Arbitration can be some pretty sticky business. Anytime you pit employer versus employee with lots of money is involved, it can get pretty ugly.
First baseman Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies are getting set for what looks like yet another ugly arbitration case. Last season, Howard won $10 million from an arbiter, a record for a player with only two years of service time. That arbitration case was ugly, but this year's case could get downright ridiculous.
Ryan Howard is asking for $18 million big ones.
I'll let everyone soak that in for a second...eighteen million dollars.
That's obviously a lot of money and if Howard wins the case, he will set yet another arbitration record (highest salary awarded) and remain, by far, the Phillies highest paid player.
This is a bold move by Howard. The Phillies offered him $14 million, a number that not too many people would shy away from. However, Howard obviously believes that he deserves to be one of the highest paid baseball players in the game based on his performance and probably his age. Remember that Howard is no spring chicken in baseball years, he is already 29 years old and will not be a free agent until he is 32. Now is the time for him to cash in.
So does Howard deserve the $18 million bucks?
Howard is a phenomenal player and a franchise player. He is one of the best power hitters in baseball and has hit over 45 home runs in each of the past three seasons. Howard absolutely crushed the ball in 2008 to the tune of 48 home runs and 146 RBI. The 2006 MVP has put up historic numbers over his first three full seasons in the major leagues and has shown no signs of slowing up...which is bad for the rest of the National League.
However, Howard's deficiencies are evident. Anyone watching the Phillies will tell you that Ryan Howard is a terrible fielding first baseman and makes even the most routine plays look very awkward.
Also, at the plate, Howard notoriously strikes out a lot, which is not surprising considering how many home runs he hits. But at the same token, Howard's on base percentage has been slipped from .425 in 2006 to a pedestrian .339 in 2008. The best power hitters usually produce an OBP of at least .380 and it is rather shocking how quickly Howard's OBP has fallen.
And finally, Howard has batting average has been a major source of criticism from fans and writers alike. For most of 2008, Howard's batting average hovered in the .220-.230 range before he exploded with a .352 batting average in September. Baseball people would love to see Howard's performance become more consistent because without a respectable batting average, Howard is no better than a very very very good version of Dave Kingman.
Harsh criticism I know, but that's the truth. The Phillies will need Howard's production in 2009 to be more consistent and will need their star to produce a batting average near .280 and an OBP near .400. Considering Howard's ability and potential, there is no reason why he should not be able to put up much better numbers in 2009.
So in conclusion, Ryan Howard is confusing. He is a immensely skilled, but flawed player who is a vital cog in the Phillies machine. Based on his 2008 numbers, I do not believe that he will be successful in getting $18 million bucks (perhaps they can settle somewhere in the $16 million dollar range). Even though his statistics are still great, there is no denying that Howard's numbers have declined in certain areas, which will ultimately weigh heavily in the arbiter's decision.