Here's to you, Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard's first five seasons have been record-setters.
Ryan Howard's first five seasons have been record-setters. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff photographer)
Posted: July 13, 2011

ON THE DAY AFTER the All-Star Game was played in Phoenix without Ryan Howard, this column is directed at the haters and bashers who have been coming out of the woodwork in larger numbers than usual.

They are predictable as smog in a heat wave. They pretend to be knowledgable baseball fans, but trip themselves up every time because they are dead wrong. And egregiously stupid.

I hear the reason why he was not voted into the All-Star Game by the fans - and Phillies fans basically ignored him while stuffing the ballot box for an injured Shane Victorino - is because the National League has all these great first basemen. And RH is no longer one of them . . .

So, chew on this: Prince Fielder went to the All-Star Game and captained a Home Run Derby team that was blown out of the water by a couple of real hitters named Adrian Gonzalez and Robinson Cano, who put on one hell of a show.

Not that Fielder is chopped liver. He is, after all, tied for the league RBI lead with some slipping, already over-the-hill guy named Ryan Howard. Each had 72 at the break. Oh, and Prince did rule last night, with a three-run homer that helped the National League win, 5-1.

But let me mention that Howard bats cleanup for a first-place team that leads the majors in wins and has the biggest division lead at the break in either league.

Oh, but he's a butcher with the glove (all of four errors), clogs up the bases (as if Fielder is Michael Bourn) and is not providing close to acceptable return for the $125 million salary. (And since that contract just kicked in and he's on pace for 140 RBI, maybe you should wait a while on that.)

Here's a typical email from a regular who has been on Howard's case since Day 1. He posted it just as the Phillies were about to explode for that 14-1 destructo of the Braves Sunday:

The Phillies are paying Howard more than the Sox are paying Adrian Gonzalez a professional hitter. That would be funny if it wasn't so embarrassing.

I replied: " . . . There's not one [censored] player worth what he's being paid . . . That's why there should be a statue of Marvin Miller in front of the MLPA headquarters."

Just then, Howard singled home the lead run off Derek Lowe in what was still a tight game.

The emailer's reply:

Only because for some reason Lowe didn't throw a breaking ball in the dirt. He doesn't get paid to hit singles off the trademark. He's killing this team like he did in 07 09 & 10.

This was the generic chant from the Tab-and-Scrapple Choir. He doesn't hit for high enough average, he never hits in the clutch (See Mike Schmidt abuse files from the 1970s). He needs to bunt or slap the ball to left against the shift. Yada, yada, yada . . .

One guy even invoked the despicable, undecipherable WAR stat. That's a totally bogus acronym for "Wins Above Replacement." It presents a patentedly unsupported hypothesis that measures the "projected" performance of an "average" Triple A player called up to replace Major League regular A . . .

I'm laughing too hard to continue. You saw what happened last season when Howard missed 19 games with an ankle sprain and was off-form the rest of the season, yet still managed 31 homers and 108 RBI.

In the words of Edwin Starr at Woodstock: "WAR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin.' [Hunh!]"

For the record - and I'm giving Michael Jack a pass for his dismal rookie year - in his first five full seasons after 1973, MJS averaged 34.2 homers and 99.4 RBI.

So let's move on to some serious power hitting by the man considered to be the greatest all-around hitter in franchise history. That would be Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

Klein was a candle who burned briefly but brightly in his five full seasons playing in a lopsided Baker Bowl that was tilted favorably for both his lefthanded pull power and defensive prowess as a rightfielder.

So let's put Howard's first 5 full years up against the Great Chucker. And I'm throwing out RH's Rookie of the Year 2005 because he played in only 88 games.

Klein had a 1930 for the ages. So did the Phillies. He batted .386, but failed to win the batting title in a National League consumed by an orgy of offense. He scored 158 runs, flogged 250 hits, ripped 59 doubles, eight triples and 40 homers for a gargantuan 170 RBI. Unfortunately, that was the year when Hack Wilson drove in 190 for the Cubs.

They must have been playing slo-pitch softball because the Phillies' team batting average was an incredible .315. That offensive juggernaut managed to lose 102 games in a 154-game schedule.

Howard is tied for the NL RBI lead despite being an island in the stream. Until Chase Utley came back after missing 2 months, there was a mostly inept revolving No. 3 hole in front of him and a No. 5 hole committee that underperformed.

In 1930, Klein had the best protection since the invention of the kevlar vest. He batted No. 3 with Lefty O'Doul hitting .383 in front of him. The cleanup hitter was third baseman Pinky Whitney, who batted .342.

Klein was traded to the Cubs after his fifth full season:

* The Chucker drove in 693 runs for an average of 138.6.

* Howard has driven in 680 runs for an average of 136.

* The Chucker hit 180 homers for an average of 36.

* Howard has hit 229 homers for an average of 45.8.

I'd rest the defense right there, but feel compelled to add that Klein spent most of his seasons here on teams in or near last place.

I don't have to tell you where Ryan Howard has spent his five seasons.

Send email to bill1chair@aol.com.

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