By the time Ryan Howard was drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round in June 2001, Alex Rodriguez was two months into his record $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers, already a bona fide star with several playoff trips under his belt with the Mariners.
When the lefty-hitting Howard made his major league debut at home against the Braves three years later - Sept. 1, 2004 - it was an inauspicious outing. Pinch-hitting for pitcher Vicente Padilla, Howard struck out looking against Jaret Wright. Rodriguez was by then five months into his debut season in pinstripes, the star Yankee third baseman on a team littered with All-Stars. A-Rod already had one MVP award (2003), and was en route to a historic playoff series against the Red Sox.
Yankee fans don't need to be reminded what transpired that October.
Rodriguez's bat went quiet at the worst time - he was 1-for-12 in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the ALCS - when the Red Sox stormed back to win the series and later, their first World Series in 86 years. That would be the closest A-Rod would get to the Fall Classic until this year. Howard, meanwhile, went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year award his first full season (2005), supplanting veteran slugger Jim Thome as the Phillies' starting first baseman. A year later, Howard was the NL MVP after socking 58 home runs and knocking in 149 runs.