Long-time MLB slugger Ryan Howard announced in a post today at The Player’s Tribune that he is retiring from the game of baseball. Howard had not played during the 2018 season, but also had not formally hung up his spikes.
Howard will finish out his big-league playing tenure having logged time in 13 seasons, all of them with the Phillies. Though he spent time with the Rockies and Braves organizations last year, Howard’s final MLB showing came in 2016 with Philadelphia.
It’s perhaps too easy to forget now that Howard was once one of the game’s most productive power hitters. He was voted the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 2005 and its Most Valuable Player in 2006, emerging alongside players such as Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Cole Hamels to form a core that would soon take the game by storm.
As it turned out, the fate of the Phillies was tied closely to that of its first baseman. Howard finished in the top-ten of MVP voting in every one of the five ensuing seasons, 2007 through 2011, helping to drive the club’s five-year run of NL East titles.
Though the 2008 World Series win represents the crowning achievement of that era of Phillies baseball, the 2011 club actually turned in the most impressive regular-season performance with an excellent 102-60 record. That great team was bounced in stunning fashion from the postseason, though, with Howard making the final out of the NLDS on a play in which he tore his left Achilles tendon.
As went Howard, so went the Phillies; neither was the same from that point forward. The once-feared slugger posted a .226/.292/.427 batting line over the next five seasons. The club played a cumulative 88 games under .500 in the same span.
Of course, the relationship might have ended much sooner had it not been for the fact that Howard signed a five-year, $125MM extension at the start of the 2010 season — an agreement we examined at length after its conclusion. As I explained in that post, the cracks in Howard’s game may not have been obvious at the time of the deal, but began to show not long after.
Mostly, of course, the contract represented a combination of partially but not completely related failures: then-GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies’ brass did not accurately project Howard’s future and the big man’s body did not hold up. There was some tension later in his tenure with the team, though ultimately he played out his contract and bowed out after some nice moments to wrap things up in Philadelphia.
While the club did not achieve value on that contract, it certainly made out quite well overall on a player who came to the organization as a fifth-round pick in the 2001 draft. And Howard expressed fond memories in his farewell statement, which is well worth a full read. MLBTR wishes him all the best in his future endeavors.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.