Mere seconds after Phillies slugger Ryan Howard collapsed like a heap of junk metal along the first base line, the Twitter and Facebook timelines were blowing up with the Howard haters. And, to be fair, Howard had another putrid postseason.
Still, to lay blame at his feet isn’t fair. It just isn’t.
Unless your name was Halladay, Hamels, Madsen, Utley or Rollins — and you’re a member of the Phillies — you shoulder part of responsibility for the disappointing, heart-wrenching, punch drunk stupor the Red Pinstripe Nation suffered through on Friday night.
Yes, all eyes will focus on Howard, the $25-million per year slugger who watched strike three to end last year and followed that up with a .105 average in the NLDS this year. Following six RBI in his first two games, Howard ended on an 0-for-15 slump. Yeah, he likely saved Game 1 with his three-run bomb that opened the floodgates toward an 11-run outburst. After that, though, nothing.
But, it doesn’t help when your three-hole hitter — a guy brought in to juice up this offense — hits .211. Yes, Hunter Pence was clearly in a food coma. And, the guy charged with protecting The Big Piece — Shane Victorino — ended up hitting .316. But, that isn’t indicative of the series he had. His two-hit output Friday bumped him from the .250 he had hit through four games.
Ibanez, Polanco and Chooch? Don’t get your DailyPhiladelphian going.
And then there’s Roy Oswalt who pitched like a fourth starter — not the ace he is paid to be. And, Cliff Lee? Did he get on the flight home from Atlanta? A four-run cushion that he can’t hold? Dude gives up 12 hits in six innings? If he gets a pass, then Howard gets one.
The fact is Doc Halladay lost a game in which he showed why he is, in fact, the best pitcher in baseball and the right guy to be the leader of the Phillies staff. Cole Hamels was a Ben Francisco homer away from joining Halladay as a hard-luck loser, and he flashed the brilliance that could cause him to leave Philly if the team doesn’t want to pay three aces $20-plus million a year.
Free agent-to-be Jimmy Rollins hit .450 and Chase Utley hit north of .400 as well.
You want to blame Howard? Fine. But, you better add about 20 other names to that list.