by Jack Kerwin | ydkjack1.gmail.com
It’s gotten to the point of being cruel.
Actually, it’s gone beyond that.
Seriously, it has …
For years, used to think the Phillies were clinging onto their past by keeping well-beyond-their-prime guys such as Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, forever hoping that the fountain of youth would emerge in the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, spritz a little special water on the fellas and take them all back to better times.
It was a sad and pathetic tact by the club, and it was positively misleading to a hero-worshipping fan base that couldn’t possibly have had the wherewithal to grasp that those days, with those guys, were over … long ago.
Felt pretty bad about it all, watching and listening to so many kid themselves for the last half decade.
But not anymore. Just neck hair-raising, blood-boiling pissed off now.
The reality of how far this farce has gone is crystal clear at this point. Having been able to unload two parts of the terrific trio that came to symbolize arguably the greatest run in the franchise’s mostly dreadful history, the Phillies, circa 2016, have been left with the ultimate anchor to any rebuild, a contractually bloated human albatross who served as the main driving force to that 2008 title and the most deadly one to the team’s demise since … and, thus far, they’ve been too gutless to take the hit and say that’s it.
This isn’t about showing Ryan Howard some respect or giving him yet another chance or even just saving his feelings anymore. We’ve gone far past legit concern or rationalization by now.
Now, this is about one thing, and one thing only now: saving face – the organization’s face, not the one belonging to the most lethal star in its annals.
Fearing any public backlash for unloading the one-time Ruthian-like slugger, or even, heaven forbid, have him take a well-earned seat on the bench while someone, anyone, other than him man first base, they’ve continued to run the guy out there daily as a way to show just how bad he is anymore … and how good they are because, look, they’re standing by him. They’re not turning their backs on him.
Hey, they love him just like you do, the ones who have supported the guy from one of the all-time, four-year power displays in Major League Baseball from 2006 through 2009 right up until now, five years into a decline that has grown steeper each year, so severe of late that Howard is in danger of tainting his own legacy.
Yeah, sure they do. What a croc …
If they could, the Phillies would put it this way: You know, fans, we’re all set to go full-bore on this “new team” concept here, but we’re not going to green light Howard’s exit until you say it is OK.
In other words, it’s on you. Not them.
They won’t pull the damn trigger and put this poor old war horse out of his misery until the masses have spoken and made it clear that no matter how they feel about the guy, it’s finally time for him to go.
Not a moment too soon, ya know. Don’t wanna rush things.
Are you sure? Maybe think it over some, huh?
Yo, Phillies, especially that analytics-loving braintrust of GM Matt Klentak and President Andy MacPhail running the front-office show, how about you do the right thing, show some compassion and make the move that should have been made by the previous regime 2-3 years ago, when it was apparent Howard’s days as a serviceable player were done?
Enough with the delays. Enough with the last-ditch opportunities to show he can DH. Enough with the mind-numbing excuses to let him finish the season. Enough with the damn PR already.
Just end it.
Because, at this point, anything else would be continuing the cruelty.
LATE WAKEUP CALL
For all those just getting on board with the “Ryan Howard must go” train, regardless of concern or disdain for him or his play, got one question:
Yo, what the eff took you so long?
Not for nothing, but the wheels have been in motion on this for seven years. Seriously. This isn’t some new-fangled, caught-off-guard, knee-jerk deal. Howard has been going downhill the moment the 2009 World Series ended, first from rarified Hall of Fame power-hitting air to solid run-producer status in 2010-11 and then, following an Achilles tendon tear, to off a freakin’ cliff.
People, c’mon. Stop with the rationalizations. Stop with the excuses. He hasn’t been a valuable commodity, outside the minds of Phillies fans longing for the glory days, or even a serviceable player for five years now.
Frankly, it’s been embarrassing. His one “saving” grace, the one that kept hope alive, a 2014 campaign in which he drove in 95 runs while popping 23 homers at the age of 34? Take the red-pinstriped glasses off.
That was bad, Dave Kingman-type bad. Took the guy 648 plate appearances to rack up those OK numbers, which, frankly, were dwarfed anyway by others such as his MLB-leading 190 strikeouts, .223 batting average, .310 on-base percentage (are you kidding me for a power hitter?!!!) and .380 slugging percentage (positively pathetic).
His numbers the two years prior to then and two years after then equally sucked, or sucked even worse depending on your parameters.
Here is the reality with Howard, 2004-2009 vs. 2010-now:
In 118 less at-bats during the former, he registered 70 more hits, 107 more runs scored, 79 more homers and 127 more RBIs while posting a batting average 38 points higher than he has in the latter entering this afternoon’s series finale in Detroit.
In the former, an average year was .280 batting average, 78 runs, 37 homers, 107 RBIs. In the latter, an average year has been .242, 51, 20, 73 – with the additional “bonus” of diminished defensive capacity.
The fact of the matter is, Howard has been a liability … for a long time.