Hank Aaron endorses Howard for NL MVP

By Chris Murray
Updated: October 27, 2008

PHILADELPHIA— For all the hot streaks and slumps that Phillies slugger Ryan Howard has gone through this season, there are very few people in the baseball universe who can truly say they have an intimate understanding of what means to be one of the most dangerous hitters in the game.

One of those people is Hank Aaron, one of the greatest home run hitters of all-time. He said he definitely likes what he what sees in Howard, who hit 48 homeruns and drove in 146 runs during the regular season.

“Ryan is a great ball player and people have to realize that he may not ever hit .270, .280 or .290, but he’s going to make a vital contribution to his ball club. He may strike out twice tonight and then go out the next night and hit two home runs.”

“That’s the kind of ball player he is. He’s a great ball player.”

Shortly before the Phillies took a commanding 3-1 over the Tampa Ray Rays in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, Aaron said he would cast his vote for Howard as the National League’s Most Valuable Player — not only as a player, but also a person.

“I would cast a vote for him anytime,” said Aaron, who hit 755 career home runs and is second behind Barry Bonds on the all-time home run list. “He’s good for the league, he’s good for the Phillies, he just good.”

“He’s good to watch. He’s somebody to be proud of. He’s not one of these kids who are going to go out here and get into any trouble.”

Howard said he met Aaron back in 2006 the year he won the MVP and Hank Aaron Award and was moved by what he said about him regarding his run for this year’s N.L. MVP award.

“It was a just distinct honor for him to say something like that and it really means a lot to me,” Howard said.

Aaron’s ringing endorsement was a good omen for Howard in the Phillies 10-2 victory over the Rays Sunday night. He hit two home runs with a World Series club record five runs batted in. He was 3-for-4 during the course of putting the Phillies on the verge of the team’s first World Series title since 1980.

“To be able to have two home runs in the World Series, that the kind of stuff you dream about when you’re a teenager, getting to the game obviously you want to win,” Howard said after the game. “But being able to do something like that just to help my team win, it’s a great feeling.”

After a slow start in the postseason, Howard is now dialed into the World Series. He has a .353 batting average with three home runs and six runs batted in. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said his hard-hitting is the type of a player who can put a team on his shoulders for an extended period of time.

Back in September, it was Howard’s 11 home runs and 32 runs batted in that helped the Phillies over take the New York Mets and propelled them on their current run to the World Series.

“When I look at Ryan Howard, he’s a carrier and a carrier is somebody that can take your team and get some big hits, knock in some big runs and he can put you on his back and he can carry you,” Manuel said. “Howard is a carrier. You can anything you want to, but his numbers sit there for you to look at.

“He’s a guy who might strike out four times a row, but he’s always dangerous and that one might that one pitch that he follows good and gets a good pass at it and when it gets up in the air, it comes down behind fence.”

Oddly enough, the 2008 recipient of the National League’s Hank Aaron Award was not Howard. It was given to Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who won the majority of fans votes and Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis won the American League Hank Aaron Award.

But folks down here in the Delaware Valley will tell you that Howard was probably more deserving than anybody in baseball with the numbers that he has put up during the regular season and in the World Series.

“Basically what it boils down to is run production,” said Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson. “You have guys who hit over .300, but they’re not run producers. He’s a tremendous player. He’s only going to get better.”