Monday, April 26, 2010

Locked Down

Attempting to have a debate about Philadelphia sports with a fan of Philadelphia sports is without fail a maddening experience. While it has been well documented that these debates tend to turn violent if you are taking a stance against Philadelphia sports teams, trust me when I say that it is FAR worse and frustrating when both sides of the argument are Philly fans. As a prime personal example, for the past year or so, I have been in many frustrating arguments with Phillies fans regarding the future of Ryan Howard. There are MANY among us who already had him wearing that disgusting looking navy-pinstrip adorned uniform, some who assumed he'd be pahkin his fahkin cah nea Harhvad and playing in Fenway and many making assumptions that he would be Albert Pujols slightly cheaper replacment in Howard's hometown St. Louis. Any suggestion that he may actually stay here was met with stares of both incredulity and sheer anger, accusations of mental illness/developmental disabilities were hurled wilder than anything in Kyle Kendrick's repertoire. Yet, I carried through, staying firm in my position that unless Pujols made it very clear that he would not return to St. Louis and a spot was open for RyHow to take center stage in his hometown, it was supremely beneficial for him to remain a Phillie.

Why any of the above is relevant, is as you most likely have heard already (we're not freakin insiders, we find out when you do, many times LONG after), Ryan Howard, aka Big Brown, has agreed to a 5-year, $125 million extension that keeps him here through 2016. This is not only the third richest contract in the history of baseball, but is amazing news, and the perfect situation for the Phillies, RyHow and us fans. I understand that there are some RyHow haters out there, and some of you have some valid points - be it his tendency to slump, his long-standing inability to hit a left-handed breaking ball, impatience at the plate, large amounts of strikeouts are the most commonly used - but I will happily take some of the bad because his upside is GAME CHANGING. What he offers to the Phils with his bat (and now, shockingly also his glove) is a player that can singlehandedly win games, and his history down the stretch of the season has been nothing short of jaw dropping. For Howard, playing in the cozy confines of Citizens Bank Park in the lineup where it doesn't necessarily benefit a team having him pitched around, against National League pitching greatly increases his chances at attaching his name to some hitting records and helping pave a path to Cooperstown. Finally, for us, the fans, we get the pleasure of being part of the excitement the big guy brings every time he puts on the red and white. Also, it can't be discounted that potential free agent signees like to see a team that has locked up guys like Halladay, Howard, Utley, etc., as not only does it show them that they will be joining a team with proven winners locked in, but proves that they are considering a team that will take care of their biggest performers. Considering how our pitching is looking these days, I am happy for anything that could persuade any top notch hurlers. But that is a different column for a different day.

One final thing that needs to be addressed about this signing is that lost in the outcry over the Cliff Lee trade was that signing him to a long term deal after doing the same with Roy Halladay would have tied up the Phillies' hands and not allowed them to make a move like this. Hidden between the lines of the head-scratching move that was the Cliff Lee/Mariners deal was something big, and many of us were too shocked to see it, but as I see it today proved that even when they seem to be making business decisions while concussed, we may very well have found ourselves in an era where the Phillies are doing their best to think ahead and always have something up their sleeve. Something like this creates enough good will for me to not question the next seemingly boneheaded move of the front office, and I suggest maybe we all give them some slack for the time being.

But only if Kendrick gets sent down to the Iron Pigs. Oh, and fuck it, sign Pedro again. I'm not joking.