The End of Things

With any luck, you weren’t paying attention.

Mid-Thursday afternoon, following the Phillies’ 2-1, sweep-avoiding victory over the Giants on the back – and left arm – of Cole Hamels, the Ryan Howard era came to an end. A few years down the road, the line of demarcation for the end of the era of reverence for one of the most prolific sluggers of his time will likely point to the end of Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, but in the wake of that loss, there was still hope. There was hope that, with time and treatment, Howard would rebound to usefulness and manage a passable latter-stage career.

Not so. Howard was benched Thursday, with a right-handed pitcher on the mound (Tim Hudson) against whom he owned a .328/.425/.687 career line, with seven home runs in 80 plate appearances. Yes, even in a situation that doubly benefited his platoon-leaning bat, Howard was sat. He did not pinch-hit for Darin Ruf in the bottom of the 8th, when Giants righty Jean Machi came in to relieve in the one-run game, nor did he comment on the situation post-game, referring reporters instead to manager Ryne Sandberg.

Howard’s time is over, and the end is coming on terms nobody rooted for.

Hopefully, in due time, once the dust settles from whatever ugly fallout awaits this situation, Howard’s peak will be remembered for the magnificent thing it was. There’s little denying the impact Ryan Howard had on the Phillies organization, Phillies fans and baseballs alike as he terrorized pitchers from 2005-09. The cumulative line from those years – encompassing his Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player campaigns in ’05 and ’06 – amounts to a delectable .279/.376/.586 with 220 homers in 713 games (3,103 PA). There will be no batter to equal that sort of production in a Phillies uniform for some time in one year, let alone over the course of four-and-a-half.

No one hit as many home runs in as little Major League time. Fastest to 100, 250, 300. Even as his other performance numbers slipped, the man remained a formidable power presence. He hit 31 and 33 HR in 2010 and 2011, a steadfast presence in the lineup of a team that won 102 games (remember?) that second year.

Without The Injury – you know the one – maybe this day wouldn’t have arrived so quickly. Sure, Howard had already begun to trek downward, looking more “above average” than “Giancarlo Stanton” for a little bit by then, but for a guy who’d built a reputation on late-swing, opposite-field home run strength to suffer a devastating injury to a back leg could be more of a long-term nuisance than many imagined. So far down the road, one would have hoped to see some sort of return to form, with performance devoid of hindrance via injury. It’s unclear if that’s what we’re all bearing unfortunate witness to, but the reality is that the idea of Ryan Howard as a productive hitter for the Phillies is gone and will not be returning.

The team itself is demonstrating as much. All of the stars were aligned for Howard to play in a favorable situation today, and he was passed over. Shortly after the game, as if to add a rotten cherry atop a sour milk sundae, this came out:

It’s done. The bridge is a breath from being little more than smoldering planks and irradiated rope,regardless of whether Howard is traded tomorrow, the afternoon of July 31, sometime in August or not at all. The best respects any of us, as fans, can pay the Ryan Howard of today is remembering the Ryan Howard of the bygone Golden Age. No injury will ever take those numbers, awards and championship away from him or his B-Ref page. His end comes in ignominy, while only some paid close attention, but his rise and reign will linger in the hearts and minds of those who were along for the ride. Things are sour now, and they may remain so for a little while, but the perspective that I (and hopefully you) will hope to maintain is one of gratitude for and recognition of what once was.

Ryan Howard is a champion. May his legacy reflect that more than the scratched and scuffed end that befell his time in Philadelphia.

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54 comments

  1. Dan

    July 24, 2014 08:36 PM

    I just feel bad for Howard. The dismal hitting, the terrible defense, non-existant baserunning ability. And that contract. He seems like a stand-up guy, friendly and honest in interviews, and has never seemed to shy away from putting in the necessary hard work necessary in an attempt to improve his game.

    But it’s just not happening and he’s held up to the standard set by that ridiculous contract. At the end of the day, he got a ton of money and that’s something he has to be happy about, but this is a sad end to what should have been a golden era Phillies power hitting.

    • tom b

      July 24, 2014 08:42 PM

      i agree he seems like a nice person,but feeling bad for him? nah

    • Cutter McCool

      July 26, 2014 07:21 PM

      Since he’s a standup guy, he could give up that 70 million so the Phillies could buy a watchable team with it?

      Or better yet, he could donate it, after he’s cut, all that unearned money to charity?

      Nah, he’s not THAT standup.

      • ASK

        July 27, 2014 10:12 AM

        Were the Phillies’ owners stand-up guys in 2007 following two seasons in which Howard combined to produce 8.3 rWAR, but was paid the paltry (by MLB standards) sum of < $500K combined? Nope, they paid him $900K in 2007 and they only began paying him big money when Howard had some leverage. Also, Howard didn't force the Phillies to offer him the $125M and he would be a stupid guy, not a stand up one, to do what you suggest.

  2. Kevin

    July 24, 2014 08:59 PM

    Terrific article. Very well said.

    • Phil Ease

      July 24, 2014 09:48 PM

      Agreed.

  3. Bubba0101

    July 24, 2014 10:04 PM

    Very well put. He was the preeminent power hitter in the MLB for 5+ years and he played for us and he helped bring us a parade. That matters. It’s not his fault the phillies wanted to give him that contract. I wish it were different now but I’m grateful for what he was able to do.

    • Cutter McCool

      July 26, 2014 07:22 PM

      Never pay a player for PAST performance.

      • BM84

        July 27, 2014 01:57 AM

        Contact Bud Selig and tell him baseball needs to change their financial structure because giving teams 6 years of club control over players creates a situation where players are paid for past performance.

  4. Renmiked

    July 25, 2014 01:35 AM

    Yes, the injury did play a part in his ultimate demise, but his numbers dropped just as dramatically after the new testing policies, as they did after the injuries. In ’10 and ’11 he was around 1 -1.5 WAR, not exactly stellar years. He seems like a nice enough person who had a handful of great years, but I don’t see the need to feel bad for him. The money is the Phillies error and he deserves no heat for getting all he could. His time is past, I don’t expect him to like it or accept it, but that doesn’t change the reality. It’s time to see if what they have going forward.

    • hk

      July 25, 2014 06:53 AM

      Just about everyone in baseball’s numbers dropped after the new testing policies. Howard’s numbers dropped because of his defense and base-running. His wRC+ was better in both 2010 and 2011 than it was in 2008.

      • Ryan

        July 25, 2014 07:57 AM

        He was playing hurt for a large part of 2011 if you remember correctly. That led to the cortizone shot which may have helped him blow out his achilles…

      • hk

        July 25, 2014 09:55 AM

        Ryan,

        I agree, but I’m not sure what that has to do with my reply to Renmiked. I may be wrong, but it seemed as though Renmiked was implying that there was a connection between increased testing and the drop in Howard’s numbers and I was trying to debunk that. Howard’s loss of value in 2010 and 2011 was impacted by the injuries, but his offense remained relatively the same as compared to the rest of MLB.

      • Renmiked

        July 25, 2014 01:05 PM

        His ISO and SLG both dropped 70 points after ’09. Also his fly ball distance dropped significantly. So, no it was not all about his defense. It’s incomplete when the constant articles about Howard’s numbers dropping after injuries, fail to mention the just as large drop after new testing. I look at him negatively for using or not, but leaving that out paints an incomplete picture.

      • Renmiked

        July 25, 2014 01:09 PM

        To clarify, I don’t look at him negatively.

    • Cutter McCool

      July 26, 2014 07:29 PM

      No Howard’s drop in production in 2010 coincided almost exactly with signing that ridiculous contract. Word on the streets is, after signing it, he strained his Achilles running out of the room as fast as possible. That strain was what precipitated the later tear.

  5. Jake

    July 25, 2014 05:35 AM

    It’s a tragic shame that we waited so long to bring Ryan Howard to the majors, and over paid him. Imagine how different his legacy would be if he had age 23, 24 and 25 seasons in the majors and his contract extension was 5 for 75MM instead of 5 for 125. Amazing how his late entry and terrible contract – two things outside of his general control – have colored his career.

    That said, 2005 – 2009…what a stretch. I’ll never forget what it was like to watch the Phils when Howard was hot in August or something. Everytime he came to bat there was a chance the ball was taking a fast, long ride.

    It’s the right move to trade him and pay salary to see what you can get. I’d also suggest that it would be doing Howard a favor to trade him to an AL team so that he can try to focus on just being a DH and finding his power again.

    • MMM

      July 25, 2014 06:43 AM

      I always felt the same way about Chase Utley who’s first full season was also at age 26. How would his HOF chances have increased if he got his shot at age 23 or 24? To have at least one maybe two more dominant seasons on his resume? We will never know. But Ryan as with most Philadelphia athletes was/is flawed, giving us glimpses but never achieving that level of immortality that other city’s athletes seem to get in our minds. It always seemed so simple with Howard, just put the bat head on the ball and drive it to left field. Every opposite field homerun gave hope, but in the end, it is not as easy as that.

    • ASK

      July 25, 2014 07:09 AM

      “Imagine how different his legacy would be if he had age 23, 24 and 25 seasons in the majors.”

      This is a bit of revisionist history, don’t you think? Howard played college ball and wasn’t chosen until the 5th round in the draft. He was still in A ball during his age 23 season. His age 24 season, when he really blossomed, was his first experience above A ball and the year in which he made his MLB debut. He played more than half of his age 25 season in Philadelphia.

      • Greg

        July 27, 2014 06:32 PM

        Totally agree. Howard wasn’t going to supplant a still formidable Jim Thome. They tried to get him passable in the OF, but that seems a ludicrous notion now. And he developed rather late, so it’s likely he wasn’t even ready before he was 26.
        I’m just going to appreciate what he was, and what he did. The world series victory doesn’t happen without him. Who knows what happens if he was brought up two years earlier, at age 24? Maybe pitchers adjust to him on the same timetable, Howard fails to make adjustments, and we’re screaming in frustration in the fall of 2008 as Howard is flails helplessly at a lefthanded breaking ball to end the NLDS.
        Though even in that scenario, I still imagine Pat Burrell doing his little skip away from a ball that’s right down the middle.

      • Greg

        July 27, 2014 06:33 PM

        Now, Chase is a different story. Probably could’ve moved Polanco to 3b to make room for chase. Though I think he benefitted from the extra time to work on his defense, which was criminally underrated in his prime.

    • Cutter McCool

      July 26, 2014 07:34 PM

      A Ryan Howard trade will bring back a lot of value–a Ryan Howard bobble head from 2008. Its head still flails helplessly when thrown an outside curveball.

  6. George Callanan

    July 25, 2014 07:39 AM

    I appreciate what Howard did in his glory years. I think we overlook Werth’s influence when he batted after him. The main point I want to make is how the majority of athletes who get the 20 million plus contracts never live up to it. And Howard is no exception. Over $ 40,000 a game is crazy. No one is worth that kind of money period. It is so hard to relate too. But this is what it has become. The problem is if one owner says no another owner says yes and the overpaid syndrome goes on. It’s just a shame.

    • Carmine

      July 25, 2014 08:50 AM

      Agreed, but the smart owners and GMs have learned how to say no. It’s frustrating to see our team’s leadership fall into the opposite category.

    • Cutter McCool

      July 26, 2014 07:43 PM

      Anybody with the kind of holes in their swing and defense that Howard always had should never even be offered 25MM/year.

      No matter what prior numbers, with those holes, they’re unsustainable.

  7. Ben

    July 25, 2014 09:45 AM

    Howard by the numbers:

    Game-4 HR-2 Parade-1

  8. Barry Onyx

    July 25, 2014 11:31 AM

    Howard single handedly made baseball fun again in this town in 2006. I don’t care what the stats say, he didn’t hit 58 hrs, he hit 200 hrs. Or at least that’s how it seemed. He made every one of his at bats in every game he played required viewing. He was the “Big Piece” that brought this town it’s championship in ’08 and kept them at the top through ’11. He didn’t always come through, but with the bat in his hand, there was always a chance.

    Watching him these last few years has been like watching Superman die slowly of cancer, almost to the point where you are kind of just looking forward to the day in which he just slides off the old mortal coil in his sleep. Hopefully peacefully. But this isn’t peaceful. This is terrible. I have to make a choice between my Phillies and my favorite Philly and I hate that.

    “Just get me to the plate boys” For me that brightened what was otherwise a terrible week for me in ways that I won’t go into here. Thank you Ryan Howard. And God bless you.

    • Cutter McCool

      July 26, 2014 07:40 PM

      Except his kryptonite is anything low and outside. Like the fastball he just struck out on with two runners on about a minute ago.

  9. Francisco (FC)

    July 25, 2014 12:13 PM

    Half as long, Twice as bright.

  10. Sean

    July 25, 2014 02:16 PM

    Very well said. I always have liked Howard and hated his contract. Seems like a really nice guy and loved playing here. I wish he were going to leave on better terms.

  11. Gabe

    July 25, 2014 02:37 PM

    Before Howard got hurt it always seemed like he was having fun. His bombs and attitude made him fun to watch. Now as many have said, I feel bad him.

    I have heard that there are no takers for Howard even if the Phillies pay most of the remaining contract. Does money paid to another team go on their payroll or the Phillies? How do contracts work when somebody is released? Is it a lump sum deal or do they pay out as the contract stipulated? Final question: If somebody decides to pick him up do they have any obligation to the contract?

  12. amarosucks

    July 25, 2014 03:13 PM

    I think howard is one of the most overrated phillies ever. He had a nice abrreviated career peak and provided some great moments during they recent glory years, but if you look at the big picture, the fact is that his career hasn’t been anything special. I know fans will say he’s the best 1B in phils history, which may be true, but there isn’t much competition throughout the franchise’s sad history.

    I truly believe the phils win the ’09 WS if howard is even close to average. Instead he whiffed 13 times in 23 ABs…he should have won WS MVP for the yanks over Matsui. His performance in the ’10 NLCS (12 k’s in 22 ABs) and ’11 NLDS (6 k’s and 2 hits in 19 ABs) were also brutal.

    Howard only had one season with a WAR over 4 (2006)
    Only had 4 seasons with a WAR above 2.0 (which is considered league avg)
    Only made the AS team 3 times (which was probably too many)

    I know that people want to hold on to fond memories of the guy, but fact is that he hasn’t been good in a long time…and his career in general is overrated by phillie fans. The team needs to do the right thing and cut him loose, regardless of the return (same should be said for montgomery and amaro).

    For some reason people will be sad about him leaving. As a fan I will be relieved.

    • Shane

      July 25, 2014 05:22 PM

      You are mistaken. A RoY, an MVP, and a Ring in a career is special.

      • amarosucks

        July 25, 2014 07:03 PM

        Howard’s WAR is a more accurate portrayal than any of what you mention. The travesty that was the AL MVP award the last two seasons proves this (as does howard beating out pujols for MVP). Remember that those individual awards are voted on by the media, most of who are not very smart and/or have their own agendas while casting their votes (like murray chass).

        Seriously, who cares about a ROY award?? Other than guys like jerome walton and pat listach

    • Bob

      July 25, 2014 07:24 PM

      I hate fans like you. Guy gives everything he had in every year he played. Was a cornerstone for the greatest 5 year run in our history. And all you remember was a few bad series. You also know who had a few bad series?

      Halladay being owned by Cody Ross
      Cliff Lee blowing a 4 run lead.
      Utley has had bad series.
      Schmidt has had bad series.

      Every professional athlete probably struggled in multiple games/series in their career.

      But let’s cry over the fact he struck out too much for your liking rather than the 2009 NLCS MVP trophy he win. The 5 top 5 MVP years, MVP trophy, rookie of the year, silver slugger, etc….

      You arent a Phillies fan. You are probably just an old, bitter man who has always hated Howard because of whatever reason. Go root for another team, or better yet just go get a life.

      • tom b

        July 25, 2014 08:14 PM

        go get a life says the man using his time to stand up for mr. howard

    • Duane

      July 27, 2014 10:50 AM

      You forget yourself as a fan. While WAR and other Career measuring Stats may drive your overall opinion, it is important to remember they do not tell a complete story of the Career. The guy was very impacting on the game. His WAR would be far more significant just minus “the Shift”. Obviously, there is no removing it, and you would like it if he was a more complete “all fields” ability hitter, but uh………you can’t swing the bat better than Ryan Howard, so kindly step off your high horse. Please tell me what your WAR in the Majors would be.

  13. Bob

    July 25, 2014 08:46 PM

    I have no problem showing my appreciating for what Howard has brought to the organization. And if fans cant appreciate his career, I dont know how much of a fan of the team they are anyways.

    You along with your buddy will boo Howard when he goes into the wall of fame at CBP. I, along with many others, will give a standing ovation to one of the greatest Phillie ever.

    • amarosucks

      July 25, 2014 11:09 PM

      In all of your above rambling you fail to raise any semblance of an educated defense of the fact that howard is overrated. If anything you prove my point. Thank you

      • Bob

        July 25, 2014 11:43 PM

        Chase Utley hit .211 or lower in 5 of the 10 playoff series he participated in. All of the other players I mentioned above also struggled in the postseason.

        So thanks for proving my point that you are just an asshole who has no business being a Phillies fan. Now go piss off and root for some other team while they are winning.

        Anyone who uses WAR as a means of justifying a player is just clueless. Its a means of analyzing a player with obviously flaws. You this year WAR rates Miguel Cabrera as a better defender than Miek Trout and Miguel Cabrera? OOPS.

        Show me one player outside Albert Pujols who did anything close to what aHoward did between 06-10.

        Piss of gnat. Amaro looks like a f;n genius compared to you. If you cant appreciate what zHoward did for the Phillies, then like I said, you were never really one to begin with.

      • Bob

        July 25, 2014 11:54 PM

        Chase utley…

        5 series of .211 or lower average in 10 playoff series.
        Missed 30 games or more 5 times in his career.
        Declined every year as a player since 2007

        See what I did there. I pick and choose stats that can support an argument. Much like you did. Using Ks, as your main argument showed just how simple minded and naive you are. You know nothing about the sport, and now when you were exposed on YOUR rambling, you had nothing to come back with. Oh but his WAR, his WAR. Who cares what his WAR was. His hitting was the main reason why we were so good for that 5 year stretch. Not his running, not his defense. Not Halladays pitching (Cody Ross says hello again by the way). Not Cliff Lee.

        The Phillies won because they hit. And no one hit better than Ryan Howard.

        LOL, loving putting clowns like you in your place.

      • Bill Baer

        July 25, 2014 11:57 PM

        You guys (Bob and amarosucks) can continue debating, but I’ll start deleting comments if the personal jabs persist.

  14. Bob

    July 25, 2014 11:48 PM

    Meant to say Cabrera is a better defender than Trout and McCutchen.
    You see how lumbering Paul Goldschmidt is better baserunner than Trout? Huh????!?!?!?

    Keep to your sabremetrics. Ill stick with results. Ill take any player who can 262 home runs and hit around .270 over a 6 year time period any day of the week.

    But let me guess, you love Ben Revere and Carlos Ruiz’s games…..haha

    • Bob

      July 26, 2014 12:25 AM

      And for the advance metric lover.

      Ryan Howard OPS+ 131
      Chase Utley OPS+ 126

      And anotehr reason not to take WAR as law. 2nd best baserunner this year in MLB…. Ben Revere which down right comical.

      • Dan R

        July 26, 2014 04:15 PM

        I don’t see what either of your points do to discredit advanced metrics. Utley and Howard play different positions. So Ryan Howard is more valuable than say, Andrelton Simmons, because he has a better OPS+?

        What is comical about Revere being a highly rated baserunner?

    • amarosucks

      July 26, 2014 09:19 AM

      ‘keep to your sabermetrics. I’ll stick with results’. I knew Ruben was on these boards

      Also, even if a guy like utley isn’t hitting, he still helps his team in a variety of ways…unlike howard who, even in his prime, was only a power hitter. WAR reflects this

  15. George Callanan

    July 26, 2014 07:48 AM

    Bill is right. I did this with HK two months ago with personal comments and I was warned, he’s the boss. We all agree to disagree. We are passionate, intense, proud and generally loyal to our teams. We are Philly. This last place team is frustrating. We got spoiled From 2006-2011. I am the old guy. I am in my sixties, I still remember the collapse of 1964, all we needed was 2 wins in the last 10 games and they failed to do it. The Cards went onto the playoffs. One thing we can all agree on is we are use to frustration. But anyone from outside the Philly area who bad mouth’s us about our teams or fans better get out of the way because we are Philly and we are passionate about our family. Chill.

  16. SteveH

    July 26, 2014 08:57 AM

    I will always remember the great years, but my major issue with him is he seems to have never tried to change or grow his game as he got older.

    • amarosucks

      July 26, 2014 09:14 AM

      He gets worse every year. Unfortunately some fans are too blindly loyal to recognize this…2008 was a long time ago

      • Bob

        July 26, 2014 08:28 PM

        Utley has gotten worse every year too.

        Tends to happen to guys who get older. But lets concentrate on Ryan Howard’s ability to run the bases. Wish we had more Ben Revere’s on the team.

  17. Bob

    July 26, 2014 09:20 PM

    Dan R…

    Revere is really not that good of a baseunner. He is fast so he will steal bases. But he misreads balls off bats, he overslide bags way more than 1 should, and doenst get ggod jumps. Give me a guy who can OPS+ over 120 than a guy like Revere who is viewed as one of the best base runners in the game according to fangraphs.

    • Phil Ease

      July 28, 2014 01:55 PM

      Revere is tied for fourth in steals in the majors with an excellent per-attempt conversion ratio (28/32). Without looking it up, I don’t think he’s attempted any base steals recently, and that may be health related.

  18. Phil Ease

    July 28, 2014 02:00 PM

    “Bob
    July 26, 2014 08:28 PM

    Utley has gotten worse every year too.”

    Chase has 3.3 rWAR in 101 games after posting 3.2 rWAR last year over 131 games. That’s not worse, and his value makes his contract a bargain.

  19. MMM

    July 29, 2014 03:21 AM

    As of July 28, Howard was sitting at 62 rbi. Only 7 behind the NL leader (Stanton 69). Of all the bad things surrounding this season, I would find it most amusing if Howard managed to somehow win the RBI title while maintaining an OPS below .700. It would be a befitting “end of things”….

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