New Day Dawning

Those Philly boo birds: Oh where, oh where have they gone? — Ron Costello

Will 38 Do It? I’ll take 32, Thank You

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Howard has got to fight his way back.

Howard has got to fight his way back.

Resurrect.

It’s a word used a lot this time of year, especially where I live, and in the South Philly neighborhood parishes like Epiphany or St. Monica’s.

But not in the shot and beer bars like the Rosewood or Wolf Street Cafe, on the same city streets where legend says Frank Rizzo was God. Or in the finest eateries that you can walk to and bring your own drink —  wrapped in a brown paper bag, mind you, not in one of the snooty wine carriers you can buy in Ardmore.

No, in South Philly bars and restaurants, they don’t use resurrect in referring to Ryan Howard.

And the doubters have ammunition.

Ryan James  Howard was once on top of the baseball world, and he practically owned the parishes, bars, and restaurants, not only in South Philly, but in all of Philly and the burbs, as well.

Between 2006 and 2009, Howard averaged 50 home runs and 143 RBIs a season. In 2008, a World Series win and parade;  then a near miss the following year in a game six loss to the Yankees. That same season, 2009, he reached 200 career home runs.

Will 32 dingers put him back on top?

Will 32 dingers put him back on top?

On September 8th, 2010, Howard hit his 250th home run in just 855 games.

Then something strange happened. In an unfathomable stroke of appreciation, the Phillies pulled the trigger on a contract extension for Ryan Howard that was nearly unheard of in baseball.

Not because of the amount of dollars, although high — $125 million, or the length of the contract — although hefty, five years. It was the timing of the deal.

With nearly two full seasons still on Howard’s previous contract — back on April 26, 2010 — the Phillies inked their superstar power hitter to a brand new five year (sixth year option), $125 million deal, that wouldn’t kick in until the 2012 season.

Here it is:  2012 – $20 million; ’13 – $20 million; ’14 – $25 million; ’15 – $25 million; ’16 – $25 million; and $23 million club option in ’17, or a $10 million buyout.

Keep in mind, I repeat, that Mr. Howard’s contract, which you see above, was signed when he had two years remaining on his previous deal, inked on February 8, 2009, to avoid arbitration. Here’s that deal: 2009 – $15 million; ’10 – $19 million; and ’11 – $20 million.

The only conclusion I can come to is this: Mr. Ruben Amaro, Jr., and the Philles’ brain trust were so confident that they had the real deal in Ryan James Howard, that they threw caution to the wind and gave him his projected worth through 2017, thus keeping him in a Phillies uni.

Okay, 35.

Okay, 35.

Projected worth, that is, if  he keeps his weight down, and stays healthy. Projected worth, that was and is disputed by many who see a professional ball players’ worth diminish after 35, not increase.

We know what came next: Broken toe, ruptured Achilles’ tendon, serious knee surgery.

I’m not criticizing. You or I would have or might have done the same thing back in April, 2010, signing Howard — even though everybody today says differently. Oh, sure. Wait, what’s that they say about hindsight?

But here’s the thing. We can’t live in past history. Tomorrow begins Howard’s third contract year. All eyes will be — should be — on this young man every time he steps to the plate.

But keep this in mind: Did Howard dog-it because he already had the dough? Of course not. Is he not dedicated? He’s very dedicated. Did he contribute to any of his injuries? Get real.

This young man, 35, was seriously injured.

Let’s erase everything in the past, good and bad. Tomorrow starts a new season.

Can Howard be the Howard of 2006 through 2009? Maybe not. Is he done, cooked like a goose? I don’t think so, at least I hope not. Perhaps somewhere in the middle? Yes, maybe.

Ryan, go crazy, man. Silence the doubters.

That’s the whole ball game right there.

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