No one has taken more heat in the press and blogosphere lately than Ryan Howard. I've piled on with the best of them.
Howard's return from a major season-ending injury (literally!) was perhaps premature as he clearly hobbled in his debut in July of this year. Since then every expert (or at least several thousand of them) has postulated his/her theory as to the source of his anemic batting average and utter futility versus lefties.
Some have argued his hasn't regained sufficient strength in his injured leg, the source of much of his power and clearly an aspect of any batter's rhythm. Others have wondered if his frustrations were a clear sign of his inevitable decline.Still others have put forth the big-man-always-struggles-more-to-recover-his-health theory, one which likely has the least scientific evidence behind it. Many have worried he is playing too much too soon because the Phils' alleged brain trust still think they have a chance to make the post-season.
Through it all the faithful and scribes have fretted over the huge contract Howard signed a few years ago, which still has three years at $25 million per to go.
Despite all this hand-wringing and brow furrowing, Howard has been knocking in runs at a clip more or less in keeping with his historic average. It's literally been a case of feast or famine for the Big Piece.
Last night, he silenced all the critics...for a moment...by stroking a game-winning home run with two outs in the ninth inning. Prior to that the Phils did all their scoring in the 3-2 win in the first inning when Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a home run, the 43rd time J-Roll has done so. The Phils managed only one more hit until Howard's big one in the intervening eight innings.
But it was enough.