Ron Costello

Saturday, August 1, 2015

He's Handled It Like a Champion

Three left.

Left from a Phillies era of baseball hysteria, a spirited frenzy many of us may not see again in our lifetime.

Carlos Ruiz, an offensive shell of what he once was. His numbers indicate this could be his last season in red pinstripes, but with $8.5 million guaranteed next season, he could hang around to mentor and teach new Phillies catching prodigy, Jorge Alfaro.

And what a great mentor and teacher Chooch would be. The 22-year-old Mr. Alfaro would be most fortunate.

Chase Utley is another shell. His numbers, let's face it, say he's lost it. Lost the power to drive the ball and saddled with an embarrassing below the mendoza line average.

Like many great players on the decline, Utley refuses to believe it. Round after round in the cage, stretching and running in the outfield — day in and day out — taking grounder after grounder during infield, work, work, work, and one day soon, he thinks, he'll wake up and it will all come back.

But it never does. Numbers speak in thunderous tones and without passion in this game we call baseball.

The third piece of the trio, affectionately called the Big Piece, can still go yard. Pitchers carefully work the count, feeding him a diet of breaking balls, keeping the heater away from his sweet spot, where those big arms and wrists snap around in lighting speed — creating that sound when hickory and ash crush a 97 mile an hour fastball.

But pitchers make mistakes and the Piece can still make them pay. This season, he's made them pay 18 times.

Coming down the stretch of this week's trade deadline, the Mets — stocking up with an eye on the post — traded for Detroit's slugging outfielder, Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes will go in the middle of the Mets lineup because this season he has 18 home runs.


Point being, at this juncture in the season, 18 dingers is a respected number.

Ryan Howard has certainly had much professional discomfort at the end of his career: devasting injuries, his GM's public criticism, family finances, barely able to run the bases, his numbers dropping off a table, all of which brought the city's national bird, the Philly boo bird, down on his broad shoulders.

But...we can all take lessons from how he handled it. He didn't cuss out the press or refuse to speak, or write in the dirt, or show up late, or stop signing autographs, or sulk, or demand to be traded.

No, he sucked it up and brought his game back, slowly yes, but  surely.

Eighteen home runs on August first is a salute to Howard's determination and steadfastness.

It's a salute to the pride and spirit of one damn good man.

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1 comment:

  1. Great to see the Future of Phillies baseball pound the hated Braves