In these parts, the Phillies' decision to commit an additional $125 million to slugger Ryan Howard almost two full seasons before that decision had to be made was generally well received. Chicks dig the longball, and so does everybody else. And if it all backfires someday, well, what the hell? Eat, drink and be merry in the meantime.

Viewed through the national prism, the megadeal evoked a far different reaction. Many analysts were dubious of the wisdom of guaranteeing so much to a player who will turn 32 before the extension even kicks in.

Both sides have a point. The Phillies have certainly taken a risk that could turn out to be a financial millstone if Howard's productivity tails off in a few years. It raises the specter, should things break bad, of the team having a couple of highly paid players without the resources to surround them with enough talent to win.

It looks different from the executive suites down on Pattison Avenue. From that vantage point, they are trying to keep their window of opportunity open as long as possible and they aren't going to be able to do it with prospects, since most of them were traded to get Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay in recent years. And they had to be terrified of what the market might do if they waited for Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder to sign first.

So they did what they did and will now hope for the best.

Baseball, like life, is full of unintended consequences, though. And while it's unlikely that this played into their thinking, it's entirely possible that there will be a nice little side benefit from further enriching future generations of Howards.

The signing at least creates the possibility that the Phillies have helped themselves by significantly weakening three National League opponents: the Brewers, Padres and Cardinals.

Let's stop first by Milwaukee, where Fielder's contract is up at the end of this season; he can become a free agent after 2011. He has 130 homers and 362 RBI over the last three seasons. Howard has 140 homers and 423 RBI. Fielder is 4 1/2 years younger. If he goes to arbitration this winter, his representatives will no doubt compare him to Howard and Mark Teixeira. The Brewers might have to trade him before that, with the Red Sox and White Sox already being mentioned as teams with possible interest.

Now out to San Diego. Gonzalez hit "only" 106 homers from 2007 through 2009 but plays his home games at Petco Park, where it almost takes a rocket launcher to get the ball over the fence. He, too, is a free agent after 2011 and the smart money has him being traded, too, when and if the Padres fall out of contention.

Howard's deal didn't make it easier for the small-revenue teams to afford to keep their own stars.

In St. Louis, the Cardinals can afford to keep Pujols and probably will. He won't get $50 million a year (as Braves manager Bobby Cox jokingly suggested), but the more he gets the less the Cards will have to spend on complementary parts. And Howard's contract will be the starting point for Pujols' negotiations. Again, advantage Phillies.

None of this, by itself, justifies the huge dollars that the Phillies are on the hook for. But, like chicken soup, it can't hurt.

Around the bases

-- The History Channel: During their seven-game losing streak, the Pirates were outscored 72-12. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the largest negative differential for any team in seven games since the 1901 New York Giants.

-- No way up: Florida's three starting outfielders - Cameron Maybin, Chris Coghlan and Cody Ross - have combined for two homers and 18 RBI this season. Meanwhile, at Double A Jacksonville, 20-year-old Mike Stanton already has nine homers and 20 RBI all by himself. Don't look for Stanton in the big leagues any time soon, though.


5: Indians regulars who are hitting under .200: centerfielder Grady Sizemore, DH Travis Hafner, third baseman Jhonny Peralta, second baseman Luis Valbuena and catcher Lou Marson. And, by the way, offense was supposed to be Tribe's strength this season.

8: Starting pitchers used by the Pirates in their first 20 games. Eight!

26: Consecutive batters retired by Padres reliever Luke Gregerson before Florida's Gaby Sanchez singled Tuesday.

What's in an initial?

Cooperstown's Bill Dean points out that there are more Hall of Famers with the initials J.M. than any other combination. That would be Joe Morgan, Juan Marichal, Johnny Mize, John McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Joe Medwick, Joe McGinnity and Jose Mendez.

He also notes that a pretty good all-time team could be made up if you include former stars like Jack Morris, Jon Matlack, Jack McDowell and Jose Mesa plus current stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Of course, Jamie Moyer already knew that. Thanks to press-box pal Clem Comly for passing this along.


"There is no closer right now for me. Who wants it? Somebody take it. There is no setup guy. Who wants it? Somebody take it." - Orioles manager Dave Trembley, on the sad state of his bullpen.


Going into last night, the Yankees were 113-55 (.673) since Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup following hip surgery on May 8, 2009.


Atlanta's 8-14 start is the worst ever for a Braves team managed by Bobby Cox. They've already tried five leadoff hitters, but nothing seems to work.


Mariners outfielder Milton Bradley said this week, "I feel like I'm invincible. There's nothing I can't do out there." He was hitting .208 at the time.

Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta, batting .133, was demoted to Triple A Colorado Springs. "I didn't see it coming," he said.

First at second

Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson says the Yankees' Robinson Cano has surpassed Boston's Dustin Pedroia as the best second baseman in the American League. But, perhaps demonstrating that his judgment isn't skewed by the fact that he works for the Bronx Bombers, he didn't say that Cano was yet the best at his position in all of baseball. "Then he has to chase Chase" Utley, Reg-gie told the New York Post

Morning line

Righthander Phillippe Aumont had a no-hitter through six innings in his last start for the Double A Reading Phillies and was named the Eastern League's Pitcher of the Week. For the season, Aumont, acquired from the Seattle Mariners along with Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez for Cliff Lee, is 1-1 with a 3.32 earned run average in four starts.

And how does that compare with Kyle Drabek, the pitcher he more or less replaced in the organization after the former Phillies No. 1 draft choice was sent to Toronto as part of the Roy Halladay deal? Pretty favorably, actually. Drabek is 3-1, 3.80 for the Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Add Aumont

Aumont and Drabek started against each other at Reading on April 14. Aumont went 5 2/3 innings, allowed three runs on six hits and didn't get a decision. Drabek gave up three runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings and took the loss.

Second add Aumont:

The 6-7 righthander has gotten a little bit better in each start so far. He allowed four runs in his first game and has been charged with three, one and none in subsequent outings.

Division data

The Phillies got off to a fast start this year, but it was discounted somewhat because they went 4-2 against the Nationals in the first week-and-a-half. Think again. Washington is now 12-10, 10-6 against everybody other than the Phillies. "You can't keep denying us," outfielder Willie Harris told the Washington Post. "Nobody gives us credit for anything . . . until we beat their [rear ends]."

Add Nats

The Phillies don't play the Nationals again until the end of July and, by then, both touted starter Stephen Strasburg and reliever Drew Storen should be pitching in the majors. "Help is on the way. It's going to be a fun summer," predicted third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.


Phillies phan phavorite Cliff Lee will make his first start for the Seattle Mariners tonight at Safeco Field against Texas. He missed most of the first month with a lower-abdomen injury. As happy as Phillies Nation is to have Roy Halladay, there still is a sizable segment that's plenty steamed the team didn't keep Lee as well.