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Is Ryan Howard passing the torch to Domonic Brown?

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If you were to tell me at the beginning of the Phillies' season that Domonic Brown would be the team’s leading home run hitter entering June, I would have told you one of two things.

 

For starters, I would have assumed this team was really in the gutter offensively. And two, what is wrong with Ryan Howard?ryan howard

 

Well, we all know how absolutely horrid this Phillies offense has become. So horrid that CSN Philly broke it down perfectly.  But the real elephant in the room has a $125 million dollar contract- and he now has a bad knee.

 

Yes, the trials and tribulations of Ryan Howard’s legs (or I should say leg) have reared their ugly head again. Back in May, one anonymous source brought up Howard’s running difficulties earlier in the season, and it’s only gotten worse. Several weeks ago, Howard had an MRI, which revealed inflammation and fraying in the meniscus.  Not exactly what you want to hear from your best power hitter over the last decade who relies on his legs for power. Howard should be strongly commended for trying to battle through his knee injury the way he is.

 

In saying that, this knee issue won’t go away and he’s basically playing on one foot. Arguably once one of the most durable Phillies, the rash of injuries Howard has dealt with since injuring his ankle in late 2010 have been devastating to watch.

 

As I mentioned in our book, A Snowball’s Chance, I used to stop whatever I was doing to watch Howard hit. Yes, I’ve taken my shots at him in the past for some of his postseason shortcomings, but then I remember the number of times Howard carried those Phillies teams during some of the most important stretches of their glory years. I also remember his bat waking up just in time during the 2008 World Series to launch three home runs- the last one being an absolute bomb of the Rays’ Trevor Miller that all but guaranteed the Phillies championship aspirations.

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Nobody really wants to admit this publicly, but we are singlehandedly watching the end of an era in Phillies baseball. It’s happening day by day. There will be lots of changes to this team sooner than later. And by sooner, I mean a few weeks. Injuries to Chase Utley and MIchael Young’s bereavement leave are convenient reasons to play prospects Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. While we haven’t seen much of Hernandez, Galvis has shown he’s serviceable, but it’s highly unlikely he will hold a candle to Utley or Jimmy Rollins when they were in their prime. Domonic Brown has potential, but isn't quite there yet. Photo: AP

 

Another example of a possible changing of the guard is Howard taking a backseat as the team’s biggest home run threat due to the strong emergence of Brown. Brown is clearly having a month for the ages- batting .519 with 7 home runs and 13 runs batted in over the course of last week alone. He’s was the NL Player of the Month for May and has won NL Player of the Week for the second consecutive week. Overall, Brown now has 17 home runs, 42 RBIs, and is now batting .291. Going into Tuesday’s game against the Marlins, ESPN has projected Brown to finish the 2013 season with 47 home runs and 117 runs batted in.

 

You’re probably asking yourself the same question many in the Delaware Valley are asking: How did Domonic Brown get to THIS point? Did the adjustment he made in cutting back on his swing make THAT much of a difference? Isn’t there supposed to be some go-between? Like, in his first full season, he’ll hit 17 home runs and drive in 60?  Maybe 21 and 75?  He very well might end up close to those numbers than 47 home runs. Who knows? Maybe there’s less pressure to win on this Phillies team as opposed to 2010 and 2011 and that has helped him.

 

Back to Howard. As crazy as this sounds, he’s now currently the second best home run hitter on this Phillies team. Going into Tuesday night’s game against the Marlins, Howard has (gulp) 10 less home runs than Brown. As enjoyable as it’s been to watch Brown over the last month, it’s been an absolute crime seeing a power hitter like Howard reduced to smashing doubles in the gap. With Howard’s injuries and declining play, it might be unlikely he’s even capable of hitting 25 home runs anymore. Nonetheless, a healthy Howard and Brown would make a nice one-two punch if Brown fulfills his potential.

 

Regardless of how well Brown finishes the 2013 season, the left fielder has provided us with the most memorable offensive show we’ve seen by an individual Phillie since Howard’s 2006 season, and keep in mind a LOT has happened with this franchise over the last seven years. We’ve seen flashes in the pan come and go in this town (Bobby Hoying, Michael Leighton, etc.), but Brown has realistically gone from possible bust to possible All-Star. Maybe he really is finding his groove and this is how good he has the potential to be.

 

Either way, Howard and his $100 million dollar contract aren’t going anywhere, so we’ll  see over the next few years whether he can get his groove back, or whether the torch to Domonic Brown will be officially passed.



 Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Ryan Howard photo: MLB.com

Domonic Brown photo: AP