A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ryan Howard

If it's winter, it's definitely time to be fanning the coals and keeping the warmth of the baseball season alive. There's just about nobody left on the free agency list, at least that is young and viable and capable of playing regularly without the worry of the disabled list, so thoughts turn to players who might go free agent next year - like Albert Pujols.
When Ryan Howard got a contract for $125million for 5 years to be the Whiff Prince (Mad Mark Reynolds being the undisputed king), one could only imagine how much Pujols would get.
We wonder too. Pujols is great. Howard is a mirage, but I'd still take his garden gnome for my baseball shelf.
Last off season, one of the more interesting trade discussions was the rumor of the Philadelphia Phillies looking internally and contemplating getting rid of Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols. As 1 of 5 teams that could afford him at the time (New York x2, Boston, Philadelphia, Anaheim), if St. Louis decides that they can’t and or shouldn't join the club (which would be galactically stupid), Philadelphia saw what I’ve seen all along: Ryan Howard, while seemingly a nice guy that you wouldn’t mind hanging out with, is a strikeout machine and a post season albatross.
His play against the Yankees two years ago combined with his playoff experience last year solidifies his worthlessness as a ballplayer. In 1999, while he hit 3 homers against Tampa Bay, he struck out 9 times against the overachieving Devil Rays. Last year, he hit one meaningless game 6 homerun and struck out 13 times when the series still had a chance to go Philadelphia’s way. In short, the hole in his swing is so big that we could fit the Liberty Bell in there and still have room left over. The past 2 years, he has 199 strikeouts in each year! In 19 years, Yogi Berra has 414 strikeouts. One year, he came to bat 597 times and only struck out 12 times. That same year (1950), he knocked in 124 runs. Ryan Howard put through 141 runs, which is a good number, but if he didn’t whiff as much, he could knock in more runs considering Rollins, Victorino, and Utley do get on board a tad bit.
Last year, the average was there, but they were all worthless hits that didn't do more than get a double. In 33 at bats, he had 10 hits, of which 4 were doubles. He had no RBIs. He had 17 strikeouts. He's a slug of enormous proportions, Rob Deer with a personality and a built in jersey buying fan club that wants to believe, but I never will. As the Phillies stack pitching at the front end, they have nothing for clutch and only Howard, who the other teams can pitch around or find his holes as they wait out the pitch counts on Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels in order to get to the emotionally fragile Brad Lidge for the win. People talk about the Phillies getting to the World Series, but without offense, I see nothing but heartbreaking Walter Johnson style losses.
As for Albert, the man is a machine, especially with protection (Halladay) in the lineup. In his first at bat last year, he took Aaron Haraang deep and solidified what should have been a solid season for the redbirds, but sadly, they phoned in the show and handed the division to the Reds. The Cardinals were and are just that good. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are dealing yearly and Matt Holliday is being paid, so here’s to another division title. To get 200 strikeouts on Albert, you would have to go back to the end of 2007. In that time, the man has hit .327 twice and .357 once. If you’re including the whole 2006 season, you can see that Pujols hit .331. If you include last year's down season of .312 (same 100 runs, 100 RBIs, 30 home runs PLUS in all categories), he's still solid and then some. While he didn’t get some of the RBIs that Howard got, he also didn’t have much in the batting order in front of him. Even in swinging for the fences, he's far more reliable than Mighty Ryan.
So let’s see… would I want to trade Mighty Ryan for Phat Albert? Would I want to trade my Red Sox jerseys for Yankees ones?
Didn’t think so.
Gotta love the hot stove and thoughts of locking Pujols up with incentives for the next 10 with a contract that dwarfs Alex Rodriguez and his blue lips as Albert primes to take over the all time home run lead from Barry once and for all.

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