Mackanin hasn’t exactly stayed true to his word, as Howard has started in seven of 12 September games, counting Tuesday. Given that these are likely Howard’s final few weeks as a Phillie, Mackanin is now even considering starting Howard more often at home as a bit of a farewell tour for both the veteran slugger and the fans, Stephen Gross of the Morning Call reports:
Howard, 36, has a $23 million club option for the 2017 season, but the rebuilding Phillies will certainly buy him out for $10 million instead, making him a free agent. Though Howard’s overall stats are lackluster, he has hit well in the second half and a few extra starts through the end of the year might help him latch on with a team next year.
After the Phillies traded Carlos Ruiz to the Dodgers last month, Howard became the only remaining player on the Phillies’ roster who was with the club when they won the World Series in 2008. It seems like a rather innocuous note, but the city of Philadelphia has rarely seen champions. The Flyers haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1974-75. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. The 76ers haven’t won the NBA Finals since 1982-83. And since winning the World Series in 1980, the Phillies had mostly been a losing franchise outside of losing the 1983 World Series to the Orioles and the 1993 World Series to the Blue Jays. Howard was part of a young core of Phillies prospects, helping the club overcome nearly two decades of futility. Add in that Howard is the club’s single-season record holder for home runs (58) and second all-time to Mike Schmidt in career home runs (548 to 378), it’s easy to see why he means so much to Phillies fans.
Kudos to Pete Mackanin for being aware of the gravity of Howard’s final few weeks and doing something special for both him and the fans.