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April 14, 2015

Howard deserves so much better than what looks like an ugly last stand

Opinion Al Morganti
041415_howard_AP Tom Mihalek/AP

Ryan Howard should be remembered as one of the great athletes in this city's history.

It is never a good idea to lecture a fan base on when it is appropriate to cascade a player with negativity. Never a good idea to pretend that there is any sort of etiquette when it comes to hurling a stadium filled with booing at somebody in the home uniform.

You pay your money; you have every right to offer a loud opinion – obnoxious or otherwise.

But it’s just plain sad to see that sort of treatment given to Ryan Howard, who had to live through that scenario during the Phillies’ first homestand when he struck out four times against the Washington Nationals – and there is likely more to come.

Howard is one of the giants of Philadelphia sports history, and he deserves better, not just from the fans, but also from the Phillies.

Going into last night’s game in New York, Howard was off to an awful – but hardly unexpected -- start to this season. He’s never been the same player since the final play of the 2011 season when he dropped to the turf with a torn Achilles.

Howard is one of the giants of Philadelphia sports history, and he deserves better, not just from the fans, but also from the Phillies.

Who knows that would have happened if he had not busted it down the line and suffered the injury?

The bigger problem is this: Howard has recovered his former status as a feared power hitter. But the Phillies still owe Howard the $25 million due on his contract this season, another $25 million next season, and then hold a $10 million option to buy him out in 2017.

What they also owe him, and what they owe the fans of the Philadelphia Phillies is a way to end this misery. Even if it means cutting the check and simply cutting him loose.  There is no value to watching Howard’s career disintegrate, and even less value in watching the relationship with the fans also deteriorate.

There is no getting out from under the money involved in this season, but there is a way to get out of the emotional turmoil it will cause if Howard plays out this season as a target for the fans.

The fact of the matter is that most fans aren’t really howling at Howard as they are at the fact that the Phillies ownership and management made the decision to sign him to such a long deal. 

Maybe so, but it is Howard who is standing there -- or walking back to the dugout -- hearing the disdain. And it is also the visiting team, and TV audiences around the nation willing to call upon the cliché of a negative crowd in Philadelphia.

Perhaps there is a miracle in the waiting and Howard will rediscover the balance of his swing, but that is the longest of shots. The real miracle will be if the Phillies and general manager Ruben Amaro finally do the right thing, eat the contract, and let Howard go before all of the great times he had in Philadelphia are drowned out forever by the final scenes of futility.


The best recent story in sports occurred last weekend at the Masters where 21 year old Jordan Spieth went wire to wire to win the event, and was equally as impressive off the golf course.

There is no replacement for talent, which is why Tiger Woods remains a huge draw at events, and why he still moves product. However, it was refreshing to see the attitude and genuine humility of Spieth as he won the green jacket.

Frankly, the sport could use a character such as Spieth to regain some of its luster. There could be a natural rivalry with Rory McIlroy and others, and Woods will still be lurking in the background.

Given the nature of the sport, and the fleeting possession of a perfect swing there is hardly a guarantee that Spieth’s career is headed toward a long and stable reign. But at least for this moment, and this summer he can provide an American talent to root for, without any baggage.

In addition to all of the pressure he will face in simply trying to live up to his status as the Masters champion, he will also have to face the challenges all young golfers face as fans try to count the number of championships they could win before they ever reach what amounts to the second tee box of their careers.

Spieth seems mature beyond his years, and that might be his biggest weapon as he will have to guard against the devils that invade a golf game and a personality charged with quick success.


If you want to get as insight into what makes New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tick, all you had to do was take a look at his choice of shirts to wear on Monday when he threw out the first pitch of the Boston Red Sox home opener.

It was a woeful pitch, but Brady was wearing a shirt with a big No. 5 on the front. It was a message that he isn’t content with four Super Bowl rings, he wants a fifth.

This should also come as a message to the Philadelphia Eagles, who are still in search of a franchise quarterback.

According to former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, who is now working as an analyst for ESPN, Eagles coach Chip Kelly has told other coaches that he believes his former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will win multiple Super Bowls.

If that is true, Kelly has to do everything plausible to land Mariota in the upcoming draft. The cliché here is to say everything within reason – but in this case he might have to go beyond reason.

Mind you, not wild and stupid, but if Kelly really believes Mariota is going to win multiple Super Bowls then “overpaying” to move up in the draft to get him is not absurd. The whole issue might be moot if Mariota goes first to Tampa Bay, but if he does not then Kelly would be wise to use more chips than his first name to move up and get a franchise quarterback.

It would be of little consolation to Kelly and Eagles fans to see Mariota go on to a career like Brady’s knowing that you knew it would happen, and you didn’t go the extra 10 yards to get it done.