Ryan Howard: A Farewell

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

“I want to write a kind of post-mortem for Ryan Howard’s career as a Phillie before his final game,” I said to Kyle on Friday. “My dad keeps asking me if we’re going to do anything on Howard,” Kyle responded. “And I keep telling him he’s not Chase.”

Chase Utley is the romantic ideal of Philadelphia: Chiseled jaw, great head of hair, soft-spoken but with a tough guy attitude, forgiven for bad facial hair, hard-working, plays a little dirty, loved by most but hated by the right people, with a smile that makes women blush and men weak in the knees.

Ryan Howard is the realistic vision: A little bigger than we’d like, bald, simultaneously over-hyped and underappreciated, a bit slow, got a bum leg, rubs some people the wrong way but won’t change for anyone, and he has a family full of idiots. But he showed up for you when it mattered.

I texted a Mets fan friend of mine asking for short reactions to two names. In response to Chase Utley’s Phillies tenure, he sent “Me and my dad always said Utley was a guy we wish the Mets had. Could never knock him.” In response to Ryan Howard: “Eat fresh.”

Utley played in a way that hurt his opponent but demanded their respect. Howard gets ridicule. They rubbed people the wrong way in different ways, but the root is that same emotion: Dislike. “He’s more difficult to categorize,” my friend continued. Chase Utley was an un-feeling baseball machine. Ryan Howard is human. And when do we Philadelphians feel most in our element: When someone respects us? Or when someone snarks at us and we’re able to get righteously defensive? We hate the Snowballs at Santa talk, the Rocky clichés, the battery tossing, but we live for shit-talking back at it. We need to defend Ryan.

That’s not to say that Ryan Howard is some delicate flower who needs our protection. He isn’t. But the history books written over beers on Saturday afternoons for the autumns to come will remember Howard and Utley very differently. Utley will be a gamer, a guy who played the right way, a man who did nothing wrong. Howard will be overpaid, overhyped, an underachiever. But we can control that, and we should.

Forget “the team to beat.” Forget “World Fucking Champions.” Let’s talk “just get me to the plate, boys.” Rollins declared the Phillies the kings of the division when the season was on the horizon, and Utley triumphantly crowned us the profane kings of the world when the trophy was in hand. But in 2009, when the Phillies were going for a World Series repeat with an arguably better team that the WFCs of 2008, they needed a Bunyan-esque figure swinging a bat as big as a redwood. They needed to get Ryan Howard to the plate.

It was game four of the NLDS. The Phils were down two in the top of the 9th. Ryan Howard looked at his teammates – not the media, not the gathered and giddy fans in CBP – and simply told them “get me to the plate, boys.” When Howard got to the plate, they were still down two, with two on, and two outs. He watched a pitch, fouled one off, and watched another to take the count to 2-1. Then Huston Street missed his spot:

It was, up to that point, the biggest hit of Howard’s career. The Bleacher Report story written soon after called it “another riveting chapter in a storybook that has only begun to be written for Ryan Howard.” Unfortunately, an Achilles injury in 2011 framed it as more the end of Act II; the final proud and primed peak moment before the descent.

Ryan Howard is the thing of baseball legend. He was made to hit home runs and do little else. The titular Casey, he was a force of nature. And just like Casey, he’s going down swinging.

Much of Howard’s post-prime has been tainted by a signature on a stack of paper. Howard signed a contract that was offered to him foolishly by a first base coach. Yet the shadow of the expectations from all of those zeros clouded the rest of his career. He’s had his moments, but even when he did, the team didn’t. When Ryan Howard is leading your team to the division title, he’s a “home run hitter.” When your team is floundering, he “strikes out too much.”

I’m sure he’ll sign some contract for pennies this off-season – enough for a box of doorknobs at his legendary and never-ending central Florida construction project – and he may even come back here as an opponent. If he does, I hope he’s treated the way Utley was. I hope he hits one onto Ashburn Alley, and I hope we stand until he comes out and doffs his cap.

He may never be Chase Utley. Chase was the frontman. He was The <an all the time. But when you needed him, when you really needed him, Howard was there with a well-placed swing of the bat. Just at the right time. The Clarence Clemons to Utley’s Springsteen, and together they busted the city in half.


54 Responses

    1. I brought a slightly used Chase Utley jockstrap off eBay. I sleep in it every night.

  1. Insert generic 2B and we still win the ’08 series. Not true without Howard, and I love Utley. But real is real. Howard meant much more to the success of that period than any other single player, without question.

  2. Howard was a big fat waste of space the last 5 years. Worst contract in the history of sports

    1. agree with you…the howard apologists are the worst….the guy can only do one thing..and thats only when they pitch him a gopher ball…..

  3. This article was the most racist thing or read since Huck Finn.

    PS Howard was the MVP, not Utley. Utley was loved by women and gays (you) and respected by all. Howard was appreciated by die hard, non racist true fans. And I am white.

  4. THIS is the best post of the week .. MVP , ROY, top 5 in 4 other MVP votes , Ryan deserved that contract because that’s what power hitters get paid , and damnit , Jim deserves a raise !

  5. most people hate cryin howard….can’t throw, run or field, feasts on shitty pitching but is a strickout machine against good pitchers, never takes the blame for anything, always has a woe is me attitude, fuck him.

  6. Besides the awkward h0mO undertones in the beginning.
    One of Jim’s better posts.

  7. If you guys enjoyed this article just wait until you read the one I’m currently working on its a 7,000 word piece on a wiffle ball game me and my friends played today.

  8. Wish Howard had the dedication that big pappi had in his later years. Instead he was a lazy pos who didn’t work on his game

    1. You mean take steroids? Typical Philadelphia fan that gives the rest of us a bad name

    2. You are banned from watching sports since you have no clue what you are watching,

  9. Seriously WTF do I doooo!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  10. didn’t Utley have 5 home runs in 08. how can you say they win with a average 2nd basemen ?

    ha ha I love the garden state parkway post.

    so funny

  11. (Howard looked at his teammates – not the media, not the gathered and giddy fans in CBP – and simply told them “get me to the plate, boys.”)

    He couldn’t have looked to the fans in CBP because it was an away game at Coors Field.


  13. I wonder how long after retirement will Howard rob a store, get accused of beating up his wife or assaulting another woman.

    1. Three months then a domestic violence investigation but he will be proven innocent after investigators find out that the swung and missed.

  14. Only morons would blame the player for getting a contract that makes the player overpaid. No player in baseball, a league with no cap, is going to get offered a contract and say ‘that’s too high guys, let’s lower this baby’. You blame the GM that gave the contract out, not the player. Fucking racist morons. And there were several 1st basemen that got ridiculous contracts at that time, not just Howard. He deserves the praise and adulation of Philly fans for being a huge part of bringing a championship to a city that was starving for one.

    1. The idiot GM gave him a new contract 2 years before he had to thinking he was smarter than everyone else. Look at how St. Louis handled Pujols to see how good organizations manage contracts.

      1. You and Sporting Woods are way off base with Amaro as it was the owners who mandated the contract. I guess if you disagree with your boss you don’t do what he tells you and if you are laid off you wonder why. I thought this would be a nice tribute to Ryan but as usual on “Crossing Broad” it turns out to be a waste of space by the author and its commenters.

  15. With kyles over analysis of men’s features: “chiseled jawline, great head of hair, solid bulge in his crotch area, ass that won’t quit”

  16. It’s truly amazing how our fans hate our own star players. McNabb, Howard, Rollins, and Giroux. And we wonder why we get such a bad reputation. “He got over-paid”. Meanwhile when he was making rookie salaries, he was wining ROY, Home Run Derby, MVP, and so on. In the MLB you get paid for what you’ve done. Sometimes it’s really hard to be a fan in this city. Hate for the star players. But absolute obsession with guys like Jaws, Buddy, Dawkins, Utley because they “got the fan base”. That mindset alone is why our city gets made fun of by everyone else. It’s not the lack of titles. It’s the entitlement we think we have despite being as successful as Cleveland.

    1. Don’t forget how the Philly fans treated Mike Schmidt. Best 3rd baseman ever!!!!

    2. Entitlement? What the fuck are you talking about?
      It’s all about the lack of effort that McNabb and Howard have put forth for the majority of their careers. Also, in the case of McNabb and Rollins, it’s the perception that they should spend less time yapping in the media (especially about criticizing the fans) and more time showing some hustle on the field. Giroux? Who knows? Who cares? That is hockey – something that interests only about 14,000 fans in this area.

      1. McNabb no effort? He played a game with a broken ankle. Best QB in Eagles history by far. Probably had a little to do with his effort. Howard was the reason most of us have seen a championship in lifetime. What more could he have done? Do you want him to read you bed time stories too? Stop wanting every athlete to kiss your ass like Jaws and Dawkins. So what they criticize the city’s fans sometimes? Are they wrong? No. And McNabb works in the media now. His job is to be unbiased. Stop being brainwashed by sports radio and think for yourself. Tell me one instance where neither McNabb or Howard didn’t show effort. Show me one thing Rollins said that wasn’t true

        1. Hmm….. how about the closing minutes of the super bowl? Oh, I guess you consider vomiting to be “effort”.

          And you conveniently glossed over the part about ” for the majority of their careers” because it suited your agenda.

          1. You’re just embarrassing yourself now. Are you one of those dirty 30 losers? I must’ve forgot all those other QBs that got the Eagles to the Super Bowl. But hey if you can only rely on your sports radio puke statement, you’re beyond helping.

          2. Sporting wood, are you wearing a Brian Dawkins Jersey right now?

  17. Phuckin’ Phillies! 10 days ago, the weal excuses for journalists in this town were writing about how “The Phillies could play spoiler and prevent the Mets from getting into the playoffs!” (This “well if we can’t win, at lase bring down the Mets” approach is the same kind of loser thinking that Eagles’ fans employ when they say “we may suck, but at least we beat the Cowboys”).

    So how did the Phuckin’ Phillies do in their role as spoiler? THEY LOST 8 OF THEIR LAST 9 GAMES, INCLUDING 5 OF 6 WITH THE METS!
    Good job, Phuckin Phillies! Nice way to close out a season. Striking out 14 times a game! Losing by 15 runs! This organization is a minor-league club masquerading as a major-league team. They have no business competing in the National League. They have rolled over and quit, like so many dogs.

    But hey, let’s divert attention from this disgraceful display by making this month all about Ryan Howard’s final days as a Phillie! It’s a death march within a death march.

    Phuckin’ Phillies!

  18. You talk about how great he was in the 09 NLCS, not realizing that he set a WS record for strikeouts a week later. If he or bitch boy Hamels show up against the Yankees we win b2b Series. The 07-11 Phillies were the opposite of the 76-80 team – they stole a ring early, then wilted under the pressure of expectations, even as they continued to add talent.

  19. Dear Ryan Howard.. You are a deeply greedy SOB who felt no guilt about stealing $135m from the Phillies so i wish you all the worst karma in life and hope you lose it all via divorce and bad investments

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