The SportsTalk Shop: The Ryan Howard Saga

I have some very fond memories of Philadelphia Phillies’ First Baseman Ryan Howard.

I had the good fortune of seeing Ryan play when he was a hot prospect with the Reading Fightin’ Phillies (then called the “R-Phillies”), the long-time Double-A affiliate for its parent club.  While I was a big Jim Thome fan at the time, I could tell the first time I saw Howard that he was going to be a player for the ages (it wasn’t hard—he hit two monstrous home runs that day).

When the time came to move Thome, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that it was the right move.  I had seen Howard carrying teams with his bat and be a major force in a lineup that was already belted with legendary names like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and company, and his power bat (and at that time, a productive .300 hitter) would be the perfect fit for the middle of that order.  The Phillies would go on and win a club-record five consecutive NL East Division titles and put together the greatest, successful run in the 100-plus year history of the franchise.

That time when Howard was just coming up through the organization is the first thing that comes to mind when people bring up the issue becoming the biggest elephant in the entire Delaware Valley region right now…what to do with this aging superstar?

I have to admit…I have been cringing at some of the comments that people have been bringing up to me recently regarding Howard:

    • He can’t hit his weight
    • His strikeout total might be higher than his batting average
    • Two Phillies pitchers have higher batting averages than Howard

(All of these are either true or could be a reality!)

This whole season has not gone the way I had expected…as I had hoped.  While the Phillies win total heading into June is impressive, this team is still not going to win anything in October.  Ideally, the young prospects would play well and show that the future is bright, and guys like Charlie Morton (lost for the year because of injury) would pitch well enough to force a contending team to overpay for his services enabling the Phillies to pick up a few more pieces to help them for 2017 and beyond.

And…for purely selfish reasons, the “Big Piece” would pair with Darin Ruf for a presentable tandem in the heart of the batting order.  Not a return to glory.  Not a cry for a push for Howard to play every day.  Just hit well enough (and field decently enough) to not be embarrassed.

When the cries for Howard to be benched/traded/released started, my defense was that it was a rebuilding year and Howard wasn’t blocking the way for anyone currently pushing him for the first base job (especially with a mediocre spring training and even weaker early season performance by Ruf).

But the team’s overall success, mixed with its offensive struggles and Tommy Joseph’s hot Triple-A start, has exacerbated the Howard issue.  Howard’s struggles have glaringly revealed him as a massive liability on a team that might just actually have a shot at the final wild card berth.

This was not the way it was suppose to be…and it’s not fair.  For Howard, for Phillies followers, or for a life-long baseball fan who is becoming more and more removed from America’s Pastime due to its continuing lack of tradition, passion and interesting story lines.

Considering…

  • I have to go to a Double-A game to see a manager have a genuine argument with an umpire—something replaced at the Major League level with six minutes of standing around waiting for replays, only to have a 70% chance of getting the call correct in the first place.
  • I have to look at Bartolo Colon alerting the opposing team’s catcher to throw strikes because his back hurts too much to swing the bat or run the bases.
  • I have to dismiss Bryce Harper’s blatant disregard for protocol and tradition by cursing at umpires well after his ejection simply because, without him, the game would be virtually void of personalities and big time stars we can root for.

Ryan Howard use to be one of those people.  He’d literally carry teams for weeks.  He was a great interview with interesting and sometimes abrasive view points.  He brought thousands and thousands of fans to the ball park, and gave millions of fans thrill after thrill for many years.  He was fun to watch and someone everyone wanted to see hit.  And man, in his heyday, could he ever hit.

Unfortunately, Howard’s legacy is going to be tainted, at least in the short-term, by his Babe Ruthian-like demise.  It gets harder to listen to the truth about the current situation, and remembering the good times becomes more of a strain on the old noggin.

If only there were other things in pro baseball to complain about…
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On a more positive note, be sure to check out the District XI high school baseball championships games broadcast live this week on RCN-TV.  Check out our broadcast schedule here on the RCN-TV website for the latest details on teams and airtimes.

Chris Michael About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

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