(Carnegie and Culture)
Ryan Howard was the Big Piece in the Phillies rise to the World Series Championship.
The last brutha in this town to make over $100 million became the arguably the greatest player in the franchise’s history and set a standard that will stand for years before he was unceremoniously traded to a grateful rival. Pretty self serving for a franchise that still dreams about that float ride down Broad Street.
Unlike Donovan McNabb, Ryan Howard has an MVP and World Series title to his credit, as for that $125 million extension he recently signed – well let’s just say that those once appreciative guppies have just turned into a school of piranhas waiting to skeletonize Philly’s newest cash cow.
Could he become the Dick Allen of our lifetime?
That was the collective sigh of Philadelphia Phillies fans after first baseman Ryan Howard inked a new deal that would keep him in the red pinstripes for at least another five seasons. The Phillies had avoided a potential PR nightmare by signing Howard now and not going in to the 2011 season unsure how future negotiations would turn out.
But in typical Philadelphia fashion the news was not received well by all of the Philly faithful. Some of the comments regarding Howard’s signing suggested to cheapen his career numbers which so far are on a historical pace.
Why would that be?
You may hear that some of the money used to sign Howard could be used to keep right fielder Jayson Werth in Philadelphia or to possibly re-acquire Cliff Lee. Why should Howard be shortchanged in a sport that doesn’t have a hard salary cap. The Phillies did Howard due justice in this deal, while saving themselves another $5 to $10 million a season down the road. You read that correctly; don’t think for a second that the Red Sox or Yankees wouldn’t pay Howard between $27 and $30 million to possibly bat as a DH. When you set winning at a premium, no price is too high.
But back to what’s troubling me. I’m afraid for Ryan Howard. I’m afraid because he’s done everything to the letter here and the first time it goes to the left – it’s pretty much over. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a couple of 35 home run 100 RBI seasons (a career season for some) for the skids to become greased, “Forget who’s batting around him, for that amount of money he’s supposed to carry this team.” That will be the chorus sung here. Charles Barkley heard it, so did the journeyman roster that he was subjected to play with. Randall Cunningham heard it despite meeting his “five big plays a game” quota endorsed by coach Buddy Ryan and without a running game and Allen Iverson heard it, practice wasn’t going to change the player or person he was. The magic dust sprinkled on that 2001 season wore off and wasn’t going to be replaced with players like Glenn Robinson and Chris Webber, whose best days were behind them.
Howard won’t experience the sting of the fans or media for awhile – not with the Phillies resting atop of the National League for next the couple of seasons, barring injury. It’s when the team begins to decline that Howard will see the vultures circling over what is left of his career in Philadelphia. Notice I say his career in Philadelphia, he can go to the American League, become a designated hitter and play 4-5 more seasons.
For Charles Barkley it was his, “I’m a 90’s nigger.” quote, for Randall it was missing the playoff game in Dallas while his wife was in labor and Fan Appreciation Night turned out to be Iverson’s waterloo. What will it be for Ryan Howard?
The microscope on Howard on and off the field will be magnified to a degree so stupefying, you’ll wonder if he’s being paid to play first base or tolerate the “intelligent fans” of Philadelphia.
Ah! The so-called “passionate” and “intelligent” fans of Philadelphia, first of all these are two words that should not be confused. Intelligent decisions and choices in most cases require thought, passion is an instantaneous reaction where thinking isn’t considered. After four hours of tailgating which emotion do you think rules in the 4th quarter at an Eagles game. Citizens Bank Park is becoming a zoo – we’ve had Vomitgate and Tasergate in a matter of weeks. Not much intelligence there.
The will pale in comparison to Howardgate. Think not? Here’s a preview.
The night after Howard signed his mega deal, he was thrown out going into second base without much effort, Howard took for granted that the outfielder would concede him the base and he was thrown out.
The next day the airwaves lit up with everything from he’s gotten lazy to he doesn’t care now that he has his money. Thank God it wasn’t a playoff game.
Incidents like this will become more prevalent when the Phils are no longer in contention and Howard is the highest paid player on a team no one wants to see. With Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley,Roy Halladay and Werth all possibly gone, it will be Howard left to bear the wrath of the city that eats it’s young. Ryan Howard’s salary will be a scapegoat to the Phils’ inability to get back into contention the way Dick Allen was blamed for the Phils infamous 1964 collapse.
Ask a sixtysomething Phillies fan how that one turned out.