Monday, November 2, 2009

Postseason Changes Everything

Baseball’s postseason is something of a marvel and this World Series is no exception. The playoffs can make or break careers on all levels of the organization from the players right up to the owners of the teams. There are players like Alex Rodriguez who have had incredible careers but have struggled mightily in the post season and because of their hardships in the playoffs we tend to think of them as failures. Where am I going with this? Before the series started every analyst and fan thought that plenty of matchups were going to be the determining factor so far in this series. I seriously doubt anyone would have thought that the key to the series would be Ryan Howard’s total lack of production. If he does not want to be the goat of the World Series, he needs to change something and change it in a hurry.

Ryan Howard was as much a devastating force at the plate in the first two rounds of the post-season as Rodriguez. His numbers were absolutely astounding and he looked poised to carry the Phillies to another World Series crown. After watching nearly every game this postseason, going into the World Series the one thing that was on my mind was how could the Yankees get past Ryan Howard? Chase Utley hits before him and Jason Werth, who is on a tear this postseason, bats behind him so it is unlikely that with such a devastating combination of speed and power protecting Howard the Yankees were going to be able to pitch around Howard.

I was afraid, plain and simple. I was afraid because if you watch highlights of the Phillies playoff run, every time Howard was up in a crucial spot he got the hit the Phillies needed. How were the Yankees going to win the series if Howard came up with runners in scoring position? The short answer in my mind was that they weren’t.

But, my fears were marginalized, almost magically, because Howard has struggled mightily. If this series ends in a Yankees victory I believe that more than Brad Lidge or any other Phillies player, Ryan Howard will be the goat, however unfair that may be. Ryan Howard is a spectacular player and will continue to be one of the best players in baseball for many years to come. But in this postseason, in this World Series, the only way he can redeem himself is by rectifying his current woes at the plate and having a monster game 5. If Howard does not, then the pressure of the postseason might wind up crushing him in the same way it has done to Rodriguez in years past.

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