The Phillies had first base locked up after Jim Thome came to Philadelphia in 2003. He was an All-Star in 2004, only solidifying his role. However, Thome missed a significant portion of the 2005 season due to injury. And who was his replacement? None other than Ryan Howard.
After Thome went onto the disabled list, Howard slid into the lineup for the Phillies and didn’t miss a beat. He appeared in just 88 games that year but he made the most of it. Howard hit 22 home runs and drove in 63 runners in that limited span. He led all qualified NL rookies with a .924 OPS and 132 wRC+.
With no clear-cut winner for the award, Howard’s limited number of games played didn’t hurt him. He received 19 of 32 votes, with Houston’s Willy Taveras a distant second as he took just seven first-place votes.
After Howard’s Rookie of the Year campaign, the Phillies were presented with a dilemma. They already had an All-Star first baseman in Jim Thome, but Howard was much younger with the same potential. In the end, they traded Thome to the White Sox in order to make room for Howard as the Phillies looked to build a young core.
The move paid off for the Phillies as Howard took home the National League MVP the following season in 2006. He earned three appearances to the All-Star Game and was one of the key pieces in bringing the World Series title back to Philadelphia in 2008.