Evan Drellich

Cleveland trade reaction: More inevitable than disappointing

Cleveland trade reaction: More inevitable than disappointing

CLEVELAND — For Cleveland fans and media at Progressive Field on Tuesday evening, Kyrie Irving’s departure brought a sense of the inevitable more than disappointment.

One fan, Greg Pramuka, was standing on the concourse just before the start of the Red Sox-Indians game, wearing a black Cavs t-shirt that said “The First," in honor of 2016.

Relationships fall apart fast.

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“He wanted to go out anyway,” said Pramuka, who's from the Akron area. “We heard about it on the way up and we’re like, Isiah Thomas, he’s got some heart. He’s a a gritty player and that [Jae] Crowder guy, he broke — I mean, look at what he did to Kevin Love.

“But, the scrappy players, Cleveland loves, because we’re always underdogs.”

Mike Hughes, Pramuka’s friend, was wearing an Indians jersey rather than Cavs gear. But he felt the same way.

“We don’t have that [scrappiness] right now as a team,” Hughes said. “We knew he was leaving.”

Progressive Field is just a stone’s throw from Quicken Loans Arena, and the press box and dining area naturally heard a lot of talk about the trade. Even more than normal, media members were glued to their phones as the first reports came out.

Jensen Lewis, a pitcher for the Indians from 2007-10 who hosts their television pre- and postgame shows, remembered the night LeBron James came back to Cleveland for the first time since The Decision. 

Irving’s return won’t bring anywhere near that kind of animosity — at least not right away. Check back next spring.

“I just remember the security we had to go through to get in the arena, it was unlike anything,” Lewis said of LeBron's return. “I don’t even think it’ll be that close as far as that kind of like, just all hands on deck, people worrying.

“But, it’s gonna be interesting because there was still — [Irving] hit the shot that ended the drought. Now he’s going to come back in enemy territory and you guys know as well as anybody, you open the season there, and you get two guys that want to prove a point. So I think from that standpoint, it’s going to be great theater.

"[If] the Celtics and the Cavs play for the right to go to the Finals and he hits the shot to beat the Cavs, Oh my God.”

From a basketball perspective, no one was really lamenting the package Danny Ainge put together. What stood out was the destination. 

Joe Noga of cleveland.com has spent the past two seasons covering the Cavs as well as the Indians.

“The timing of it, I think feels right,” Noga said. “They needed to get this done so they could get going and get moving and move forward and know what they have moving forward. I think they got enough for him. 

“It’s a mix of guys who can help right away. And address problems that the Cavs had or have. Jae Crowder is a guy who can definitely do that. But, and I’m anxious, curious to see how Thomas fits in. You know, he’s going to provide offense, and the kinds of things that Kyrie can do, Isiah Thomas can do, to a degree. I think Thomas is more willing to be a defender but I don't think he’s as able to defend as Kyrie can be.”

But Irving has some areas to improve that the Cleveland media saw up close.

“The culture in Boston could change Kyrie, maybe mature him a little bit more,” Noga said. “And that’s something Kyrie definitely needs. It’s going to be a wake-up call for him as well. ‘Cause he could definitely get away with more in Cleveland than he’s going to be able to get away with in Boston, and Brad Stevens is going to hold Kyrie accountable. Like, from what I know of Brad Stevens, he’s not going to play around with Kyrie not playing defense, which is something that Kyrie got away with here. Absolutely.”

The fact that Irving was unhappy in Cleveland was unsettling to Cavs fans, and should perhaps be unsettling to Celtics fans too. Mike and Sherry McCoy were sitting in chairs in Indians gear along the Progressive Field concourse, with a rain delay about to end. 

“Trust me if he did stay here, he’d get — Cleveland fans can be pretty brutal,” Mike said, before laughing. “Well, Boston fans can be too.”

Sherry McCoy saw the rift with James start to unfold on the court.

“Last year toward the end of the season though I think you could tell something was wrong,” she said. “Something wasn’t jelling.”

Zack Meisel, who covers the Indians for The Athletic, thought it was a shame it ever got to this point.

“I'm not sure the Cavs were going to win any trade in which they dealt away a 25-year-old superstar in a market where other teams knew their intentions,” Meisel said. “It forced the Cavs to consider both their short-term and long-term options, and maybe they addressed both with this trade, but Irving put them in a near-impossible situation and in the end, the Cavs dealt him to the only true threat in the Eastern Conference. I'm just left shaking my head at the whole thing.”

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Red Sox hope offense doesn't lose its way in Cleveland

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Red Sox hope offense doesn't lose its way in Cleveland

BOSTON -- A year ago, Cleveland is where the best offense in the majors went to die. The Red Sox’ first visit back is a chance to hold a seance.

The 2016 team had the most threatening lineup anywhere. No one was better. But the Sox missed out on home-field advantage. Once the Division Series began in Cleveland, they lost their way at the plate too.

It’s true that Rick Porcello’s poor postseason outing — anomalous compared to his 2016 Cy Young campaign — could not have come at a worse time. David Price didn’t get the job done either. 

But the Sox offense ghosted everyone. The engine of a 93-win team collapsed.

“Given how we performed as an offensive team throughout the year, and it's not to take anything away from their pitching, but I think there was no more than one run we were able to score in any one inning,” Sox manager John Farrell said the night the Sox were swept out of the playoffs by the Indians, October 10. “The inability to string some hits together, generate the bigger inning, that wasn't there.”

It’s been there lately. The Red Sox entered Sunday averaging 6.07 runs per game in August, a full run more than the Indians’ 4.94. 

On one hand, with wins in 14 of 17 games, the Sox would appear almost bound to cool off. But simply from a psychological perspective, the timing of a drop-off in Cleveland would be unfortunate.

“I’ll be honest with you, we’re not thinking about the playoffs,” Farrell said Sunday at Fenway Park. “We’re not thinking about what transpired a year ago. I thought last year, getting into the postseason was an important stepping stone for this young group. We’ve added to that young group. We’re in a stretch of games this month — for the better part of a month or more — where the schedule is tough. Our guys are handling that challenge great right now, but we know we’re going in to play a very good team in Cleveland.”

Indeed, the focus should be on the task at hand, which is to not only win the division, but actually secure home field advantage this time. But this four-game set is a small-sample size forum to show off growth.

The young group Farrell referred to has had growing pains this year. The offense has been, as expected, a lesser entity without David Ortiz.

Maybe Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers, who weren’t around for last year’s wilting, will be the icebreakers for the Sox in Cleveland. Maybe they don’t need any ice breaker and will score 10 runs in the first inning Monday. 

However it gets done, with the looming likelihood of another playoff match-up between these two teams, the Sox would do well to hit this time in Cleveland. At the very least, a bushel of runs will dampen outside noise, and lessen the number of questions the team may face later on. There's probably also a boost of confidence to be gained for players who participated in last year’s disappearing act.

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Devers, Sale making mark on history as Red Sox battle for division

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Devers, Sale making mark on history as Red Sox battle for division

BOSTON — The Red Sox on Saturday lost a game in which Chris Sale pitched and Rafael Devers homered. Let the Yankees’ 4-3 victory be a reminder: the American League East race isn’t going to close any time soon. At least, it shouldn’t. 

But even in close losses, there’s a parallel track to the pursuit of the division that should be a compelling sideshow for Red Sox fans: history.

The importance of Chris Sale breaking Pedro Martinez’s club single-season strikeout record is minimal compared to KO’ing the Yankees. Yet, with every passing start, tracking each K becomes a tad more intriguing. 

The southpaw on Saturday surpassed 250 strikeouts for the season, becoming just the third pitcher to do so in his first 25 games. Randy Johnson did that in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001, and Pedro Martinez did it in 2000 as well.

But now, unexpectedly, it’s not just Sale’s work that’s worth watching. He has a partner in the pursuit of bookkeepers. 

Devers, in just 20 games, has become the hitting foil for the ace. He ripped his eighth home run in Saturday’s 4-3 loss, a seventh-inning shot just to the right of the yellow line reaching out of the triangle in center field. The homer was also a record breaker, because no one else under the age of 21 has hit eight home runs in their first 20 games, per Elias. That’s in major league history, to be clear. 

The record for a player of any age is nine home runs, matched most recently by Trevor Story last year, and once upon a time by George Scott, in 1966.

A chubby left-handed hitter swatting home runs everywhere, defying everyone’s expectations? It’s almost too stunning to properly contextualize or explain. 

“I try not to look too much at videos because I would go out there with the mentality of what this guy has,” Devers said. “I just try to do my batting practice and do my fielding practice every day and just keep things the same.”

“If it's in the strike zone I try to be aggressive with it, and try to lay off the ones outside the strike zone. But I don't look for any location or any type of pitches.”

He’s that good: he steps in and rips and the results have been stunning. Almost Ruthian. Or, in fact, Ruthian.

Devers on Saturday became the first player under the age of 21 to homer in three consecutive games against the Yankees since Ruth did it in 1915, per Elias. Ruth, of course, was still with the Sox then. Those home runs happened to be the first three of his career.

Devers’ 28 hits through his first 20 games are the most by a Red Sox hitter since Johnny Pesky had the same amount in 1942.

Four Sox hitters have hit safely against the Yankees in their first five games against them since the age of 21: Jack Rothrock (1925), Ruth (1914-15), and Ted Williams (1939).

Sale needs 63 strikeouts to tie Martinez’s 1999 mark of 313. He shouldn't have a hard time meeting that figure if he makes another, say, seven starts.