PHILADELPHIA -- As the years and months dwindle down to precious weeks and days for Ryan Howard in Philadelphia, the signs are trending in a positive direction. Howard is hitting the ball with enough gusto to think he might have a spot on a major league roster somewhere in 2017. The mere suggestion would have seemed ludicrous in late June, when Howard was underwater to the tune of a .140 batting average and a .531 OPS.Phillies fans might even be getting sentimental on him as the end draws near. Last weekend, on Jim Thome Wall of Fame Night at Citizens Bank Park, the crowd summoned Howard from the dugout for a curtain call in response to a grand slam against the Colorado Rockies.Viewed in this context, the latest news out of Major League Baseball was just another item to check off the box in Howards farewell-to-Philly valedictory.At noon Friday, the commissioners office cleared Howard and Washingtons Ryan Zimmerman of any wrongdoing in MLBs investigation of an Al Jazeera report on performance-enhancing drugs in sports. Both players were absolved of any violations of MLBs drug program, and they released statements saying theyre looking forward to a resolution of their ongoing litigation against Al Jazeera.As the Phillies prepared to play St. Louis on Friday, Howard expressed a sense of relief over baseballs decision.Im just glad its behind me, Howard said. Thats about it. The process is the process. Im glad its behind me and I can move forward and just focus on playing baseball.The MLB investigation was just another obstacle in a trying season for Howard. Boos abounded during his early struggles, and he hit rock-bottom in early June when a miscreant fan threw a beer bottle in his direction. A few days later, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin told Howard that Tommy Joseph was the teams new starting first baseman and Howard would have to adjust to coming off the bench.Howard had two ways to go: He could wallow in self-pity and become a negative force, or continue to plug away and maintain a positive attitude in a clubhouse filled with young players. Howards conscious choice to take the high road was a reflection of his character and professionalism.In June, Howard appeared at Citizens Bank Park with his wife, Krystle, for a childrens book reading before a game. A month later, he opened up a 7,500-square-foot youth training center in Philadelphia through his foundation. His underwhelming stats and the injuries show that Howard hasnt lived up to his $125 million contract by any stretch of the imagination. But hes never brought his baggage into the clubhouse or lost sight of the responsibilities that come along with being a longtime star athlete in a community.Its been a tough year, and Im sure its weighed on him a lot, said Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp. Its the last year of his contract, and Im sure there were many things going through his mind with the way he was treated here by the fans. But he handled it with nothing but professionalism and stayed with it. To see him bust out of it and kill it for the past month, its been fun to watch.This is the Ryan Howard everybody saw when he was winning (the MVP) and hitting 50 home runs a year. This is the Ryan Howard they grew to love, and they stayed with him for the most part. He hit some rough patches. Thats part of the game. But he never got out of being Ryan. For all the stuff hes gone through off the field, youd never know.The numbers, even in a small sample size, are startling. In August, entering Fridays game, Howard is hitting .419 (13-for-31) with a .968 slugging percentage and a 1.422 OPS. With his recent hot streak, he moved into a tie with Carlton Fisk for 75th place on MLBs career list with 376 home runs. Next up: Norm Cash and Jeff Kent at 377.As the Phillies play out the string en route to their fourth straight sub-.500 season, its only natural to wonder if an American League team in need of a power bat off the bench might consider trading for Howard in August. He wont have any trouble clearing waivers, so thats one potential impediment out of the way. .If he keeps hitting like hes hitting, somebodys going to want him, Mackanin said. Im happy for him. I didnt like telling Howie hes not going to play as much. Its not fun doing that kind of thing. But the bottom line is, I pull for him. Hes a great guy. Id like to see him succeed and go on to play as long as hed like to play.Barring a surprise of cosmic magnitude, Ryan Howard wont be back in Philadelphia in 2017, but at least he has a chance to go out on positive terms. There will be a few more standing ovations before he says goodbye. http://www.officialraidersgear.com/Raiders-Connor-Cook-Draft-Jersey/ . 8 Kansas to a 64-63 win over Texas Tech on Tuesday night. The freshman from Vaughan, Ont. http://www.officialraidersgear.com/Raiders-Johnny-Townsend-Draft-Jersey/ . World champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia won the gold medal with 237.71 points, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch followed at 208.45 and Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia were third at 187. http://www.officialraidersgear.com/Raiders-Brandon-Parker-Draft-Jersey/ . He just needed to be his best twisting, turning acrobatic self. "I didnt need to be anybody else, I just needed to be myself and be aggressive," said Burks, who scored a career-high 34 points to spark the Utah Jazz to a 118-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night. http://www.officialraidersgear.com/Raiders-Marcus-Allen-Draft-Jersey/ . -- The Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake played to a 0-0 tie Saturday night that left the top of the Western Conference standings unchanged. http://www.officialraidersgear.com/Raiders-Jim-Plunkett-Draft-Jersey/ . -- Jacksonville wide receiver Cecil Shorts will likely be a game-time decision whether hell play Sunday in the Jaguars home game against the San Diego Chargers. NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Cyprus top sports official on Thursday urged lawmakers to pass legislation enabling authorities to wiretap suspects telephones and access bank accounts in the fight against match-fixing.Cleanthis Georgiades, president of Cyprus Sports Organization, said that those involved in match-fixing are extremely dangerous people, with huge financial interests at stake.Earlier this week, the Cyprus Football Association vowed to impose severe penalties on clubs suspected of match-fixing after UEFA ranked the countrys championship to be among the worst offenders in Europe.UEFA suspects six first-division matches and a domestic cup match may have been fixed since September, said Marios Lefkaritis, a vice president at UEFA and honorary president of the Cyprus Football Association..The Cyprus FA has received files on 75 matches suspected of being fixed since 2011, Lefkaritis said.Georgiades said the situuation was out of control.ddddddddddddIf authorities are going to stamp this out, legislation must be passed that unties their hands because its wiretapping that helps crack such cases, he told The Associated Press.Cyprus Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said legislation is expected to go to parliament for a vote in January,Meanwhile, police said a pre-dawn bomb blast on Thursday damaged the entrance of the Limassol offices of an insurance company headed by Cyprus FA chief Costakis Koutsokoumnis.Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said it was too early to definitely link the attack to the issue of match-fixing.Koutsokoumnis appeared to allude to the bomb attack in a written message on his personal Facebook page, saying, When you make reforms, you occasionally have to pay the price. 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