The city of Cleveland is not known for professional sports championships. The 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers NBA championship broke the city's 68 year drought since it's last championship in 1948.
All three of the major sports teams in Cleveland, the Browns, Cavaliers and Guardians, appear to be heading in the right direction. So the question to be asked is which one of the three have the best opportunity to win a championship in the next few years? Let's break down the candidates and their resumes.
The Guardians (then Indians) came oh so close in 2016 to a World Series championship. Unfortunately they blew a 3-1 series lead and lost a rain delayed game 7 to the Cubs in a heartbreaker. The last World Series championship for the Cleveland organization was 1948 having also won in 1920. So how close are they to getting back to the World Series?
The 2022 season is a mixed bag of rebuilding and contending. They have a very young starting lineup to go along with one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Rather than sign or trade for veteran players this past offseason, the Guardians decided to get a look at some young guys who were on the cusp of the major leagues. Rookie Steven Kwan won an outfield spot out of spring training. Fellow rookie outfielders Richie Palacios and Oscar Gonzalez have since made their way up to the big league club. All three have been contributors this season. They have young talent on the infield with Andres Gimenez, Owen Miller and first baseman Josh Naylor to go along with superstar 3rd baseman Jose Ramirez. They currently rank 6th in the American League at 4.7 runs per game.
Their pitching staff has been very good posting a 3.63 team ERA which ranks 5th in the league. Shane Bieber, Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie have all pitched well in the rotation. Zach Plesac has been up and down while Aaron Civale looks to come back strong from his injury. The bullpen anchored by one of the top closers in the game in Emmanuel Clase has been surprisingly good. Young right hander Eli Morgan has made a seamless transition from a starter to the bullpen and has pitched lights out.
So are we saying the Guardians can be a World Series contender this season? Not necessarily...but with the young talent on board and some nice prospects on the way soon they are setup to contend for many years. Today's big new that David Blitzer has purchased upwards of 30% minority ownership from the Dolan's is also encouraging. With the influx of young talent and now cash into the franchise, they could be World Series contenders sooner rather than later.
The Cavaliers own the most recent championship for the city in 2016 when they came back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the favored Golden State Warriors and give the city it's first professional championship since 1948 and the first in franchise history.
Since Lebron James left the franchise for the 2nd time in 2018, it has been nothing but losing seasons and NBA lottery appearances. Fortunes changed on 2021 when the Cavaliers gained some lottery luck and drafted their new franchise cornerstone in Evan Mobley who averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds in his rookie campaign. He has only scratched the surface of his potential. Since James left in 2018 Cleveland has loaded up with young lottery talent in Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro and Mobley. That young foursome paired with two young trade acquisitions in Jarrett Allen and Laurie Markannen has formed a nice nucleus.
A 44-38 record and 22 win improvement last season has fans excited again despite missing out on the playoffs. You can argue that the crowd at the Cavaliers home play in tournament game against the Hawks was as loud if not louder than most of this seasons NBA playoff games. The Cavaliers will be ready to take that next step in the 2022/23 season. The biggest offseason question is what will be done with restricted free agent Sexton. The team wants him back and he wants to stay. It will come down to financials. Cleveland is also armed with what will hopefully be their last lottery pick in a very long time at pick 14.
The team is loaded with a great young nucleus, assets, a very good GM and coach, and an owner willing to spend what it takes to win a championship. If the young nucleus continue to develop and management puts the right pieces around them, the Cavaliers could be NBA title contenders in the very near future!
On paper the Browns appear to be the closest team to bringing a championship to Cleveland. They have never appeared in a Super Bowl having won 8 NFL championships between 1946 and 1964 pre Super Bowl.
The roster is built to contend for a Super Bowl championship in 2022. Unfortunately the dark cloud hanging over the franchise has drawn all of the attention thus far. That cloud is the pending civil suits...all 26 of them and possible pending suspension for new franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Browns shocked the NFL this offseason by trading for Watson in the midst of his legal battles and giving him $230 million dollars of guaranteed money. It is still not known if he will be suspended and if so how long it will be. The Browns 2022 championship contention rides on that decision.
If Watson is able to play the majority of the 2022 season then the Browns will certainly be considered among the Super Bowl favorites. The offense is loaded with weapons with running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, new #1 receiver Amari Cooper and the young talented Donovan Peoples-Jones, and a pair of talented pass catching tight ends in David Njoku and Harrison Bryant. Couple that with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and you have a potential explosive offense with Watson at the helm.
The defense played very well the second half of last season. The Browns went heavy on defense in the draft with CB Martin Emerson, edge rusher Alex Wright and tackle Perrion Winfrey. They also brought back defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. in addition to trading for LB/EDGE Chase Winovich. The special teams has been upgraded across the board with punter Corey Borjorquez and return specialist Jakeem Grant joining the team via free agency and the drafting of kicker Cade York.
As we stated the key to the Browns success hangs on what happens with Watson. IF he is able to play close to a full season it appears on paper that the Browns are the closest to bringing home a title to the city as soon as this season.
What do you think? Leave a comment with your pick!