2012 wrap up: recapping the year in Cleveland sporting news

Shinichi Inoue, Assistant Sports Editor

1. Cleveland Browns knock off Pittsburgh Steelers

Coming off an overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Browns were 2-8 for the season with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers coming into town. With their playoff lives in jeopardy, the Steelers committed eight turnovers and third-string quarterback Charlie Batch didn’t do enough to overcome the miscues. Cleveland defeated Pittsburgh 20-14 two Sundays ago, earning a rare win over their hated rivals. Batch, who was forced to start because of injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich, threw three interceptions and the Steelers (6-5) had five fumbles, the last on a desperation final-play lateral as they dropped to the Browns (3-8), losing for just the second time in 18 games in the rivalry.

Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden sustained a concussion in the final minutes, allowing backup Colt McCoy to come in and finish off a victory that the Cleveland fanbase will savor long after this season ends. Browns rookie Trent Richardson rushed for 85 yards, scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 15-yard run in the third quarter. The Browns also made some history; the last time an NFL team forced eight turnovers was New Orleans against St. Louis, on Oct. 28, 2001.


2. Cavs draft Dion Waiters with fourth overall pick and pick up Tyler Zeller

The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised many fans and experts during the 2012 NBA Draft when they selected Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick, passing up highly rated forward Harrison Barnes from North Carolina. The Cavs had been hoping to draft Bradley Beal, a shooting guard from Florida, but the Washington Wizards took Beal with the third pick. With Beal unavailable, the Cavs selected Waiters to pair with Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving in a dynamic backcourt that could serve Cleveland for years.

Many experts had projected Waiters to be selected by the Golden State Warriors with the seventh pick. The move was reminiscent of last year, when the Cavs surprised observers by making Texas power forward Tristan Thompson the No. 4 pick although he had not been rated that high on most draft boards.

As a sophomore last season, Waiters was selected as the Sixth Man of the Year in the Big East. The shooting guard is strong and explosive offensively, can create his own shot, and shoot over people. He also is a good defender, another key for the Cavs.


3. Browns Pick Up Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden in the NFL Draft

The Cleveland Browns used the third and 22nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft on running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden, respectively. Richardson, who played at the University of Alabama, has started in 12 games this season for the Browns, averaging 69 rushing yards a game with 7.7 receiving yards per reception. Richardson earned his first 100-yard game against Cincinnati. He had 109 yards rushing along with 36 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Weeden already had a professional career before hitting the NFL. Drafted in the 2002 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees, Weeden has played in the minor league for the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, and Seattle Mariners. Weeden played his last season of professional baseball in 2006 with the Class-A High Desert Mavericks of the California League. Injuries and a high ERA led to Weeden quitting baseball. He enrolled at Oklahoma State in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2010 when he was named the starter for the Cowboys. The Browns drafted Weeden to replace Colt McCoy. Weeden has started 12 games, completing 247 of his 433 passes and recording 13 touchdowns.


4. Kyrie Irving Wins Rookie of the Year Honor

Irving, who played beyond his years and above everyone’s expectations, including his own, was chosen as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, winning an award he always believed was within reach.

Irving received 117 of 120 possible first-place votes from a nationwide media panel of writers and broadcasters. Irving finished with 592 points, far ahead of Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio (170) and Denver’s Kenneth Faried (129). Faried, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, and New York’s Iman Shumpert received the other first-place votes, denying Irving’s bid to become the fourth player to win the award unanimously.

The first overall pick of the 2011 draft was clearly the league’s top first-year player, leading all rookies – and the Cavs – in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He also led all rookies in field-goal percentage (46.8), was second in assists with 5.4 per game, and became one of just six rookies in league history to average at least 18 points and five assists.

Irving spoke of the honor, “It was a goal of mine. I knew as long as we won some games and beat some great teams that it was going to come.” He thanked his father, Drederick, and his late mother, Elizabeth, for raising him. He also donated a car given to him by Kia for winning the award to the New Jersey Roadrunners, his former AAU team.


5. Firing of Manny Acta as Indians Manager

Manager Manny Acta was fired by the Cleveland Indians, who collapsed from contention with a 5-24 record in August, the worst month in the franchise’s 112-year history. Acta, hired in 2009 after two tough seasons in Washington, paid the steepest price for the Indians’ stunning slide that dropped them to the basement of the AL Central.

During the club’s August meltdown, Acta tried everything he could to turn things around. He changed his starting lineup, called team meetings, altered routines, all to no avail. Once the Indians began to slip in the standings, there was nothing the 43-year-old Acta could do to stop them. And with six games left in this disappointing season, the Indians, who are just 21-50 in the second half, decided to begin moving forward without Acta.


6. Indians Acquired Aviles and Gomes from the Toronto Blue Jays

Two major concerns that plagued the Indians throughout the 2012 past season were sluggish offense against left-handed pitching and lack of a reliable backup to All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Early in November, Cleveland attempted to tackle both issues with one early offseason move. Indians acquired infielder Mike Aviles and utility man Yan Gomes from the Blue Jays in exchange for reliever Esmil Rogers. Aviles spent the bulk of last season as Boston’s starting shortstop and he has a history of hitting well against lefties.

Indians general manager Chris Antonetti stated, “The last couple of years, when Asdrubal has either gone down for injury or wasn’t available for some reason, or we wanted to rest him, unfortunately, we didn’t have that reliable shortstop alternative to turn to. With Mike, we clearly now have that.”

Last season, the 31-year-old Aviles hit .250 with 13 home runs, 28 doubles, 60 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 136 games for the Red Sox. He has spent the majority of his five-year big league career, between stints with Kansas City and Boston, as a shortstop, but he also has experience at second base, third base, and in the outfield.

As a team, the Indians finished last in the American League in average (.234) and OPS (.664) against left-handers in 2012. Against lefties, Aviles hit at a .286 clip with a .753 on-base plus slugging percentage last season, compared to a .236 average and a .626 OPS off right-handers. For his career, the right-handed-hitting infielder has posted a .295 average with a .797 OPS against southpaws and a .269 average with a .680 OPS against righties.