2022 was a Cleveland sports year full of ups and downs. From a disappointing season, to a surprise season, to franchise altering trades. It was a season to remember for Guardians fans while one to forget for Browns fans.
2022 started with an end to a disappointing Browns 2021 season that was full of hope and playoff aspirations from the start. After all, they were coming off a 2020 season in which they advanced to the AFC Divisional round after manhandling rival Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round. Instead fans were left with a disappointing 8-9 season that ended January 9th on the outside looking in at the AFC playoffs.
Photo: Phil Long / AP
A season of surprise and joy
Just a few months later, Cleveland fans would get the beginning of their surprise season when the Guardians took the field for the first time under the new rebranded name and logo. Many fans were upset over the name change for various reasons, but most fans agreed the expectations for the team on the field were pretty mild. Most picked them to finish between 80 and 85 wins with a chance to compete for a Wild Card spot. Most casual fans who did not follow the Guardians affiliates were not aware of players such as Steven Kwan and Oscar Gonzalez, but by seasons end, both would win the hearts of both casual and hardcore fans alike.
On September 4th, the Guardians lost 6-3 to the Seattle Mariners at Progressive Field. The loss was their fifth in a row and their four-game lead in the A.L. Central was down to zero. From that point on to the end of the season, the switch flipped, and the Guardians finished 24-6 to run away with the division, finishing 92-70 and 11 games ahead of the second place White Sox.
The pitching staff was the rock of the team, posting a 3.47 ERA, which was fourth in the American League. The three teams ahead of them (Tampa Bay, New York and Houston) were all playoff teams. They were also third in batting average allowed (.230), third in walks allowed (434) and fifth in strikeouts (1,390). Kwan batted .298 and gave Cleveland a legit leadoff hitter while Gonzalez came up to play 93 games and provide some punch with 27 doubles and 11 HR's. Mix in an MVP type season for Jose Ramirez and an All-Star campaign for Andres Gimenez.
The Guardians took Cleveland on an amazing postseason run that saw them sweep the Rays in the wildcard round and take the New York Yankees to the brink in the Division Series. It was Gonzalez who provided the two most memorable moments of the Guardians postseason. The first was a walk-off HR off old friend Corey Kluber to send the Rays home.
Then came the game winning two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 3 of the Division series that put them up 2-1 in the five-game series.
Even though it ended with disappointment with back-to-back losses in Game 4 in Cleveland and Game 5 in New York, the Guardians season was one to remember!
Controversial trade and season altering suspension
On March 20th, 2022, the Cleveland Browns opened a lot of eyes around the league when they completed a trade with the Houston Texans for quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had not played a game during the 2021 season due to multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him. Cleveland sent their 2022, 2023 and 2024 first-round round picks, a 2022 fourth-round pick, a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick in exchange for Watson and a 2024 sixth-round pick. Soon after, they would raise some more eyebrows by signing Watson to a five-year, $230 million fully-guaranteed contract.
The NFL ultimately suspended Watson for 11 games of the 2023 season for violating the NFL's code of conduct rules. He had settled or agreed to settle all but one of the allegation cases against him. The Browns had hoped the suspension would fall in the four- to six-game range. As a result, veteran backup Jacoby Brissett was thrust into the starting QB role for the first 11 games. The Browns were 4-7 with Brissett at the helm even though he played well enough to win in most games. The lackluster defense, which ranked as one of the worst in the league, shoulders the blame for most of the lack of success in 2022. Watson returned on December 4th vs the Texans and has led the Browns to a 2-2 record since while shaking off the rust and showing signs of his old self each contest.
No matter what side of the fence you sit on with the acquisition of Watson, the bottom line is it will be yet another lost season of coming up short for the playoffs. Another season of wasting talents like Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett. In their eyes, the Browns now have their franchise QB, and there is no doubting Watson's on the field talent. There is also no doubt expectations for the 2023 season will be sky high.
Photo: Ron Schwane / AP
Surprise franchise altering trade and raised expectations
On September 1st, 2022, the Cleveland Cavaliers and President Koby Altman shocked the NBA and the Cavaliers fanbase when they pulled off a franchise altering blockbuster trade for NBA star Donovan Mitchell. Cleveland sent Collin Sexton, Laurie Markennen, Ochai Agbaji, along with three unprotected first-round (2025, 2027 and 2029) selections to Utah for the then 25-year old Mitchell.
The Cavaliers were coming off a 44-38 season that saw them make the NBA Play-In Tournament. If not for a season-ending injury to guard Ricky Rubio and some others down the stretch, the CAVS would have most likely been a top six seed in the East. In addition to Mitchell, Cleveland also re-signed Rubio, as well as veterans Robin Lopez and Raul Neto to help with their young nucleus of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Isaac Okoro, Caris Levert and now Mitchell.
This move without a doubt raised expectations across the board for the Cavaliers 2022-23 season and beyond. Mitchell is in the midst of his best season as a pro with the Cavaliers, averaging career highs in points (28.0), field goal percentage (48.4%), three point percentage (41.1%) and free throw percentage (87.7%). The Cavaliers currently sit at 23-14, which is good enough for fourth in the Eastern Conference, only 3.5 games behind the No. 1 seed Boston Celtics.
It's been a wild 2022 ride for Cleveland sports and the future looks bright for 2023! With a couple key free agent additions in Josh Bell and Mike Zunino, the Guardians should compete for a World Series in 2023. The Cavaliers now with Mitchell, a returning Ricky Rubio and anticipated addition(s) at the NBA Trade Deadline should make a long postseason run. The Browns, well, we should have all learned by now to temper our expectations no matter who the team acquires. If they can get the return to form of Deshaun Watson and improve the defense in the off-season, the tides could turn.