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Philly March Madness: (4) Ryan Howard vs. (13) Jon Runyan

Mar 23, 2011, 4:14 PM EDT

Over the next few weeks at The700Level, we’ll be posting poll matchups as part of our Philly March Madness competition. Examine the cases of the two fine Philadelphia athletes below, and cast your vote at the bottom as to which you think should advance to the next round. And as always, feel free to explain your selection and/or debate the choices in the comments section.

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(4) Ryan Howard

Ah, the big man. The best homegrown power hitter the Phillies had seen since Mike Schmidt (and in terms of pure, raw power, he even gives Michael Jack a run for his money), Howard came up late to the Phils, blocked at first by fellow slugger Jim Thome until he was 25. But when Thome went down with an elbow injury in the ’05 season, Howard stepped in and proved why the job should be his going forward, hitting .288 with 22 homers in 88 games on the way to winning the Rookie of the Year award. The next year he became the second player in MLB history to win the ROY and MVP awards back to back, as he hit .313 with 58 homers, the latter a single-season Phillies record. Since then he’s solidified himself as one of the game’s pre-eminent power hitters, while also improving his defense and coming up with numerous clutch post-season hits, like his famous “Get me to the plate, boys” double against the Rockies to help the Phillies win game four of the ’09 NLDS. Though his swing appears to come and go at the plate, sometimes for months at a time, when he’s on, there’s absolutely nobody in baseball you’d rather have on your team, as he carried the Phils to the playoffs in the last few months of ’08 and and tore up the Dodgers with his torrid hitting (.333 with a .933 slugging) in the 2009 NLCS. He’s come under fire of late for the prohibitive $125 million deal he signed to stay with the Phils through 2016, which some feel he can’t possibly live up to, but even if he doesn’t earn it with his play moving forward, Ryan Howard’s certainly earned the payday retroactively, and then some. -Andrew

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(13) Jon Runyan

When people think of the Andy Reid era, many great players come to mind. For the better part of a decade, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and even Terrell Owens were the faces of the offense, but arguably none of them could have made the impact they did without Big Jon Runyan. Signed as a free agent from the Titans, Runyan was the club’s first landmark free agent signing for the current regime, signing a six-year contract worth $30 million, a record for offensive linemen at the time. Simply put, it was a success. A natural run blocking right tackle, the Michigan product adapted to the Eagles’ pass heavy attack and became a mainstay at right tackle for nine seasons. Though his career is short on accolades, reaching just one Pro Bowl in 2002, Runyan was Mr. Dependable, never missing a single start in a Birds uniform. That would be impressive in its own right, however we know he wasn’t always a picture of health. Most notably, he played half the 2007 season with a broken tailbone, despite the fact that the team would only finish 8-8. While Big Jon defined tough, he also exhibits intelligence. He famously instructed Brian Westbrook to take a knee rather than score a touchdown, allowing the team to kill the clock and secure a victory over the Dallas Cowboys, and today he is a sitting member in the United States House of Representatives. -Kulp

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Results So Far:

East Bracket:

(1) Julius Erving (91.8%) over (16) Von Hayes (8.2%)
(8) Simon Gagne (77.9%) over (9) Seth Joyner (22.1%)
(5) Eric Lindros (70.3%) over (12) Eric Allen (29.7%)
(4) Randall Cunningham (77.6%) over (13) Shane Victorino (23.4%)
(11) Cole Hamels (82.1%) over (6) Mark Recchi (17.9%)
(14) Tug McGraw (51.1%) over (3) Moses Malone (48.9%)
(7) Darren Daulton (74.0%) over (10) Andrew Toney (26.0%)
(2) Chase Utley (93.5%) over (15) Andre Waters (6.5%)

Midwest Bracket:

(1) Mark Howe (60.2%) over (16) David Akers (39.8%)
(9) Rod Brind’Amour (73.6%) over (8) Rick Tocchet (26.4%)
(5) Brian Westbrook (93.3%) over (12) Jayson Werth (6.7%)
(4) Mike Richards (85.1%) over (13) Trent Cole (14.9%)
(6) John LeClair (89.2%) over (11) Clyde Simmons (10.8%)
(3) Jimmy Rollins (75.8%) over (14) John Kruk (24.2%)
(7) Lenny Dykstra (51.9%) over (10) Dave Poulin (48.1%)
(2) Allen Iverson (83.1%) over (15) Jeremiah Trotter (16.9%)

West Bracket:

(1) Mike Schmidt (96.9%) over (16) Keith Byars (3.1%)
(9) Wilbert Montgomery (59.4%) over (8) Jeff Carter (40.6%)
(5) Ron Jaworski (83.5%) over (12) Bobby Abreu (16.5%)
(4) Ron Hextall (94.1%) over (13) Andre Iguodala (5.9%)
(6) Mike Quick (59.8%) over (11) Hugh Douglas (40.2%)
(3) Brian Dawkins (98.3%) over (14) Scott Rolen (1.7%)
(7) Maurice Cheeks (51.9%) over (10) Eric Desjardins (48.1%)
(15) Carlos Ruiz (58.9%) over (2) Tim Kerr (41.1%)

South Bracket:

(1) Reggie White (97.1%) over (16) Hersey Hawkins (2.9%)