The Phillies have a Ryan Howard problem. What should they do with him? First, let’s look at how Howard stacks up on the Phils, and spoiler alert: it’s worse than you thought (all stats via Baseball-Reference):
- Rule 5er Tyler Goeddel has three more hits in 43 fewer at-bats.
- Howard has 14% of the entire team’s non-pitcher strikeouts at the plate.
- Of the seven players on the team who qualify for slash stats:
- Last in BA
- Last in OBP
- Fifth in SLG
- Sixth in OBP+
- Tied with Darin Ruf for last place on the Phillies in Runs Above Replacement Level (-8)
- Last in Wins Above Replacement (-1.0)
So, what next?
Matt Klentak is actually in a win-win situation here. If he gets rid of Howard, he’s the guy who finally put the nail in the mid-2000s Phils and moved them into a new era. If he does nothing, he lets Howard play out his last contract year (and maybe last career year) on the team that drafted him, all while not necessarily killing a team that can win something (though embarrassing himself in the process). But what should Klentak do?
David Schoenfield at ESPN thinks it’s time to cut the cord:
Howard remains, the last relic of that golden era for the Phillies. Unable to trade him, the Phillies have simply kept Howard, in part because they’ve been bad in recent seasons and it didn’t really matter, in part because they didn’t have a young first baseman coming up in the system to replace him anyway. But a funny thing has happened in 2016: The Phillies are competitive… they’ll probably fall off at some point, but right now they’re over .500.
There’s no room for sentiment in the majors, where it’s all about winning (unless you’re tanking). New general manager Matt Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail might have inherited Howard, but they need to man up and make the obvious move: Give Howard his unconditional release. If you want to give him a chance to save face and retire — as Ken Griffey Jr. did when he walked away early in 2010 while hitting .184 — sure, give Howard the opportunity. If Howard doesn’t want to give up what’s left of his $25 million salary (plus a $10 million buyout for 2017), give him a handshake and his walking papers.
Schoenfield has a good point. You’re going to pay him anyway, and no one is going to take him at the deadline without you still paying him, so why not just take him out back and put him out of his misery – and by that I mean banishing him to his castle – for the good of the Phillies and – to be honest – for the good of Ryan Howard? No one is going to remember this season when his Wall of Fame induction comes around, so Klentak can’t lose, no matter what he does. But it might be time to step up and not-so-gently push Howard toward the door. Or, at the very least, tell Pete to stop playing him for chrissake.