This morning, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News published this incredibly sad (and excellent) article about the legal battle transpiring within the family of veteran slugger Ryan Howard. More troubling than the financial aspects of the suit, which included Howard's twin brother and life-long roommate Corey suing him for $2.7 million, is the tumult and irreparable damage caused to the reputedly close-knit Howard clan:
"By late 2011," according to Ryan's counter-suit, "Ryan had become concerned with whether Corey and his other family members were really working to protect his financial interests or were attempting to enrich themselves at his expense."
Howard claimed that he had paid his family at least $2,795,337.38, all based on his mother's authorization. Howard claimed that he did not know of these payments until he took over financial control of RJH Enterprises in July of 2012.
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But when, as it was phrased in Ryan's counter-suit, he told his father that he wanted to take control of his financial affairs and "have his family just be family," Ron Howard's response was that "if Ryan wanted him to walk away from Ryan's business affairs, Ron should receive $5 million himself and Cheryl should receive another $5 million."
Howard thus filed a counterclaim against his family members alleging that his twin brother "engaged in a conspiracy with Ron Howard, Cheryl Howard, and Chris Howard to defraud RJH."
Full disclosure: I'm an attorney, and I can assure you that you'll almost never find a civil dispute where one party is 100% in the right, and vice versa. Business is business, money is money, and Ryan has more than enough cash coming to him over the remaining life of his contract to take care of himself, his children, and their children.
But this legal struggle, combined with the tragedy of a family torn apart, may help provide us with context with regard to Howard's struggles on the field the past couple of seasons.
Several years ago I attended a Baseball Prospectus event. This was during the post-Moneyball ascent of the rump Sabermetrics movement, and the BP panelists willingly tapped the brakes on the "numbers say everything" attitude expressed by the audience. The panelists presented the story of (Hall of Famer) Frank Thomas, who experienced a sudden and sharp drop-off in production during the 1998-1999 seasons. He was still good, but not the legendary slugger he had been for the entire decade to that point. It turns out, Thomas was very privately going through a very difficult divorce during that time. He rebounded in 2000, finishing second in American League MVP voting.
As much as our instincts may lead us to reduce these guys to unfeeling Sports Robots, these are people who go through personal struggles just like the rest of us. And whether you earn $25 million or $25 thousand a year, losing your family hurts just as much.
And whether Howard continues to play baseball here or elsewhere in 2015, he's always been a solid dude and hopefully he can move on and find happiness.