OK, Ryan Howard, are you ready to listen now?
Now that you’ve been told you can’t cut the mustard with a minor league team, the Triple A Gwinnett Braves? #Embarrassing.
Now that you’ve tarnished your reputation because you couldn’t see, or refused to see, the writing on the wall.
You didn’t listen in February 2016 when I wrote -- with love and respect in my heart -- that you should retire at the end of the season and not force the Phillies, the only team whose uniform you ever wore, to cut you.
I was torn apart by many in Phillies Nation who didn’t get it, couldn’t face the cold reality that one of the two remaining heroes from the 2008 Championship team, was over the hill and not coming back. And when the other, Carlos Ruiz, was traded, then they were all gone.
Gone but not forgotten. Gone but embroidered on our hearts, and we showed that when Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins returned in foreign uniforms. Even when Jayson Werth hits two homers against us in one game, we still love him, we still owe him. (Jayson, it is really beyond time to get a haircut.)
Those Phillies ended our 25-year championship drought and Philadelphians remember that. Some of them remember that so hard, Ryan, they just ignored your sliding numbers and insisted you were the man you once were, when clearly you were not.
“Why don’t you retire?” some of your supporters threw at me. “How’s it fair that you’re still working and telling Howard to hang them up?”
Is it fair that I should have a job when Howard does not when I am almost twice his age?
Let me put it this way: Is it fair the Big Piece (who has turned into the Big Load) earned more in one season than I have earned in my entire life?
To paraphrase Tina Turner, what’s fair got to do with it?
It’s stats man, just cold calculating numbers. I still get the job done (I know some will disagree) while Howard batted .184 this season. John Bolaris gets more hits.
Ryan, it used to be you couldn’t hit left handers and pitches that were low and away. Now you can’t hit anything. Pitchers have your number and I have another number -- 37. That’s your age and it has brought a tiny loss in your reflexes and in the Majors a slight loss is all it takes to become road kill. Your MVP season is history.
After leaving the Phillies nest, you were quoted as saying you felt you still had something in the tank.
The needle is on “E.”
It’s over, Big Guy -- again with affection and respect.
You’re sure to be on the Phillies Wall of Fame, maybe they’ll retire your number and you have an outside shot of going to Cooperstown.
Please do not pursue this mirage of playing any further. Don’t bounce from team to team as Steve Carlton did, growing smaller with every appearance. Don’t follow the example of Allen Iverson when he went to Europe. (Unlike you, he needed the cash.)
I know, when you have defined yourself one way your entire life -- baseball player -- it’s tough to give it up. I can see it as emotional suicide, almost.
What you don’t do is sit and sulk.
Ryan, you remain one of the most popular Philadelphia athletes of all time. You have the Ryan Howard Big Piece Foundation.
Make that charity the next thing you hit out of the park. Think of all the good you can do for others, and that can carry for a lifetime.
Think about coaching, minor league or Little League. Why not?
Maybe you can try broadcasting. The Phillies could find a front office job for you, I’ll bet. They won’t ask you to be hitting coach. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
The point is, as a baseball player, the fork has been stuck in you.
Find something else to do and give us a reason to cheer, because we still love you, Big Guy, and we always will.