Just playin, this Ryan Howard..

DENVER, CO – JULY 8: Ryan Howard(6) of the Philadelphia Phillies takes off his batting gloves after striking out against the Colorado Rockies during the game at Coors Field on July 8, 2016. (Photo by Michael Reaves/The Denver Post)

As I’ve mentioned before, being born in 1994 helped make falling in love with the game of baseball so much easier as the Phillies dominated the NL East for 5 straight division titles from 07′-11′ and back to back NL Pennants. One of the biggest pieces, no pun intended, during that run was Ryan Howard.

During the early 2000s as Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins cemented themselves as the leaders of the Phils going forward, the fans were eager for the call-ups of Cole Hamels, the high school pitching phenom drafted in the 1st round in 2002 by the Phightins; and of course the power hitting Ryan Howard, the Phillies 2001 5th round selection.

As the older guys like Mike Liberthal, David Bell, Bobby Abreu, Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome were on their way out of the Phillies organization or even baseball all together, the fans, as well as the front office knew they had a winning team in the making.

After Howard made his debut in 2004 and Hamels in 2006, the Phillies were ready to win; and boy did they fucking win – starting with the Mets collapse in 2007. With just 17 games left in the season, the Mets had a comfortable 7.5 game lead. How could they possible blow that big of a lead with just half a month to go? by going 5-12 to finish the season. peeeee yuuuuuuu. From that point on the Phillies made it known that they were the best team in the NL East for many years to come.

After winning ROTY in 2005 with an impressive .288/.356/.567 stat line across 88 games, Howard showed no sign of a sophomore slump and even won the NL MVP. The big piece led the majors in homeruns (58) and RBIs (149) and finished the season with a whopping .313/.425/.659.

Howard continued to just dominate the game of baseball over the next 6 seasons, reaching the postseason in every season following his 06′ MVP. I know 6 years doesn’t sound like that long of a stretch, unfortunately, that is because during game 7 of the 2011 NLCS between the St. Louis Cardinals, Ryan Howard tore his achilles on the last out of the game.

Not only did it suck seeing a second straight postseason appearance end without at least a pennant, the 2011 team was fucking stacked. they had the contact, they had the power and goddamn did they have the rotation. It sucked even more knowing Howard was seriously injured.

All the bad thoughts we had of a torn achilles came true and we knew the big piece now presented the Phillies with a big hole at 1st base. Howard didnt make his 2012 debut until after the 4th of July and he was simply never the same after 2011.

The same player that averaged (per 162) 46 homers and 139 RBIs while batting .275/.368/.560 from 2005-2011, went on to average 29 homers and 99 RBIs while batting .226/.292/.427 from 2011-2016. Howards career was also cut short at just 36. A very short career when you factor in that he barely reached 100 games in the MLB before the age of 26.

After the World Series window closed and Rubén Amaro Jr. ran the team into the ground, the fans were agitated and rightfully so. One of the things that upset Phillies fans was the timing of Ryan Howard’s extension. Howard signed a 5 year 125 million dollar extension that would kick in after the 2011 season. So once Howard’s team friendly contract turned into him being one of the top paid 1B in the game… the fans didn’t like that.

I understand where they were coming from but go fuck yourself. Fans who bitch about bad contracts annoy the balls off me. It’s not your goddamn money, stop acting like you should be invited to the front office meetings just because Joe from Delran takes his wife and son to a game every 2 months.

Howard deserved every single dime that he signed for in April of 2010. Just because the money didn’t kick in until he got hurt isn’t his fault. Howard was so mistreated at the end of his Phillies tenure that it was borderline embarrassing to be a Phillies fan.

I know there’s always go be a majority of asshole fans, like the ones that boo’d Werth in his return and even the fans that cheered as Chase Utley as he hit a homerun against the Phillies in his return to Philly.

Don’t go me wrong, that’s not a shot at Chase Utley, he’s still my favorite Phillie of all time but give him a standing ovation during his first at bat. After that, he’s a Dodger – simple as that. I’m aware the Phillies team stunk and there was nothing to cheer for, but the Dodgers are still the Dodgers. Fuck the Dodgers.

Enough about Chase Utley, back to Ryan Howard. What couldn’t the guy do? During his prime he was arguably the scariest hitter in the league up there with Pujols, Miggy, Ortiz and Ryan Braun. In fact Ryan Howard has the most homeruns and RBIs in baseball from his ROTY season through 2011 – and it wasn’t even close.

Howard even had a natural act for being on camera. It’s Always Sunny, Entourage and even The Office saw cameos from The Big Piece.

It’s a damn shame the way Howard’s career ended in Philly, I don’t think there’s anyone that would try to deny that. But I do hope there are a lot of Phillies fans out there that don’t like the way they treated Howard at the end of his career. The man suffered an injury that ended careers just 15-20 years ago and he worked his balls off trying to overcome the long lasting effects of an achilles tear. Not everyone is Adrain Peterson and going to rush for 2000 yards the year after an ACL tear.

On behalf of everyone from the Philly area, thank you Ryan for bringing a World Series, NL MVP and hundreds of amazing memories during your time in Philly.

For more Ryan Howard worship and gratitude, give your boy a follow @_Leemon__

Ernie El's