Howard named TSN Player of the Year

Howard named TSN Player of the Year

PHILADELPHIA -- This should be just the beginning.

Ryan Howard was named the 2006 Player of the Year -- as well as the top National League first baseman -- by his peers in an annual survey taken by The Sporting News. The recognition could serve as a prelude to a slew of accolades, perhaps including the NL Most Valuable Player Award.

Howard beat out St. Louis' Albert Pujols in both categories. He was joined on the TSN NL All-Star team by teammate Chase Utley, who outdistanced Florida's Dan Uggla and San Francisco's Ray Durham. The NL infield was rounded out by New York's Jose Reyes and David Wright, making for a quartet that could become an annual attraction at All-Star Games.

"It's been a great year, except [the Phillies didn't make the playoffs]," Howard said on the final day of the season."

A two-month playoff surge made it easy for the 240-pound Howard not to think about his phenomenal season, in which he was the unstoppable force that put the postseason within Philadelphia's grasp. The slugging first baseman hit 23 of his 58 homers after general manager Pat Gillick traded Bobby Abreu and essentially conceded the 2007 season.

Along the way, Howard obliterated Mike Schmidt's franchise record for home runs in a single season.

"I just don't know," manager Charlie Manuel said, when asked where the Phillies might have finished without Howard. "He's done some amazing things. This is the best season I've been around."

"Without him, we wouldn't be close to making the playoffs," Utley said. "Ryan carried us in the second half. They gave him the Barry Bonds treatment."

Despite not being pitched to very often, Howard batted .387 in September and .366 over the final two months. He was named NL Player of the Month in each of those two months. In August, he drove in 41 runs to go with 14 homers.

How good was Howard's performance? In three separate years, a .313 batting average, 58 homers and 149 RBIs would have won him the Triple Crown -- once in the NL (1988) and twice in AL (1945 and 1968).

In 1988, Tony Gwynn of the Padres hit .313, Darryl Strawberry of the Mets slugged 39 homers and Will Clark of the Giants drove in 109 runs. In 1968 -- the famous "Year of the Pitcher" -- Boston's Carl Yastrzemski hit .301, Frank Howard of the Senators hit 44 homers and Ken Harrelson of the Red Sox drove in 109 runs. Finally, in 1945, Snuffy Stirnweiss of the Yankees hit .309, Vern Stephens of the Browns belted 24 homers and Nick Etten (Yankees) drove in 111.

American League All-Stars and Rookie, Pitcher and Comeback Player of the Year awards are based on voting by 220 AL players; NL awards are based on voting by 296 players. Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Andruw Jones and Chris Carpenter were the only four players to be named All-Stars two years in a row.

In winning Player-of-the-Year, Howard was named on an overwhelming 294 ballots.

Rounding out the NL squad were catcher Brian McCann (Braves), and outfielders Carlos Beltran (Mets), Alfonso Soriano (Nationals) and Lance Berkman (Astros)/Jones (Braves), who tied for the final outfield spot. Former Phillie Jim Thome, who was traded to make room for Howard, was named AL Comeback Player of the Year.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.