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Ryan Howard's legacy should be safe

Ryan Howard has had a difficult last three seasons, and the next two don't figure to get much better. But don't let that be his legacy.

Mitchell Leff

Ryan Howard is worried that, when he has retired and is done playing this game, this is what you'll remember most about him.

He's worried you'll remember this.

2014 -0.3 .220 .301 .377 .157 17 28.2 .298
2013 0.5 .266 .319 .465 .199 11 30.0 .334
2012 -1.1 .219 .295 .423 .204 14 33.9 .303
Career Avg .266 .356 .531 .264 32.6 27.9 .371

On Tuesday night, after driving in the team's only two runs, including a first inning homer and the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 15th inning in the Phils' 2-1 over Houston, Howard lamented that people, fans and media alike, are too fixated on his current struggles.

"You know, I think you guys forget what I’ve done," Howard said. "You guys look at what’s going on right now. People forget what I’ve done."

Obviously, Howard's comments were made in the course of describing the events, talking about being happy he came through in the clutch after Chase Utley was walked intentionally in front of him. But even with that, those comments seem to indicate an annoyance on the part of Howard that his legacy is slipping away.

It's understandable Howard would feel this way. After all, the man did win an NL MVP award, an NLCS MVP Award, was the fastest player ever to 200 home runs, and owns the Phillies single-season home run record. This is what he did from 2006-2011.

Ryan Howard 262 .274 .369 .559 .929 796 1094 505
Albert Pujols 244 .325 .424 .613 1.037 708 360 574
Prince Fielder 228 .282 .391 .541 .932 646 762 564
Adam Dunn 207 .240 .367 .491 .858 548 1076 603
Mark Teixeira 207 .281 .378 .527 .905 677 679 508
David Ortiz 201 .284 .390 .554 .944 640 656 534
Alex Rodriguez 200 .291 .387 .546 .933 667 651 435

For a good stretch of time, he was the most dangerous slugger in the game. Ryan Howard was also responsible for some of the greatest postseason moments in team history, such as the "Just Get Me To The Plate Boys," game-tying, two-run double in Game 4 of the 2009 NLDS against the Rockies.

Or his two-homer game in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series.

Or the last truly great postseason moment of his career, his blast in Game 1 of the 2011 NLDS against St. Louis.

He's also the man who did this on a regular basis.

Ryan Howard's legacy should be safe. When he retires, Phillies fans will remember the great things he did until his body and his age betrayed him.

It has been said Phillies fans go through seven stages of "star appreciation" (not sure where this originated from, but the link we found was here).

  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

And despite much of that being true, the fact is that smart fans know how to take a player's entire career into perspective.

But Howard has to understand that we cannot allow past performance to cloud our judgment now. The reality that he is simply not a good baseball player anymore may be inconvenient for him, but it is the truth. Only Cleveland's Nick Swisher has worse numbers for a first baseman this year, and all that must be taken into account when judging him now.

Of course, everyone would love it if Howard discovered something over these last two months. He had another solid game at the plate in the Phils' 10-3 win over the Astros on Wednesday night. But even if he continues to stumble for the rest of this season, it doesn't take away from his legacy.

He is one of the main heroes from the franchise's second world championship team, and one of the leaders of the greatest run of sustained success in Phillies history.

So Ryan, rest easy. Your legacy is safe. No one will ever forget what you did in a Phils uniform, even if the criticism of your current play makes it seem the opposite is true.

You are one of the greats, a future Wall-of-Famer. And any Phillies fan who thinks different doesn't have a clue what they're talking about.