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    Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors without LeBron but cupboard is not empty

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Tonight the Cleveland Cavaliers travel north of the border to begin their season against the Toronto Raptors without the guy who led them to four straight NBA Final appearances, LeBron James.

    How will the Cavaliers fare without The King? Although it's just the first game, we should get a decent idea tonight because the Raptors are one of the teams considered to be a contender in the Eastern Conference. With newly acquired Kawhi Leonard added to an already formidable lineup that includes Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka, the Raptors should be right there with Boston, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

    If the young athletic Cavs, led by All-Star Kevin Love, can hang with the Raptors, it will be a positive sign that maybe they will have a shot at the playoffs this year and won't have to tank.

    Crowquill, by Plain Dealer artist Ted Crow, appears three times a week in The Plain Dealer and on

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    When the Cleveland Browns legend joined rapper Kanye West in the Oval Office last week, the bizarre meeting with President Trump served to degrade everyone.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - In a small arena in Nashville a half-century ago, in the mock combat of professional wrestling, former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, who was then 54 years old, moved slowly and stiffly around the ring as a referee.

    When the villain of the melodrama breached even the lax rules of pro rasslin', Louis cocked his right fist and shook it menacingly at him. Swiftly, the  malefactor scuttled to his corner and cowered.

    The  fans who were old enough to have seen the "Brown Bomber" fight roared as if it were real. 


    There are illusions we want to believe in, and then there is disillusion, which shatters beliefs.

    Which brings up Jim Brown's presence, at the age of 82, at the side of rap music artist Kanye West when West began his sycophant's symphony last week in the White House at the desk of bemused President of the United States Donald Trump.

    The kindest interpretation is that Brown simply wanted to stay relevant in a time of trouble, as African-American athletes protest Trump and his demonizing of peaceful protesters in the NFL.

    For  Louis' part back then, he had to make a buck.

    The old champ later was a paid celebrity "greeter" of  high rollers at a Las Vegas casino. 

    Say what?

    Brown sat stoically through West's "skinnin' and grinnin'" (which means "sucking up" in non-Kanye parlance). He was there, Brown said, because he wanted "to serve."

    It was hard to see the point of the meeting. Maybe it was no more than  fawning and flattery on the part of Ye, as he is known, and redirection of public attention by Trump from the likely murder of a Washington Post columnist by supposed allies in  Saudi Arabia and last week's stock market plunge.

    Brown, with his long gray beard and cane, had buckled up securely, one hopes,  as  West gunned the invisible hydrogen-powered engines of his imaginary airplane - shall we call it  "Ye! Me! 1"? - and set a course far, far beyond the cuckoo's nest.

    Trump seemed as bewildered by the nearly incoherent Ye as Trump's ciritics sometimes are by his frothier and more fanciful speeches.

    What was the point?

    Brown has always had a conflicted and controversial legacy off the field, including repeated allegations, over decades, of violence toward women.

    Politically, he's long been on the conservative side. He supported Richard Nixon, he supported Donald Trump, and he asked members of the Browns team not to kneel during the national anthem.

    And Brown has done good work with his Amer-I-Can program in fighting the destitution, despair and violence of gang members in the inner cities.

    In 1967, at the Cleveland Summit of African-American athletes in support of Muhammad Ali's refusal to fight in Vietnam, in part because of the racial imbalance of  the troops, Brown was probably  first among equals with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  (then known as Lew Alcindor) and Bill Russell.

    Those are stands one can comprehend, and respect. But last week, he passively sat through Kanye's attempt to curry favor with Trump - the national leader who professed to see  "some very fine people on both sides" in last year's clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between anti-discrimination protesters on the one hand and neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members on the other. 

    Dignity's a precious commodity. Joe Louis left the ring with some of his intact, even after that fist-shaking wrestling masquerade so many years ago. As for Brown's performance last week, it was just painful to watch.

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    Tianna Madison Bartoletta will participate in several homecoming events this weekend in Elyria.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - The most decorated athlete in Elyria history returns home this week for the first time in years.

    Tianna Madison Bartoletta, a three-time Olympic champion who travels the world, can't think of a better place at this time in her life for reflection and inspiration.

    "It's important for me to come home because I understand how it feels to be lost, and one of the most important keys in finding yourself is to reconnect with your roots so you can feel grounded," said Madison Bartoletta, who resides in Montgomery, Alabama. "Everything is not ideal, but knowing where your roots are and kind of getting in touch with that gives you a launching pad for bigger and better things."

    Life for Madison Bartoletta has been grand on the track with a long list of accomplishments including NCAA, international and USATF titles in the 100 meters, 4x100 meters relay and long jump. She's also a two-time Olympian with three gold medals.

    But Madison Bartoletta has had challenges off the track. She decided to divorce her husband John last year after what Madison Bartoletta has called an abusive marriage. During the time of her marriage, Madison Bartoletta and her parents - Robert and Jo Madison - were estranged. She was also sued by her parents for libel and slander.

    The family eventually dropped the charges. The mending between Madison Bartoletta and her parents continues.

    "Sometimes it takes Armageddon," she said. "It requires some hard conversations but there's a willingness on both sides to try to figure things out. Going through everything I've gone through, including my marriage, is like you learn to look at what's in front of you and react accordingly, and that's what my family is doing a good job of right now."

    Which makes this week that much more important.

    "I've been through so much and have gone out so far and accomplished so much," Madison Bartoletta said. "And in a lot of that time internally I've been in turmoil and lost, and it feels really good to come back to home base. As a child, home base was safe. You were good. That's where I am right now, symbolically and literally."

    To the delight of Elyria schools superintendent Dr. Thomas Jama.

    "There's a buzz here in [Elyria] because we're excited to see her," Jama said. "She hasn't been home for quite some time, so this is exciting."

    Madison Bartoletta's return includes a private chat with Cleveland State's track team on Wednesday. On Friday, she will attend a tailgate party from 3:30-6 p.m. at Elyria High School and join the Elyria City School District at 6:30 p.m. for the formal dedication of Mercy Health Field at Ely Stadium.

    On Saturday, Madison Bartoletta will be the special guest at a meet-and-greet reception with community members at 4:30 p.m. at Elyria High's Performing Arts Center.

    "Just to be involved in stuff in my hometown is like being on the front lines," said Madison Bartoletta, who plans to compete in the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. "I'm a grassroots type of athlete. I don't like being treated like some celebrity. I'm a kid from Elyria who used the resources available to go to college and took advantage of that opportunity and leveraged that into something else."

    On Sunday, Madison Bartoletta will end her visit with a crash-course sports seminar open to coaches and middle and high school students from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Westlake. Register at

    "This crash course is based on my free e-book," Madison Bartoletta said. "They'll spend a little over three hours with me learning how to go from good to great. This will help young athletes avoid some of the pitfalls I fell into."

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    Benedict Cumberbatch plays the popular Dr. Seuss character in a new animated film hitting theaters on November 9.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- J.R. Smith has been the butt of jokes all summer for forgetting the Cavaliers had a timeout left in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. But now the Cavaliers guard is getting in on it.

    In a new ad for the upcoming animated movie "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch," Smith is seen having lunch at a cafe where he, of course, immediately takes his shirt off. He then gets a call from the Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, who trolls Smith for the brain freeze.

    "Dude, it's last year, let it go," Smith tells him.

    "You're right. No turning back the clock now, huh???" the Grinch says.

    Smith: "Not funny."

    Grinch: "Only time will tell how..."

    (Smith hangs up the phone)

    Smith: "I'm not hungry."

    The ad is one of three commercials airing on ESPN featuring NBA players promoting "The Grinch." Joel Embiid and Draymond Green also get trolled by Cumberbatch's green-faced hater of Christmas. The movie opens in theaters on Nov. 9.

    You can watch the commercial featuring J.R. Smith here

    Grinch vs. JR from ESPN CreativeWorks on Vimeo.

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    Larry Nance Jr. will be held out because of a sprained ankle while JR Smith will miss the game with right elbow soreness.

    TORONTO -- The Cleveland Cavaliers will head into Wednesday night's season opener against the Toronto Raptors shorthanded.

    Larry Nance Jr. will be held out because of a sprained ankle while JR Smith will miss the game with right elbow soreness. 

    Nance was able to practice on Tuesday, believing he was on track to suit up. But head coach Tyronn Lue said the training staff wanted to see how Nance came through that session and ultimately opted to hold him out.

    The 25-year-old center, who walked into the arena without a limp, said he's bummed to not play in the first game of the season. But while his ankle has been feeling better each day, it's not worth pushing it, especially with a chance of re-injury. 

    With Nance sidelined, Lue said Ante Zizic will get extended playing time, serving as Tristan Thompson's primary backup. The Raptors, Lue hinted, also have been going small during the preseason, shifting Kawhi Leonard to power forward with Serge Ibaka in the middle so that should allow them to cope without their part-time starting big. 

    Smith received an MRI on his achy right elbow, which revealed soreness. There was no structural damage. 

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    The United States Men's National Team has been without a full-time head coach for a year after failing to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

    The United States Men's National Team has been without a full-time head coach for a year after failing to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Some think that kind of catastrophe deserves a coach who comes from and has worked overseas; a person who knows how the top countries organize and run top national squads. Others think a coach from the United States would be a better option. What do you think?


    USMNT needs a fresh start. 

    U.S. Soccer's focus on trying to keep its staff and players purely American has yielded no results where it matters most -- World Cup titles. Look at this totally unmanipulated chart. Six head coaches from the United States appeared at the World Cup and none have won. 

    On the other hand, 21 coaches born outside of the U.S. have won all of the World Cups. American head coaches have done nothing in the World Cup! Coaches in soccer-obsessed countries have a perspective of the game that American coaches simply do not. U.S. Soccer needs to hire an international coach.


    People seem to forget that the problems with the USMNT started with a coach who was born outside of the United States. Jurgen Klinsmann isolated the locker room leaders, choosing to groom international players with American roots instead. What happened was a locker room meltdown that deteriorated into the situation fans saw against Trinidad and Tobago -- uninspired play and the United States' exclusion from the World Cup.

    The Americans need someone who has been brought through the system and knows how to communicate with players. That kind of familiarity can go a long way. Only an American should be the head coach.

    Own Goal: The Inside Story of How the USMNT Missed the 2018 World Cup

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.


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    Welcome to the 2018-19 season, one featuring new challenges, new tests and new faces. There's no LeBron to mask weaknesses and bring an entire country to its knees.

    TORONTO -- Shortly after 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, when the curtain finally gets raised and the Cleveland Cavaliers begin a new act, the Toronto Raptors will be on the other side waiting. 

    In past years this wasn't all that daunting. For all of Toronto's regular season success, the Cavs had LeBron James -- mayor of The North. With him came a mental edge that led to Cavs players chuckling at the notion of the Raptors being some kind of threat. 

    As Tristan Thompson said recently when running through the East competitors, "Toronto, we already know that story."

    But James is a West Coaster now, thousands of miles away, trying to lift the Los Angeles Lakers back to prominence just as he did with the Cavaliers. DeMar DeRozan, a player the Cavs frustrated in three straight postseason series, one who also had to fend off playoff demons, has been replaced by MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard and shooting guard Danny Green. Head coach Dwane Casey, who couldn't solve the Cavaliers puzzle, was swapped out for Nick Nurse. 

    Welcome to the 2018-19 season, one featuring new challenges, new tests and new faces. There's no LeBron to mask weaknesses and bring an entire country to its knees. There will be no coasting to the playoffs, no easing into the season. Especially since schedule-makers tossed the LeBronless Cavaliers right into the gantlet.

    "They added Kawhi Leonard who is a two-way player and up for MVP the last two or three years when he played," Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said Wednesday morning. "He's still replacing a very good player in DeMar DeRozan, so not really a lot of change in that aspect. Us losing the best player in the world, it's been tough. But we have to move on, our young guys are thinking of taking the challenge and understanding what we need to do to try to win games and how we need to play.

    "Tonight will be a good test for us."

    Lue said his emotions entering the season opener are the same as ever. Known for being even-keeled, this is just another game for the Cavaliers, the first of an 82-game grind that Cleveland hopes ends later than most experts predict. Or so he says. 

    Following Lue's lead, the players have taken an "about-us" mentality into the season.

    Who cares about the Raptors' new additions? Sure, Thompson praised Toronto executive Masai Ujiri for adding Leonard and Green, two "high-basketball IQ players that will be a big part for their team moving forward." But he reiterated that the focus is on their own ball movement, execution and approach. 

    So what if an angry and motivated Jimmy Butler awaits in the following game, ready to show other teams why they should be lining up to trade for him?

    His feisty defense will certainly make it hard on Cedi Osman and Rodney Hood. Osman probably isn't prepared for that matchup at the other end. The environment in Minnesota, as it's the Wolves' home opener, will be raucous, just adding to an already-daunting task. 

    But no matter the situation or opponent, the goal doesn't change. This season, the Cavs are trying block out any noise, quiet the doubters and focus on getting better each night. They aren't focused on who is no longer here. When they stumble, and it will happen plenty this season, the idea is to get back up and learn from it. 

    "We're not really impressed (with) who we are playing -- Toronto, Minnesota or whoever," Lue said. "It's about us."

    So let's throw the ball in the air and find out.

    Wednesday night is an opportunity, right off the jump, for the Cavaliers to build on a "great" training camp.

    They will get a glimpse of where they're at, how far they still have to go. It will be their first real test -- of their new system, new attitude, new defense, new rotation -- against one of the teams expected to benefit most from James' departure. 

    "I think we will be good. I don't think we're going to wait until the second half of the season to be good," Lue said when asked about the possibility of starting slow. "We have a chance to be good now. It's about our approach, our mentality. We have a good team, good mixture and nucleus of older guys and younger guys. Very versatile, guys that can play multiple positions. 

    "Think having a young team, winning early and showing these guys that we're very capable means a lot."

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    Taylor, frustrated by losing his job to a concussion, would love a chance to start again this season. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio --  Tyrod Taylor hasn't marched into GM John Dorsey's office and asked to be traded by the Oct. 30th deadline, but if he has an opportunity to go somewhere and start again this season, he certainly wouldn't turn it down.

    "Of course I love to compete, want to be out there playing but I haven't thought about those opportunities,'' Taylor said Wednesday. "It really hasn't been part of my mindset. Just more so just focusing on getting better each and every day. Those things happen in the league.''

    Asked if he could seek a trade by the Oct. 30th deadline, he didn't rule it out.

    "Um, I'll just continue to keep my head down and continue to keep working, like I said, helping the team,'' he said.

    Asked if there's scenario in which he'd ask for a trade, he said "Um, that's my agent. I'm pretty sure things happen on a day-to-day basis that I'm not necessarily aware of. Like I said, my mindset is to continue to keep helping this team. It's a new role for me. Continue to keep being the best teammate and the best leader I can be each and every day, while still working on my game and staying ready for the opportunity if it presents itself.''

    Jarvis Landry must step up as more of a leader

    Taylor's agent, Adisa Baker, reached by two weeks ago, declined to comment on whether or not he'd ask the Browns to trade Taylor, who lost his job to Baker Mayfield after suffering a concussion in the Jets game in week three.

    Taylor admitting that losing his job to injury is "frustrating, but it's part of the game at the same time. Eight years in you understand some things happen that you can't control. Not one to complain. Just got to continue to keep being myself day in and day out, continue to be the leader, like I say, help the team in any way. It's a different role, but I'm here to offer as much knowledge as well as just try to share my viewpoint of things that can help the defense or offense.''

    He added that "I can't let my emotions or my energy affect the guys that are around me. I have to be the best teammate I can. I think that's the true test of a leader is how you react in times when things don't go well. So I've got to continue to keep being the leader that I am and the player that I am when the opportunity presents itself."

    Taylor, on a one-year rental this season at $16 million a year, would only cost a team trading for him $588,235 per game (1/17th of his $10 million base). So if a starter goes down over the next two games, it could make sense for a team. The Browns have said they have no interest in trading him, but that could change if they receive a decent offer.

    The Browns could not only save some money by trading Taylor, they could get something back from the third-round pick they shipped to the Bills to acquire him.

    With no chance to prove to teams what he can do this year, it could be hard for Taylor to land another starting job and a big contract in the offseason. He came to Cleveland with a chip on his shoulder from the Bills letting him walk after he snapped their 17-year playoff drought last year, and "it's still there.''

    As for how confident he is that he's still a winning NFL quarterback, he said,  "Very confident. The record still shows it."

    Taylor went 1-1-1 in his three starting, earning the victory for the Jets came when Baker Mayfield came in off the bench and rallied the Browns from a 14-point deficit to a 21-17 victory. While new offensive coordinator Todd Haley was still learning his personnel and how to best use Taylor, the two-time Pro Bowler threw two touchdowns and two interceptions and earned a 63.7 rating. But he was also sacked 13 times in those 2 1/2 games, including seven in the opener.

    "I think I did enough each and every week to put the team in a winning position,'' he said. "First week ended up in a tie, second week, had the game in our hands and, due to injury, was knocked out of the game in the third game. Small body of work. I definitely think that I've shown a bunch but, at the same time, it's still early.

    "I think, as a team, we were finding ourselves and we're still finding ourselves now. I know who I am as a player, whether you all agree or anyone agrees, that doesn't necessarily matter to me. I know, when given opportunity, what I can do with the football in my hands.''

    If he gets that opportunity again this season, it could be somewhere else.

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    The Indians, during Game 3 of the ALDS, had to remove an Astros' employee twice from the photographer's pit next to the Indians' dugout. He had a camera and was filming inside the Tribe's dugout.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Indians have filed a complaint with MLB about the Houston Astros trying to film inside their dugout during the Game 3 of the ALDS at Progressive Field.

    An employee of the Astros, holding a cellphone camera, was removed twice by security from the photographer's pit next to the Indians' dugout during Game 3 on Oct. 8. The Astros completed a three-game sweep of the Indians with an 11-3 win that day.

    On Oct. 9, the day after Houston's sweep, Boston officials called the Indians to find out what happened. Four days later a similar incident took place at Fenway Park during Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday between the Astros and Red Sox, according to Metro News.

    In the third inning, Fenway Park security removed an Astros employee from a media-credentialed area near the Red Sox's dugout. The man, according to Metro News, had a small camera and was texting frequently. He did not have a media credential.

    Boston security was on the alert because of what happened in the ALDS between the Indians and Astros. MLB told Metro News that the matter is being handled internally.

    For almost two weeks before the ALDS, the Indians worked hard to protect their signs because of Houston's reputation for stealing signs. The Astros reportedly try to  train cameras on the opposing catcher, manager and bench coach in an effort to steal signs and pick up tendencies.

    The Indians' preparation was so intense that those close to the situation said it bordered on paranoia. After the sweep Jason Kipnis talked about being out-played, out-scouted and out-coached by the Astros. Mike Clevinger said the Indians had their backs against the wall analytically before the series started. They may have been referring to the Tribe's preparation to prevent Houston's sign stealing. To say nothing of dealing with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel.

    The Astros, according to one school of thought, may have just planted the man in the photographer's pit next to to the Tribe's dugout as a smokescreen. Manager Terry Francona, bench coach Brad Mills and other coaches are located at the other end of a crowded dugout. So what exactly could he decipher from the camera pit?

    If that's true, it would indicate an elaborate scheme.

    Complaining about sign stealing is always a two-edged sword in the big leagues because so many teams do it. Boston manager Alex Cora was Houston's bench coach last year when the Astros won the World Series. So if the Astros have any tricks up their sleeve he would know about them.

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    The Cavs and Goodyear unveiled a pair of sculptures in Quicken Loans Arena. The art is made from tires. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - If you head to the Q, you'll notice two new towering figures. They'll be there for every basketball game.

    And hockey and concerts and all other events at Quicken Loans Arena.

    The second year of the partnership between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has produced the pair of sculptures, each crafted out of tires and holding basketballs. One wears the blue emblem of the old Goodyear Wingfoots while the other is adorned in a Cleveland jersey.

    The Cavs player rises to 7 feet, 5 inches and weighs about 215 pounds while the Wingfoots player stands 7 feet and about 195 pounds.

    "The start of a new season means the start of a new journey," said Nic Barlage, Cavs president of basketball operations, at Wednesday's unveiling.

    The figures were created by Blake McFarland, a former minor-league baseball pitcher in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. The hand-painted sculptures used 218 tires, more than 3,120 screws and 400 hours to complete.

    For the 2018-19 season, they will remain in the lower-level concourse near sections 127-128 and the team shop. Their location for the following season will be determined.

    "The wingfoot on our jerseys means the world to us," Barlage said.

    The reference and timing refers to the Akron Wingfoots, created as much for research and development purposes rather than competitive-sports reasons. It was for Goodyear to test rubber soles of athletic shoes.

    The team would go on to produce Olympic athletes and capture the inaugural National Basketball League title in 1937.

    Former Cavs player Campy Russell, who works in the front office and for FoxSports Ohio, stood next to the Cavs player sculpture. Russell, at 6-8, actually had to look up to the 7-foot-plus artistic figure.

    "This is outstanding," he said. "The artwork, the creativity of it all. This is just a beautiful piece."

    The Cavs open the season at 7:30 tonight at Toronto before heading to Minnesota for an 8 p.m. game Friday. Cleveland's home opener is 6 p.m. Sunday vs. Atlanta.

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    The second year of the Dennis Felton era at Cleveland State begins with Tyree Appleby named to Horizon League first team and Vikings picked to finish seventh.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Horizon League announced its preseason basketball honors Wednesday with Cleveland State sophomore guard Tyree Appleby named to the Preseason All-League first team while the Vikings were picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll.

    Wright State, coming off its 2018 NCAA Tournament appearance, was picked as the favorite to win the Horizon League regular season title with 25 of 40 first-place votes. Northern Kentucky (10 votes) was picked second followed by Illinois Chicago (4). Milwaukee, picked to finish eighth, still picked up one first-place vote.

    Appleby, a 6-0 product of Little Rock, Arkansas, played in 34 of 35 games last season and averaged 11.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals. He was named to the League's All-Freshman Team.

    During CSU's run to the HL Tournament championship game, Appleby averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5 assists during the four-game run.

    Drew McDonald, a 6-7 sophomore from Northern Kentucky, was named the preseason HL Player of the Year. Also named to the first team are Sandy Cohen III, Green Bay; Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky; Marcus Ottey, UIC and Loudon Love, Wright State.

    Cleveland State will unofficially open the 2018-19 season by hosting Ohio Valley in an exhibition Oct. 30. The Vikings' regular-season home opener is Nov. 10, against Kent State as part of fourth annual Northeast Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer doubleheader.

    2018-19 Horizon League Preseason Poll

    (First-place votes in parentheses)

    • 1.          Wright State (25) - 377
    • 2.          Northern Kentucky (10) - 356
    • 3.          UIC (4) - 310
    • 4.          Oakland - 239
    • 5.          Green Bay - 238
    • 6.          IUPUI - 188
    • 7.          Cleveland State - 175
    • 8.          Milwaukee (1) - 140
    • 9.          Youngstown State - 104
    • 10.        Detroit Mercy - 73

    2018-19 Preseason Player of the Year

    Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky

    2018-19 Preseason All-League First Team

    • Tyree Appleby, Cleveland State
    • Sandy Cohen III, Green Bay
    • Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky
    • Marcus Ottey, UIC
    • Loudon Love, Wright State

    2018-19 Preseason All-League Second Team

    • Kameron Hankerson, Green Bay
    • Jalen Tate, Northern Kentucky
    • Tarkus Ferguson, UIC
    • Mark Hughes, Wright State
    • Naz Bohannon, Youngstown State

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    It's not clear how much time Schobert will miss with his hamstring injury. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio -- This is all new for Browns linebacker Joe Schobert.

    "I've never missed a practice since I've been in the NFL," Schobert said on Wednesday, "and never missed a game in any sport in my whole life."

    So it's going to be strange on Sunday afternoon for Schobert, the middle linebacker who was on the field for every defensive snap in 2017 and didn't miss a snap this year until he left Sunday's game against the Chargers with a hamstring injury.

    Schobert played 392 snaps through the Browns' first five games, which included three overtimes, all decided with less than two minutes left in the extra period. Two of the three ended with 0:00 on the clock.

    Schobert said the workload might have contributed to the injury, but couldn't say for sure.

    Head coach Hue Jackson said that Christian Kirksey will fill Schobert's vacated middle linebacker spot. Kirksey has played inside before -- albeit in a 3-4 scheme -- and he has experience making the defensive calls.

    As for the rest of the linebacking corps, that still has to shake out.

    "It will be a combination of guys based on the packages that we put into the game," Jackson said.

    As for how long the Browns will have to use this solution -- well, nobody's saying.

    Jackson simply said on Monday that Schobert would be "down for a little while."

    Schobert didn't have much clarity to offer, either.

    "I wish I knew because then it would make me feel better," he said.

    That's the tricky thing about hamstring injuries. Their severity can vary wildly and, if you come back too soon, can linger for a while. Schobert said that it hasn't bothered him other than when he runs, which is fortunate, because he said he has heard stories about others having pain when they sit or lay down.

    "I know there's a lot of guys in the NFL this year who've had hamstrings and they've been out two weeks, some have been much longer," Schobert said. "People like (Vikings running back) Dalvin Cook tried to come back and he's still dealing with issues."

    Cook was inactive on Sunday for the Vikings game against the Cardinals and has missed three of the last four games.

    The Browns have been cautious with soft tissue injuries since training camp, giving veteran players days off. A scene in "Hard Knocks" caught offensive coordinator Todd Haley and other members of the coaching staff questioning Hue Jackson's approach. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry even gave an impassioned speech about players getting out to practice.

    So it has to sting a little to lose one of their most durable, reliable and important pieces to an injury that might have been caused, in part, by circumstances out of their control.

    Schobert worked off to the side in practice on Wednesday. All he can do beyond that is try to stay engaged in meetings and help the players who can go get ready.

    "I'll just help my linebacker guys get what they need," Schobert said. "People are playing in new positions since (defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has) been here, so I'm going to just impart everything I can to those guys and what they need."

    Being that involved, though, isn't going to make things any easier come game time on Sunday.

    "This weekend's going to be weird for me," he said.

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    Mary Kay Cabot and Dan Labbe talk Browns. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio -- Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor spoke with the media for the first time on Wednesday since being benched in favor of rookie Baker Mayfield. Taylor didn't say he wanted to be traded, but he didn't exactly rule it out.

    We also heard from Baker Mayfield on Wednesday, talking about one of the worst games he's been a part of. He got to practice with a new potential weapon for the first time in wide receiver Breshad Perriman.

    Then we talked about Joe Schobert's injury and how the Browns plan to replace their Pro Bowl linebacker.

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    Check here for the live first-round leaderboard for the PGA Tour's The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges 2018 in South Korea.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Marc Leishman, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Alex Noren, Adam Scott, Ryan Armour and Ian Poulter are among notables in the field for the PGA Tour's CJ Cup at Nine Bridges 2018 this week in South Korea.

    Site: Jeju Island, South Korea.
    Course: Club at Nine Bridges. Yardage: 7,196. Par: 72.
    Purse: $9.5 million. Winner's share: $1,710,000.
    Television: Wednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Golf Channel).
    Defending champion: Justin Thomas.
    FedExCup leader: Kevin Tway.
    Last week: Marc Leishman won the CIMB Classic.
    Notes: Brooks Koepka plays his first event since being voted PGA Tour player of the year. He also will be in Shanghai next week for the HSBC Champions. ... Thomas won the inaugural tournament in a playoff over Marc Leishman. ... The field includes 54 players who were in Malaysia last week for the CIMB Classic. ... Among those making their 2018-19 season debut are Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama and Ian Poulter. ... The $9.5 million purse trails only The Players Championship, the World Golf Championships and the majors on the PGA Tour schedule. ... Marc Leishman has won three of his four tournaments in the last 19 months. ... Shubhankar Sharma of India, tied for the 54-hole lead in Malaysia, tied for ninth. He is leading the Order of Merit on the Asian Tour.
    Next week: WGC-HSBC Champions and Sanderson Farms Championship.

    (Fact box from Associated Press.)

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    Check here for the live first-round leaderboard for the LPGA Tour's Buick LPGA Shanghai 2018.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Ariya Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko, Shanshan Feng, Minjee Lee, Brooke Henderson, Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, Sei Young Kim and Paula Creamer are among notables in the field for the LPGA Tour's Buick LPGA Shanghai 2018 this week.

    Site: Shanghai.
    Course: Qizhong Garden GC. Yardage: 6,541. Par: 72.
    Purse: $2.1 million. Winner's share: $315,000.
    Television: Thursday, 12:30-4:30 p.m. (Golf Channel-tape delay); Friday-Sunday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel-tape delay).
    Defending champion: New tournament.
    Race to CME Globe leader: Ariya Jutanugarn.
    Last week: In Gee Chun won the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.
    Notes: In Gee Chun won for the first time since the Evian Championship two years ago. It was her third LPGA Tour title, and the first one that was not a major. ... Jin Young Ko closed with a 64 at the Hana Bank Championship by hitting all 14 fairways and all 18 greens. ... Six of the players who finished among the top 10 played in the International Crown the previous week. ... Ko became the eighth player to surpasss $1 million in earnings on the LPGA Tour this year. ... Four tournaments remain before the Race to the CME Globe finale in Florida. ... Chun is the 22nd player to win on the LPGA Tour and the seventh player from South Korea. ... Paula Creamer is playing the Buick LPGA Shanghai on a sponsor's exemption.
    Next week: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship.

    (Fact box from Associated Press.)

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    Gilbert capped his social media post with the team's season slogan, "Be The Fight."

    TORONTO -- Moments before the Cleveland Cavaliers tipped off the season against the Raptors, chairman Dan Gilbert sent an inspirational message to fans, letting them know what to expect from the new-look squad and reinforcing the team's commitment to winning despite LeBron James' absence. 

    "Tonight kicks off (a) Cavs season where our players, coaches, front office and the entire franchise are united with a mission of delivering our fans and all of Cleveland an inspirational brand of team basketball," Gilbert tweeted Wednesday night. "We will rep in a manner that will make you proud. Let's grind."

    Gilbert capped his social media post with the team's season slogan, "Be The Fight." 

    Written off by many, the Cavs are viewed as a flawed team, one that will miss James' play creation and ultimately tumble down the standings and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2014 -- when James returned and elevated the Cavaliers to the top of the conference. 

    Gilbert's message about team basketball is the same one head coach Tyronn Lue has been preaching during training camp.

    Without the high-level talent, the Cavs will have to take a committee approach, play harder than they have during the regular season in the last four seasons and use the all-hands-on deck style of offense that features movement, passing and numerous options staying involved throughout. 

    "We're going to have to play with even better pace than we have in years past," leader Kevin Love said recently. "That's 1 through 4, 1 through 5 pushing the ball. We have much different sets than we did when we had LeBron, we have to really get to every spot, every initiation in our offense, we can't expect anybody to bail us out. That was a luxury we had with LeBron being on our team.

    "On the defensive end we're going to have to play extremely physical. We're not a tall, lengthy team, but we're a team that can be very gritty, get to 50-50 balls, box out and limit teams to only one shot. There's a number of things we can do to help ourselves out and do our work early. We're hoping to surprise teams and play extremely well."

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    Following an investigation by MLB, the Houston Astros have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the ALDS against Cleveland.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Houston's three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series has come under scrutiny in the last several days after word broke that Major League Baseball investigated allegations of cheating against the defending champions.

    Following the Tribe's Game 3 loss, a few Indians players alluded to certain perceived "advantages" the Astros had throughout the series. At times, it appeared Houston hitters knew what pitch was coming next.

    In this week's podcast, Indians beat writers Paul Hoynes and Joe Noga discuss whether or not there is an acceptable level of cheating in the big leagues, or if something needs to change.

    Hoynsie and Joe also look ahead to the end of the World Series and the beginning of free agency and the roster decisions that face Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, general manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona.

    Got a question you want answered on the podcast? Submit it to Paul or Joe on Twitter or via email.

    Listen along to the show and leave your comments. You can download the audio here.

    Subscribe on iTunes.
    Subscribe on Google Play.

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    In this presidential era of alternative facts, can we have alternative right and wrongs when it comes to cheating in baseball?

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - The question was asked Wednesday that if the Houston Astros are such a good baseball team why do they need to cheat? The Indians filed a complaint against the Astros after being swept in three games in the ALDS earlier this month.

    A man connected with Houston was escorted from the Progressive Field camera pit next to the Indians' dugout several times during Game 3 on Oct. 8 because he was using a cellphone to take pictures/video inside the Tribe's dugout.

    A similar incident happened on Saturday in Game 1 of the ALCS at Fenway Park between the Astros and Red Sox. MLB released a statement on Wednesday night before Game 4 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park clearing the Astros of any wrongdoing.

    Houston GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters that the Astros were casing other ballparks for "suspicious activity" and that they'd found numerous examples. MLB has ordered all teams still in the postseason to stop such activity and report violations to MLB.

    "We were playing defense; we were not playing offense," Luhnow said before Wednesday's Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in Houston.

    So let's get this straight. The Astros weren't peering into the dugouts of the Indians and Red Sox to steal signs, they were checking out the opposition dugouts to see if they were stealing signs from the Astros.

    Yes, that sounds crazy. But not baseball crazy.

    As for the question of why the Astros would cheat - the Indians, Oakland and Boston have complained to the commissioner's office about them this year - how about this for an answer? In 1994 Albert Belle hit .357 with 35 doubles, 36 homers, 101 RBI and a 1.152 OPS. He did all that damage in only 106 games because a players' strike.

    In July of that year, Belle's bat was confiscated in a game against the White Sox in Chicago. The White Sox had been tipped off that Belle was using a corked bat. The bat was placed in the umpire's room at Comiskey Park as the game continued. Teammate Jason Grimsley climbed through the rafters, dropped into the umpire's room, took Belle's bat and left a Paul Sorrento model in its place.

    Why didn't Grimsley just leave one of Belle's extra bats? Because, as a teammate later revealed, all of Belle's bats were corked.

    The next year Belle hit 50 homers and 52 doubles. Why would someone with so much power need to use a corked bat? Competition? Insecurity? An unbridled desire to put up big numbers so he could make as much money as possible?

    The Astros won the World Series last year. This year they won 103 games. But their reputation for dealing in the dark arts of sign stealing preceded them into this postseason.

    The Indians drove themselves to distraction trying to prepare for the Astros in the ALDS. They changed their signs and the way they delivered them. They made sure catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez hid their signs and changed them whenever a runner got on second.

    The preparation didn't matter. The Astros rolled past them by a collective score of 21-6.

    If the Astros did cheat, if they did gain an advantage by using cameras, video or whatever other methods were available to them, is it wrong? Cheating in baseball has been going on forever and by the strict guidelines of the game it is wrong. But is it as wrong as a player taking performance-enhancing drugs, changing the makeup of his body, so he can make the big leagues, put up better numbers and make more money?

    In this presidential era of alternate facts, can we have an alternate right and wrong in baseball?

    When the Indians won six division titles from 1995-2001, opposing teams swore Progressive Field, then Jacobs Field, was loaded with hidden cameras stealing their signs. There used to be a camera in the visitor's bullpen, so the official scorer could see who was warming up, but most teams would cover it with a towel.

    In the postseason, teams regularly had league officials cover one of the Indians' center field cameras and measure the mound at Jacobs Field. In one playoff game, Jim Thome homered against the Red Sox, who later complained that somebody whistled from the Indians' bench, a signal to Thome that a certain pitch was coming, just before he homered. They believed the Indians were cheating.

    Lots of ballparks have questionable reputations. During one game at the old Metrodome, Indians hitting coach Bobby Bonds walked the concourses and corridors of the ballpark. Bonds was sure that Metrodome officials turned the air conditioning on when the Twins batted to help their hitters drive the ball and turned it off when the opponents batted. His theory was inconclusive, but it was hard to convince him he was wrong.

    The same goes for ballplayers. The rules say a pitcher's foot must stay in contact with the pitching rubber when he throws a pitch. When Phil Niekro joined the Indians in 1986, he was 47. He went 11-11 and threw 210 1/3 innings. More than a few of the pitches he threw were delivered from a couple of inches in front of the rubber, so his knuckler would still have some flutter to it when it reached the plate.

    When Tony Pena caught for the Indians, he was a master at scuffing the ball on his shin guard before throwing it back to the pitcher. He had some veteran pitchers who could take advantage of a scuffed ball. Nowadays that advantage is gone because every ball that hits the dirt is thrown out of play.

    As long as baseball is played, teams and players are going to try and bend the rules to their advantage. Who can forget the image of Detroit's Kenny Rogers, his hand covered with pine tar, as he pitched against St. Louis in the 2006 World Series?

    If the Astros went looking for an advantage and found one against the Indians, it's hard to blame them. MLB has curtailed the use of PEDs, but when it comes to sign stealing and other methods of gamesmanship, little if anything has been done to stop it.

    In such a hot house environment, it has grown from Joe Nossek, the noted sign-stealing third base coach of the Indians from 1977-1981, trying to discover a pitcher's tendencies to teams using sophisticated digital equipment with the same goal in mind -- to find out what pitch is coming next.

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    Sunday's 24-point loss was the second-worst of Mayfield's career, dating back to his days at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. Watch video

    BEREA, Ohio -- Baker Mayfield is still searching for answers and aiming to rebound from his 38-14 loss to the Chargers.

    "That's the worst loss that I've ever had,'' Mayfield said Wednesday as he prepared to face the 2-3 Bucs on Sunday in Tampa. "You have to push forward and just have to do your job, and you'll find out what this team is made of.''

    His worst loss mathematically or emotionally?

    "Mathematically, which I think goes hand in hand with emotionally,'' he said. "Just did not play well, plain and simple. No way around it. It was not fun."

    Actually, the 24-point margin of defeat was the second-worst of Mayfield's career dating back to his days at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, where he went 24-2 as a starter.

    His worst was a 63-34 loss to Baylor when he played for Texas Tech in 2013. In that game, Mayfield threw for 314 yards and four TDs against one interception. But he lost very few games after that, finishing 5-2 at Texas Tech and 33-6 at Oklahoma. So dealing with a loss is tough enough, but dealing with a thorough beatdown is uncharted territory.

    Mayfield admitted the last time he left a game feeling like that was "against Nick Chubb [in Oklahoma's loss to Georgia in the 2018 Rose Bowl]" that prevented him from playing for the national championship.

    Containing Mayfield, more carries for Chubb and looking for WRs

    In the worst of his four appearances, Mayfield was 22-of-46 for 238 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was also sacked five times.

    "Just lack of execution,'' he said. "We've been trying to answer those questions of why it happened. I think we practiced well. I think that I was more than enough prepared. The coaches had me ready. It was just on my part. It was up to me, nobody else."

    Coach Hue Jackson expects his rookie to rebound against the Bucs, who are last in the NFL in points allowed and fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith this week.

    "Quarterbacks might as well start on their knees because they're going to be brought to their knees in this league,'' Jackson said. "He has to bounce back and you bounce back in a good way, you lead this team to victory this week - it's what you do. Everything we're doing and everything that we are trying to accomplish is leading to that.''

    Mayfield, 1-1-1 as the Browns' starter, is 32nd in the NFL with a 72.8 QB rating, one notch ahead of Tyrod Taylor. He's 31st with a 55.6 completion percentage and tied for 31st with only four TD passes. He's 35th in fourth-quarter passing with a 63.0 rating.

    "I'm hard on myself, but it's not 'the world is ending' mentality,'' he said. "I can rely on these players that I have in this locker room. I don't have to do it by myself. ... I can rely on them, push them and let them know that I'm going to do my job better and that we are going to make strides forward."

    Mayfield refused to use his tweaked left ankle as an excuse, and he's not listed on the injury report. He slipped on the first-down marker in the first quarter and never really seemed himself after that. He admitted he waited until a later sack to go to the medical tent out of stubbornness.

    He said it didn't limit his ability to slip out of the pocket.

    "No, I don't think so,'' he said. "They did a good job of when they were pushing me up in the pocket, they closed up the lanes to run through. Kudos to them for doing their job.

    "At the same time, if I get the ball out of my hands, then none of that really matters."

    Most of time, it looked like Mayfield had nowhere to go. With the Browns down to three healthy receivers in Jarvis Landry and rookies Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley, the Chargers doubled Landry and took him out of the game. Callaway dropped a couple of passes and Ratley dropped one at the goal line.

    Mayfield insisted that being hemmed in shouldn't break him, and that he can throw effectively from the pocket even behind redwood-sized linemen.

    "Yes, that's what I did in college,'' he said. "When a play breaks down, yeah, I've been blessed with the ability to make plays. When it comes down to it, I was not drafted here to run around and do things with my feet. I'm not fast, so I have to be able to throw from the pocket."

    Jackson agreed that Mayfield can be effective in the pocket.

    "No doubt, and that's up to us as a coaching staff to help him,'' he said.

    It's not helping matters that the Browns are receiver-challenged and trying to break in former Ravens' 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, who practiced with the team for the first time on Wednesday.

    So what's a QB to do when he scans the field and nothing's there?  

    "It's a combination of everything," Jackson said. "We have to get open. Sometimes, he just has to say 'Uncle' and throw it away. You have to understand situational football and get better in that way. The best place to learn is under fire. At the same time, we have to create separation so that he feels comfortable delivering the ball."

    Jackson agreed Mayfield has to hit his check downs, but "as I said to our line coaches, we have to fight harder and longer, too. We have to make sure that we give up ground grudgingly for this young man.

    "He's been hit way too much in my mind. We have to do everything that we can to keep the other team's defensive line, linebackers and safeties off of our quarterback, and then he has to get the ball out of his hand. I've seen some things where he can improve, but I have seen some things where the unit can improve more than anything."

    Mayfield has connected with Landry on only 11 of 29 targets. Teams are rolling coverage to Landry.

    "I will just be better for him, plain and simple,'' said Mayfield. "I wasn't the accurate quarterback that they drafted me to be so I'll fix that. On Jarvis' end, he's doing his job so I have to do mine."

    Mayfield's bad game did nothing to diminish him in the eye of Bucs coach Dirk Koetter.

    "This guy's a really good football player,'' he said. "Just my eye, I'd say he's more like (Saints QB) Drew Brees in our division, a guy who might not have ideal height but he can really spin it out of the pocket. ... He gets the ball out quick and definitely has an energy about him that that team has responded to."

    In Tampa, Mayfield will be tasked with keeping pace with the NFL's No.1 pass offense, which is eighth in points scored. But center JC Tretter is ailing with an ankle injury. Can they keep pace?

    "We have to,'' said Jackson. "They know how to score. They have guys that can score. We have guys that can score. We have to keep putting them into position to score. Whatever it takes to win the football game, we have to be willing as a football team to do.''

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    Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that no fines or punishment will be forthcoming after a man associated with the Astros was caught videoing in dugouts.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Major League Baseball will not levy a fine nor impose punishment against the Houston Astros after a man associated with the club was caught in the photo pit aiming his cell phone into to the Cleveland Indians' dugout during Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 8.

    The same man, who was also issued a media credential through the Astros for the American League Championship Series, was caught near the Boston Red Sox dugout during Game 1 on Saturday after the club was warned by Indians officials.

    MLB officials issued a statement Wednesday saying an investigation was conducted after several teams inquired with the Commissioner's office about possible sign-stealing. The statement indicated the league has beefed up security at all postseason games in response to the inquiries, and that the league considers the matter closed.


    According to the statement, the individual was acting on behalf of the Astros to ensure Houston's opponents were not violating any rules. The league has warned all teams remaining in the playoffs not to engage in similar efforts, and to instead refer any possible rules violations to MLB staffers.

    The complete statement from Major League Baseball is as follows: 

    "Before the Postseason began, a number of Clubs called the Commissioner's Office about sign stealing and the inappropriate use of video equipment.  The concerns expressed related to a number of Clubs, not any one specific Club.  In response to these calls, the Commissioner's Office reinforced the existing rules with all playoff Clubs and undertook proactive measures, including instituting a new prohibition on the use of certain in-stadium cameras, increasing the presence of operations and security personnel from Major League Baseball at all Postseason games and instituting a program of monitoring Club video rooms.

    "With respect to both incidents regarding a Houston Astros employee, security identified an issue, addressed it and turned the matter over to the Department of Investigations.  A thorough investigation concluded that an Astros employee was monitoring the field to ensure that the opposing Club was not violating any rules.  All Clubs remaining in the playoffs have been notified to refrain from these types of efforts and to direct complaints about any in-stadium rules violations to MLB staff for investigation and resolution.  We consider the matter closed."

    Reports surfaced Tuesday about the incidents in Cleveland and Boston, identifying the man as Kyle McLaughlin, an associate of Astros owner Jim Crane. McLaughlin has been removed from media photo areas near both the Indians and Red Sox dugouts so far this postseason.

    Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski told the Associated Press prior to Wednesday's Game 4 of the ALCS that he does not think McLaughlin was stealing signs, but that the issue may not be completely resolved.

    "First of all, there was a violation," Dombrowski said. "A person was in the credentialed box that shouldn't have been there. He wasn't supposed to be there. Secondly, I don't like the implication that the Boston Red Sox were doing anything illegal, and I don't think that the issue is actually closed from Major League Baseball, from what I've been advised from the commissioner's office, so there's a lot more steps that are attached to this."

    Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters before Game 4 that Houston was being proactive, but the club will obey the league's directive moving forward.

    "We were playing defense, we were not playing offense," Luhnow said.

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