by Jack Kerwin | ydkjack1.gmail.com
Hard to believe, but …
Philly sports fans tend to miss out on a lot. If it happens outside the city limits, heck, if it happens outside of a few blocks’ radius rammed up against I-95 before the highway escapes southbound for such lovely locales as Tinicum Township and Chester, Pa., the masses pretty much miss it … or dismiss it.
Even when it comes to players. Especially when it comes to players.
Indeed, save for the uber-hype surrounding a true star such as LeBron James or a rising one with a stretch-the-parameters-of-reality “local” connection such as Mike Trout being too hard to ignore, that’s pretty much the deal when it comes to recognizing individual greatness in these parts if it ain’t happening in these parts.
Kinda sad, really. Kinda stupid, actually.
Think about it. Here we are, still debating whether or not broken-down, 36-year-old Ryan Howard should be starting for the Phillies and continuing to rack up those 0-for-4, two-strikeout nights anymore because now-ancient history says he could pop one at some point … while the team makes a rare trip to Detroit for an inter-league series against the Tigers and – take a seat for this one, folks – the greatest hitter of this generation.
Not for nothing, but you got any freakin’ clue just how phenomenal Miguel Cabrera is, and has been for more than a decade?
Didn’t think so …
The dude supplanted Albert Pujols as best batsman in the game five years ago. Yeah, that Albert Pujols – the one-time, longtime .330-35-130 machine who served as the “comparable” for Howard in his heyday, not to mention his big payday.
While Big Al saw his Ruthian path veer sideways the moment he took a full step past 30, initially failing to hit .300 and drive in 100 runs for the first time in his career before sliding into the classic all-or-nothing power hitter on his last big contract, Miggy has been a miraculous display of consistency.
Now 33, he’s coming off his fourth American League batting title in the last five seasons, and thanks to a series-opening 3-for-3 effort against Howard and Co. he’s up to .327 in this one and looking every bit the part of a repeat champ. Again.
Oh, yeah, don’t forget about the power, either. He smacked a pair of homers Monday night, giving him 11 in 2016 and 419 in his incredibly overlooked career.
For those hopelessly clinging to Howard’s past, that second total puts the Detroit corner infielder 64 ahead of your hero. He also trumps in hits, runs, doubles, triples, RBIs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Considerably.
Essentially, Cabrera is everything Phillies fans like to claim Howard as being throughout his career – which, in reality, is laughable. Ironically, the Big Piece had no peer in his short-lived prime, a four-year tour de force from 2006 through 2009 that was positively chilling in showing how destructive a power hitter can be as he averaged – that’s averaged – 50 homers and 143 RBIs per season, numbers that neither Pujols or Cabrera ever achieved in a single campaign.
But greatness, true greatness, aces the test of time in baseball, and that’s where Cabrera tops all nowadays, from young guns such as Trout to – gulp – even Hall of Fame givens like Pujols.
At this point, Miggy already has caught, and passed, the latter in career batting average (.321 to .310), on-base percentage (.399 to 395) and is closing fast with slugging percentage (trailing .577 to .561).
Howard? His numbers – .260, .346 and .516 – look pedestrian by comparison.
So, take off the blinders for once, Philly fans. Focus on your team, for sure, but while sitting back and soaking things in from the tube, take a minute to appreciate an all-timer either tonight or tomorrow afternoon.
Otherwise, you’ll be missing out. Again.
HARD TO BELIEVE 2
Did you know Ryan Howard has only registered one season with a .300 batting average, one season with a .400 on-base percentage and one season with a .600 slugging percentage?
Amazingly, he managed to squeeze all three of those into the same season – 2006, when at the still-spry age of 26 he belted 58 homers, knocked in 149 runs and scored 104 while racking up .313, .425 and .659 across the aforementioned board.
All are staples for measuring, and comparing, greatness.
With them, the Phillies’ slugger comes up incredibly short when stacked up against the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and David Ortiz, all contemporaries to some degree.
Check it out:
Pujols has 10 seasons with a .300 BA, nine with a .400 OBP and seven with a .600 SLG.
Miggy goes 10, six and three on those, Fielder two, four and two, and Ortiz, the oldest of the bunch by far at age 40, checks in with six, four and five ever since 2004, the point when Howard arrived in the majors, and, get this, the Boston icon is on pace to clear all of them yet again in this, his final season.
Ortiz actually leads the majors currently in slugging at a .684 clip.
Howard, meanwhile, will be lucky to bat half of .300 this season, which, mercifully, should be his final one in Philly.