As the 2010s wind down, PhilliesNation.com will go position by position in determining the Philadelphia Phillies All-Decade Team.
First base belonged to Ryan Howard for the majority of the 2010s. The 2005 National League Rookie of the Year and 2006 National League MVP began the decade just as well as anyone could. The Big Piece was the Phillies Opening Day starter to begin the 2010 season and less than a month later, the St. Louis native signed a five-year, 125 million dollar extension with the team.
Howard was still an extremely productive player through the tail-end of the team’s run of success. He hit over 30 home runs and drove in over 100 runs in 2010 and 2011. It was a dropoff from the usual 40 plus home run total he consistently put up at the end of the 2000s, but nonetheless, Howard broke Chuck Klein’s franchise record for consecutive 30 HR, 100 RBI seasons.
Everything changed – not just for Howard, but for the entire Phillies organization – after Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS. Howard made the final out on a ground ball to second. As he left the box, the big man immediately began limping in pain. He fell to the ground not even halfway up the first base line. As the Cardinals celebrated their huge upset victory over the World Series favorites, Charlie Manuel and the Phillies medical staff tended to Howard, who we would later learn had torn Achilles. The Phillies were never the same team and Howard never regained his dominance.
Howard remained with the team until the end of 2016. Tommy Joseph took over as the everyday starter with Howard unable to get out of a severe slump. Joseph, was the key piece in the July 2012 Hunter Pence trade with the San Francisco Giants. However, concussions forced him away from catcher, so he was never able to meet those expectations. As the starting first baseman for most of 2017, Joseph slashed .240/.289/.432 with 22 home runs and 69 RBIs.
In August 2017, the Phillies called up Rhys Hoskins. He’s naturally a first baseman, but with Joseph occupying first, Hoskins spent most of his first two months in the big leagues in left field. He got his first hit in his fourth career game. The following game, he hit his first two career home runs and became the fastest player to hit 12 home runs in major league history. The record was eventually broken two years later by Aristides Aquino, but back then, it looked as though Phillies fans had finally found a first baseman who at least had the potential to match Howard’s early career production.Embed from Getty Images
Instead of moving Hoskins permanently to first base in 2018, the team opted to sign free agent Carlos Santana. Santana’s first season in Philadelphia and Hoskins’ first (and hopefully) only season as a left fielder were forgettable. Hoskins proved he could swing the bat, but his defensive metrics in the outfield were atrocious.
The team moved on from Santana the following offseason and freed up first base for Hoskins. There was a renewed sense of optimism surrounding Hoskins coming into 2019. With the acquisition of Bryce Harper, many thought he would be able to take advantage of the pitches he would get while hitting cleanup behind the superstar. The Sacramento native had an OPS of .931 and a 140 wRC+ in a solid first half of the season. He got stuck in a never-ending slump in the second half of the season and as a result, questions were raised as to whether Hoskins will be the Phillies starting first baseman for the long-term.
It wasn’t a great decade for Phillies first baseman. However, Howard will get the nod for the All-Decade team, despite being worth less in fWAR than players such as Ben Revere, Cameron Rupp and John Mayberry Jr. The Big Piece finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting in both 2010 and 2011, which is worth something.
Many of Howard’s career highlights came before the 2010s, but his best moment of the decade was his three-run home run in Game 1 of the 2011 NLDS. It’s only appropriate that the following video shows the entire at-bat because Howard did a heck of a job staying alive in the at-bat until he got a pitch he could crush to right:
OTHER ENTRIES IN THIS SERIES
- Phillies All-Decade outfielders
- Phillies All-Decade third baseman
- Phillies All-Decade shortstop
- Phillies All-Decade second base
- Phillies All-Decade catcher
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