Ryan Howard's Rebound Lengthens Philadelphia Phillies' Trajectory

By Sean O'Brien
Philadelphia Phillies Ryan Howard
Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies‘ batting order without a healthy Ryan Howard in it isn’t great. Put the “Big Piece” at the center of the team’s 2013 lineup, and the opportunity for Charlie Manuel‘s offense to sing a 2009 song improves.

Now, no one is suggesting that Howard will instantly pump 45 home runs over the fences and drive in 141 runners, like he did four years ago when the Phillies made their World Series appearance against the New York Yankees. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hit 35-40 home runs, generate 130 RBIs and lead another playoff push.

This 33-year old man has a new look on his face this season. Some of that has to do with the fact that he got married, as all happily hooked men will surely attest. With his 2008 World Series ring now accompanied by a wedding symbol, his life is currently balanced.

Everyone who is verifying that Howard’s stroke and opposite field power punch have returned know exactly what this means. His Achilles’ tendon issue appears to have been fully resolved.

Something struck me last season while I was watching the big man play at Citizens Bank Park. Even though he couldn’t fully bend to the ground to accept a throw-over from Cole Hamels, he was on the field at first base. In consideration of his guaranteed contract, that didn’t have to be the case.

Howard would have earned every penny in his $20 million dollar 2012 paycheck if he had chosen to sit out the entire season. But, he didn’t because he’s a gamer.

Detractors often focus upon the strikeout habit that he just can’t quit, or the mental block that randomly appears when he tries to throw over to second base. However, this prolific slugger is the second-greatest home run hitter in franchise history. Read that last sentence one more time, so that it doesn’t have to be typed again.

Howard was, is and will continue to be vital to his team’s chances of making the playoffs. If he remains healthy, add four wins to last season’s Phillies’ total. That’s my own WAR score statement.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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