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Ryan Howard - The Unappreciated Big Piece??!!

I have to admit that I am disappointed with how Ryan Howard is received in Philadelphia sometimes. I know that he is one of the fan favorites, but it seems that Philly sports fans only seem to support him when he is knocking the ball out of the park. Earlier this season, Howard was hitting .300 and all you could hear were grumbles about him striking out too much, or that he had lost his power.

And I do get it. As a fan, I love to watch the big man send that little white ball sailing out of the yard. There’s nothing more exciting or exhilarating to me than the Home Run. However, as a fan of the game, I understand the nature of a power hitter. I grew up watching one of the greatest power hitters ever in Mike Schmidt.

Power hitters are just that. They are the few and the blessed that can combine bat speed with power and can rip the cover off the ball. However, power hitters swing hard, and therefore open themselves up and make themselves vulnerable to the strikeout. It’s just the way it works.

So I guess the part that annoys me is that when I was at the game the other night, when a slumping (he’s since broken out of it) Chase Utley came up to the plate or was introduced, he was cheered emphatically. When Ryan Howard did the same, there was a smattering of cheers. AND, when Howard struck out to end an inning, some boos. Chase Utley seems to be the face of the Phillies franchise, I’m just not sure why. Why aren’t they both? Howard has had as much, if not more, to do with the success of this team as Utley. And I’m not trying to pick one over the other. It just infuriates me when Howard is greeted with anything less than deafening cheers.

This is, after all, the same player that has carried this team late in the last FOUR seasons. FOUR. The same player who was Rookie of the Year in 2005 and NL MVP in 2006. The same player who is one of the most prolific power hitters EVER. Not in Phillies history, but in any history. He is the fastest player EVER to achieve 250 Home Runs in his career. His HR and RBI production have him talked about in the same breath as Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth. So I say once again, just so maybe it will seep in through people’s thick skulls… You are treated EVERY night in Philadelphia to one of the most prolific power hitters EVER!!!! Don’t boo. Don’t get angry when he strikes out. Don’t second guess. Don’t wonder what else we could have done with the $125 million. We did the right thing. Ryan Howard will go down as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest Phillies ever. No doubt. And he may go down as one of the best players ever.

So appreciate him. We don’t often get treated to that kind of thing in this town. And I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but this franchise’s biggest successes have come since Ryan Howard has been here. Granted, he is only a piece, but he’s the BIG PIECE. We have 2 World Series appearances in a row, one World Championship, and we now stand on the door of a fourth straight post season, in which, the Phillies can make another deep run and maybe even end up with another Championship.

I can’t help but be incredibly grateful to that hulking 6’5″ first baseman who is a threat EVERY time he is at the plate. He may not deliver every time, but this is a game in which hitting the ball 3 out of 10 chances is considered good. And no one delivers every time. Howard at least gives you that potential, and makes your heart beat a little faster. That’s all THIS fan can ask for.

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