Joe Girardi was full of great stories Monday in his introductory press conference with the Philadelphia Phillies. Perhaps the best one included Phillies icon Ryan Howard.
In 2006, Girardi’s lone season as manager of the then-Florida Marlins, he got a front-row seat for Ryan Howard’s National League MVP season. In his first full major league season, Howard slashed .313/.425/.659 with a staggering 58 home runs, 149 RBIs, 108 walks and a 5.9 fWAR.
During said season, Howard gained a bunch of fans, including Girardi’s son, Dante. Dante hoped that his dad would be able to get him Howard’s autograph, something Howard was willing to do under one condition – the Marlins stop walking him.
“So, I’m managing in 2006 and I’m with the Florida Marlins. And we’re fighting like crazy…I mean, we were terrible in the beginning…we we’re 11-31…we got back to .500, we were fighting for a playoff spot…and, my son is five years old and he loves this big slugger on the Philadelphia Phillies, and his name is Ryan Howard. He said ‘Dad, do you think you could get his autograph for me?’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, sure, I think so.’ So I send a ball over to the clubbie, and Ryan Howard, at this point, it’s the last series, probably had like 13 home runs against us in like 16 games – he absolutely was killing us. The first game we play in that series, I think I walked him two or three times. I said ‘[we’re] not facing this guy anymore.’ So I send the ball and ask the clubbie to ask Ryan if he’ll sign that to my son Dante. So he [Howard] sends the ball over and says ‘I will sign the ball if you stop walking me.’ That was pretty clever. I sent the ball back over and I said ‘I will stop walking you if you stop hitting home runs against us.’ I eventually got the ball, so Ryan, thank you.”
While Girardi led a Marlins team with a total payroll just shy of $15 million to a 78-84 record – a rather remarkable feat – the Marlins lost 13 of their 19 games against the Phillies that season. That was thanks in large part to Howard, who put up video game numbers against the Marlins – he slashed .481/.667/1.074 with nine home runs, 21 RBIs and a 1.741 OPS. He also, as Girardi alluded to, walked 26 times in the 18 games he played against the Fish that season.
In fairness to Girardi, all opposing managers were left to throw their hands up in the second-half of 2006 when opposing Howard. In his age-26 season, Howard slashed .355/.509/.751 with 30 home runs and 78 RBIs in 265 at-bats after the All-Star Break. It was the most dominant half of offensive baseball a Phillie has ever had.
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