Ryan Howard launched his seventh career grand slam last Monday night in St. Louis. The bomb propelled the Phillies to a 6-1 win over the Cardinals and kept them neck and neck with the Marlins in the tight NL East.
But the slam also put Howard in unique company—something this 29-year-old superstar should be accustomed to by now.
Howard tied Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt for most grand slams as a member of the Phillies (seven).
Think about that for a second.
Schmidt launched 548 career home runs over nearly 17 years. Only seven of those were grand slams. Michael Jack also knocked in 1,595 RBI.
Howard now has 182 career home runs in just over four seasons. The 2005 Rookie of the Year was already the fastest to 100 home runs in MLB history. His 518 RBI are nearly one third Schmidt's total amount already. He's on a pace that, should he play the same 17 years Schmidt did, that he could hit an astounding 728 home runs.
A lot can happen between now and then, just ask Ken Grifffey, Jr.
There are more parallels between Howard and Schmidt:
- Both are World Series Champions (1980 for Schmidt, 2008 for Howard).
- Both have been National League MVP's (1980, 1983, 1986 for Schmidt, 2006 for Howard).
- Both have Silver Slugger awards (Schmidt had six, Howard has one).
- And both have racked up the strikeouts. Schmidt is seventh all-time, with 1,883 strikeouts (oddly enough, the Phillies were founded in 1883). Howard has 717.
While that last one is probably a distinction Howard would rather not share, here is one that he should share:
Schmidt played every game of his career as a Phillie.
The Phillies' brass, including Pat Gillick and new GM Reuben Amaro, have done a nice job locking up players like Chase Utley and World Series MVP Cole Hamels to long-term deals, effectively "locking up" the young core of the team.
Howard needs to be included in that core.
The Phillies have come a long way from their frugal past, which was best illustrated by the infamous "small market" comment by Bill Giles. But their handling of Howard has been curious.
They learned their lesson the hard way when Howard beat the Phillies for a record $10 million arbitration award before the 2008 season. This offseason, the club bought out the rest of Howard's arbitration years.
Let's just say Ryan can afford a few more $5 foot-longs. $54 million over three years goes a long way.
But what happens after 2011?
The good news for the Phillies is that they have time to wait.
And see if Howard continues to deliver.
But if the past four seasons are any indication of what is to come, Howard will be owed a lot of money.
And he will be worth every penny.
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