by: Chris Creighton
Follow him on Twitter @WarRoomPHLChris by clicking here
Watch the latest episode of the War Room on UStream by clicking here
|Howard and high school|
teacher, Paula Grana
Courtesy of MLB.com
So how come when his name is mentioned among so many in the City of Brotherly Love, it would seem as if the guy is public enemy number one? I understand that with charities and donations aside, the man is here to play ball in front of the most demanding fans in the nation, but it's not like he hasn't done a lion's share to bring the team to levels it hadn't risen since 1993. Howard's historical runs in September 2007 and 2008 would give the team--and the city--its first taste of playoff action in over a decade. Without carrying his teammates on his capable back, we would have probably never witnessed moments like this or this. Subtract his 2009 NLDS MVP performance and the Phillies don't play in their second consecutive World Series that October.
Ryan Howard / Career: September and October
But in a city that holds towards certain players a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude, there's little margin for error and no room for reward for Ryan Howard, even if he is showing signs of turning the corner in this young 2013 season. CSN Philly's own Reuben Frank did his best to post the positive vibe about Howard's recent 13-game tear, only to see the immediate feedback which made sure there was attention to the negative.
Ryan Howard is on pace for 27 HRs, 97 RBIs and .291. And he hasn't even gotten hot yet. Still ripping him?
— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) May 4, 2013
|Overpaid or Under-appreciated?|
Ah, the contract. I'd venture an educated guess to say that among the order of the Negadelphian's Creed, bashing Ryan Howard's contract over the heads of his supporters is high on the list, if not numero uno. I'm not certain this document actually exists, but I can just imagine "Five Years, $125 million" emblazoned in bold, Phillies-red calligraphy.
Most people don't care that this mega-deal was born of strategic inspiration by Phillies management and not due to a single demand from Ryan Howard back in April 2010. Like it or lump it, halfway down the above highlighted article, the truth reads:
"So they approached his agent, Casey Close..." - Jayson Stark, ESPN April 27, 2010This should be important to even the most pessimistic of Philadelphians, because we all should remember there have been several lucrative, yet far more financially unsound contracts signed in Major League Baseball over the past few years which were free agent deals where it was the player who bridled the bidding. Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, A-Rod and more recently, Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton all signed ridiculous contracts as unrestricted free agents, each of whom took top dollar over any sentimental home discount with their respective incumbent teams. Some of those deals even went uncontested as general managers in Washington, Boston, Atlanta and Anaheim opened their wallets wider than what the market would wager for the players they pursued.
|Support is ok, but just not for|
I get that Halladay and Utley persevered through injuries, but so has Howard with a severe left ankle sprain in 2010 and a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the 2011 NLDS. The latter being an injury that can often end a professional athlete's career if not at least rendering it mostly impotent. Both injuries would strike the left foot and ankle, the very same he'd use to push off in order to generate his Ruthian power batting from the left side. What hurt most in 2010 was that Howard was monster mashing as he hit the disabled list on August third batting .292 with 23 bombs and 81 RBIs, giving us all no reason to doubt his super-salary worthiness. Eventually suspected as a tie-in between the two injuries would be a team-ordered cortisone injection he received in September 2011 to treat an aggravated bursa sac in his left heel. Either way, the tendon may have been doomed from the moment he went down in the Summer of 2010.
"It's possible Howard's stressed left Achilles - the tendon that connects the heel to the muscles of the lower leg - would have burst even without the cortisone injection. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound first baseman, after all, had been having foot problems for more than a year after badly spraining his left ankle in August 2010."And in the case for Cliff Lee, fans steadfastly stand behind the little-to-no run support he received in 2012. Ok, fine. I can certainly get behind that reason as he was given as much support as a hammock made of Twizzlers. But until this season, Howard also hasn't had any consistent support of his own in the the fifth spot in the lineup since 2010 when Jayson Werth sizzled .296/.388/.532 with a league-leading 46 doubles and 27 home runs. Werth would finish eighth in the NL MVP voting. The team would downsize behind The Big Piece in 2011 after Werth bolted for big bucks in DC.
So, get a hold of yourselves (and over yourselves) and break free of the negativity held towards one of baseballs' good guys. It's the Fifth of May, 2013 and all indications are that Ryan Howard is heating up. Take a chance and get on board his train, the one that could take this team into playoff contention because the minute you all got out of bed today, you found the Braves and Nationals still struggling to find ways to win. What could it hurt if you offered your unconditional support for the Big Piece like you do others? Would you earn a dollar less at work or pay a dollar more for a ticket if he was paid less? No and no. But you would certainly earn the right to jump and shout with us all when he launches his next missile into the South Philadelphia night. Ryan Howard deserves our support, win or lose. Because I think he's earned our loyalty both on and off the field.