The Ryan Howard Farewell Weekend brought out the best in fans, the Phillies and Howard himself. Sure, we had a tumultuous marriage over the past five years. But, at the end, everyone united to toast the earlier greatness. "We had some good runs, didn't we?" Howard said before his final game Sunday.
We sure did. Five division titles. Two trips to the World Series. “World Bleepin’ Champions.” Howard, lest you forget, averaged 50 homers, 102 runs scored and 143 RBI from 2006-09. No one else in red pinstripes ever approached that kind of four-season run.
He left to a standing ovation and now must decide whether to play on elsewhere. My logic says he may attract a spring training invitation. But his limitations — can’t run, can’t field, can’t hit lefties — will keep even an AL team from awarding Howard a roster spot.
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He’ll end up a player remembered for wearing just a Phillies uniform in his career. And that’s not a bad thing.
So long Simmons, for now …
As we waved goodbye to Howard, we were poised to go nuts over Ben Simmons. Early reports had the Sixers lottery prize flashing brilliance in camp. And then …
The break in Simmons’ foot bone could keep him out three months, according to early reports. After that, of course, he’ll need to work into playing shape. Perhaps he could return for the last 25 games or so.
I’d take that. Except there’s already talk about shelving Simmons for the entire season — even if he is able to return. The argument goes that the Sixers have too much invested in Simmons’ future to risk playing him in another noncompetitive season for the franchise.
Really? Hey, no one wants to risk rushing back Simmons. But if he can play 20 games at season’s end to give pro sports most-patient fan base some hope for the future — please, let’s do it. No more artificial delays.
The Eagles are pretty darn good
The Eagles early bye gave us the chance to watch the rest of the NFL last weekend. The fair conclusion? There aren’t many teams better than Doug Pederson’s crew.
Carolina and Arizona — two early favorites — look way down this season. The Falcons are 3-1, but allowing 31 points a game. And the rest of the NFC East is a swamp of mediocrity. For now, I’ll place the Seahawks, Vikings and Packers ahead of the Eagles in their conference. That’s it.
Yes, it’s early. And we’ve learned from recent history that good NFL teams are often slow out of the gate and gel in cold weather. But the ceiling keeps rising for the Eagles. They now enter a five-game stretch that includes four on the road. Three wins in that stretch — and you can start dreaming about a playoff game or two in January.
Kudos to Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth for his new mask honoring the late Ed Snider. It’s a classy tribute, with pictures of the Flyers founder and the words, “A Flyer Forever.” And it’s a great touch as the franchise enters its 50th season.
Neuvirth has been largely a backup through his eight-year career. But he outplayed Steve Mason in the regular season and certainly the playoffs. I’d love to see him get the chance to start for this young team.