The Phillies ended an exciting 24 hours with some difficult news to swallow. After avoiding arbitration with a number of quality players, they were hit by Ryan Howard's daunting financial demands. We would be lying to ourselves if we were totally surprised by the number, but now that it's in print, somehow it's still astounding. Let's at least attempt give the figure some perspective.
$18 million would tie Howard with seven other players, including the likes of Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, for 13th all-time on the list of largest contracts based on annual value. Say what you want about those players, but Howard in ways is not unlike either of them. At that point in his career, Bonds was completely worthless in the field, and Sosa always had a penchant for striking out.
Among current fist basemen, $18 million would be second only to Mark Teixeira's outrageous deal with the Yankees. If that number dips to the $14 the Phillies offer, Howard's salary ranks fifth behind Todd Helton, then Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman by less than $300 grand, though it's worth noting that all three of those players signed their contracts no later than 2005.
That's a lot of numbers, but what they establish is other one dimensional or flawed sluggers have broken the bank in the past, and other players at the same position with fewer MVP awards would potentially earn more money than Howard. Teixeira's contract is irrelevant because the Yankees are crazy assholes, but are Helton and Berkman more valuable than RyHo? All that said, Justin Morneau, another former MVP, would still fall in behind Howard at the $14 mil mark.
When the news first broke last night, like most people, I didn't think there is any way he could command that kind of salary, and for several reasons he still likely will not. Does winning the World Series cancel out the recession? Is Howard too flawed a player? Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that no matter what the arbitrator decides, history proves someone is always more than happy to pay for the services he provides.
Somewhere down the line, that won't be the Phillies.
(Figures compiled by Cot's Baseball Contracts)