Ryan Howard’s Philly legacy

By J.P. McClatchy

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Howard warms up before an at-bat against the New York Mets on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pa. The Phillies won 5-2. (Clem Murray/ Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

It’s fitting that Howard’s first and last home run with the Phillies came against the Mets, whom he tagged with 48 home runs all-time against them, which tied for the fourth most home runs hit against the Mets.

He received a touching ceremony beforehand in front of the home crowd at Citizens Bank Park to honor him for his career with the team.

“Philadelphia will always be home,” Howard said during the pregame ceremony.

Later, Manager Pete Mackanin pulled Howard from the game in the top of the ninth inning and the fans sent him off with a standing ovation as he exited the field.

Howard played in 112 games this year, posting a .196 batting average with 25 home runs and 59 RBI’s in 331 at-bats. He had seven seasons with at least 25 home runs with the Phillies and he is now tied at 67th on the all-time home runs list with 382 along with Frank Howard and Hall of Famer Jim Rice.

Howard will finish his Phillies career ranked second in home runs (382), second in RBI (1,192), fourth in slugging (.515), first in grand slams (15), seventh in games played (1,569), tenth in doubles (270), fifth in total bases (2,940), and seventh in walks (709).

“Ryan, on countless occasions, put us on his back and carried us to the finish line,” Former Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said. “He was such an important part of our success, and I hope Philadelphia recognizes that.”

Howard broke into the league in 2004 and one year later, he was named National League Rookie of the Year, posting a .288 average with 22 home runs, 63 RBI’s, and a .924 OPS in only 88 games.

Howard followed up the Rookie of the Year by being named the National League MVP after a monster season where he hit a franchise best 58 home runs in a single season and knocked in 149 runs, leading the league in both of those categories, just barely missing out on the Triple Crown.

Howard had six straight seasons with 30+ home runs and 100 RBI’s, helping propel the Phillies to five National League East titles from 2007 to 2011 and two World Series appearances, with the Phillies winning it in 2008.

But Howard’s career took a turn for the worst in game five of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals, the last time the Phillies made the playoffs, when he tore his achilles after making the final out in the game, and he was never fully able to get back to his old form.

From 2012 to 2013, Howard played in a total of 151 games, combining for 25 home runs and 99 RBI’s, but it seems the achilles injury got the best of him because after that, Howard never reached 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s in a season ever again.

Although, he endured a great deal abuse for his lack of production in recent years, the fans saw that he never let it get to his head and think he deserves credit for sticking it out after he watched player after player from the 2008 World Series team leave the Phillies.

“He loved the pressure and wanted to be the man at the plate when the game mattered most,” Former Phillies shortstop and MVP Jimmy Rollins said. “During our run, we leaned on him many times for big hits and clutch home runs and he found ways to deliver.”

Howard’s departure marks the end of a remarkable era in Phillies franchise history. His career with the Phillies may be over, but he has continued to express his will to keep on playing baseball in 2017, testing the waters as a free agent.

“There’s still more in the tank,” Howard said during the recent postgame press conference. “I tell my wife all the time, I don’t know when it’s time. I just want to get it all out of the tank and have no regrets.”

Contact J.P. McClatchy at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu