Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mom at Heart of Phillies Ryan Howard's Troubles?

A rumor strained through the inner sanctum of the Phillies clubhouse lays first baseman Ryan Howard's performance difficulties last year at the doorstep of the affable giant's overly protective mother Cheryl Howard.

The retired business woman has taken control of her son's finances, putting him on a strict allowance, the amount of which can not be learned from month to month, but hopefully exceeds the 50 cents a week he was given as a boy. Will the 28-year-old slugger have to get a paper route?

It's not difficult to see Cheryl Howard and her husband -- computer company executive Ron Howard -- behind Ryan Howard's decision to seek an additional $3 million per year over the $7 million the Phillies offered him.

One or two million would be one thing, but the unprecedented 30-percent disparity pushed the arbitrator to the limit, especially in light of Howard's lack of service time, preponderant strikeouts, defensive liabilities and health issues.

Thankfully the arbitrator's affirmation will avoid sending Howard into another funk, such as he experienced last year when his family likely cluttered his head with distractions about him being underpaid, underappreciated and disrespected.

Don't let Howard's cheerful facade fool you. His firing of two of his agents demonstrates his frustration after he patiently waited two years for the Phillies to get rid of Jim Thome, then have the team insult him with a mere $900,000 paycheck even though Howard hit 80 homers in his first one and a half seasons.

Even more exasperating is the fact that something approaching half of his relatively meager earnings have been wiped out by his agents' fees and federal and state taxes, while teammate Chase Utley has been given an $85 million, seven year deal.