Around the holiday that is so closely associated with a little girl named Virginia’s letter to an editor about Santa Claus, Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro took the occasion to give his own version of reality.
“Ryan Howard does still live,” Amaro said. “He does exist on our team. Is he going to hit 58 home runs again? Probably not. Is he going to hit 30? Yeah, I’ll take that. In fact, I expect him to do that.”
That’s as close as Amaro gets to comparing Howard to Santa Claus, even though both Howard and Santa have been known to put on a few extra pounds. There was a slight problem with Amaro’s recent rant, though, because it shows a disconnect with reality. The cold, hard numbers suggest that Howard has a better chance of fitting down his own chimney than he does of ever hitting 30 home runs again, let alone 58.
Howard hit 14 home runs two years ago and 11 home runs this year, and at 34, he’s not getting any younger. He played in 71 games two years ago and 80 games this season. Even if he doubles the number of games he plays going forward (doubtful), two times 11 is 22, and that’s a long way off from 30. Howard appears to be getting worse, not better, particularly against left-handed pitching, where he’s hit a madly consistent .173 in each of the last two seasons. Other teams know this and will load up on lefties in any key situation involving Howard. That, plus the fact that the Phillies now have a reliable right-handed hitting bat who can also play first in Darin Ruf, means that Howard will get less, not more, at-bats, even if he is relatively healthy.
For Amaro to expect Howard to hit 30 home runs is pure folly. For him to build his team around that plan is even worse, and shows a disconnect with reality that should be disturbing for Phillies fans.