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Ryan Howard wins NL MVP


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PHILADELPHIA -- The sheer force of Ryan Howard's gargantuan home runs cannot accurately be measured in speed or total distance, only by the gasps from those watching such a spectacle.

The Baseball Writers Association of America collectively gasped, then stood and applauded on Monday, selecting the Phillies first baseman as the National League's Most Valuable Player.

Howard becomes the second player in Major League Baseball history to win the Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards in consecutive seasons, following Cal Ripken in 1982 and 1983. Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) have the even sweeter distinction of winning both awards in their first seasons.

Still, Howard had a calendar year that he'll never forget. The start came in January, when Howard was officially presented with his Rookie of the Year Award at the Baseball Writers dinner in New York City. His first full season included his first All-Star appearance, where he slammed his way to a victory in the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby.

He added 30 more homers in the second half of the season, shattering Mike Schmidt's franchise record of 48 along the way. In September, Schmidt marveled, "I've never seen anyone in the Major Leagues who is treating the game almost like an oversized kid in the Little League World Series. All he's got to do is get a ball out over the plate and it's a home run."

Now, Howard is the first Phillie to be named MVP since Schmidt won the last of his three awards in 1986.

Howard likely would have become the sixth player to reach 60 homers in a season, but pitchers stopped throwing him strikes, especially in September. That resulted in just two homers in his final 23 games.

The fear Howard evoked in opposing managers can best be illustrated in an Aug. 11 game against Cincinnati, when the slugger was walked three times in extra innings. The final time came in the bottom of the 14th, to load the bases with no outs.

Yes, you read that correctly. Reds manager Jerry Narron would rather have the winning run 90 feet away with no outs than dare challenge Howard.

"When he comes to the plate, he's already in scoring position," Narron remarked.

Howard's season of 58 homers and 149 RBIs is made more impressive by his .313 batting average. The award also signals that the player's team doesn't have to make the playoffs in order to be considered the Most Valuable Player. The Phillies had a better record than the World Series champion Cardinals, but finished second in the NL East to the Mets and three games back of the Dodgers in the NL Wild Card race.

Howard followed up his rookie season with an even more brilliant sophomore campaign. He tied for the 10th best single-season mark for homers, and his 58 were the most by a second-year player. His 149 RBIs were the second-most for a sophomore, behind Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.

Howard's legend began well before becoming a fifth-round pick in 2001 out of Southwest Missouri State. People in the St. Louis suburb where he grew up still remember the 400-foot home run he smacked as a 12-year-old -- and the Red Lobster across the parking lot likely still has the dent to prove it.

Nervous in his first callup in May 2005, Howard stuck the second time around, when he was recalled in July. Now, he's just being unfair.

The MVP is his crowning individual achievement, trumping his Rookie of the Year ('05), Home Run Derby win ('06), and earning MVP of the Japan All-Star Series.

Another sterling performance came on June 20 against the Yankees, when he hit three long balls and drove in seven runs in a loss. One of those drives christened the upper deck at Citizens Bank Park and clanged off a seat that now bears a white "H" to mark the spot. It is the only ball hit up there in the park's three-year history.

"Yeah, I hit that one pretty good," Howard recalled at the end of the season. "I hope there are more like it."

If there are, more awards will likely follow.

The race between Howard and Pujols seemed like a toss-up to me. I'm glad Howard took it, although I am a Cards fan.

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Howard had an incredible season, but this is BS. Ryan Howard isn't very valuable. If the Phillies can miss the playoffs with him, then they can obviously miss the playoffs without him. The award is not the Best Player Award, it's the Most Valuable Player, and Pujols is clearly more valuable. If you can't even make the playoffs, how valuable are you? Not very. The award should have went to Pujols IMO.

-E.A.R.

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Howard had an incredible season, but this is BS. Ryan Howard isn't very valuable. If the Phillies can miss the playoffs with him, then they can obviously miss the playoffs without him. The award is not the Best Player Award, it's the Most Valuable Player, and Pujols is clearly more valuable. If you can't even make the playoffs, how valuable are you? Not very. The award should have went to Pujols IMO.

-E.A.R.

You do know that the Phillies won more games than the Cardinals. The Phillies had a better regular season than the Cardinals did and the Cardinals won the NL by default and still nearly gave it away. The Phillies were dead in the water and in the middle of a firesale. Howard carried that team back into contention. He had virtually no protection behind him, recieved the Bonds treatment all September and still had one of the most dominant offensive seasons in history. If Pujols had won it I wouldn't have been bothered by it, but playoffs alone do not an MVP make.

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I could care less about who made the playoffs or not. That's always been an inconsistant BS reason to screw one player or another out of the award. Standings may matter a bit, but playoffs should not.

That said, Howard's not a bad choice, but he is the wrong choice.

Most people aren't recognizing it, but Howard batted in a much stronger lineup than Pujols did for most of the season.

But the biggest thing is that in all your "clutch" stats -- close and late, RISP, RISP w/ 2 outs, game winning rbi, etc. -- Pujols dominated Howard. Pujols were great, Howards were generally pretty poor.

And Pujols was close enough to Howard in the big three stats (which clearly is all the voters looked at) that those "clutch" stats should have been the difference.

Oh, and by the way, Albert is a gold glover at first base.

I agreed with Howard getting the Silver Slugger, but I don't agree with MVP.

I said Howard could be the one guy to beat Albert that wouldn't tick me off -- I said I'd just feel they got it wrong, but I guess I can't help but being a bit ticked off.

Oh well, Ryan Howard DID have one heck of a season. Congrats to the St. Louis kid on getting the award.

I'll just go with the Albert got the ultimate prize to cool me down, heh.

Oh, and yes, Albert Pujols can save the world and blah, blah, blah, I'm a homer, so regardless of facts my analysis means nothing, blah, blah blah, Albert Pujols is Superman, blah, blah, blah.

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Also, I just read a good point on another message board.

Likely David Ortiz will not be given the AL award because he DH's.

Even though he dominates in HRs and RBIs and hits for a decent average.

So basically, he's the same player as Howard except that Ortiz actually does have good "clutch" numbers and Howard plays in the field.

But if Ortiz was in the field, his defense would be about equal to that of Howard. Ortiz just happens to in the AL while Howard in the NL is forced into the field.

Why in the NL are the voters overwhelmed with power while in the AL they're happy to look at all around game? (Mind you, no AL player has the all around game the Pujols does, so picking power in Ortiz might actually be the right choice there.)

Just doesn't seem to make sense.

I mean, I believe Ortiz loses some value because he doesn't play defense, but nobody else in the AL really comes close in offense. And in the NL, it is not like Howard's defense is really of any value, while Albert comes close in offense (and possibly surpasses him with the "clutch" stats) and offers gold glove defense.

Just seems to me like if Howard wins in the NL, Ortiz should win in the AL, but I don't think that will happen.

Any other thoughts on this?

I just saw that on another board and it does seem kinda strange.

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Howard had the best stats this year. He was an absolute moster at the plate and without him the Phils' would have been in the basement, and not in the playoff hunt till the end of the year. He deserves it.

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Well, we all have to remember that the voting was based on regular season performance. I don't have a problem with Howard winning the award. I think you can make a case for both of them. Remember that the Phillies were thought to be finish when they traded Abreu and Lidle to the Yankess? Howard stepped it up in August, but did fade in September. Pujols had a great start, got injured, came back and contributed to the Cards success, but let's not forget that the Cards almost collapsed at the end of the season. Had the Cards lost the division, would we be still talking about Pujols as MVP?

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Well, we all have to remember that the voting was based on regular season performance. I don't have a problem with Howard winning the award. I think you can make a case for both of them. Remember that the Phillies were thought to be finish when they traded Abreu and Lidle to the Yankess? Howard stepped it up in August, but did fade in September. Pujols had a great start, got injured, came back and contributed to the Cards success, but let's not forget that the Cards almost collapsed at the end of the season. Had the Cards lost the division, would we be still talking about Pujols as MVP?

It's all legit speculation, but Pujols was quite possibly the sole reason they didn't fully collapse. He was the only one consistantly contributing in those final weeks.

I just fail to see how Pujols clutch stats and gold glove defense were not factored in against Howards poor clutch stats and poor defense.

And I re-emphasize that the Phillies lineup was much stronger than the Cardinals.

Like Pat said, I'll take the ring any day, but they shouldn't have to be mutually exclusive.

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Frankly, either player could have won it and nobody could have a legitimate complaint. To think for one second that one player clearly deserved it over the other is just being a blind homer - on either side. To be actually upset to the point of complaining is just immature.

If anything, this is one season where I think a tie would have been acceptable.

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