Another member of the 2008 World Series team is officially retiring.
But not just any player.
Ryan Howard. The Big Piece. 2006 MVP and Home Run Derby champion, 2005 Rookie of the Year and all-around crusher of baseballs announced his retirement Tuesday in an emotional farewell to Phillies fans in a Players' Tribune article. It's definitely worth the read.
Howard, nearly two years after his last appearance in the majors, relived his fascinating career in the article; from his long trek through the minor leagues en route to becoming one of the most prolific hitters in Phillies history. From the height of his career, the 2008 World Series, to his rapid decline following a ruptured Achilles to end the 2011 season, Howard's career "had some interesting bookends," he writes.
"But in between? During the heart of it all?
I’ll tell you what — it was a dream come true."
In total, Howard ends his career with a .258 batting average, 382 homers (second on Phillies' all-time list) and 1194 RBI (third).
Howard burst onto the major league scene as a late season call-up in 2004. It didn't take him long to assert himself as one of the most feared hitters in baseball, swatting 22 home runs in his first full season, while capturing the Rookie of the Year award in 2005.
And then things really took off.
58 homers, 149 RBI in 2006 — one of the greatest seasons in Phillies history — beating out future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols for the MVP.
That was followed by seasons of 47, 48 and 45 home runs as Howard cemented himself as the top power hitter in baseball.
But then came the well-documented downfall. Howard was deservedly handed a five-year, $125 million contract in 2010. But then that Achilles injury derailed everything.
The sight of Howard stumbling out of the batters' box and collapsing to the ground to end the Phillies' 2011 NLDS series vs. the Cardinals is something most fans will never forget.
The turning point in Howard's career and the symbolic end of the Phillies' stranglehold on the National League.
Whether warranted or not, Howard's contract — with his play and health in decline — was an easy target for fans' hate, as the team quickly faded from the top and slid into obscurity.
But now that Howard is calling it a career, it's time to right that wrong and remember Howard as an all-time Phillies great. A legend.
The power, that long, sweeping swing. At his peak, there was no one like him. And there may not be for a while.