The first time you see Ryan Howard bat you have to wonder why it took the Phillies so long to bring him to the majors. From the day he arrived in Philadelphia for good almost half way through the 2005 season, he's been hitting, hitting, hitting. It took Jim Thome's bad back to bring Howard to the bigs and it took Thome's bad elbow to put him at first base for good. And let's be happy about it.
With a little more than three weeks to go in this season, Howard is going to break Roger Maris's personal best of 61 homers. Not may break the mark, will. Of course the 73 homers of Barry Bonds, the 70 of Mark McGwire and the various 60 plus of McGwire and Sammy Sosa may not be reachable. And lest you think we believe Maris holds the real record, we don't. Bonds may be distasteful, McGwire disgraced, Sosa diminished but they did what they did within the rules of the time. Or should we say within the no rules of the time.
But there's no diminishing what Maris did and what Howard is doing. Six weeks ago, Howard was having a nice season: 32 homers, a .281 batting average, 80 rbi. Since then he's hit 21 homers (for a total of 53), raised his BA to .309 and his rbi to 134. 54 rbi in six weeks and most of that was without Bobby Abreu getting on in front of him. His slugging average: was .589, is .665. That's not hot it's ridiculous.
Baseball 2006 is heading for home with some pretty good division races, very good wild card races (don't knock it) and with one player who is having a season for the ages.
What would be real sweet (if unimaginable) would be for Howard to hit 14 more, which would mean that he'd have 67, more than anyone except the freakish totals of McGwire in 1998 and Bonds in 2001. That wouldn't mean that Ryan Howard holds the major league record for home runs, just the major league record for home runs by players we like.