Sights and Sounds
11/08/2006 1:00 PM ET
Howard dual Players Choice winner
Slugger voted Player of the Year, NL Outstanding Player
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard beat out Albert Pujols, David Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera in the Players Choice Awards. (Rusty Kennedy/AP)
PHILADELPHIA -- Just like the home runs he bashed over the past week in Japan, the postseason accolades keep coming for Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
After tantalizing the Far East as a member of a barnstorming group of Major League players who participated in the Japan Series, Howard has collected additional honors for individual excellence. Howard won the Player of the Year Award and the National League Outstanding Player Award, as determined by his peers. Those awards come after Howard was named Player of the Year by The Sporting News (also voted on by players) and after winning the 2006 Hank Aaron Award, as determined by the fans.
All this could be leading up to the NL MVP Award, which will be announced on Nov. 20 by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
"He's amazing," said Mets third baseman David Wright, who's watching Howard mash in Japan. "He has so much power to all fields. He's fun to watch. You sit in the dugout and just when you think you've seen it all from him, he does something that's just absolutely incredible."
The Players Choice Awards winners are selected by all Major League players via secret balloting under the supervision of KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm, and are given annually to the top pitcher, player, rookie and comeback player in each league as well as an overall player of the year and man of the year. This year's balloting took place on Sept. 12-13.
Each Players Choice Award winner will designate the charity of his choice to receive a grant from the Players Trust, a not-for-profit foundation created and administered by the players, in an amount ranging from $20,000 to $50,000.
In winning the Player of the Year honor, Howard beat out St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Boston's David Ortiz. He topped finalists Miguel Cabrera of the Marlins and Pujols for the NL Outstanding Player Award.
"I've never seen anyone in the Major Leagues who is treating the game almost like an oversized kid in the Little League World Series," Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt said about Howard in September. "All he's got to do is get a ball out over the plate and it's a home run. If it isn't, it's a ball hit on the line that had he got it up, and [it would've been] a home run."
Howard's smooth left-handed power stroke has drawn favorable comparisons to Willie Stargell, and Howard's opposite-field blasts often leave opponents shaking their heads in amazement and opposing pitchers lowering their heads in disappointment.
While hitting .313, Howard led the Majors in home runs (58), RBIs (149) and total bases (383), while finishing third in slugging percentage (.659) and seventh in on-base percentage (.425).
On Aug. 31, the slugger smashed his 49th homer, setting a franchise record for homers in a season. He passed Schmidt, who held the previous mark of 48, set during his 1980 NL MVP season. That drive by Howard also gave him the most homers by any second-year player in baseball history.
In a little more than half a season in 2005, Howard clubbed 22 homers and drove in 63 RBIs, enough to become the NL Rookie of the Year. For an encore, he made the NL All-Star team this past season and won the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby.
With 58 homers, Howard fell two shy of becoming the sixth player to hit 60 in a season. He hit two homers in his final 21 games, in large part because pitchers either intentionally walked him or rarely threw him a strike. The big slugger received 31 intentional walks in the second half.
Howard also proved to be the man in big spots for the Phillies, batting .290 in close and late situations. Twenty-nine of his homers came with at least one man on base. At Citizens Bank Park this season, he became the first player to hit a ball over the batter's eye in center -- estimated as a 496-foot blast -- and also christened the third deck, a feat he did off Mike Mussina of the Yankees.
Though he was dazzling in Japan, Howard has stayed humble.
"I'm feeling really good playing in Japan," said Howard. "Balls are jumping off my bat."
So what if he doesn't win MVP?
"If he doesn't, you don't even want to know my opinion," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "That's all I have to say."