While nothing has been made official, the Philadelphia Phillies should listen to Ryne Sandberg‘s advice and shut down first baseman Ryan Howard for the rest of the season to allow him to continue to rehab his knee.
Having already put his stamp on this team by quickly benching Jimmy Rollins and showing to have a short leash with pitchers, Sandberg has also made comments about Howard’s return, which GM Ruben Amaro has not completely ruled out. And while this is the first time Amaro and Sandberg don’t appear to be on the same page, it is certainly not going to be the last.
Amaro has said that he feels it is important for Howard to get back to baseball activity before the season’s end, whether it be through a minor league rehab stint or a return to the club. Sandberg, however, disagrees calling it “counterproductive” for Howard to return this season. Giving as the Phillies don’t really have anything to play for and that rushing Howard back before he is 100 percent could be disastrous, there really is no argument.
Amaro is wrong and Sandberg is absolutely correct. The Phillies should shut down Howard for the rest of the season. It is the smart and right move for all involved.
After missing a good portion of last season as he recovered from an Achilles injury, Howard may have rushed back in order to be on the field following the 2012 All-Star break. He put up decent numbers for half a season’s work, but overall it was very clear he was not 100 percent healthy. The biggest evidence of this was the downward trend in home runs, which seemed to stem from an inability to push off on the injured ankle.
The expectation was that Howard would come back 100 percent and that the injury would not be something nagging. In the case of the Achilles, this was true, but in the 2013 season, the once ironman like Howard, who rarely missed a game, found himself dealing with a knee injury and one that really crippled his performance.
As Howard later described to the media, he played through a great deal of pain, doing so up until the first week of July when he hit the DL.
While it may be admirable that Howard played hurt, it really did the Phillies no good. In fact, Howard really is no good to the team at all if he isn’t playing at 100 percent. He wasn’t doing anybody, himself included, any favors by trying to play through the pain. And it would make no sense whatsoever to rush him back with less than 30 games left in the season.
When healthy, Howard is the go-to source of power in this lineup. Sure, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and even Chase Utley are capable of 20 home run seasons, but Howard is really the only guy on this team that you expect 30 home runs from. And next season don’t count on any of those expectations wavering.
But again, he has the potential to reach these numbers only if he plays a full season, which happens only if he is healthy. Shutting him down for the rest of the season is the first step to making sure that he is.