Ryan Howard Is Officially an Ex-Phillie

The team declined its $23 million option on the legendary slugger. We're a little verklempt.

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Howard, when he was still the Phillies first baseman | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve probably heard that history was made in Cleveland last night, where the Chicago Cubs topped the Indians in a thrill-a-minute Game 7 to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1908.

Not to be outdone, your Philadelphia Phillies made their own bit of history today, albeit on a smaller, more somber scale. As expected, the team declined its $23 million option for 2017 on first baseman Ryan Howard, officially cutting ties with the last remaining link to the club that won the World Series in 2008 and drew hundreds of thousands of delirious fans to the ensuing parade down Broad Street.

The Phillies bought out Howard’s option for $10 million, bringing his career here to a close after 13 sometimes amazing, sometimes agonizing seasons. (Oh, and they also declined an option on oft-injured righthander Charlie Morton, who was once compared to former ace Roy Halladay … primarily because he copied Halladay’s delivery.)

Howard received a warm and fuzzy sendoff from the team and its fans during a final homestand against the New York Mets, but he remained adamant throughout the season that he plans on trying to play for another team next year. Howard turns 37 later this month. He posted a career-low .196 batting average in 2016, but still managed to tie third baseman Maikel Franco for the team lead in home runs, with 25.

Howard was named Rookie of the Year in 2005, and won the National League MVP in 2006 after he set a single-season franchise record with 58 home runs. His 382 career homers are second-most in franchise history, and he was an irreplaceable part of the Phillies teams that made the playoffs five years in a row in the late aughts. But he never regained the form that made him a three-time All-Star after he tore his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Divisional Series. Oh, and the $125 million contract that kicked in the following season often landed on lists of the worst contracts in baseball history.

Through all of the ups and downs, Howard remained a class act, on the field and off. If you’re getting all nostalgic and pouring yourself a drink, raise your glass to the Big Piece one last time.

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