The reports of Ryan Howard's death have been greatly exaggerated.
Beerleaguer: We're long overdue for a red-hot Howard thread, but there haven't been any good ways to frame it. Last week we learned from CSNPhilly.com that he's been working out, even during his honeymoon. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. suggested he may not be exactly 100 percent for the start of spring training, but is "getting closer."
Beerleaguer's fickle comments thread doesn't encourage wishful thinking, particularly when it comes to Howard. It started, as it usually does, the moment he signed his extension. And since his Achilles, readers have been quick to write off a 33-year-old, gifted slugger, one who muscled out 14 long balls and 56 RBIs in 71 gimpy games, one who should be physically ready to go in April, one who, theoretically, has some catching up to do.
Most readers would be shocked if he made another All-Star team. Pessimism and the universal hatred of Michael Martinez. These are the ties that bind us.
Whether you agree with the process or not, we're talking about a guy who either won Rookie of the Year or finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in all seven of the seasons in which he was playing on both legs.
Back to the question, is 40 possible? The last time it happened was 2009 when he hit 45 and was surrounded by a killer lineup in its prime. And if one were to identify the biggest non-physical reason for Howard's steady decline, it might be the removal of Jayson Werth's composite 63 homers and 72 doubles between '09-10 and the hodgepodge they've shoved into the five hole ever since.
For Howard to hit 40 again, he may need to be better than he's ever been. Whether it's a product of overexposure, or the lack complimentary parts, or both, pitchers have learned to isolate and extinguish him by rarely throwing anything true. Unless Darin Ruf becomes Pat Burrell, or the Phils have another trick up their sleeves this winter, it's going to be an uphill battle for Howard to get his pitch.
Still, a Beerleaguer can dream, right? You don't get to 300 homers and 920 RBIs in nine seasons by accident.
Or, as Beerleaguer and the greater blogosphere often puts it, Howard totally hit 300 homers and 920 RBIs by accident.