Swing and a Long Drive... That Blog is Outta Here!

To my fellow readers:

Thank you for reading my website for nearly three years. It has been fun writing about the team I love and receiving feedback. However, as you may have noticed with the lack of updates, I no longer have the time to update this site on a daily basis.

I started Swing and a Long Drive back in 2008, as a 16-year old girl. Now, as a college student, I find it almost impossible to find a time to write. Although this site will be gone, I will not end my writing career.

With my domain expiring at the end of the month, I have decided to put an end to this site, Swing and a Long Drive. But that does not mean I will not stop writing. In 2009, shortly after staring this site, I was recruited to Phillies Nation, a very popular Phillies website. Most of the articles on this site were identical to the ones I wrote for the Nation. There really is no point having the same articles on both sites, especially when the readership for Phillies Nation is much larger. Therefore, I will still be writing, but my articles will only appear on Phillies Nation. There are many great writers over at the Nation that you may enjoy as well.

Thank you for helping my Internet blogging experience at Swing and a Long Drive, and I invite you to do the same over at Phillies Nation, if you already haven't.

As Harry Kalas may have called it: "Swing and a long drive... this blog is outta here!"

Year In Review: Phillies Push Back Braves

This is a 2010 Year In Review. This is one top moment that appeared on Phillies Nation.

On September 1, the Phillies were three games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. The Phillies had a history of being a hot team in September, and it looked as if the division race would go down to the final games.

The Phillies got on a hot streak and moved ahead of the Braves in the standings. Eventually, a gap was built between the first place Phillies and second place Braves. Our top moment, September 22, 2010, marks the night when Philadelphia could unofficially put the Braves in the rear view mirror.

The game began with a promising matchup of Tommy Hanson and Roy Oswalt. Neither starter allowed a run. Hanson surrendered just two hits and three walks over six innings. Oswalt pitched remarkably as well, tossing seven shutout innings. He only gave up one hit and one walk.
But with no runs on the board, the Phillies had to rely on the offense and bullpen, both which were questionable at times in 2010. On the offensive front, there really wasn't one guy that would consistently be the hero. Somebody new would always step up. Who would it be this time?

At the beginning of 2009, there were plenty of "RAUUUUUUUL" chants to go around. However, they weren't as common in 2010 as Ibanez somewhat struggled at the plate. In this game against the Braves, the chants returned. Ibanez came through in the eighth inning, slicing a double down the left field line, scoring Jayson Werth. It was the lone run of the game, but it was all that was needed as Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge finished it off.

The 1-0 victory marked the Phillies tenth straight win, but more importantly pushed the Braves to six games back in the division. The Phillies could quietly say goodbye the Braves, and look forward to another National League East crown.

Other Top Moments:

July 8: Brian Schnieder came up clutch with a 12th inning walk-off home run against the Cincinnati Reds to give the Phillies a 4-3 victory.

Year In Review: Phillies Rally Against Marmol

This is a 2010 Year In Review. This is one top moment that appeared on Phillies Nation.

Top Moments on Phillies Nation #25 and #24 came on comebacks after Brad Lidge blew a save. Number 23 involves another blown save, only this time it was not Lidge. The Phillies were on the other end.

At Wrigley Field, Cole Hamels and Randy Wells were tossing a pitcher's duel. Hamels finished the night after seven strong innings, allowing only one earned run. The lone run came on a suicide squeeze, laid down by Ryan Theriot, which scored rookie Starlin Castro.

Hamels was solid, but the offense had difficulties scoring. A lack of run support was very common in 2010. Then again, so were late inning rallies.

With Carlos Marmol closing, Greg Dobbs, Wilson Valdez, and Chad Durbin due up, the game appeared to be over. Dobbs popped up. Brian Schneider pinched hit for Valdez and drew a walk. Ross Gload, who substituted for Durbin, also drew a walk. All of a sudden, the Phillies had two men on base, including a runner in scoring position. Down by one run, there was certainly hope.

Marmol was extremely erratic, but struck out Shane Victorino for the second out. One out away from defeat, the Phillies had to rely on Placido Polanco, who was fresh off the disabled list. Polanco came through like he did so many times in 2010, delivering a game-tying RBI single. Schnieder looked to be a dead duck at the plate, but thankfully Geovanny Soto could not handle the ball.

Marmol's problems did not end there as he failed to locate the strike zone. A wild pitch enabled Gload to score from third and give the Phillies a lead. Marmol walked Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth before finally being removed for James Russell.

Raul Ibanez finished off the scoring with a RBI single of his own to make it 4-1. Brad Lidge wasn't going to let this one slip like Marmol, as he converted the save.

The comeback against the Cubs was just one of many late-inning rallies for the Phillies. Their never-say-die attitude showed that there was no reason to give up on them. There were many nail-biters, but there were also shocking comebacks like this one. It may not have been the prettiest win, but it was good enough for a 2010 top moment.

Other Top Moments

April 12: Phillies home opener. The Phillies had a five-run fifth inning, which included a Chase Utley home run. The Phillies beat the Washington Nationals, 7-4.

Ryan Howard extension: Howard's five-year, $125 million contract.

Year In Review: Danys Baez

Also featured on Phillies Nation.

When the Phillies signed Danys Baez to a two-year, $5.25 million contract, I thought that this was a decent deal. He had a few good years; a few not-so-good. He'd be taking over Chan Ho Park's role, how bad could it be? About a year later, I'm regretting those thoughts.

Before the season started, Baez was believed to be a reliable late-inning reliever. Especially with certain injuries to the bullpen, Baez was visioned as a seventh or eighth inning guy.

Baez struggled from the get-go. Unfortunately, Charlie Manuel kept him in the same role. Appearing in 51 games, Baez received many chances but he still failed to reach any sort of expectation. It wasn't until later in the season when Manuel decided that Baez pitched his way out of his job.

Every time Baez entered the game, I joked that the Phillies should just hand the opponents five runs. Sadly, that's basically what happened; Baez had an earned run average of 5.48 in 47.2 innings. The poor statistics do not end there. He averaged 1.64 walks and hits per innings pitched. He also allowed 10.4 hits and 4.3 walks per nine innings.

The only time Baez did not hurt the team was when he was sent to the disabled list with back-spasms in August. Even when he returned, he continued to struggle. Due to his unsatisfactory performance, Baez was left off the playoff roster.

It's tough to talk positively about the 2010 performance of Danys Baez. However, there were a few games in which he did get the job done, and he deserves credit for that. Also, I'd rather have Baez's contract rather than Brandon Lyons or Fernando Rodney's, who were other options last off season.

The Phillies hope that Baez will rebound next season. Don't expect him to strike a ton of people out, but he's a ground ball pitcher who has had some success in the past, being an All Star in 2005. He has one year left on his contract, so he'll get another chance. But if he continues to fail, those Philadelphia boos are not disappearing.

NCAA Basketball: Big Five Preview

A portion of this article will be featured in La Salle University's weekly newspaper, "The Collegian."

Edited by David DiPasqua Jr.

The success of the Big Five caught everybody by surprise. The Big Five intended to bring big-name Philadelphia schools together and create profits to upkeep the Palestra. Villanova, St. Joseph's, Temple, La Salle, and Penn changed college basketball in the city of brotherly love forever. Tradition and intense rivalries were created and still live on today. The rivalries are renewed for the 2010-2011 season and some teams in the Big Five are stronger than ever.

The La Salle Explorers are coming off a disappointing season of 12 wins and 18 losses. The Explorers failed to meet their high expectations, but hope to rebound this season behind head coach Dr. John Giannini.

The Explorers lost point guard Rodney Green to graduation. He was a key player for the team, averaging 18.5 points per game in his senior year. The Explorers feel they have talented players who can fill Green's shoes.

Five current seniors return for the upcoming season, including Jerrell Williams, who averaged 10 points per game and seven rebounds last season. Also, the Explorers welcome transfer student Earl Pettis, a junior who played at Rutgers University. La Salle recruited four freshman, including seven-foot center Matt Lopez and the highly touted guard, Sam Mills.

Villanova is clearly the favorite in the Big Five. The Wildcats finished with a 25-8 record last season. They were upset in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament despite being seeded second in the South region.

Villanova is without Scottie Reynolds, the team's former star who averaged 18 points per game. Jay Wright still has plenty of proven talent in his juggernaut lineup. Seniors Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes lead the way. Fisher, a guard, averaged 13 points last season, and Stokes, a forward and a guard, averaged 9.5 points and four rebounds. Also among returnees are sophomores Dominic Cheek and Maaik Wayns, who are both on the rise and expected to receive an increase in playing time.

Villanova already has high expectations for the 2010-2011 season. The Associated Press ranked them sixth in the nation in their annual preseason rankings.

Villanova will travel to the Tom Gola Arena on December 12. The Explorers hope for a different outcome against the Wildcats after losing to them 81-63 last year.

The Big Five's next biggest threat is the Temple Owls, who are ranked 22nd in the nation by the Associated Press. Like Villanova, Temple made it to the NCAA tournament last season, but lost early. Temple was kicked out in the first round by Cornell in the East region.

Temple has a scary duo in Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez. Allen returns for his final season. Allen averaged 11.5 points and 10.7 rebounds last season as a forward. Fernandez, a junior guard, averaged 12.6 points and 3.6 assists in the 2009-2010 season.

La Salle and Temple will face each other twice this season; February 2 at the Tom Gola Arena and March 5 at the Liacouras Center. The Owls beat the Explorers by twelve points in both meetings last year.

The Penn Quakers are coming off a horrific year. An embarrassing record of 6-22 led to the firing of coach Glen Miller. Jerome Allen will take over and he is a perfect fit for the team. Allen, an alumni of Penn, appeared in three Ivy League championship games and was a two-time Ivy League player of the year.

Captains Zack Ronen, Jack Eggleson, and Conor Turley are the centerpieces of the team. Ronen, a junior guard, averaged 17.7 points per game. Eggleson averaged 13 points per game as a junior, and Turley is battling back from injuries last season.

Penn was the only Big Five team that the Explorers were able to beat last season. The Explorers hope for the same outcome when the Quakers come to the Tom Gola Arena on January 12.

Each team in the Big Five has its own rival, but there is one school that is a rival to all: St. Joseph's. Phil Martelli's team may not be nationally ranked, but the St. Joe's Hawks are always a threat.

Losing Darrin Govens and team most valuable player Garret Williamson are significant losses for St. Joeseph's, but they have a top recruits in C.J Aiken and Langston Galloway, whom were both named to the 2010-2011 Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Rookie Team.

Aiken was named Pennsylvania's Class AAAA Player of the Year and was an Associated Press All-State First Team selection. Galloway, a guard, averaged 26 points, five assists, and five steals during his senior year in high school.

The Hawks demolished the Explorers last season, but on January 26, La Salle looks for redemption at the Palestra.

Villanova and Temple appear to be the strongest teams on paper in the Big Five, but the other three teams should not be taken lightly. All five teams have proven talent, as well as young stars in the making. All the Big Five games are guaranteed to rile up the fans and intensify the rivalries as the tradition lives on.

Mailbag: Main Focus? MVP?

In this post, I answered questions presented by Pat Gallen of Phillies Nation. Click the link to see answers from other bloggers. If you have a question, please e-mail me at amanda@swingandalongdrive.com.

What should be the Phillies main focus heading into free agency - bullpen, offense, or more starting pitching?

The Bullpen. The Phillies have Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge -- that's it. Danys Baez will return, but I'd rather keep the ball as far away from him as possible. Chad Durbin, Jose Contreras, and J.C Romero are all free agents. Durbin's average. Bringing him back at a decent price would be solid, but losing him isn't going to be the end of the world. Contreras had a good year, but he's old. J.C Romero is too erratic and probably will demand a lot of money.

After Madson and Lidge, there is nobody. Antonio Bastardo? He hasn't done a thing in the big leagues. Scott Matheison could be a possible option, but he's had trouble getting out big league hitters, and even if he does well he is not going to solve the bullpen issues.

The Phillies wrapped up the regular season yesterday, finishing 97-65. Who was the Phils regular season MVP?

Roy Halladay. Every five days is win day. He gave the Phillies a solid 250 innings. Complete Games. Shutouts. Perfect game. How can he not be the team MVP?

Second: Jayson Werth; Third: Ryan Howard.

Mailbag: Phillies/Giants Matchup

In this post, I answered questions presented by Pat Gallen of Phillies Nation. Click the link to see answers from other bloggers. If you have a question, please e-mail me at amanda@swingandalongdrive.com.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how worried are you to face the Giants (10 being most worried, 1 being least worried)?

I'd give it an 8. Comparing offenses, the Reds are superior to the Giants. However, when it comes to pitching, there is no argument; the Giants have one of the best staffs in the league. They led the majors with a 3.36 team ERA, .236 batting average against, and 1331 strikeouts.

Tim Lincecum had a "down year," but his 14 strikeouts/complete game shutout in the NLDS indicate what he is capable of. He'll remain a top pitchers for several years. It goes beyond Lincecum, though. Actually, Matt Cain was better, posting a 3.14 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. The pitching doesn't stop there. Jonathan Sanchez, another strikeout pitcher, had a 3.07 ERA this season. The Phillies arguably have the edge with a 1-2-3 punch of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, but the Giants are not too far behind.

The Phillies clearly put up the better offensive numbers. The Giants no longer have Barry Bonds, or anybody that puts up a huge power display, although they do have a good core of players that can hurt opposing pitchers. This year's Giants offense is much improved as opposed to the past few years. Pablo Sandoval didn't live up to his expectations this year, but he is always a threat. Aubrey Huff had a very good year. Rookie Buster Posey has yet to let anybody down. While the Giants may not have the best offensive numbers as a team, they do have guys then can cause some damage.

What one player do you fear the most?

Tim Lincecum is an obvious pick, but I'll go with Jonathan Sanchez who is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in nine career games against the Phillies. He has 40 strikeouts in 34.2 innings. As a whole, the Phillies have collected a batting average of .175 against Sanchez.