There’s a great quote from Batman that goes something like this: “You can either die (leave) a hero, or stay long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Right now, Ryan Howard is becoming the villain for the Phillies.
And it’s a shame, isn’t it? There is certainly something that can be said for loyalty. Howard has been with the team for 11 seasons; he has only worn that uniform in the Majors. Conversely, there is also something that can be said for production and winning. Howard hasn’t hit above .280 since 2007, and he hasn’t hit above .270 since 2010.
Howard has always been a great power hitter, not necessarily a great hitter in general. That was often the three-time all star’s saving grace – his power.
Between 2006-2011 he craned out six consecutive 30+ home run seasons, but he has not scratched 20 since then, and is only at 15 so far this season (which is actually already higher than his previous two seasons). Over that same span, he had 108+ RBI’s each season – but again, the past two seasons he had 99 total (60 so far this season). Howard’s WAR (Win’s Above Replacement, it’s kind of baseball’s way of grading player efficiency) is -0.4. Not good.
Howard is currently hitting a luke-warm .224 with 118 strikeouts, which has actually lead to the slugger being benched in the past few weeks, including Thursday night against San Francisco’s (right-handed I mind you) Tim Hudson. Darin Ruf played in his place.
Maybe it was the ruptured Achilles at the end of the 2011 season, or maybe it is just the fact that going on 35 Howard isn’t as effective as he used to be, but something has to change for the Phillies (and Howard) to be competitive again. Jeff Sullivan wrote a good piece which goes into detail about specific areas of Howard’s decline, but his main point is this: The only thing more costly to the Phillies than his performance is his contract.
Howard is under contract until 2016, and is owed about 60 million dollars between now and then thanks to the 125 million dollar extension he got a few years back. Keeping that in mind, the July 31st trade deadline is rapidly approaching, but who would risk taking on that contract? The answer: probably no one – which would mean Philly would have to eat that contract if they want to get the St. Louis native off of their books, and that is no small bit.
If Philadelphia could find a team interested in Howard – which isn’t that far fetched, despite not playing well his plate presence still demands some respect – they would most likely (and by that, I mean positively) have to still take a large hit on his salary.
I suppose for the Phillies faithful it could be worse. At least Howard, regardless of how the trading deadline/rest of the season plays out is going to be off of the books in 2016 undoubtedly. Out in Los Angelaheim (still working on that trademark), another struggling slugger (say it three times fast), Albert Pujols, is on the books until 2021. Not only that, the value of his contract is set to consistently rise as he gets to the later years of his deal. Currently, he and Howard are only separated by a few million. In 2021, Pujols will make at least 30 million from the Angels.
Don’t be mistaken into thinking that Ryan Howard is the only thing going wrong in Philadelphia. The Phillies had the third highest opening-day payroll in the league and are a lackluster 44-58. The Jonathan Papelbon’s of the world are not helping matters either. It’s like another year of missed playoffs in Pennsylvania, shocking with players like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd and Howard anchoring down the lineup. The problem? The team is hitting a minuscule .239 (27th in the league).
In fact, with the “stars” I just listed off, Ben Revere (he plays CF if you didn’t know, and unless you are from Philly you probably didn’t) is leading the team batting .295.
It also hurts when Cliff Lee and Cole Hammels both have failed to put together a wining record AJ Burnett leads the team in wins with six, yet he too has a losing record (6-9).
It’s sad in a sense, but all good things do have to come to an end. Hey, Ryan Howard you’ve made it (almost) 11 seasons. If it makes you feel better, Friends only lasted 10 – and look at Jennifer Anniston now, she’s still killing it. So, maybe there is hope after this whole issue settles itself.
The weekend series with the Diamondbacks will give the Phillies a decent chance at moving out of last place in the NL East, but it will take an act of God to overcome the Nationals 12.5 game lead in the division.