Tagged: Hardball

I’m back

Hey everyone, I’m back for now. I started that other blog but my life is too busy for 2 blogs as well as school and family. I decided to delete that because I have loyal followers here and they don’t deserve to be abandoned.

I haven’t been making any entries because I needed a break from everything for awhile. I needed to do some thinking and I needed to figure some things out and now that I have gotten that done I can give you more entries.

~Ben

New Blog

Hi everyone. I just thought I would let you know that I started a new blog called “Down on Strikes” on Blogspot. I will continue to post on here but obviously it won’t be as often. I would still like my loyal readers to check out my new one. I will still be around reading your blogs and commenting when I can.

Here is the link to my new blog.

http://downonstrikes.blogspot.com/

I hope to see comments from everyone and I hope you all like it.

Sorry I keep changing the name of the new one but I settled on “Down on Strikes.”

By the way, if you linked Hardball in your top blogs I would be very appreciative if you changed it to down on strikes or made a new link. Thanks again everyone.

~Ben

On to victory

As most of you know the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII. Arizona took the lead with 2:37 left but Ben Roethlisberger was able to orchestrate a 2 minute game winning drive that ended with a Santonio Holmes TD catch in the corner of the end zone. Holmes would later be named Super Bowl MVP, but did he deserve it?

Don’ get me wrong, Holmes had an amazing game and without him Pittsburgh probably would have lost. But you have to give Roethlisberger his credit. Roethlisberger was able to escape trouble all night long and found a way to make some great plays. He did a great job of extending the play and moving the chains. Roethlisberger only threw for one touchdown but he also threw one interception. That interception was not a bad pass it was tipped straight up into the air at the line of scrimmage. The blocked pass doesn’t get Roethlisberger off the hook but he doesn’t deserve the entire blame either.

Ben RoethlisbergerRoethlisberger led his team on a game winning drive that would seal the game for Pittsburgh. I’m happy for Holmes but I think Roethlisberger deserved the MVP. His passes aren’t always pretty but he gets the job done. Roethlisberger may not have gotten the trophy but he was the MVP of the Super Bowl.

Last night’s Super Bowl win gives the Steelers their sixth Super Bowl. That Super Bowl gives the Steelers the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history. With all the recent success are the Steelers the greatest football franchise of all time? I think it does. In the end last nights Super Bowl was an amazing game. I’m just happy the Steelers won. Football season may be over but the draft is just around the corner.

~Ben

Going hunting…bird hunting

Super BowlIt is the eve of the Super Bowl and the clock is winding down before kickoff. The player’s nerves are running wild and emotions are running on high.

On one side you have the ridiculously good Steeler’s defense against Arizona’s high powered air attack. Match ups could be the key to the game. Who will win? Who will be the MVP? Here are the keys to the game.

Play calling and match ups will be the key to winning the game on both sides of the ball. I’ll break them down for you.

Larry FitzgeraldThe first key match up on defense for the Steelers is Ike Taylor vs. Larry Fitzgerald. Taylor must contain Fitzgerald for the Steelers to win. If Taylor can keep Fitzgerald in front of him then he can be contained. Fitzgerald hurts defenses by going over the top. There is no doubt in my mind that Taylor will have help over the top by Ryan Clark, but Clark is also crucial in run support. If Taylor holds Fitzgerald under 100 yards or out of the end zone the Steelers have a good chance of winning.

The second key match up is Kurt Warner vs. James Farrior. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley get the press but Farrior is still the best linebacker on that team. If Farrior comes out of the game the captain of the defense is gone. All the plays go in through Farrior. Farrior spends a lot of time spying the QB so Warner needs to watch him. Farrior needs to spy and cut off Warner’s short throwing lanes.

Now the match ups for Arizona’s defense. Antrel Rolle vs. Hines Ward. Rolle must prevent the short passes and yards after the catch from Ward. Ward may not be at full health but must be respected. Pittsburgh has proven they have other options outside of Ward but he is still the primary target on third down. Third downs will be very key in this game.

Next is Ben Roethlisberger vs. Adrian Wilson. Wilson is Arizona’s version of Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu. Wilson can be a free runner at times and sack the QB. Roethlisberger needs to recognize where Wilson is in the defensive set to make the correct audible. The same can be said about Warner recognizing Polamalu. Wilson can also make plays in the defense and become a big hitter over the top. Arizona doesn’t have the big names Pittsburgh does on defense but still has very good play makers.

James FarriorOverall keys to the game for the Cardinals is forcing Roethlisberger to make turnovers. Arizona needs to bring pressure and force Roethlisberger to make quick decisions. He is very good out of the pocket but isn’t the fastest guy, he can be caught. Arizona needs to sack the QB and force turnovers. Pittsburgh’s D cannot let Fitzgerald beat them. They will surely double cover him most plays forcing Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston to step up. Pittsburgh also needs to force turnovers. Warner has been prone to turnovers in his career and Pittsburgh needs to make it happen. Pressuring Warner will make him act quickly and throw bad passes.  The team with the fewest turnovers will probably win.

Ken Whisenhunt needs to plan again Dick LeBeau’s zone blitzes. Pittsburgh loves to confuse the offense. Kurt Warner needs to switch up long snap counts will quick ones to make Pittsburgh show their sets and running lanes. Arizona’s offensive line also needs to use zone blocking instead of man to man blocking. Trying to block the Steelers in man blocking is like trying to get Scott Boras to give a home town discount, it ain’t a happening.

In the end I think Pittsburgh’s defense will be able to hold Arizona under 24 points. Unfortunately Pittsburgh has played a death row of teams and could put the game away quickly on offense. Pittsburgh scored 35 points on a solid Charger’s defense, they can score on Arizona’s. This game could also come down to whoever has the ball last. In a close game both Roethlisberger and Warner are extremely clutch. The game will either be very tight or put away early.

Steelers 27 Arizona 17

Roethlisberger named MVP

~Ben 

Billy Powell found dead

Billy PowellBilly Powell was found dead early Wednesday morning in his Orange Park, FL home. Taking into account Powell’s past heart problems doctors believe he died of a heart attack. Powell was not an athlete but he was the pianist of one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk this earth, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Powell joined the band after they heard him play their hit “Free Bird” on the piano. Powell would join the band and go on to be one of the survivors of the 1977 plane crash that took the lives of fellow band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines.

Original members Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant wrote “Free Bird” but many referred to it as Powell’s song. Powell’s keyboards are only overshadowed in the song by Zant’s vocals and the incredible three guitar solo the song ends on. Powell is also known to take his own solo mid way through the song. Lynyrd Skynyrd would go one to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

He will be missed.

Billy Powell (June 3, 1952-January 28, 2009)

~Ben

Decision time in Atlanta

Nick SwisherThe Braves have recently made a flurry of moves to make their team a contender. Now they are at a crossroad and need to make a decision. Atlanta has about $6MM-$7MM left to spend this off season. Atlanta has been rumored to be in a potential trade for Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher. Swisher will make $5.3MM this year which would leave almost nothing left in the bank for Atlanta. That would be fine if Atlanta wasn’t also trying to sign fan favorite Tom Glavine. If you crunch the numbers you will quickly realize it would appear Atlanta can only afford one. But which one?

Nick Swisher would almost certainly bring much needed power to what is a light hitting outfield. Jeff Francoeur was the only outfielder last year who had any glimpses of power but managed to only hit 11 home runs on the year. Swisher hit 24 last year in fewer games than Francoeur. Both had very low batting averages but many are attributing that to the occasional “down year” that the normal human being is known to have. Swisher is also a switch hitter and would be able to be placed in the cleanup spot in the lineup in between Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.

If Swisher produces the same power numbers and boosts his average his salary would be considered a major bargain. Unfortunately in this situation it may not be a big enough bargain. Swisher has a reasonable salary and is also under contract for 3 years. He can also play all outfield positions as well as first base. In any case I believe Swisher to be well worth the money. But what about Tom Glavine?

Tom GlavineGlavine is coming back from surgery and appears to be doing well in his rehab. Glavine doesn’t expect to be blown out of the water but does expect to be offered something fair. He deserves nothing less. Glavine is no where near what he used to be but does not deserve to be tossed aside like John Smoltz was earlier this year.

Tom GlavineAtlanta needs to bring Glavine back for themselves, for Glavine, and for the fans. I think if Glavine is not re-signed there could be an ugly backlash from Atlanta faithful. They already saw one fan favorite leave for another team and I don’t think they are in the mood to watch it again. Everyone knows that if the fans are against you then it is hard to win. Every game turns into a road game and that is going to lead to a very long season for a team trying to return to greatness.

Not only is Glavine a fan favorite but he is left-handed. Glavine would fit nicely in the 3rd spot in the rotation with four right-handed pitchers. An all right-handed rotation doesn’t exactly scream variety. Glavine has value just because of the fact he is left-handed. Either way, Atlanta needs to bring him back. Even if Glavine doesn’t produce the way he is expected to he would be a great mind to have in the clubhouse.

Personally if I had to make one move I would take Glavine. I think Swisher could be a great help on the field but Glavine will produce on the field, in the clubhouse, and is loved by the fans. Having both is great but if I had to pick one it would be Tom Glavine.

~Ben

Filling the void

Nick SwisherWith all the acquisitions made this off season the Braves still have two voids to fill in the outfield. Jeff Francoeur seems to be entrenched in right field for at least the 2009 season which leaves two spots open. Atlanta has shown interest in both Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady, though Swisher appears to be the favorite.

Nady is the superior player both offensive and defensively but Swisher would come at a bigger discount. Nady also happens to be a Scott Boras client and will hit free agency after the 2009 season. Jason Heyward could be Nady’s replacement in the likely hood that he departs, but there is no guarantee that he will be ready in time.

Heyward is already a tremendous talent but Atlanta does not in anyway want to rush him. He has been invited to this year’s spring training but is not expected to make the roster.

Atlanta’s beat writer Mark Bowman has said that the Orlando Hudson idea died about a month ago. Atlanta let the idea go over defensive worries. I don’t really buy that idea as before last year he won consecutive Gold Glove awards. Hudson was also injured for part of last year so that may have effected his range factor, which has provided concerns for Atlanta. The signing of Hudson could have made Kelly Johnson expendable and led to a possible trade for Ryan Ludwick.

Gregor BlancoI would like a trade for Swisher if Atlanta didn’t need to include too much value. It would take less to land Swisher than Nady, but Swisher is also under contract for $22.5MM over the next 3 seasons. Swisher had a down year last year but did hit 24 home runs. Swisher is also a switch hitter which gives him a lot of value to the Braves.

If Atlanta can’t land Swisher it looks like Matt Diaz, Brandon Jones and Gregor Blanco could be battling for the spot in left field. Center field is also up for grabs with Blanco, Josh Anderson and Jordan Schafer all fighting for the spot.

When this is all said and done I think Atlanta can land Swisher and that Jordan Schafer will win the starting spot in center field. Schafer is just as good defensively as Anderson and Blanco but can provide more offense. Atlanta was in desperate need of offensive production from the outfield last year and Schafer is the most likely to provide it out of the three.

Till next time,

~Ben