Tha Sports Junkies 101

Remembering Ryan Howard

East Fallowfield/Via


In his final weekend in Philadelphia, Phillies’ fans should celebrate Ryan Howard’s accomplished career.

Major League Baseball‘s regular season has come to a close, and naturally, everyone is talking about the playoffs.  On Saturday afternoon, the New York Mets clinched the top wild card spot in the National League as they defeated the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Phillies were one of baseball’s premier teams just five years ago.  Today, they are a rebuilding franchise that has failed to compete over the past few seasons.  One man has been through all the highs and the lows of the Phillies roller-coaster.  And in what was his final weekend in Philadelphia, Ryan Howard deserves to be remembered for the good, not the bad.

Over his long tenure with the Phillies, Howard‘s offensive numbers put him among the greatest position players to ever grace the Philadelphia uniform.  Howard ranks second in franchise history in home runs, trailing only Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt.  He also ranks third in runs batted in.  One has to believe that if Howard’s decline didn’t occur so quickly that he may rank even higher in several categories.  From 2006 to 2011, Howard hit 262 of his 381 career home runs.  When he tore his Achilles Tendon back in the 2011 postseason, the first baseman’s power was essentially drained from him.  Howard would never hit over 24 home runs in a single season following the injury.

Ryan Howard‘s career got off to a robust start in 2005 when he captured the National League Rookie of the Year Award.  Howard blasted 22 home runs while hitting at a .288 clip in his rookie campaign.  The most impressive aspect of his award-winning year was that he only played in 88 games.  The 25 year-old quickly put himself on the map, but this star was just starting to shine.  When you look at Howard’s 2006 slash-line, you would be hard pressed to find more impressive numbers over the past decade.  He batted .313 with a .425 on-base percentage.  The slugger belted 58 longballs and drove in 149 runs, both career highs.  In a close vote, Howard edged out Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in the voting for the Most Valuable Player Award.  2006 marked Howard’s first all-star selection as well.  Despite missing out on the postseason, Philadelphia fans were assured that the future was bright with Ryan Howard leading the way.

In 2007, the Phillies made their first playoff appearance since 1993.  As the New York Mets infamously collapsed down the stretch, the Phillies posted a .607 winning percentage in September en route to a division title.  The Rockies quickly dispatched Howard and his club in the NLDS, but the season was a successful one.  Howard followed up his MVP campaign with a 47 home run encore.  He also drove in 136 runs.  The true glory for Philly fans started in 2008, when the Phillies captured their first World Series Championship in 28 years.  Howard lead the National League with 48 home runs and 146 runs batted in.  He hit three home runs in the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Howard would continue to produce at a high level for the next three seasons while guiding Philadelphia back to the playoffs every year over that span.

In the 2011 National League Division Series, the Phillies were outlasted by the St. Louis Cardinals in five games.  The consequences of that game would be felt for much longer than just one offseason.  As Ryan Howard made the final out of the game, he tore his Achilles Tendon running to first base.  Despite being a major injury, not many people were concerned since Howard would have all winter to recover.  When he returned though, it was apparent that he was not the same hitter.  Although his power was still impressive (14 home runs in 71 games), Howard had recorded a mere .219 batting average.  Prior to 2012, he had never batted below .251.  His OPS also suffered from the injury.  Howard’s OPS had never been below .835 in a single season; now it was only .718.  As Howard‘s injury effectively destroyed his career, it also destroyed the Phillies’ success.  Since 2011, Philadelphia has failed to reach the postseason.

The decline in Ryan Howard‘s production was incredibly steep, but he still managed to hit for power.  Over the past three seasons, he has never hit less than 23 dingers in a single year.  Many fans started to turn on Howard years ago when his numbers dropped off.  This weekend was a different story though.  The Phillies‘ longtime first baseman was treated to multiple ovations including a very loud and cheerful one in his final game.  Howard hit a home run against the Mets on Saturday, giving him 48 against New York in his career.  When you look back on Howard’s career, you can’t help but think that he was the heart and soul of the Philadelphia Phillies.  As his career experienced ups and downs, so did the organization.  Ryan Howard has Philadelphia baseball in his blood, and he should be heralded by Phillies fans for his countless contributions to the city and the team.