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Will Ryan Howard’s career ever recover after his achilles injury and post season failures?


To say that things have been going downhill for Ryan Howard since the 2009 World Series is a vast understatement.To say that things have been going downhill for Ryan Howard since the 2009 World Series is a vast understatement.

After winning the NLCS MVP award when the Phillies knocked off the Dodgers, Howard struggled mightily against the Yankees in the Fall Classic: going just 4 for 25 while striking out a World Series record 13 times. His lone home run came in Game 6 of the eventual 7-2 series clincher for the Yankees.

Fast forward to summer 2010, when Howard severely sprained his left ankle in that Sunday afternoon game in Washington. Howard’s power was mostly drained for the rest of the year and his September was not reminiscent of year’s past when he could basically carry the team on his back at will.

Then there was the 2010 playoffs. Howard ended up hitting .318 against the Giants. That being said, he failed to knock in a run in either playoff series, and the lasting image of him taking a Brian Wilson fastball for a called third strike  will not be forgotten for a long time in this town.

Then there was 2011. Howard’s power numbers were more or less the same, but word got out in August that Howard had developed bursitis in his left heel and ankle. Charlie Manuel rested him as often as possible, but the site of Howard hobbling around the bases made it pretty obvious that something was wrong. Since 2006, Howard was undisputedly the Phillies most durable player, but it seems now he’s literally falling apart.

Game 1 of the NLDS  however, gave everyone encouragement that Howard was about to turn the corner, as his three-run blast of Kyle Lohse was a game changer that gave the Phillies a lead which they never relinquished. Howard followed up with a two-run single off Chris Carpenter in the first inning of Game 2.
Ryan Howard photo: Getty Images
And that was as good as it would get.

Howard then proceeded to go 0 for 8 with 5 strikeouts when the series shifted to St. Louis. And when Carpenter retired 26 batters on Friday night and all that stood between the Cardinals and a trip to the NLCS was Howard, you had to just shake your head because the scenario was almost too unreal to even be called ironic.

The lasting image of the entire series is not the Cardinals celebrating on the field at Citizens Bank Park, it’s one of a wounded Howard not even being able to run to first base after weekly grounding out to Nick Punto at second.

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Reports after the game were that Howard possibly tore his left achilles tendon. There was talk on the radio Saturday morning that if this is indeed the case, Howard will most likely miss all of 2012- right when his $25 million dollar a-year contract kicks in.

People can think or say whatever they want in regards to why Howard and Jimmy Rollins get booed, but someone like Chase Utley gets a pass. It’s Howard you see on the Subway and Powerade commercials. Rollins has never been afraid to make a quote in regards to his team’s performance. If you’re out in the limelight, you have to expect to hear the boos or face the consequences if things go wrong. Some of Utley’s gaffes on the base paths this series were horrendous, but Utley might do the occasional Vasoline commercial and nothing more, and the fact that he isn’t about to make $25 million dollars per year weighs heavily into consideration as well.

Truth be told, as fun as this era of Phillies baseball was (and it IS about to change), this team has regressed in the playoffs every year since winning the World Series in 2008. And the way the last few years have gone, it’s starting to remind everybody that the historical misfortunes of the Philadelphia Phillies never really went away. They just hid for a little bit, then came back at the worst moments possible.

Whether it’s fair or not, Ryan Howard is at the centerpiece of these failures. It’s a combination of a soon-to-be  heavy contract, and his failure to produce more often than not in the biggest moments the game has to offer during the post season. Nevermind the fact that he helped the Phillies get there, or how he hit three home runs in the 2008 World Series to help the Phillies beat the Rays, or how his power numbers through his first five big league seasons are unmatched by ANYONE in baseball history.  It’s about what you’ve done lately, and the last image Phillies fans have of Ryan Howard right now is really a microcosm of the last three seasons.

And depending on the severity of his injury, it’s one that we might not be able to get of our heads for a long, long time.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Injury photo: www.longislandpress.com