George from the Northeast calls in WIP daily, and he has been ripping Ryan Howard for a long time. He rips the star for his struggles against lefties along with his high strikeout ratio. He mentions the star’s contract will hamper the Phillies for a long time. It’s not only just him, but good number of Phillies fans say the same thing.
Those are fair points, but Howard’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses. It showed in the Phillies’ 7-6 victory over the Brewers last night at Citizens Bank Park. He played a role in the win by hitting a home run, getting three hits and driving in three runs, and he was part of the Phillies’ ninth inning comeback that help them rally from a 6-3 deficit.
After watching Howard do his thing last night, it’s time to enjoy what he does instead of nitpicking his game. To get a player like that is a privilege.
Howard’s performance is what leadership is all about, and that has been missing since he was on the disabled list. The team does not have enough players to fill his leadership void, and it was obvious when the team lost many games without him. This comeback does not happen without his good at-bat in the ninth inning last night, which he drove in two runs to make it a 6-5 game.
No one can do what Howard does. He not only hit home runs, but he wears down opposing pitchers by fouling off pitches and taking smart at-bats. He puts fear on opposing pitchers. He does things that are hard to teach. A player has to be good to do what this Phillie is doing.
Phillies fans have taken Howard for granted. That’s what happens when they see greatness from their star time after time. They think it should be expected to the point it’s ho-hum. They get upset if he fails to come through. It’s ridiculous.
What people forget is baseball is a hard game to play. Hitters go through lulls that extend forever if they get affected by slumps. Fortunately, Howard does not let a bad game affect him. He normally rebounds by playing well the next game. It’s a credit to his approach that he manages to do well. Even great hitters let it affect them.
Howard is so good that people expect perfection from him. There are folks who can’t get over his awful performance in the 2009 World Series. There are others who are still upset at him for not doing enough in the 2010 National League Championship Series. People still have this image of him falling down as he made the last out of Game 5 of the Division Series last year.
Baseball does not work that way. Great pitchers have their way against great hitters more often than your average seamhead would think. It happens. This isn’t basketball where great players make it happen by creating their own shot. In baseball, it’s a battle of who comes out on top between a hitter versus a pitcher. Sometimes, fans have to give the pitcher credit. Great pitchers find a way to neutralize great hitters, and Howard had to go up against great pitchers in October.
The Phillies found out what life was like without Howard this year. It hasn’t been pretty. They haven’t hit with runners in scoring position, and they haven’t scored runs. They haven’t found a guy who can get the important home run in tight games. It’s not a coincidence the team was losing games in the process.
Maybe Howard would not solve the pitching issues that plagued the Phillies , but the team would have many more wins than they have now had he been healthy. They would have hung around for the second wild-card spot at the least.
With Howard back, this should give fans an opportunity to enjoy their star more than ever. Watching him hit a home run in the first inning and engineer a comeback in the ninth inning should give a perspective of how good Phillies fans have it. He has done a good job coming back from an Achilles injury, which is remarkable since it can be hard for players to recover.
Great players like Howard are hard to find. They haven’t had a player like him since Mike Schmidt, and it took a long time to get that type of player for the Phillies. It’s hard to know when a player like him will come again for the Phillies.
Instead of focusing his flaws, let’s enjoy what he can do while he is in his prime.