What if Howard Homered?

Since Ryan Howard grounded out to end the Phillies’ 2011 season last Friday, there has been much derisiveness pointed in his direction. After all, he has the unique distinction of being the last guy at the plate in the last two seasons, so that is, in part, understandable. But now that fans have had their chance to shake off that series loss, someone (or many someones) posed the following: What if Ryan Howard would have homered, and not grounded out, on the same play in which he ruptured his Achilles? 

Why someone would bring up that delightful scenario less than a week removed, I have no idea, I just work here. But I digress, as it does make for an interesting scenario in which our felled first baseman is not the goat, but the hero. Such an occurrence – staving off elimination with one out to go in the bottom of the ninth – is not only one of those “if it was a movie you wouldn’t have believed it” situations, but it would have immediately vaulted Ryan Howard into the realm usually reserved for the likes of Matt Stairs.

Indeed, had Howard homered and still collapsed to the ground in pain as he trotted towards first, it would have been an interesting cocktail of emotions, because half of every fan would jump and shout and raise their arms in triumph, but the other half would cover their mouths in shock as they watched their injured player struggle to walk. 
So, had that occurred, what would be the fate of the team? Could a pinch runner be inserted? Would Howard have to make his way around the bases on his own? Could the Cardinals win on a technicality, or would they take a page out of one of the best acts of sportsmanship in the last decade and assist their opponent around the bases? 
Thankfully, this query has been answered by The Inquirer’s Peter Mucha, who turned to the MLB rule book to put this question to bed:
"If an accident to a runner is such as to prevent him from proceeding to a base to which he is entitled, as on a home run hit out of the playing field, or an award of one or more bases, a substitute runner shall be permitted to complete the play."
So manager Charlie Manuel could have used anybody off the bench - even a pitcher - to keep the team's hopes alive.
There you have it. The fight would have continued, albeit without the use of Ryan Howard. That would have been a crushing blow to a team and fans who have suffered through a tortuous National League Division Series, but there would be some enjoyment in watching pinch-runner Kyle Kendrick run the bases and touch home plate in what would be the most quasi-spectacular moments of the season.
Maybe next year.
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