Ryan Howard Deserves A Sending Off From The Phillies


Pete Mackanin‘s announcement that Tommy Joseph will see increased playing time for the rest of the season marks the likely end to Ryan Howard‘s career as a Philadelphia Phillie.  The man who for several years was the most feared hitter in baseball deserves our respect and appreciation and the Phillies should give fans an opportunity to say good bye in a sendoff for his contributions to the great Phillies teams of the ’00s.

16,056 fans crowded into the Bank on 8/29/16 to watch the Philadelphia Phillies lose their 7th straight to the NL East leading Washington Nationals.  Fans have largely lost interest as the home team plays out the string of a season that started off considerably stronger than expected, but interest has dwindled even with this being Ryan Howard’s last go with the team.

The young pitching has struggled, and the offense never really got into gear.  While there are a number of reasons for optimism for the future, few of them garner much attention in September of another season destined for a sub .500 record.

But, as the fans demonstrated earlier this month, there is still

Ryan Howard
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

a desire to celebrate the recent past.  Chase Utley received was warm and well deserved reception from the fans in first return to Philly.

Fans never got a chance to really say goodbye as Utley was traded immediately following a road trip.  The Phillies should not let Ryan Howard depart the Bank without an appropriate goodbye.

These last few years, fans have unfortunately witnessed the downside of Howard’s career, which was never the same after ‘The Big Piece’ ruptured his Achilles tendon on the last swing of Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cardinals in 2011.

This last at bat was a very poignant end to the best Phillies era seen in a long lifetime.  Many have forgotten exactly how Big a Piece he was to those Phillies teams.  Shortly after the signing of fan favorite Jim Thome, Ryan Howard was making baseballs fly so far so frequently that he simply had to be brought up despite Thome’s presence and contract. 

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Howard ran Thome out of town in the best way possible in 2005 by winning rookie of the year with 22 HRs in 312 ABs.  His ‘Sophmore Slump’ in 2006 consisted of an unbelievable 58 HRs.  There were other impressive stats (okay, amazing stats like 149 RBIs .313 Batting average and 1.084 OPS, an All-Star game appearance and Home Run Derby trophy that was just a warm up for his eventual MVP trophy), but really, what more do you need to know than 58 HRs?

Howard then settled into a comfortable groove of mid 40s HR power supporting Jimmy Rollins MVP season in 07, and continued this pace in both 08 and 09.  Looking back on this era, the Phillies were blessed with an amazing amount of offensive talent.  Howard still had to, and did, put the entire team on his back more than once.

His offensive outbursts helped drive the Phils to 5 straight playoff appearances including 3 straight NLCS appearances and 1 World Series Trophy that happily spoiled Philly fans.

Many have come to resent Ruben Amaro‘s ill timed contract extension that Howard has not lived up to.  This has unfortunately colored Howard’s perception. You may remember earlier this season when a fan threw a beer bottle at Howard.

These same fan’s overlook the fact that Howard was such an important element to those team’s successes that – rightly or wrongly – Phillies management felt compelled to lock him up well before he became a free agent precisely because he was such a feared hitter.  His position as the anchor of the lineup  affected how opposing teams pitched throughout the game.

When he got hot, opposing teams were helpless to stop him despite often trying with intentional walks.  His player of the month, 11 HR performance in August 2009 is just one example of how he could carry the entire team.

The infield shift that is now commonplace defense against left handed power hitters was largely implemented to deal with Ryan Howard’s dangerous bat.  While the shift and his physical decline due to injuries have brought his performance back to mere human levels, it is difficult to believe that the Phillies would have a World Series banner and the NL Pennants flying over Ashburn Alley without him.

Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard /

Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels  have all been traded away to wind down their careers in other uniforms.  All, plus Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino and others have received some form of goodbye game, or acknowledgement from the fans upon their first return for their contribution to the Phillies success.

Next: Hellickson To Stay

We have a true Philly legend still soldiering on in the dugout, preparing to make his final appearance at the Bank.  In this last month of the season before a long, cold winter, the Phillies can give fans one more reason to get out to the Ballpark with recognition of Howard’s accomplishments and what he meant to the Phillies era of success.