Yesterday, CSN’s Jim Salisbury first broke the news that Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies had agreed on a contract extension for five years and in the neighborhood of $125MM. The news came as somewhat of a surprise, given Amaro’s steadfast claims that the payroll was at capacity and furthermore, there was neither hide nor hair of the possibility of an extension occurring this season.
Needless to say, it was a stunner.
Word spread fast, as it tends to do on the internet, and within minutes, every pundit, blogger, sportswriter, and casual fan had given their two cents on the deal.
While most of the fans were thrilled about the idea of Howard remaining in red pinstripes for the better part of the next decade, the objective sportswriter, by and large, was not.
And it make sense that there is a healthy amount of skepticism and head scratching emanating from this news. After all, history has shown us that big bodied power hitters tend to age less gracefully than…well, most any other type of player. Kind of like the film career of Casper Van Dien.
NBC’s Craig Calceterra had this to say…
Here’s a list of Ryan Howard’s most comparable players through age 29 — his age for the 2009 season — according to Baseball-Reference.com: Richie Sexson, Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Willie McCovey, David Ortiz, Tony Clark, Mark McGwire, Carlos Delgado, Fred McGriff and Norm Cash. The only two guys on that list who didn’t fall off a cliff before age 36 are McCovey and McGriff, and they were a heck of lot skinnier than even Ryan Howard v.2.0 is. The rest of those names should constitute nightmare fuel for Phillies fans.
The problem with this list, aside from the part where you are comparing different players and drawing a conclusion about one based on the others, is that…well, you can’t compare them. There is a bit of a logical fallacy at play there, however slight.
Also – Richie Sexson? Tony Clark? Really?
In a few aspects, Howard compares to some of these players, like Mo Vaughn and Carlos Delgado, but let’s be serious about something: The bulk of players on that that list played in an era where performance enhancing drugs were the norm. And as such, their bodies broke down as a result of usage, or because they stopped using. Or in the case of Vaughn or Fielder, because hefty hitters don’t last too long into their thirties.
Truth is, there is no telling how Howard will age. When you think about it, he hasn’t been in the game for that long, at least not at the highest level where the rigors and wear-and-tear are greater than in the minors. But if there is one thing we do know, it’s that Howard has shown, year over year, the desire and willingness to take care of himself, so that he may extend his career. And the results have been staggering. Ryan Howard in 2008 looks very different from the Howard in 2009. And that version looks different from the one who is taking the field this season.
That being said, you can count me among the skeptics, to a degree.
Is it a good deal, money-wise? Maybe, maybe not. It’s not my money, so I really don’t care. What I do care about is Ruben Amaro, Jr. building a great team over the next few seasons, while the opportunity still presents itself. And if signing RyHo to an extension is part of that plan, then far be it from me to speak ill of it.
But in the interest of full disclosure, the Phillies fan in me loves the idea of having Ryan Howard around in red pinstripes for what could be the rest of his career. I dig that. There are far too few of those players around; the ones that stay with the team that drafted them. Call me old fashioned or a baseball romantic, but there is something to be said about witnessing a player’s entire career arc through the prism of one uniform.
So for that reason, good for you, Ryan Howard. And side note, apropos of nothing: I have this student loan debt that I’m trying to pay off, so…I dunno, I’d really hate to ask, but can you float me a $50K spot? I’m totally good for it.
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