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Indians Indians Archive Opposite Field #8: How the Tribe Helped Bring Weeden to Cleveland
Written by Andrew Clayman

Andrew Clayman

weeden-duncanAfter setting a franchise record by homering in their first nine games of the season, the Cleveland Indians have now gone 11 straight contests without clearing the fence once. “That’s pretty pathetic,” you say, not even glancing up from your iPhone, “but it doesn’t explain why the Browns drafted Brandon Weeden in the first effing round.”  Well, dearest reader, what if I told you it actually DOES explain it? That’s right. Prepare to have your fragile, one-track minds blown, Ohio.

I'm Gonna Try to Make Indians Baseball Relevant to Browns Draft Junkies!

Exhibit A: A Draft Diss to a Can't Miss

To use a term a good ole Oklahoma boy would find fitting, this year's NFL Draft wasn't Brandon Weeden's first rodeo. Ten long years ago-- as an 18 year-old pitcher-- Weeden was selected by the New York Yankees as the final pick of the second round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. Earlier in that same round, the Indians-- focused strongly on pitching-- took a gander at Weeden, but picked Villanova's Brian Slocum instead. This turned out to be quite a shitty selection, considering Brian McCann and Curtis Granderson went a few picks later. But all things considered, puff-puff-passing on Weeden was a good call for the Tribe. Because while Slocum at least got a brief sniff of the Big Leagues, Weeden had begun a journey toward an entirely different destination.

Exhibit B: The Power Outage

Flash forward a decade. It's April 17, 2012, and while the Cleveland sports universe is desperately transfixed on the blabberings of NFL Draft gurus debating the merits of Brandon Weeden as a football player, the Cleveland Indians are pulling out an impressive 9-8 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field. The highlight of the night is a three-run Carlos Santana home-run off Kevin Millwood. At the time, everything seems kosher for the Tribe. Santana rounds the bases without incident. Rick and Matt donate their five bucks to The Gathering Place. …No one realizes they’ve heard the last crack of thunder on the eve of an eerie silence.

Almost two weeks later, the Cleveland boom-sticks have entirely lost their thump. The power hitters are swinging banjos, the banjo hitters have downgraded to ukuleles, and Shelley Duncan has adopted a “virtual bat” that's only visible when CGI-ed into his hands in post-production. The final result—the longest Tribe homer-less streak in nearly three decades.

You have to go all the way back to 1983-- the year Brandon Weeden was born-- to find the last time a Cleveland club went 10 or more games without a round tripper. From April 10 to April 27 of that season, the Mike Ferraro managed Indians (which included Rick Manning and Mike Hargrove in the starting lineup) put on a 14-game Punch & Judy revue, managing zero dingers in entire series against Texas, Baltimore, Toronto, Chicago, and Minnesota before finally breaking the string on a Friday night in Kansas City. Andre Thornton was the savior, hitting a game-tying homer off Dan Quisenberry in the ninth inning. But Cleveland still lost the game 6-5 in extras, well on their way to another last place finish in the AL East. 


Now, during that same historic Indians power outage of 1983, a young pitcher named Neal Heaton still managed to get his first Major League win, besting the Orioles in Baltimore on April 16. Heaton was the Indians' second round draft pick in 1981, taken just a handful of spots ahead of a highly touted outfielder named John Elway, who-- just like Brandon Weeden-- went to the Yankees as the final pick of round two. Heaton turned out to be quite a shitty selection, considering that Tony Gwynn and David Cone went just a few picks later. But all things considered, puff-puff-passing on Elway was a good call for the Tribe. Because while Heaton at least had a decent few years in the Big Leagues, Elway had begun a journey toward an entirely different destination.

Exhibit C: Draft Punk

On April 26, 1983-- as the Indians' home-run drought carried on-- John Elway became the new franchise quarterback of the Denver Bronocs, selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. 

On April 26, 2012-- as the Indians' home-run drought carried on-- Brandon Weeden became the new franchise quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. 

Are you catching on to the recipe of this cosmic baseball/football stew yet? To recap: On the last two occasions in which the Cleveland Indians went 10+ games without hitting a homerun—April 2012 and April 1983-- a former 2nd round pick of the Yankees was also taken as a QB in the first round of the NFL Draft.

“Ummm okay," you say dismissively, "but wouldn’t that just qualify as a completely meaningless coincidence?”

Good lord, are you from Cleveland, or did you just get off the bus?! There is no such thing as coincidences! It’s all connected, Man!

Exhibit D: Re-Aligning the Planets

Back in '83, the NFL Draft might not have been the oppresive media circus it is today, but it was still a big deal. And with that particular year, you're talking about a draft still remembered as perhaps the greatest quarterback class of all-time. The Browns might have been in the market for a QB that year, too, with Brian Sipe aging and a post-Kardiac rebuild underway. But after Art Modell traded his first round pick to Buffalo for Tom Cousineau, the Browns were essentially as powerless as the Indians' bats, left to watch the Bills select Jim Kelly at #14 and the Dolphins take Dan Marino at #27. Finally taking the podium with the the 41st overall pick, Cleveland went with speedy DB Ron Brown, who never played a down for the Browns (he competed in the Olympics as a sprinter, instead, and eventually signed with the Rams).


As a result, the 1983 NFL Draft would prove to be a black hole in Browns history, best remembered for launching the career of their greatest adversary—Elway—a man the Indians once felt inferior to Neal Heaton. Clearly, the planets had aligned to curse Cleveland sports collectively for this affront.

But in the years since, wise men have spoken of the prophecy of a new baseball player / quarterback who could return balance to the force and save Cleveland sports from its whirlpool of doom.

And so, after the Indians passed over Brandon Weeden in the 2002 MLB Draft to take ill-fated pitcher Brian Slocum, the wheels were at last put in motion. It would take a decade, but the path had been cleared to rewrite history.

Exhibit E: Legalizing Weeden

After posting a 6.03 ERA in his fourth year of A-ball, Brandon Weeden wisely scrapped his diamond dreams and headed for the gridiron of OK State, where his story soon caught the eye of the Elders-- a secret order of Cleveland monks who worship the Sports Gods and annoint new prophets to fill various roster holes on the Browns, Indians, and Cavs.

“This boy… he could be the one to free us,” the Elders said of Weeden.

And so the Browns front office-- mere pawns to the will of the Elders-- did everything in their power to clear the way for Weeden’s eventual arrivial, drafting a series of useless signal callers while awaiting his arrival—and sending their severely concussed QBs back on to the field like sacrificial lambs. 

Finally, as the day of selection neared, the Elders waited for their sign.

“Have the Indians homered this week?” they asked. The answer pleased them. No, the Indians— once torrid at the plate—were now swinging with all the force of a lingerie model in an All-Star celebrity softball game.

Word was passed down to the polo-wearing puppets known as Thomas Heckert and Michael Holmgren. “The Indians have returned to their powerless 1983 ways. It is time to select a quarterback who used to play A-ball in the Yankee system. And he must be selected in the first round.”

And so it was done. And so the prophecy was fulfilled. And so the people of Cleveland did say... “You could have taken this bum in the second round! Terrible! I’m flipping to the Indians game.”


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