A Tribute To The Big Piece

Photo Credit: Philly.com

As the regular season winds down, the Philadelphia Phillies are getting ready to watch the playoffs from home for a fifth straight year. They currently sit in 4th place in the National League East at 70-87, 22.0 games behind the Washington Nationals for first place. They also sit 13.0 games behind the San Francisco Giants for the second wild card spot. They will not be playing in October this season. But for the purpose of this article, I want to focus on a different era of Phillies baseball. I’m talking about from 2007-2011.

During this time frame, the Phillies won 473 games and lost 337 games. A winning percentage of 58.4% might not seem that impressive, but over a 5-year span they won almost 60% of their games; that is very impressive and was the best percentage in baseball by 9% during this time. It was a time when the Phillies had big names such as Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley. While all of the players I just mentioned are either playing for a different team or retired, there is one player who contributed a lot, but his contributions are overlooked by his declined skill set and massive contract. I’m talking about Phillies’ first baseman Ryan Howard.

Nowadays, when you mention Ryan Howard most Phillies fans cringe and talk about two big things: strikeouts and his contract. As Ryan Howard plays out the final games of the final year of his contract, there are people who can’t wait to get him (and his contract) out of Philadelphia. With all of that being said, people don’t quite realize how big a contributor Ryan Howard was to those clubs that saw the Phillies win 5 straight NL East titles, 2 NL pennants, and a World Series Championship. While people think of Howard as a waste of space on a very young roster and trash talk him (and even throw beer bottles at him), what they should be doing is thanking Ryan for everything he has done for the city and this baseball team. Here are a few reasons why Ryan Howard’s last few games should be celebrated not anticipated.

2005 NL Rookie of the Year:

Ryan Howard came into the league in 2005 while then Phillies’ first baseman Jim Thome was injured. He played in 88 games and batted .288, hit 22 home runs, and had 63 RBIs. These numbers were good enough to win him National League Rookie of the Year, the 4th Phillie to ever win the award and first since Scott Rolen won it in 1997.

2006 NL MVP:

Ryan Howard made his impressive rookie year look bush league with his sophomore season numbers. Howard played in 159 games and batted .313 with 58 home runs and 149 RBIs. Those numbers were good enough to win him National League Most Valuable Player that year. He became the third person in MLB history to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in his first two seasons, joining Eddie Murray and Dustin Pedroia. He also became the 4th Phillie to win the MVP award and the first since Mike Schmidt in 1986.

2008 World Series Champion:

You can’t deny that Ryan Howard was a key piece to the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies. He led the team in home runs and RBIs and was also a leader in the clubhouse. Without Ryan Howard, it’s hard to say that the Phillies would have won that championship. He helped bring a championship back to the city of Brotherly Love for the first time in 28 years. He deserves at least some respect for that.

Franchise all-time Grand Slam leader:

Say what you will about Ryan Howard and his strikeouts, but he came through in the clutch. Ryan Howard is the franchise’s all-time leader in grand slams with 15. He is ahead of the runner-up, Mike Schmidt, by 7. Any time you’re ahead of a great player like Mike Schmidt, you deserve some recognition.

NL East Killer:

Ryan Howard is one of the premier power hitters of our generation, but he hit the ball out of the ball park more than a few times against the other teams in his division. Howard has hit 184 home runs against the NL East in his career. Those home runs account for 48.3% of the home runs he’s hit in his career. Just under half of the home runs Ryan Howard has hit in his career have been against the NL East. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me.

The Long Ball:

If there is one thing that made Ryan Howard the star that he once was in Philadelphia, it’s the long ball. Ryan Howard has hit 381 home runs in his career, all of them with the Philadelphia Phillies. As a matter of fact, Ryan Howard hit more home runs in the 5-year span from 2007-2011 than any other player in the majors. He also is no stranger to 400+ foot homeruns. It will be a long time before we see another Phillie who can hit the ball into the third deck in right field on a consistent basis.

The reasons above are just some main points to why Ryan Howard is one of the most special players to ever play for the Phillies’ franchise. And alhough it was not always pretty, he had much more success in his time here than he did failure. He is a player that needs to be celebrated on his way out of Philadelphia, not pushed out. Ryan Howard has done way too much in Philadelphia to get that kind of treatment from fans, and quite frankly deserves more respect than that. Ryan Howard should be thanked for his mammoth home runs, his ability to come through in big situations, that mighty swing, and the leadership qualities that brought a championship back to Philadelphia.

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