The Phillies will regret the Ryan Howard extension

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howardryan.jpgRyan Howard is making $19 million this year and will get $20M in 2011.  Now, courtesy of the extension he just signed, he’ll make $20 million in 2012 and 2013 as well, and $25M per year for 2014, 2015 and 2016. There’s a team option for 2017 at $23M with $10M buyout. He also gets a limited no-trade guarantee, the parameters of which are not yet known.

This is madness.

Don’t get me wrong: I like Ryan Howard. You like Ryan Howard. We all like Ryan Howard. He’s a great player. He’s already been an integral part of one World Series championship team and another pennant winning team. He hits the ball a long way. He’s worked hard to improve both his conditioning and his defense. He’s, by all accounts, everything you want in a player when it comes to demeanor, leadership, maturity, etc.

But he’s also — at best — the third most valuable player on the Phillies, and reasonable arguments can be made that he’s not even that high. He’s big and he’s slow and despite that extra work he’s put in, it’s more likely than not that he’s going to age poorly.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of Ryan Howard’s most comparable players through age 29 — his age for the 2009 season — according to Baseball-Reference.com: Richie Sexson, Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Willie McCovey, David Ortiz, Tony Clark, Mark McGwire, Carlos Delgado, Fred McGriff and Norm Cash.  The only two guys on that list who didn’t fall off a cliff before age 36 are McCovey and McGriff, and they were a heck of lot skinnier than even Ryan Howard v.2.0 is. The rest of those names should constitute nightmare fuel for Phillies fans.

But the thing is, Howard doesn’t even have to fall off a cliff in the next five years for this deal to be bad. It’s bad on day one. Why? Because while we all like Ryan Howard, he’s not as good as many like to think he is.  Lefties are kryptonite to him.  He doesn’t walk nearly as much as a slugger like him should. While he’s better than he was on defense, he’s still bad and, before this contract was signed, seems like a guy who was on the DH-express.

As of now, Ryan Howard is going to paid more than anyone in the game not named Alex Rodriguez. Unless you can tell me that you can’t think of anyone else in baseball not named Alex Rodriguez who is better than Ryan Howard, this contract makes no sense. And if you tell me that, you make no sense.

In other news: Albert Pujols: call your agent. Your asking price just went up by $10 million.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.