Another Sunday Daily Double, and some thoughts on Ryan Howard

I finished my Saturday at Liberties at 2nd and Fairmount, where I talked for awhile with the owner of the place, Joe, about his plans for this afternoon. It went something like this -- watch the first half at the bar, depart for the Sports Complex at half time, watch the second half at a bar in South Philly, then head into Citizens Bank Park for Game 3 of the NLCS. I'm pretty sure there will be beer and Irish Whiskey involved. It sounded like a perfect way to spend a cold, overcast day in the City of Brotherly love. It also got me thinking about what children of my generation missed out on -- Sundays like today.

During my formative years, there was no such thing as a Phillies-Eagles daily double in October. For 15 years, autumn Sundays went like this -- church in the morning, then scramble home to catch kickoff. But it wasn't always like that. According to my research, the Phillies have played a playoff game on the same day as an Eagles game nine times. The Phillies are 6-3 in such games, while the Eagles are 4-5. Both teams have won on three of those days. Both have lost on two:

Last year, the two teams played on the same day three times. Joe Blanton started two of those games and won both.

Do any of you old fogies have any good stories about the following dates?

Oct. 26, 2008

The Phillies beat the Rays 10-2 at Citizens Bank Park in Game 4 of the World Series. Joe Blanton picked up the win. The Eagles beat the Falcons 27-14 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Oct. 12, 2008

The Dodgers scored five runs off of Jamie Moyer in the bottom of the first and Hiroki Kuroda handled things from there as the Phillies lost 7-2 in Game 3 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium. The Eagles routed the 49ers 40-26 in San Francisco to improve to 3-3.

Oct. 5, 2008

The Phillies beat the Brewers 6-2 at Miller Park in Game 4 of the NLCDS to clinch their first NLCS berth since 1993. Joe Blanton picked up the win. The Eagles, meanwhile, fell to the Redskins 23-17 at the Linc to fall to 2-3 on the season.

Oct. 17, 1993

The Phillies beat the Blue Jays 6-4 at the SkyDome to even the World Series at 1-1. Lefty Terry Mulholland picked up the win, while Mitch Williams recorded the save. The Eagles lost to the Giants 21-10 at Giants Stadium to fall to 4-2.

Oct. 10, 1993

The Eagles picked up their first loss of the season, falling to 4-1 with a 17-6 loss to the Bears at the Vet. Bubby Brister went 18-for-33 for 209 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Herschel Walker rushed 15 times for 89 yards.

The Phillies beat the Braves 2-1 at Fulton County Stadium in Game 4 of the NLCS to even the series at two games apiece. Danny Jackson allowed one run on nine hits in 7 2/3 innings while Mitch Williams picked up the four-out save. The Phillies scored two runs in the top of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Stocker that scored Darren Daulton and a singly by Jackson that scored Milt Thompson.

Oct. 16, 1983

The Phillies lost to the Orioles 5-0 at the Vet in Game 5, giving Baltimore the World Series win, 4-1. The Eagles lost to the Cowboys 37-7 to fall to 4-3.

Oct. 19, 1980

The Phillies beat the Royals 4-3 in Game Five to take a 3-1 lead in the World Series. the Phillies entered the ninth trailing 3-2, but got a double from Del Unser that scored Mike Schmidt from first base to tie the game, then got a two-out single from Manny Trillo to score Unser for the eventual game-winner. Tug McGraw struck out Jose Cardenal with the tying run on third to record the save. The Eagles, meanwhile, beat the Cowboys 17-10 at the Vet to improve to 6-1.

Oct. 12, 1980

The Eagles improved to 5-1 with a 31-16 win over the New York Giants, while the Phillies beat the Astros 8-7 to win the NLCS in five games and advance to the World Series. The Eagles overcame a 16-3 halftime deficit, getting two short touchdown runs from Louie Giammona in the third and fourth quarters. Gary Maddox's two-out double off of Frank LaCorte in the top of the 10th scored Del Unser to lift the Phillies to the victory.

Oct. 10, 1976

The Phillies lost 6-2 to the Reds in Game 2 of the NLCS. They would go on to get swept in a five-game series. The Eagles lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 33-14 to fall to 2-3. They finished the season 4-10.


I read a column today in one of the other paper's in town that contends that Ryan Howard is unappreciated in this town, and takes umbrage with that fact. I disagree with the sentiment. In fact, Howard is one of the few Philadelphia athletes about whom the majority of the fan base holds a realistic awareness -- both of his strengths and his flaws. Howard has finished in the Top Five in MVP balloting in each of the last three seasons and this year was named the Phillies' MVP by the BBWAA, so it's tough to say that the unappreciativeness is a large-scale problem.

And I've been surprised to find that a lot of Phillies fans are similarly aware and fascinated by what we have witnessed out of Howard over the this past year -- the type of maturation that you want to see out of a big-time player who still has room to grow.  Unlike Albert Pujols, whom nobody will argue is the best first baseman in the NL, Howard is still very much a work in progress. We've seen him make strides in his defense, yes. But even more so, we have seen him start to become the type of player who can put a team on his massive shoulders in the most pivotal of situations. I talked about this with Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy on the radio pre-game show in Los Angeles on Friday -- Howard's two-run double off of Huston Street in the ninth inning of the Phillies' dramatic Game 4 victory was something we haven't often seen out of him.

In his career, Howard has hit just .232 with a .473 slugging percentage in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. In those late innings, he has averaged an RBI every 6.8 plate appearances, compared with an RBI every 4.2 plate appearances in the first, second and third innings (along with a .287 average) and an RBI every 4.7 plate appearances in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings (along with a .309 average).

There is some logic to explain this disparity: in the late innings of games, Howard often faces relievers whose sole job is to get him out. In his career, he has hit .245 off of relief pitchers.

But this season, those numbers have improved: During the regular season, he hit .263 with a .514 slugging percentage in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings and averaged  an RBI every 6.25 plate appearances.

This postseason, he has hit safely in all six games, and has multiple hits in three of them. He has at least one RBI in all six games, and two RBI in three of them. 

Howard is becoming something that separates the very good players from the great players: Clutch.