James Thurber was not known as one of history's all-time intellectuals.
If Cleveland fans had to choose the 10 questions that they need answered in 2010, here they are. If you have your own opinion on any or all of the answers, feel free to hit the "e-mail the writer" button at the bottom of this page and -- given enough intelligent and/or clever responses -- we'll publish them in next week's column.
10. What kind of manager will Manny Acta prove to be?
It really doesn't matter, and that's why this question is number 10. Because, you see, baseball managers really don't matter. That's why they're paid a pittance in comparison to the players. The truth is that Acta will need to be nothing short of a miracle worker for the Indians to compete this season. Nothing in his history indicates that he is such. As the manager of the Washington Nationals, his winning percentage was 38.5 (.385). And this year's Tribe roster (with the exception of Grady Sizemore and Shin Soo Choo) looks just as bereft of talent as those Nationals teams.
9. What will the Indians' starting rotation look like?
The Tribe's starting pitchers lack any star power. Oh, there are plenty of arms, but the arms are coming back from surgery (Jake Westbrook) or they are lacking major-league experience (David Huff, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, Hector Rondon) or they have been wildly inconsistent from year to year (Fausto Carmona, Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers). We fans may see as many as 18 to 20 pitchers start at least one game over the course of the season; and the September starting rotation probably won't look anything like the April rotation.
8. Will the Indians finish above .500?
Stars or no stars, the Indians compete in the anemic A.L. Central Division, which has gotten even weaker as Chicago and Detroit dump some of their high-priced performers. Which is a good thing. But to think that the Tribe can compete with the "big boys" on the two coasts is an exercise in futility. Realistically, teams with $70 million payrolls have about a 1 in 20 chance of merely getting into the post-season playoffs. (Since the Indians compete in the balanced A.L. Central, their chances are 1 in 5.) But as long as the Dolans refuse to pay the going rate for star players, the Tribe will be mediocre at best. Las Vegas lists the team's chances of winning the World Series at 200-1. No other team has worse odds. Sad but true.
7. Who is going to start at QB for the Browns next season?
Will it be Brady Quinn? Derek Anderson? Brett Ratliff? None of the above? Quinn and Anderson have been largely unimpressive in their opportunities this season -- so unimpressive, as a matter of fact, that you have to wonder if either has a future with the Browns. When discussing possible starting quarterbacks for the 2010 edition of the Browns, the only thing that we can say for sure is that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are out of the running.
6. Who will be the starting power forward for the Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs?
If the Cavs have a hole in their starting line-up, it's J.J. "No Hands" Hickson. This is not to say that he won't play an important role in years to come. Athletic though he is, he's just too raw to make much of an impact on a team that is playoff-bound. Leon Powe, who will return to active duty in the coming weeks, is a possibility -- but how completely he'll recover from surgery (his third major knee surgery) is unknown. Elsewhere, pundits have thrown around names like Antawn Jamison, Anthony Randolph and Troy Murphy. I'd put my money on Jamison, who the fading Wizards might agree to trade. But that may be more wishful thinking than reality.
5. Is Mike Brown capable of head-coaching a team to an NBA title?
Not so far. In his two most recent appearances in the playoffs, Brown has been badly out-coached. This year, he's got almost all the pieces he needs (see Question 6), along with a deep bench. If Brown is up to the task of winning a championship this May and June, his legacy in Cleveland and the NBA will be cemented forever. If he cannot win a title with the present roster, some doubt must be cast on his ability to ever win one.
4. What impact will Mike Holmgren have on the Browns?
The easy answer to this question is "a major impact." Holmgren's history tells us that he has had a major impact on every NFL team that he's ever been associated with. In Green Bay, the impact was positive; in Seattle, it was positive and negative, mostly because he demanded too much control. With the Browns during the next few seasons, he will have complete control of everything, including the head coach. Which leads us to the next question...
3. Will Eric Mangini stay or go?
Contrary to the opinion of many major sportswriters (like John Clayton of ESPN), Mangini holds his fate in his own hands. If the Browns' head coach can implement all of Holmgren's ideas without questioning them, their combination of knowledge and experience can be a major factor in vaulting the Browns out of the AFC North Division's cellar. However, if Mangini indicates that he cannot march to the beat of Holmgren's drum, he will find himself without a job before the college draft. I might bet a few bob on Mangini's survival instincts taking over and Holmgren giving him one more year to prove that "the Mangini process" can mesh with "the Holmgren philosophy" -- whatever that may be.
2. Who will the Browns draft in the first round?
The Browns need to draft the best players still on the board at the time they draft -- in every round. The concept of drafting for need doesn't hold any water this year; you name the position (except for special teams), the Browns need it. In order, specifically: linebacker, defensive back, wide receiver, offensive line; maybe quarterback, if Holmgren sees it that way. (Unfortunately, last year was the "Year of the Linebacker" in the NFL draft.) Mynfldraft.com has the Browns choosing Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Claussen at No. 3. Nfldraftdog.com has the Browns choosing Claussen at No. 4. The more intelligent boards -- to which I subscribe -- have the Browns taking safety Eric Berry of Tennessee.
1. Will LeBron James stay in Cleveland?
The early money had him moving to New York or New Jersey this summer. Given the dearth of talent now holding down roster spots in N.Y. and N.J., and given the decreasing NBA salary cap, smart money nowadays is betting on LeBron staying in Cleveland. A recent rumor involved the Miami Heat clearing enough cap space to make a run at having LeBron join Dwyane Wade, who's one of LeBron's closest friends. I can't see that working -- but I may be partaking of too much wishful thinking again. I personally think that LeBron will make an effort to bring multiple NBA championships to his own neck of the woods, where he was raised and where the public rightfully regards him as "The King." And yes, thanks to league rules, money will be a factor.