For a few seasons now – and that’s being generous – fans have been clamoring to see Ryan Howard and his $25 million paycheck on the bench. He’s way past his prime, and most of us would rather see Darin Ruf (or someone else) get some first base reps to see who the future is at the position. Howard actually had a pretty decent year last year, but manager Pete Mackanin still wants him to know that if he’s gonna coast and not improve, he’s not gonna play.
Mackanin addressed reporters at CBP yesterday, and said that if Ryan Howard doesn’t hit lefties a lot better, he’ll ride the pine:
“It’s going to be a difficult situation. But decisions have to be made. And I have to do what I think is best for the organization and the team. I’m going to make that decision in the spring. But I’m going to have a discussion with Ryan. I’m going to tell him, ‘If you want to face lefties, you have to hit them better. If you don’t hit them better, I’m going to platoon.’ That’s basically what we’re looking at. It’s gotten to that point.
It’s hard for me to justify not playing a guy who led in OPS in the major leagues against lefthanded pitchers*, and that’s Darin Ruf. t’s hard for me not to play that guy, when that guy is sitting there. And it could be helpful to Ryan because he is getting a little bit older.”
As Matt Gelb pointed out, Howard played a platoon role for a lot of last season too, and he “started in 10 of the 38 games in which the Phillies faced a lefty,” only four of which came after Mackanin took over. But acknowledging this going into a season where Ryan Howard is currently occupying 27% of the team’s payroll is a good sign for the Pete Mackanin era.
*Mackanin name-dropped OPS, while Ruben Amaro last said it when he was trying to talk about updating his phone’s operating system.