Ryan Howard and the Phillies clearly do not see eye-to-eye on money. Prior to the start of last season Howard was reportedly upset the Phillies failed to offer him a salary in excess of one million dollars following his winning the MVP award. Instead, they offered him $900,000, a figure that represented an enormous raise while tying him (with Albert Pujols) for the highest salary every paid to a player with less than two years major league experience. Still, many thought, including this observer, the Phillies could have upped the price to the magic number if only to keep their big guy happy. Gestures, alas, are not the Phillies' strong suit.
This winter, Howard, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time, and the Phillies are far apart on money again, Howard reportedly seeking $10 million and the team countering with $7 million. If the two sides even discussed a long-term deal, no one is acknowledging the conversation took place. Meanwhile, the Phillies have previously signed some of their other core players to long-term deals of varying lengths. Speculation is rampant in these parts that should the negotiations proceed to the arbitration panel Howard will win his case. After all, he won the ROY and MVP in successive seasons and followed those with 48 home runs and 136 rbi's in his third year. No one in baseball has hit more long balls and driven in more runs during that stretch, and if you think the paying public doesn't come to see long balls, what are the origins of the fuss over steroids about?
If the arbiters do side with Howard he may very well be content to sign a series of one year deals after that until he reaches free agency. If things get that far, he's gone for sure. For their part, the Phillies seem content to offer Howard short-term money that puts him at or near the top of his category each time negotiations get underway but not more. They just don't get it. This is the guy people come to see. Yes, we love the way Chase plays the game. Sure, Jimmy is the spark plug. But no one wants to be standing in line at the mens' room when Howard comes to bat. After all, how many chances do we earthlings get to watch moon shots?
But the Phillies just don't seem to get it. They don't have to pay Howard the [admittedly crazy] money he deserves and until now they've shown absolutely no willingness to do so. Howard felt disrespected during last season's negotiations and he doesn't feel any better about his treatment during this one. Some guys put those things behind them. Howard won't. By my estimation, the Phillies have about one or two more weeks before the poison the atmosphere forever. They just don't get it and shortly they won't be given another chance to figure things out.