Ryan Howard thanks Phillies, fans in emotional pregame speech

Ryan Howard thanks Phillies, fans in emotional pregame speech

Ryan Howard did his best to hold back the emotion throughout his entire “farewell tour,” but it finally caught up with him during a moving tribute before his final game with the Phillies on Sunday (see Instant Replay).

Howard’s voice cracked and he welled up as he addressed the crowd of 36,935 at Citizens Bank Park.

“I'm just a laid-back cat from St. Louis out here trying to play ball,” Howard told the crowd, which stood and showered him with appreciation throughout the tribute. “That's it. It's been fun, man, these last 12 years. You guys all made it possible.

“The Phillies, I want to thank you guys for taking a kid in the fifth round out of, well now it's Missouri State, but Southwest Missouri State University and giving me the opportunity.

“This city as a whole, man. I want to thank you because I've grown with all of you. My family has grown with all of you.” 

Howard paused to collect himself.

“On behalf of my teammates, I want to thank you guys for coming out and supporting us all year,” he said. “I know it's been up and down and crazy, but these guys have really worked their butts off to try to be the best that they can be each day and each night on this field. To my teammates, I salute you.”

Howard concluded his remarks to the crowd.

“I don't really have too much more than that,” he said. “This is great. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.”

The “this” that Howard referred to was the entire pre-game ceremony, which was brilliantly performed. Howard’s greatest moments were captured on a moving video tribute that was produced by team videographer Dan Stephenson. David Montgomery and John Middleton, both members of the Phillies ownership group, presented Howard with a hand-painted first baseman’s mitt depicting Howard’s image and listing his accomplishments, from National League Most Valuable Player to World Series Champion.

A bronze plaque was unveiled by Howard’s son, Darian. The plaque recognizes Howard’s club record 58 homers in 2006 and will be placed in the spot where the ball landed in the left field seats. Howard was also given a plaque from the previous record holder, Mike Schmidt, making the presentation.

The Phillies will not pick up the option on Howard’s contract for 2017 and he will be eligible for free agency later this fall. He was the last member of the 2008 World Series championship team still on the club.

Howard took out the lineup card before the game. He started at first base and batted fifth. He went hitless in four at-bats (the Phillies beat the Mets, 5-2) and left the game in the ninth inning to a standing ovation and hugs from his teammates. A message flashed on the video board. It read: “Thank you, Ryan.”

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.