Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ryan Howard: The New Hotness

Normally, I wouldn't interrupt my College Football Saturday for any other sports, but Ryan Howard's 55th and 56th home runs have got me energized, to say the least.

This has become (or will quickly become, with each new HR) the biggest storyline in MLB this season. More than the Wild Card races. More than the Marlins' overachievement. Way more than the Red Sox missing the playoffs.

And to think, everyone was thinking that Bonds' "Chasing Aaron" would be the storyline of the year. (At least I did.)

No: It's Howard's "Chasing Maris." Because here's where it gets interesting: If/when Howard tops 61 home runs, there is a VERY intriguing debate -- over the soul of baseball, if you think about it:

Is Howard the REAL single-season home run champ?

Consider his competition:

Bonds? You all know why that's suspicious.

McGwire or Sosa? They went from "saving" baseball in 1998 to ruining it (in McGwire's case) and evaporating from it (in Sosa's). Both are totally tainted by the 'roid era.

Ahh, but Howard is pure. Or seems pure. The big boy certainly doesn't look like he NEEDS steroids, and I suggested earlier this week that he volunteer to take every test ever invented -- and even volunteer to take new experimental tests that are totally unsanctioned.

If only to prove without doubt that he is clean, positioning him in a debate with the other guys where they can't touch him. Think McGwire is willing to swear to being clean? We know his answer. Sosa? Please. Bonds? No way.

Obviously, this is a very messy issue: I'm of the mind that we're stuck with the stats we've got -- you can't dismiss Bonds or Mac or Sosa and trigger an impossible slippery slope of rewriting history and making judgments that no one is equipped to make. Hell, why pick on those three? Everyone was doing it.

In the end, I think it's up to the individual fans to decide how they judge any stat -- particularly stats from the Steroids Era. If you want to dismiss Bonds or Mac, that's your right as a fan.

If you want to embrace Ryan Howard as the TRUE Home Run Champ, that's your right as a fan.

I just wanted to flag that you'll be hearing a LOT of commentary from baseball experts, ex-players, bloggers, the sports media, whoever over the next three weeks about whether Ryan Howard should be considered more "legitimate" than Bonds, Mac or Sosa, even though they may technically end the season with more home runs.

Excuse me for kind of thinking this through as I write the post. But it looks like the debate centers around the theme of "Legitimacy."

And right now, Ryan Howard has it. Oh, does he have it.

-- D.S.


Anonymous said...

From Rocky to 'Invinceble' to T.O. to A.I. and even Lindros, Philly has ALWAYS been a sports town where the spotlight shines (good, and bad) on individuals, rather than teams. It's a perfect place for Ryan Howard to be playing.

Jake C said...

Howard would be the HR champ if there wasn't that small stat of Bonds' 73.

It all about assumptions...we're assuming Howard is clean, while we continue (without proof) to believe Bonds, et al, are dirty. Not to mention the plain and simple fact, it is NOT only the hitters who used. Just look at the mediocre pitching that's come from previous dominate players throwing near 100.

And, as I always say, PEDs don't make you have better hand-eye coordination, teach you to hit a curve, quicken your simply allows you to heal faster and work out STILL have to put the work in yourself.

Anonymous said...

Ryan Howard representing Missouri State University.......Could this small school known for Steve Alford's first run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA'a as a coach produce the "Pure" single season HR champ.

Anonymous said...

I'll put it out there like this....

Ryan Howard? Home Run Champ? NO.

People's Champ? YES.

Howard actually has me following baseball again. Its fun to watch him get up there... gut hanging out, pointing his bat at the pitcher.. daring him to hang a curve ball or try and get a heater in under his hands...

Even though I'm skeptical (you always have to be these days) I damn sure wouldn't expect him to go through some rigorious testing suite just because he's successful. How is that fair? Its not like he went from a lean, speedy guy who played at 145 to a freaking barrel chested "American Gladiators" extra like Bonds did.. Someone mentioned yesterday that he's always been a big guy. Him and Ortiz both look like they are out there having a good time and staying loose.. and thats good for baseball, not the chase on some record that might be bullshit anyway..

Anonymous said...

I'll believe he's clean after he takes a public test.

And Jake C is a fag.

Anonymous said...

I am personally rooting for Ryan Howard to break Maris' record (yep, Maris') even though I dislike the Phils. Why? Because it's going to be fun to hear all the debates about it. Of course, with all his recent HRs, I'm worried he'll passed Bonds, which would make the debate meaningless. Just hit 62! ... PS for Dan: NEW HAMPSHIRE?!?!?

Unknown said...

You can't have it both ways.

Either provide proof that Bonds, McGuire and Sosa took PEDs during their home run seasons so their records can be expunged, or accept their achievements.

Everyone was asleep at the wheel regarding PEDs, and our punishment for that is doubt about the record holders. The record is 73 until it can be proven it shouldn't be.

Gary said...

This isn't Ryan Howard related, but this Dan Shanoff called it in his Quickie a while back...Northwestern losing to Division-IAA New Hampshire.

Don't feel too bad UNH beat Rutgers last season and the Scarlet Knights still made a bowl, so it's not all bad

Anonymous said...

The man is bad. More than any other single athlete, he's keeping Phillies' interest alive in Philly as the Eagles' season begins. We're not quite sure what to make of him. Such a compact, lethal swing. Such an ability to adjust to NL pitchers. Such a placid attitude on the surface. Not sure that either the Phils- or the wider sport- deserve him.

Anonymous said...

73 is the record.

and Bonds will still get in the Hall before Pete Rose. How's that for the former America's pasttime?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dan. I know you so badly want this to be a thing, but most people revert to first grade to answer this question: 73 is more than 61. Period. Everything else is extraneous (unless MLB goes and strikes the records from the books--which they won't). Also, I can't believe you of all people are leading the "THESE guys are legit now" parade. Come on Dan.