Yes, everyone knows about the massive contract that the Philadelphia Phillies are obligated to pay Ryan Howard through the 2016 season. So, no this isn’t a naive piece about how general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. can easily trade him away and solve one of his roster problems. Instead, it’s a plea for the team to move the ‘Big Piece’ to a different lineup spot.
It’s quite obvious that Howard’s openly stated knee issue (along with whatever other physical ailments he has) is preventing him from generating any real power at the plate. How soon surgery will be mandatory, rather than a selective option, is unknown. But, what any pitcher in the major leagues can see is that this 33-year-old veteran is not a current offensive threat.
A singles-, or occasional doubles-, hitter should not be allowed to occupy the fourth spot in any team’s lineup. Charlie Manuel understandably is reluctant to remove Howard as his cleanup man because he must believe that time might allow his 300+ home run swing to return. The skipper also knows that he only has one other legitimate option, whose name is Domonic Brown, to choose from.
The Phillies are likely unwillingly to risk damaging the growth that Brown has finally achieved this season. Placing ‘Dom’ in the cleanup role could alter the trajectory of his 2013 season in a negative way.
It’s possible that Carlos Ruiz may regain the fourth spot that he occupied last season if he returns to action this month and then is productive. However, that reality is has yet to play out.
Howard surely looks like he’s not healthy enough to play on a regular basis. But, until he (or his doctors) verify the need for another disabled list stint, he’ll continue to be seen in the lineup.
Manuel should immediately drop him somewhere in the lower half of his lineup and mix-and-match four-hole hitters indefinitely. That might not work, but Howard’s bat isn’t working either.
There is no good reason to maintain the status quo. None.