snacks, lounging around King James, with some ladies in a pool.

You know, why would LeBron and Love talk basketball?

Talk about a work.

Then came Love's "LeBron Moment" on July 1st: "Unfinished Business"
"I'm going back to Cleveland.

After Game 1 of the NBA Finals, that's when it really struck me. Sitting on the sidelines, I never wanted to play in a game more than that one. I had dremed of playing in the NBA Finals and I just wanted to help my guys win. I couldn't have been prouder of them as they poured their blood, sweat and tears onto the court.

Yeah, of course I've heard the free agency rumors. But at the end of the day, and after meeting with my teammates (it turns out pools are great meeting places) and with the front office, it was clear Cleveland was the place for me. We're all on the same page and we're all in. We have unfinished business and now it's time to get back to work."
How brilliant was that? If Love hatched this idea on his own, he's brilliant. If he and LeBron came up with this announcement at the pool, even better. You have to think this was the plan all along. Love throws the pools/meeting place comment in there to let the reporters know they had it all wrong from the start, and writes an essay, like LeBron.

This one was short and sweet, much like Love's public persona.

But was started with an Olynyk arm pull was locked and loaded here. Kevin Love is a Cleveland Cavalier for the next five years.

Welcome Home.

Tristan Thompson signs a five-year, $80 Million-ish deal to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers

This wasn't a surprise.

If there's one thing that I know, it's that LeBron takes care of his own, and Tristan has been a LeBron-guy since the day he signed on with LeBron's agent, Rich Paul.

Thompson's an interesting player. On the court, he averaged 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. While I'm sure on the outside looking in, that really doesn't look like a player that should get $16 million a year. If you think that, you haven't been following basketball recently.

Honestly, I think if you ask most anyone in the blogosphere, they'll likely say, "he's not worth that kind of money."

I just don't agree.

He's an offensive rebounding machine, and at 6'9", really became a rim protector for the Cavs in the NBA playoffs. Sure, he has scoring limitations, even without the offensive juggernaut that is the Irving/LeBron/Love triumvirate, but how many times did his rebounds seemingly break the backs of opposing teams.

My god, if he could shoot threes, he's be making $20 million a year.

With that said, I've always believed that salaries are proportionate to the team they play for. To the Cavs, he is an essential part of this team, whether it's as a sixth man off the bench, or as a small-ish center next to Love. He fits, end of story.

Carlos Carrasco comes one-out away from a no-hitter

This really isn't just a Carlos Carrasco story, and it really doesn't start on July 1st. This story starts two days prior, with the Indians rolling into Tampa. That was the day that Cody Anderson took a perfect game into the seventh inning.

Seriously, run that sentence through your head a few times.

Now ponder whether or not you ever thought in a million years you'd even think that, especially with the Indians' current rotation. 

Former Indians' player Grady Sizemore ended things with a home run in the seventh, but Anderson was dominating, and stopped an Indians' three-game losing streak.

The next night, Danny Salazar took a perfect game into the sixth inning, before another former Indians' player, Asdrubal Cabrera, ended it with a walk leading off the sixth inning. His no-hitter drifted away with two outs in the same inning, after giving up a single.

Two days, two flirtations with perfect games/no hitters.

Enter Carlos Carrasco.

Last year at this time, Carrasco was just starting his second month in the bullpen, after losing his rotation spot. Many thought that it was his last shot as a big league starter, and that he was destined to use that magic arm as a back-end reliever.

Then came August, and a return to the rotation. I'm not going to run the numbers here, because if you've made it this far, you know them. Carrasco dominated to the point where you could argue that his last ten starts were equal or more dominating than Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber.

Those ten starts got him a long-term deal with the Indians that could keep him on the North Coast through 2020.

On July 1st, he became the third 10-game winner in the A.L.

The Indians won their third game in a row.

Carrasco took a perfect game into the seventh inning.

Oh, and he took a no hitter into the ninth inning, with two outs (Damn you Joey Butler).

Here's where it gets fun. What I love about EHC are the conversations we have behind the scenes. Many times, I've sat with my co-founders Mike Hattery and Steve Orbanek, and talked about this rotation. Several times last year, we had this very conversation: "You realize that with Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar and Bauer, this team could have multiple no hitters."

No, it's not a rocket science conversation, as I'm sure many of you have at least thought that during certain stretches, but how often do these conversations actually come to fruition?

Three pitchers take three perfect games into the sixth inning, two into the seventh, and one takes a no-hitter into the ninth, and back-to-back-to-back nights?

(on a sidenote, I don't care when this happened last for any team. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, JUST KNOW IT'S RARE AND ENJOY IT!)

In those same conversations, we've often said, "This rotation is too good to not win."

Here you go.

As Hattery can tell you, I embrace analytics as a sincere method to understand performance. What he can also tell you is that I love tying meaningful statistics in with the immeasurables. While over time, obviously rotations don't average out to five or six inning runs to perfection every game. Yet, there definitively is momentum that's build.

In a rotation, I call it the "domino effect," especially between competitors such as we have in this rotation.

Cody Anderson goes perfect through seven...a rookie.

Salazar, who clearly pitches with a chip on his shoulder, nearly does the same, and like Anderson, only has two K's in the game. He just went out and got it done.

Then comes Carrasco's nearly no-hit performance. It ended up a one-hitter, and Carrasco set a record with 13 K's.

One, after another, after another, after another.

Who's next?

Just #CyKluber, ready to put the "domino effect" test into effect.

I feel sorry for Trevor Bauer, who is likely trying to figure out a mathematical way to create a five-game series with the Rays.

Iman Shumpert signs a four-year, $40 million contract to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers

He had me at "high-top fade."

I'm not going to lie.

I'm from the Kid N' Play generation, and Shumpert's fade is simply glorious.

When you tie in his shut-down defense, and his total buy-in to this team, it's just icing on the cake.

Look at it this way. Shumpert is a guy that "fills in the cracks" on any basketball team. When the Cavs have needed him to spot up and shoot, he does. When they need him to start, he does. When they need him off the bench, he's there.

No questions asked, no attitude given.

He's literally the anti-Dion.

I honestly didn't know if Shumpert was coming back to Cleveland or not. Was he worth the likely $10 million a year he would get on the open market? I thought he was, or rather, didn't care, just wanted the Cavs to bring him back.

Yeah, it was more than just the haircut.

I loved him as a player before the playoffs, but totally bought into him during and after the playoffs. It turns out that after he nearly separated his shoulder again in the Finals, that he was playing through "excruciating pain." They shot him up with painkillers, because he refused to come off the court.

These are your Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kevin Love sitting on the bench during the finals, pissed that he's not out there trying to do something to help the team win (and still love that he thought he could play the next day).

Tristan Thompson flying around the glass, demoralizing the Celtics, Bulls, Hawks and Warriors, through the NBA playoffs.

Iman Shumpert, hitting threes, smothering defenders, and playing when his body was telling him not to.

And then there's his Instagram.

Does it get any better than that?

Michael Hutter (TNA's Ethan Carter III) wins the TNA Heavyweight Championship

Anyone who has ever read our site knows that TNA's EC3 cut a lead-in for our podcast when Managing Editor Steve Orbanek was lucky enough to talk to the Willoughby native last year at an event in Washington, PA.

Hutter is a devout Cleveland sports fan, and loves his Cleveland roots. When asked about the talent in Cleveland, he had this to say about his home town:
"...people from Cleveland have something special. There's a unique way of living if you come from this area. It's blue collar, but there's also a humility involved. There's this ability to laugh at your own misfortunes as we've done with our sports teams for many years, so I think it makes you an interesting person. No matter where I go in the world, I love being from Cleveland, and I love representing it."
Orbanek also asked which team he followed most closely:
"I follow them all pretty diligently. If I had to pick one, it would be the Indians, just for my father's sake...but I'd just take one (a title) from any team. Because Everybody Hates Cleveland, and I can't wait to shove it up their asses."
Well, EC3, you got your title before all three, and we here from Everybody Hates Cleveland couldn't be happier.

The topper, Hutter beat wrestling legend Kurt Angle, who hails from Pittsburgh, PA. Cleveland beats Pittsburgh.

Can't go wrong with that.

July, for many, is the "Saturday of the Summer," and if day one was any indication, this is going to be one fantastic weekend.

Yesterday really was a good day....a little summer remix...

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