It’s been a miserable year for the Philadelphia Phillies. With the success in Philadelphia in recent years, the expectations of Phillie fans has been in the clouds, but reality set in for the 2012 season. Too many things have gone wrong to mention, but the absence of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for a huge chunk of the season will usually lead any such discussion.
Fortunately for Philadelphia fans, both players are back, and both seem to be making significant progress towards reclaiming their leadership roles.
With Ryan Howard, the hill to climb is particularly steep as he works his way back from a serious Achilles injury. We’ve seen some incredible hitters in this generation, but Howard immediately started to put together a Hall of Fame caliber career from his first season when he won the Rookie of the Tear award. The next year, he put together one of the all-time great offensive seasons on the way to winning the MVP award. In 2006, Howard hit 58 home runs, drove in 149 runs and hit .313 with a 1.084 OPS! After only seven full seasons he was already closing in on 300 home runs and on the fast track to the Hall. Along the way he helped the Phillies to two World Series appearances and one title, so regardless of what happens next the fans in Philly will always love him.
Now coming off the injury last season, Howard doesn’t seem to be full strength, but he still has that beautiful swing. While the 2012 season is lost for the team, it’s giving Ryan a chance to work his way back into top form. Utley is also working his way back, so things should be looking up for 2013.
As for Howard and the Hall of Fame, it will be hard for him to replicate his unbelievable stretch from 2006 to 2009, when over four seasons he averaged almost 50 home runs and over 145 RBIs per season. But he should easily get back to his numbers of recent years with over 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs, and if he keeps that up for a while he’ll waltz into the Hall of Fame.
Howard is one of those players that most people root for. He’s had some fun with his celebrity status, like making an appearance on Entourage as on of the prospective investors in Turtle’s business ventures, but he’s stayed grounded. He’s in the middle of a long-term deal, so he’ll probably be in Philadelphia for a long time. Let’s hope he ends his career there.