There remains a chance the Phillies and Ryan Howard agree on a new contract before they hit the salary arbitration table next month.
But it seems more likely the Phillies will be arguing why Howard deserves only $14 million, while Howard will be arguing why he's worth $18 million. Why do I think they'll end up back at the arbitration table? Well, they're $4 million apart. That's quite a gap. And if Howard is asking for $18 million, he must feel pretty confident he can win $18 million from the arbiter. He had that confidence last year when he asked for $10 million. In other words, Howard isn't afraid to battle the Phillies. He isn't afraid to lose. He's willing to stick with what he believes he deserves. I don't think that changes. And his case doesn't seem to have gotten any weaker knowing he led the majors last season in home runs and RBIs. But do the Phillies have a better chance this time? You would think they learned from last year's loss, so maybe they feel they have a stronger case with their $14 million offer.
Frank Fitzpatrick wrote about travelling to Clearwater for spring training in Sunday's Travel section. He mentions some tips for autograph seekers. I have a few tips for autograph seekers, too:
Try early mornings before workouts and afternoons after workouts or games outside the players' parking lot at Bright House Networks Field. Of course, you'll have to compete with the professional "fans" who are there every day, getting memorabilia to sign to sell on ebay. These professional autograph seekers ruin it for everybody because players see the same people there every day. It makes them less inlined to sign. (You can always tell the fans from the pros because fans want a glove or ball or hat signed. Pros show up with three or four binders full of cards, six or seven bats, etc.)
Down the left-field line at Bright House is a good spot.
Don't yell, "Sign for my kid! Come on, it's my kid's birthday!" Players hear that constantly. Kenny Lofton once congratulated a fan for telling him that it was his birthday. It was kind of rude, but like Chris Rock once said, I understand.
Be respectful of their time. When they're taking BP or doing drills, they can't sign. When they can't get to you, don't get nasty.
In other words, don't be rude. Seems simple enough.