Did anybody like Ryan Howard’s contract four years ago?

In the wake of the news that Ryan Howard’s essentially been benched and the Phillies are hoping to trade him, despite the fact that he’s owed $60 million after this season, I think it’s quite fair to revisit the published reactions from professional baseball writers when Howard signed the deal, four years and two months ago.

First, here’s my reaction. Blind squirrels and acorns and all that. But this didn’t seem like a tough call, and I was in the healthy majority this time. One of my favorite takes was Dan Rosenheck’s in The New York Times:

Howard’€™s new deal … does not begin this year, or even next year. It starts in 2012 and runs through 2016, when he will be 36. That is why most quantitatively minded writers have panned it as, to borrow a phrase from Internet discussion boards, an albatrocity. Howard’s game personifies what Bill James, the father of modern statistical analysis in baseball, once called €œold player’€™s skills, namely patience and power. By contrast, young players tend to excel in speed, fielding and making contact.

–snip–

Shortly after the deal was announced, Philadelphia’s general manager, Ruben Amaro Jr., said Howard "€œkind of set the market for himself."€ When a general manager admits he has let players set their own market, it may be time to get into the market for a new general manager.

So we know that Ruben Amaro (and to be fair, probably his employers) thought Howard was worth this sort of money, and (presumably) would remain a high-quality player for a large number of years.

In the interest of historical accuracy, I will note that a quick Google search uncovered three writers who applauded the deal: Jon Heyman … and two Philadelphia writers who might have been somewhat less than objective. Hey, it happens. I always hope that when I blow one, I’m humble enough to learn from it. You guys have always been good about reminding me, for which I’m grateful.