Our very own David Cohen put it best with respect to how we treat our stars:
Philadelphia usually goes through seven stages of sports star appreciation:
1) Wonders who he is and where he came from
2) Convinced that he is the best player *ever*
3) Acknowledges the player's shortcoming as a footnote
4) Introduces the player with mention of his shortcomings
5) Only talks about the players shortcomings
6) Discusses every player who doesn't have the star's shortcomings (regardless of the total package) until the player is traded
7) Wonders how the team can acquire a player with a similar skill set
Right now we are in stage 5) with respect to Ryan Howard. Howard is in limbo with the Philly sports fan and it is a dangerous road indeed.
Most players do not recover from reaching stage 5. Abreu? Gone. Rolen? See ya. Lindros? Buh bye. Iverson? Don't let the door hit ya. Currently, there are a few athletes who are in a few different stages here.
Howard: Stage 5
McNabb: Stage 4
Iguodala: Stage 3
Hatcher: Stage 4
Myers: Stage 3
Very few can recover, and often it takes years. The most notable is Pat Burrell who was BURIED in stage 6 and teetering on stage 7 when a torrid streak last year and this year has thrown him all the way back to stage 3. Of course, any sign of trouble, the road to stage 7 will be a quick one. Another one to note is Daniel Briere who went to stage 5 in a matter of months before redeeming himself. But these are the exceptions, not the rule.
So, where do that leave Howard? Right now the big guy is slumping, and slumping badly. His current line is:
.181 BA .303 OBP .349 SLG .652 OPS
Last year he had a similiar start that bottomed out (in terms of OPS) on...um...well...April 24th. This was his line after that game:
.207 BA .405 OBP .362 SLG .767 OPS
The main difference is the OBP where Howard was still drawing a ton of walks last year. He was also injured to a degree, so, while the similarities are present, there are also key differences. The problem with this year is that a decent hitting Howard is probably the difference in 3 wins. Not all his fault, but definitely draws the lime light on him.
The problem is that people now focus on him as well as his play. I find it funny when I think of how the thought process went. "The Phillies made a great move signing Thome. We needed a power hitter in the middle of the lineup to do what Burrell can't do, drive in runs." "Ed Wade was an idiot for singing Thome and keeping Howard in the minors so long." "Howard is sure making his 10 million dollars. We should trade him and put Burrell at first, at least he drives in runs."
Howard isn't blame free in all of this. He is obviously out of whack and I am sure he is trying his best to figure it out. Everyone has ideas on how to "fix" him, but the only idea that matters is Ryan Howard's. Charlie isn't doing him any favors by hitting him second after Utley (which assures a lefty in late innings to face him) or by not giving him a day off (against Francis would have been good).
Before all you fickle fans write off the MVP of 2006 and the guy who has hit 133 HRs in the last 3+ years and with a career line of .286 BA .392 OBP .597 SLG .989 OPS, after that 0-3 with a walk on 4/24 last year, Howard put up this line for the rest of the year:
.276 BA .390 OBP .611 SLG 1.001 OPS
So, all of you people complaining about Howard and how he strikes out too much or his defense sucks, or he should be benched or traded, I have one thing to say to you...