An interesting story came out on Wednesday from Jim Salisbury on CSNPhilly.com. The story was that Phillies (the team that is fiercely loyal to its homegrown veterans to a fault) are possibly thinking of releasing the long time first baseman Ryan Howard. The story came out the day after the Phillies called up fellow first baseman Darin Ruf. Ruf also replaced Howard in the starting lineup on Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants. This will be music to the ears of most Phillies fans who have grown sick of the aging and increasingly less productive Howard. Fans have been expecting the highest expectations and have been sometimes overly critical of the play of Ryan Howard ever since he has signed the 5 year, $125M deal way back in 2010.
This very idea comes as a surprise as the Phillies don’t seem to want to make any drastic changes towards an actual rebuilding and Ruben Amaro Jr. (who is the worst GM in all of baseball) and the owner David Montgomery are more concerned about the attendance of the home games than putting a winning team out on the field that people will come to see. At the same time it isn’t too surprising as releasing Howard is one of the only options left for the Phillies. This is their only option because Howard has become a liability when it comes to the production he used to put up in his prime before he was injured in Game 5 of the NLDS in 2011, he’s a big contract for a player that isn’t performing to par. Howard will be hard for the Phillies to unload, however, because no team wants to take on a declining, aging player and his enormous contract even if the Phillies pay most off the salary.
Howard is owed $25 million for this season and $60 million over the next 2 seasons. Also Howard’s production has been sub par this season, through 100 games Howard has hit .224, 15 home runs, 57 RBIs, 118 strikeouts in 371 at bats, an OPS of .682 which ranks 126th out 162 major league hitters who qualify, and that OPS is 21st out 23 major league first baseman who qualify. These stats are mind blowing as Howard was one of the premier 1st baseman in all of baseball before his injury in 2011.
The release of Ryan Howard would be bittersweet for fans because Howard has delivered amazing individual seasons but more importantly was part of the core of Howard, Utley, and Rollins that brought this great city the first championship since the ’83 Sixers, but the team and the fans are ready to move on into the next chapter of Phillies baseball that will hopefully bring fans back and give us a reason to be interested in the Phillies again.