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If this were CST contributor Rick Giavonette, this article would be a short one. “Not close” is what he would probably say.  And while most Cleveland fans would agree with that statement, let’s take an actual look into our favorite teams and try to figure out how close they are to winning a championship.  We just saw Ohio State capture the thing that all Cleveland sports fans desire most, and while many Cleveland fans are Ohio State fans, it would still mean more to the city on the whole to see a Cleveland team win the big one.

Cleveland Browns

Ha! The Browns will never be close to winning the Super Bowl. Next team.

Okay, let’s act seriously here.  While the Browns have been a complete disaster since returning in 1999, and look even more discombobulated in 2015, they do have some pieces in place for a Super Bowl run.  No, quarterback isn’t one of those pieces, and until they have one, they won’t be even remotely close to winning a championship.  The Browns have an offensive line that is Super Bowl-worthy (as long as Alex Mack is healthy), other than that, unless Josh Gordon grows up, and the running back tandem of Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West both get past their growing pains, then the offense will never lead them to the playoffs.

The Browns defense is where most of the hope lies.  For the 2014 season, the defense ranked ninth in points allowed, and that was with a defense that had suffered a plethora of injuries.  The way I see it, the Browns have four, maybe five Super Bowl-worthy players in Joe Haden, Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, Tashaun Gipson, and maybe Paul Kruger.  If the Browns draft right, and sign more high character players, like Whitner and Dansby in the upcoming offseason, then the Browns could very well be a quarterback away from the playoffs.  If Peyton Manning (heck if Carson Palmer was the quarterback for the 2014 Browns), do they make the playoffs?  The Browns may not be close to a Super Bowl, but with the right quarterback, they will be close to the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Two months ago I would have said that the Cavs are the best chance Cleveland has at winning that elusive championship.  Now, well, they still have the best chance to win it all, but they have fallen closer to the pack.  It may not happen this season, but I firmly believe that next season is when the Cavs will win a championship.  The Cavs currently (as of 1/13/15) sit at 19-19 and in 6th place in the East, many people expected the Cavs to lose 19 games all year, not before the All-Star break.

The Cavs have the greatest wild-card in sports, LeBron James, which means they will never truly be out of the championship discussion.  I still think the Cavs will make the Eastern Conference Finals, as LeBron will kick it into high gear, like he does every season come playoff time.  Kevin Love and Kryie Irving will also take their games to the next level in the playoffs; at least they better.  The other parts of Cleveland’s “Big Three” have never been in the playoffs, and if they don’t perform at a high level, when the stakes are at their highest, then they never will.

As long as Lebron is on the team, the Cavs will always be in the championship discussion. And let’s face it, he can never leave.  Seriously, he can’t. If you thought he got ridiculed the first time he left, he would never hear the end of it, if he did it again without winning the Cavs at least one championship.  Also, as long as Lebron is on this team, so will be Kevin Love, who is expected to accept his player option for next season.  The Cavs are the closest to winning a championship.

Cleveland Indians

The forgotten child in Cleveland sports, and my sleeper team to win the 2015 World Series (yes, you read that right), are the Cleveland Indians.  The Indians have all the pieces in place for a playoff run in 2015 (expect for maybe a right-handed power hitter).  The Indians boast a young and flame-throwing rotation, led by Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, and have a sneaky good bullpen.  The offense actually has the most questions, but mostly remains the same from 2013 team that was 5th in the MLB in runs.  Bounce back seasons from Jason Kipnis, Michael Bourn, and Nick Swisher are key for an offense that just added potential 30-home run guy, Brandon Moss.

The Indians are also led by the Urban Meyer of professional baseball in manager Terry Francona.  One of the most respected managers in all of baseball, Francona helped the Indians to a 24-win turnaround in 2013, and led one of the worst defensive teams in recent memory to an 85-77 record.  As long as Tito is at the helm, the Indians will always have a shot at the playoffs.  Oh, and I guess I forgot to mention the man  they call “Smooth.”  Michael Brantley finished 3rd in the MVP voting in 2014, and with some lineup protection form Carlos Santana and Brandon Moss, could see his numbers improve even more.

Sure, only 10,000 fans may witness their 2015 season, but behind the Cavs, the Indians are the next closest team to winning a championship.  And I do think the separation isn’t that far apart.  So gear up Cleveland, 2015 is the dawn of a new beginning.

— Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)

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