Phillies legendary first baseman Ryan Howard celebrates MLB’s shift ban.
Through 13 seasons and more than 1,500 games in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform, Ryan Howard logged 1,475 hits and a .258 batting average for his legendary career.
Just imagine how much better those numbers would look had Howard begun his career two decades later.
Along with a pitch timer and bigger bases, Major League Baseball recently announced a limitation on defensive shifts starting in the 2023 season. The league implemented the rule to increase batting averages on balls in play. Essentially, teams must have a minimum of four players on the infield — with at least two infielders completely on either side of the second base bag.
Upon this announcement, the 2008 World Series champion trended on social media — as fans immediately wondered what could have been had Howard’s grounders to the right side of the infield were not met by an extra infielder.
Howard took to social media himself Saturday evening to comment on the shift ban — and his words were absolutely pricess:
Who could forget Howard’s National League MVP season in 2006 — when in 159 games, the “Big Piece” slugged 58 home runs and 149 RBI? To compare, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has 55 home runs and 120 RBI following the team’s Saturday 10-3 win against the Phillies’ 2008 World Series rival — the Tampa Bay Rays.
Of course, the Phillies would not win that year’s World Series without Howard, among other franchise legends.
Howard will turn 43 years old this November. His last professional at-bats came in the minors in 2017 — logging nearly 100 combined plate appearances with the Triple-A affiliates of the Colorado Rockies and Atlanta Braves.
The 42-year-old Albert Pujols has had a resurgence with the St. Louis Cardinals this season, so why not the Big Piece in 2023?
Kidding aside, Howard celebrating the shift ban will likely warm many Phillies fans’ hearts. The numbers he was able to produce despite the shift — especially during the earlier seasons in his career — are among the best in franchise history.