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News » Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-01-27

Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-01-27

Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2009-01-27
Asked last week for his reaction to Ryan Howard's whopping $18 million salary arbitration request, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro cleared his throat.

"It's a very high number," Amaro said.

No kidding.

Howard, the slugging first baseman, submitted the third-highest figure since the arbitration process was instituted in 1974. But the Phillies' submission, $14 million, was the third-highest offer made by a team, even if it fell $4 million short of what the majors' homer and RBI king wants.

Thus, it appears the sides could be headed for another arbitration hearing. Last year, Howard won a record $10 million award from a three-person arbitration panel.

"I think there is an atmosphere to at least try to get something done," Amaro said. "We're hopeful to get something done. But again, if we agree to disagree and have to go to the hearing, that's part of the process. We have to deal with it. But, ultimately, we'd rather not."

According to the Associated Press, the only requests larger than Howard's came in 2005 when Roger Clemens asked for $22 million and in 2001 when Derek Jeter asked for $18.5 million. Howard's camp continues to argue, rather convincingly, that he's a historic slugger. Howard has averaged 51 home runs and 144 RBIs over the past three seasons and is the fastest player to ever reach 150 career homers. He also has finished first, fifth and second in the NL MVP voting over the past three years.

But the Phillies are hoping Camp Howard has overreached with its latest salary request. Despite his prodigious power (he had 48 homers and 146 RBIs last year), Howard's batting average and on-base/slugging percentage have declined over the past two years. And he led major league first basemen with 19 errors and was last with a .988 fielding percentage in 2008.

Arbitration cases often are determined by matching a player's performance and salary request against comparable players. The arbitrators must choose in favor of one side or the other, not a salary in the middle. At $14 million, Howard would be the highest-paid player on the Phillies' roster and among the top five highest-paid first basemen. At $18 million, he'd be making $2 million more than Cardinals star Albert Pujols, a player with whom he's often compared.

"I think you continually learn from the process," Amaro said. "But it's difficult in Ryan's case because he's really in uncharted waters. He's had the kind of success that's kind of beyond anybody who's been in his position. Who knows where this thing goes? But Ryan has put himself in position, with his amount of success over the last few years, to be the highest-paid player at this point in his career. We'll see how it goes."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: January 27, 2009

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