Forgive me for not jumping on the Ryan Howard farewell bus tour.
Maybe that makes me a curmudgeon, but I feel it is disingenuous of the media in this town to only focus on the good years of Ryan Howard's career and to overlook the significant negative impact his final years brought to this organization and, more importantly, his role in that impact.
Nobody with any real stature over the past week has been willing to acknowledge that impact until Mike Schmidt when he spoke to Mike Missanelli on Friday.
The headline makes seem equally as curmudgeonly as me, but Schmidt's assessment is about as honest an assessment you will find:
"They did not shift on him back then like they do now, I think that's a major difference. Through that period and into the period that he had his downturn, I think there was a big shift in how they pitched him. I think there were many more specialized relievers that he had to face over that period. Assuming he didn't have the base for hitting underneath him with his injuries...could have played a big part in it.
I always contended that if he were willing to at some point as he was going through this, making a major change. He's not an experimenter like I was. I would have tried to figure out a way to do something differently and turned the whole thing around. Whether or not I would have is a different story. Ryan kind of stayed the same and even now he's still pretty much the same. Maybe more of a crouch in the batter's box but I just don't think he has been able to turn it around. Maybe he hasn't looked hard enough at ways to turn it around.
He is what he is and I just think he's a heck of a young man and he's been a big part of the Phillies success over the years. Even now, even when the Phillies are rebuilding, changing everything, he's also been very, very amicable to the organization and the players around him in the clubhouse. Trust me, he could have been a real liability for the Phillies going through this.
Missanelli: "Do you believe that he was an under appreciated player here and one of the reasons for that is because of his reluctance to change?"
No, I don't believe he was under appreciated. I think he was appreciated just about like any great hitter would be. There's some statues out around the stadium out there and all those guys were great for fifteen to twenty years and Robin Robert's case might even be more than that and Richie Ashburn maybe even more than that. So it depends on how much you think he should have been appreciated. Like you say, Ryan had five or six Hall of Fame caliber years. It was really fun to watch him during that time but it's a sad thing the way that his last four or five years have gone.
Before offering my take on it, here's a little context.
Ryan Howard averaged 50 home runs per season and 143 RBI over a four-year period from 2006 to 2009 and I believe the only other players to match those totals were Babe Ruth and Sammy Sosa.
Add his Rookie of the Year 2005 season in which Howard hit 22 home runs in 88 games and the 2010 and 2011 seasons in which he averaged 32 homers and 112 RBI, you have six and a half "Hall of Fame caliber" seasons as Schmidt described them.
Howard hit .226 with an average of 19.2 home runs per season in his last five seasons, struck out 638 times in 544 games, and had a negative WAR in four of those five seasons. He earned $25 million per season during those five years.
Sure, the achilles injury played a big role in Howard's downfall, but his power numbers this season show that the injury did not sap all of his power. His refusal to work on ways to improve himself played a far greater role.
And yes, the money matters.
Was Howard the fool who chose to offer such a staggering contract? No.
Should he have given some of the money back? Of course not.
But such a contract demands a great deal of responsibility. When you earn $25 million per year and your WAR says you are worse than a replacement level player, you owe it to yourself, the fans, and your employer to do everything in your power to improve. David Ortiz did just that and he received gifts from every city he visited this year as he finishes his possible Hall of Fame career.
What really matters is this: the Phillies could have bought a lot of tremendous talent with the $125 million they paid out over those five years. As much credit as he deserves for his first 6 plus years, he must take some responsibility for .500 or worse records in each of the last five years.
But I refuse to end his career on this blog with negatives on a day when the Phillies will honor the best first baseman in team history, a man with the second most home runs and third most RBI in team history, and the last remaining piece of the 2008 championship team that would not have won it without him.
Numerous reporters will tell you that Ryan Howard was considered one of the nicest people you will ever meet with a charm that few of his peers possessed. He was charitable, always available for questions, a positive presence in the clubhouse, and honorable in how he handled difficult personal and professional situations in his final years.
He owns the team record for home runs in a single season, he was a Rookie of the Year, the National League's choice as the Most Valuable Player in 2006, a home run derby champion, and the MVP of the 2009 NLCS. And who could every forget how he rewarded the boys for getting him to the plate?
Let's remember that, even if only for one day.comments powered by Disqus