Results tagged ‘ Ryan Howard ’
The Ryan Howard obsession needs to end.
It came to a head Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, where a fan threw a beer bottle at Howard probably because, you know, Howard is hitting .151 in the final season of a five-year, $125 million contract. I am guessing the fan is tired of seeing Howard on the field and he wants him to go away. Many fans have expressed this sentiment recently, especially after Pete Mackanin put Howard on the bench so Tommy Joseph can play. But rather than boo Howard, the fan cowardly chucked a plastic beer bottle as Howard walked into the Phillies’ dugout. I assume the fan scurried up the grandstand steps and out of the ballpark as quickly as possible, high-fiving his buddies or texting them afterward about what he did.
Too bad for the alleged bottle thrower there is video and photos of him, and the matter has been turned over to the Philadelphia Police Department.
Listen up. From what I understand there are no plans to release Howard. None. Now, things might change. Things often change. But right now there are no plans to release Howard. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. So, honestly, get over it.
After all, what would releasing Howard accomplish at this point?
Mackanin already has made Howard a bench player, so he is not taking away playing time from anybody. Howard is not blocking the next great Phillies first baseman. Releasing Howard and calling up Darin Ruf (or somebody else) in a reserve role will not catapult the Phillies to the postseason. The Phillies have too many weaknesses in too many places to play in October. Keeping Howard on the 25-man roster the rest of the season is not stunting the Phillies’ rebuilding plans, either. They’re rebuilding just fine with him in a reserve role. In fact, Howard has provided guidance and leadership to the team’s youngest players. He has said all the right things.
He is not an issue in the clubhouse.
We are talking about four more months, folks. Four months. That’s it. Four more months and Howard’s Phillies career is over. Are four more months really that big of a deal? Some people are really that angry about it?
I know some people are concerned about Howard’s legacy being tainted. I thought about that, too. But then I thought more about it. Sure, it was sad to see Willie Mays falling over in center field in his final season with the Mets. Sure, it was sad to see Charlie Manuel get fired. But Mays’ legacy has not been ruined. He is still regarded as one of the greatest players in baseball history. And every time I’ve seen Manuel step onto the field at Citizens Bank Park he receives a standing ovation. When the Phillies introduce Howard in 2028 at the 20th anniversary of the 2008 World Series championship team, Howard will get his ovation, too. His legacy won’t be ruined. It just won’t be.
Howard deserves better than this. Has he been paid handsomely? Of course. Has he underachieved most of his contract, compared to the first half of his career? Yes. But the fact remains Howard is the greatest first baseman in franchise history. He won the 2006 NL MVP, the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year and he hit cleanup as the Phillies won one World Series, two NL pennants and five consecutive NL East titles from 2007-11. He also is one of the most community-minded players the Phillies have had in years, and one of the most standup players I have come across. These things mean something to the Phillies, who are looking at the bigger picture here. The vocal minority should, too.
The Phillies have many issues. Howard finishing the season on the 25-man roster is not one of them.
A few more things about the Phillies’ April:
- The Phillies averaged 10.19 strikeouts per nine innings (245 strikeouts in 216 1/3 innings), which is a MLB record. In fact, the Phillies became only the second team in baseball history to average more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings in a month (excluding March and October). The Tigers averaged 10.27 strikeouts per nine innings in Sept. 2013.
- Odubel Herrera reached base safely 48 times in April, which is the most by a Phillies player since Placido Polanco (51) in April 2011. Herrera’s .462 on-base percentage is the highest since Aaron Rowand‘s .462 OBP in April 2007. Herrera’s OBP rannks third in MLB.
- Freddy Galvis has four-game winning RBIs this season. Only the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo (five) and the Mets’ Neil Walker (five) has more.
- Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff ranks among the top 20 pitchers in baseball in strikeouts.
- Jeanmar Gomez is 8-for-8 in save opportunities. Only the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen (nine) has saved more games.
- Ryan Howard‘s average exit velocity is 94.7 mph, which is tied for eighth in MLB.
- The Phillies are 28th in on-base percentage (.292), 25th in slugging percentage (.370) and 28th in OPS (.662).
- They are tied for 26th averaging 3.33 runs per game.
- The Phillies have made 12 outs on the bases, which are the fourth-most in baseball.
- They have stolen just 10 of 19 bases. Their 53 stolen base percentage is the fourth-lowest in baseball.
Ryan Howard noshed on a burrito bowl as he stood in front of his locker and discussed his future on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park. He knows this is likely his final season with the Phillies, and he knows he is likely to spend it as a platoon player.
He seems at peace with the situation.
“You understand that this is the game, this is the business,” Howard said before a game against the Reds. “You understand the team has talked about going in a different direction and stuff like that. You understand that.”
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin started Darin Ruf at first base on Wednesday against Reds left-hander Brandon Finnegan, two days after Mackanin had Ruf pinch-hit for Howard in the eighth inning against left-hander Paul Cingrani. Howard as a platoon player has been a topic of conversation for some time, but the Phillies have waffled in the past.
“Yeah, without question I’m going to continue to do it,” Mackanin said. “Like I told Howie, you know, Darin Ruf did so well against lefties (last season) I think he deserves an opportunity to see if he can make a little bit of money, too. I think if (Howard) keeps his head on straight and settles into it, I think he’s going to hit righties better. I’m looking for a big year from him because of it.”
Howard did not bristle as reporters questioned him about it Wednesday. He coolly discussed his situation.
He would have been far less willing to talk about it last year.
“I just don’t let things bother me anymore,” Howard said. “Last year I let things, I let a lot of things kind of surprise me. And now it’s like, it is what it is. You just continue to stay positive. The situation is what the situation is. You can get down about it, you can get upset about it or what not. Or you can try to make the best of the situation, when the opportunity comes.”
Howard is entering the final season of a five-year, $125 million contract. The Phillies have a club option for 2017, but they are expected to exercise a $10 million buyout instead. They have tried to trade him, but have found no takers.
So in the meantime, they hope Howard and Ruf can be a productive platoon at first base. There is reason to think they should be. Howard hit .256 with 20 home runs, 67 RBIs and an .802 OPS in 396 plate appearance against righties last season, while Ruf hit .371 with eight homers, 22 RBIs and a 1.107 OPS in 114 plate appearances against lefties.
“Could be dangerous,” Howard said of the platoon. “That’s what they’re banking on.”
Conversely, Howard posted a .418 OPS in 107 plate appearances against lefties, while Ruf posted a .483 OPS in 183 plate appearances against righties.
“Obviously it’s something that’s been talked about for however many years,” Howard said. “So it’s not really a surprise. You know, I guess Pete had his mind made up that this is what he was going to do. But it’s the situation we’re in right now. And I want Ruff to be able to go out there and tear it up. And when I get my opportunities, be able to go out there and tear it up. And just see what happens from there.”
Howard had been one of the best power hitters in baseball from 2005-11. He helped the Phillies win one World Series, two NL pennants and five NL East titles. He won the 2006 NL MVP and the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year Award. He is the greatest first baseman in franchise history
But after injuries and a drop in production since 2011 this is probably it.
“I wouldn’t say this is probably it,” Howard said. “I mean, it’ll probably be it in Philadelphia. There’s always that realization. There is no hiding that. But, like I said, you just try to enjoy it. Just really want to try and enjoy it, whether it’s here, whether it’s somewhere else, just, for however long it is that you get to play, take time to be able to reflect at times on what I’ve been able to do, what I’ve been able to accomplish. But, you know, right now I’m just staying in the here and now. It’s Game 2. Be ready today when my name is called and go out there any other time it’s called.”
Pete Mackanin revealed plans for a few of his players hours before Opening Day today at Great American Ball Park.
- Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz were in the starting lineup and they are expected to be in the lineup next Monday against the Padres in the home opener at Citizens Bank Park. Howard and Ruiz are in the final seasons of their contracts and they are not expected to return next season. “I wanted to make sure that Chooch started Opening Day and the same thing with Ryan,” Mackanin said. “We’ll just go from there. I’d like them to start, if possible, on Opening Day at home, and I’ll try to do that for sentimental reasons.”
- Mackanin declined to name a closer. “I’m thinking about it as we speak,” he said, asked who will pitch Monday if the Phillies have a ninth inning lead. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure had a meeting yesterday with the bullpen. They discussed the possibilities for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. “There’s going to be a mix of a lot of different guys,” Mackanin said. “We’ll just see how it plays out. Eventually somebody will be that last pitcher. It’s almost like an audition. It might be any one of five guys that will end up as our closer. And if not we’ll close by committee, even though I don’t want to do that. If that’s what we have to work with that’s what we’re going to do.”
- Cameron Rupp will get the bulk of playing time behind the plate, which is not a surprise. “Chooch is moving up in age,” Mackanin said. “He’s still capable. I think if we keep him healthy and he plays less I think we’re going to get more out of him.”
- Cedric Hunter will start in left field today. He entered Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, but impressed the coaching staff with the quality of his plate appearances. Mackanin said Hunter and Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Goeddel will start the season as a platoon in left field.
- “We’ll give Goeddel a chance, even though he didn’t have that good of a spring,” Mackanin said. “He showed a few things that I think he’s going to be OK. We’ll work it in to start the season and we’ll go from there.”
Follow me on Instagram this season at @toddzoleckimlb
Ruben Amaro Jr. became the latest casualty today, when the team announced he will not return as general manager. Amaro served as Pat Gillick’s assistant in 2008. He joins Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, who were traded in the organization’s rebuilding effort.
“There’s me and Chooch,” Howard said, referring to teammate Carlos Ruiz. “That’s about it. When you come up and you have success with guys – you understand the business aspect of it, you understand things come to an end – but when you’re able to play along Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins or Cole Hamels on a regular basis and build what you’ve been able to build here, yeah, it’s sad to see certain guys go. But at the same time, we understand that’s what happens in the game.
“It’s kind of the same conversation we’ve been having all year. Guys coming and going and all that kind of stuff. Unfortunately, that’s part of the business sometimes. He’s been here since the beginning for me. I wish (Amaro) the best of luck. I appreciate the opportunities that were given to me.”
Scott Proefrock served as Amaro’s assistant general manager since November 2008. He will be interim general manager until Phillies president Andy MacPhail hires a replacement. Proefrock took the news hard, as many in the front office did.
“I was stunned,” he said. “I was surprised the change was made. I know we got a late start on the rebuilding process, but I think we were headed in the right direction. I think we are headed in the right direction. I think we’ve made some positive moves and helped put talent back in the system and a lot of good things are happening in the Minor Leagues. We won three regular season championships in the Minor Leagues.
“Ruben is as much a friend as he was my boss and I owe him a lot. This is not the way I would have liked something like this to happen, but I owe it to the organization to continue what we’ve started in the rebuilding process and keep it going as long as they want me to and go from there.”
MacPhail made a point in his news conference to mention that the first words from Amaro’s mouth when he was told he would not return was to ask about the fate of the people who served underneath him.
“It doesn’t surprise me knowing Ruben and the type of person he is that that would be his first concern,” Proefrock said. “I’ve worked in five different organizations and this is by far the best organization I’ve ever worked in. The way they treat their people, the family atmosphere. I hope I work in this organization for the rest of my career because there’s no place better that I’ve experienced in the game. And I know Ruben was a big part of that.”
Said Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin: “I consider Ruben a friend and it’s a sad day to see him go. I’m not worried about his future in baseball. He is a very talented baseball guy and he’s going to rebound and end up somewhere else, a job that he wants.”
This is why the Phillies didn’t bench or release Ryan Howard just two weeks into the season.
Remember? That’s what many fans wanted. Howard was hitting .175 (7-for-40) with three doubles, two RBIs, two walks, 15 strikeouts and a .464 OPS though April 19. They wanted Darin Ruf. They wanted Maikel Franco. They wanted Chase Utley.
They wanted anybody other than Howard.
But Howard is hitting .292 (28-for-96) with five doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 18 RBIs and a .961 OPS in 27 games since April 19. Only four players have hit more home runs than Howard since he hit his first homer of the season April 21: Bryce Harper (11), Giancarlo Stanton (10), Ryan Braun (nine), and Todd Frazier (nine). Howard’s OPS is 19th out of 191 qualified hitters in baseball in that span.
If he maintains the pace he has had since April 21 he will finish the season with 35 home runs.
Think a contending team could use somebody like that?
The Phillies had nothing to lose by continuing to play Howard, just like they have nothing to lose continuing to play Utley, despite his struggles. If Howard maintains his pace and if Utley picks up offensively — he has hit well over the past week — the Phillies might be able to trade one or both of them before July 31.
If they don’t, they didn’t lose anything.
Remember, this season is about the future. Benching or releasing the greatest first baseman and second baseman in franchise history based on a couple bad weeks (Howard) or six bad weeks (Utley) is short sighted. There is plenty of time to see Cesar Hernandez and Ruf.
But what about Utley’s $15 million club option that vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances? Relax. Utley is on pace for 555 plate appearances, but even if the Phillies play him at his current pace and he is hitting .150 through July 31, the Phillies could make up the difference the final two months of the season.
So consider the big picture with Howard and Utley. Sticking with them through the trade deadline is the best plan for the future.
He had struggled through the season’s first eight games — not as much as Chase Utley, although he heard more about it — when Ryne Sandberg sat him Wednesday against Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese. It was the second time in nine games the Phillies had faced a left-hander and the second time Sandberg had sat Howard against a lefty. Howard said Wednesday he had talked to Sandberg and had received no indication he might be platooned at first base, although Sandberg left the door open.
“Kind of take that a series at a time,” Sandberg said.
Then last night Sandberg dropped Howard all the way to seventh in the Phillies’ lineup.
From possibly platooned on April 15 to hitting seventh against a right-handed pitcher whose fastball tops out at 88 mph on April 16.
“I’ve been in situations like this before,” said Howard, who had not his seventh since 2006. “This isn’t the first time that I’ve gotten moved down in the lineup or anything like that. For me, you just try to look at it as an internal challenge. Do I feel l can hit fourth? Yeah, I know I can. I’m not worried about it. I’m not trying to look too far into it or anything like that. If I’m hitting in the seven-hole, do the best I can that day.”
I must say I’m a little surprised Sandberg made these moves only 10 games into the season. I’m not saying Darin Ruf should not see more time at first base against left-handers (Ruf deserves more playing time, period). I’m not saying Howard should not have been moved from the cleanup spot. I’m also not saying these moves weren’t coming. Howard has struggled against lefties for some time and he struggled hitting fourth last season. I’m saying I thought Sandberg might wait a little longer, unless he told Howard before the season he would have an incredibly short leash. I’m also a bit surprised he dropped him all the way to seventh.
After all, if there was such little faith in Howard’s ability to produce why start the season with him in the cleanup spot in the first place? It is kind of the same thing with Ben Revere. He dropped from first to eighth after just seven games. Cody Asche also was benched a couple games last week after a slow start.
Clearly Sandberg is trying to find a lineup combination that works, but hitting also involves confidence and right now hitters might be thinking, “Boy, if I go 0-for tonight I might be dropped in the lineup or benched.”
That is not why they Phillies aren’t hitting, but I also think it comes into play if players never know where they stand.
Ryan Howard takes the heat, but Chase Utley is struggling worse than Howard through the Phillies’ first seven games. In fact, this is the worst start of Utley’s career through the team’s first seven games.
“It’s just a matter of time with Chase,” Ryne Sandberg said after yesterday’s 2-0 loss to the Mets. “I have no worries there. He gets quality at-bats. Chase will be fine. We just need to create some opportunities with men on base for those guys in the middle of the lineup.”
I’m not sure if Sandberg is saying Utley and Howard are struggling because the No. 1 and 2 hitters aren’t getting on base enough, but that should not affect Utley or Howard at the plate that much. Will Utley be better than he has been? Yes, although he has not homered since Aug. 10. It is the longest homerless drought of his career, stretching to 175 at-bats. But he posted a 1.297 OPS in Spring Training, so he was swinging the bat well recently.
Is he the only reason the Phillies are struggling offensively? Absolutely not. But he is a big reason why the team has scored just 16 runs in seven games.
Sandberg said he is not considering any significant changes to the lineup. I think that could come in time, but seven games into the season is not the time to bump Utley and Howard. I know nobody likes to hear this, but a big part of managing is managing people. You don’t take two long-time Phillies and in one day move them out of the spots they have been hitting their entire careers. They deserve a little more time. How much time? I’m not sure, but certainly more than seven games.
They received strong starting pitching performances in four of six games. The pitching staff as a whole has a 3.38 ERA, which is 11th in baseball. They showed some fight as Ryne Sandberg said following today’s 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the Nationals. The Phillies overcame a seventh-inning deficit to win Friday, an eighth-inning deficit to win in 10 innings Saturday and tied the game in the seventh inning yesterday. They gave up two runs in the 10th, but made things interesting with a run scored in the bottom of the inning.
But the gigantic red flag that flapped in the wind in Clearwater, Fla., planted itself at home plate in Philadelphia:
The Phillies are 28th in baseball with a .563 OPS, a percentage point or two ahead of the Mets (.563) and Twins (.515). They have scored just 16 runs in six games. Only the Twins (13) and Nationals (13) have scored fewer. They have hit just two home runs. Only the Twins (1) and Marlins (1) have hit fewer.
Everybody knew the offense would be an issue, which is why we have seen Sandberg use six lineups in seven games (including today’s game). He is searching for a winning combination, trying to find decent match ups and hot bats whenever they are available, although it will be interesting to see how he balances what is supposed to be a developmental year with his desire to win that night’s game. For example, he benched Cody Asche on Friday and Saturday for Andres Blanco. Sandberg said he liked the spark Blanco provided, but the Phillies should want to give Asche as many opportunities to play as possible this season. He could be part of the Phillies’ future, either at third base, left field or wherever. Blanco is not.
The same holds true for Ruf, who snapped an 0-for-11 slump with a pinch-hit homer this afternoon, and others.
A lot of people are unhappy with Ryan Howard, who struck out four times in four at-bats today. But you might as well relax because he is going to continue to play. First, who is he holding back? Ruf had 12 at-bats this week, which should be enough to show what he can do. And even if Maikel Franco were the hottest hitter in Triple-A, he would remain there until the end of May for the same reason Cubs prospect Kris Bryant opened the season in Triple-A: team control for an extra year. Second, it’s one week. I’m not suggesting Howard will return to MVP form with more time, but it doesn’t make sense to pull the plug on somebody owed $60 million just one week into the season.
The team is going to to struggle and Howard might struggle along with it, but he should get a good look.
Cliff Lee will speak to reporters tomorrow. Jonathan Papelbon follows him Friday with Cole Hamels on Saturday and Chase Utley on Monday. Phillies fans are curious to hear what they have to say about returning to a team headed in a different direction.
Ryan Howard is not scheduled to speak to reporters, but perhaps that announcement will come. He might be the most interesting Phillies player to hear from, considering his offseason. He finalized a legal battle with his family. His general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said publicly and privately the organization would be better without him.
“Right now, unless he gets unseated, he’s the first baseman,” Ryne Sandberg said today. “He needs to prepare himself to be the best first baseman he can be.”
But certainly it is not a stretch to think Howard feels a little unwanted or unappreciated. That could create tension in camp.
Sandberg said he spoke with Howard about a month ago.
“I know he’s got a lot of things off his mind, coming from him,” Sandberg said. “Ryan was very positive with the conversation. He wanted to be part of the process here with the younger players that we might have in camp. Be that type of a guy. He’s been a Philadelphia Phillie. He considers himself a Phillie right now so for him to take pride in that and going forward help out with the process, that’s something he can also help out with.
“We can get younger around Ryan Howard and have some youth and some hop around him. Like I said, if he gets to where he can really contribute, I’m anxious to see him and see where he’s at and to see if he can be a guy who can raise his game and help us win. I’m confident in Ryan in bouncing back and having that type of year.”