The talk around town is about Ryan Howard's MVP award. Howard had a tremendous season, but as most of the statheads on the Web will tell you, there is probably a better argument against him than for him.
But, much like Bud Abbott, I don't give a darn. It helps offset the monumental loss of Donovan McNabb in an already diminished Eagle season. The Flyers already cleaned house. If the Sixers top .500, it will be a tremendous seasonnever mind that the team may or may not be on the block along with its mercurial star, Allen Iverson. And the Daily News has already run its annual "Why hasn't a Philadelphia team won a championship since 1983?" article.
Actually, the USFL Stars are the last with a crown in 1984, so they, not the '83 Fo', Fo', and Fo' Sixers, are the last Philly champs. That in itself is a major indictment of the town as a sports mecca. I remember when a Chicago soccer team pre-Ditka Bears won the first national professional sports championship for that city in something like thirty or forty years. I remember thinking how sad that was, but they have had champions in three of the four major sports since then.
So I'll take the Howard MVP. But the bigger baseball story, in my opinion, is the Phils losing in the Alfonso Soriano derby. Soriano signed for eight years and $136 M with the Cubs in what may be the worst free agent signing since Darren Dreifort. OK, that's an exaggeration, but you get the point.
The press is playing this as if it is a loss for the team, but in reality, Soriano was at best a marginal improvement in left. He is coming off a career year while Pat Burrell is coming off a disappointing one. However, Soriano's speed, his biggest asset over Burrell, would be marginalized batting behind Howard. His on-base percentage (.325 career and career-high .351 in 2006) is not high enough to bat him any higher, and his strikeout numbers (160 in 2006) are worse than Burrell's and the called third strike is a major bugbear for Burrell's critics. When you add in the fact that Soriano has one year under his belt in left field and has no chance to play second in Philly because of the presence of Chase Utley and that he will turn 31 in the new year, Soriano is a bad gamble when the money approaches Amigo Money levels.
The Phils can now save the money they had earmarked for Soriano to sign major-league players to start behind the plate and in right field or maybe they can pick up a decent pitcher or two. I would have included third base, but the Phils have locked themselves into mediocrity, at best, there by signing Wes Helms to platoon with offensive liability Abraham O. Nunez. They still can make major improvements to the team with money that would have brought them very little in return next year.
Then again, given that Howard made $335K last year, they might have to channel the Soriano to the Ryan Howard account to hold onto him. And there's Utley and his measly $500K salary this past season.
If nothing else, having Jimy Williams call the shots instead of the troglodytic Charlie Manuel, who retains the title of manager until the team needs a scapegoat, will be a major improvement. Though that may not matter if two-thirds of the Phils starting outfield consists of Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand, and the starting catcher is Chris Coste.
It's all par for the course in the Russian novel that is Philadelphia sports.