You don’t need to have binoculars to see something very peculiar about first baseman Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies this season.
It might not be enough to keep him out of a game or a significant injury, but the limp is just noticeable enough for every fan in the stadium to see it. There is no longer a buzz in the stadium when Howard comes to the plate, just a wistful wish to see a glimpse of what he used to be.
Howard limps to the plate, limps around first base and while running down the line on his all-too-numerous ground outs and pop ups this season. The Phillies are not talking about it, but every fan sees it. Howard supposedly is fully recovered from an Achilles’ heel injury of two years ago, but those injuries are so bad that there are lingering effects forever.
It could be limping due to an injury, but more likely that’s just how an old and fat guy runs, a possible fact noted by Philly.com’s Justin Klugh in this tweet:
Castillo and Schlitter meet at the mound to discuss if Ryan Howard is limping or not. THAT’S JUST HOW HE RUNS NOW GUYS
— Justin Klugh (@justin_klugh) April 4, 2014
The sad truth could be Howard is overweight and not athletic at this stage of his career. He looks overmatched against left-handed pitching, but that should not be surprising given his .176 average against lefties in each of the last two seasons.
Carrying around that much weight, too, cannot be easy on his joints. The best the Philllies can hope for from him is to finish out his $125 million contract in some sort of dignity. To do that, he will need a lot of rest and one way to achieve that goal might be to platoon him at first with Darin Ruf (when he returns from a rehab stint) or a player like John Mayberry, Jr.
The Phillies should not have signed him to a long-term contract, but there is nothing they can do about it now other than ease him out by working someone else into his spot. It might not be something they want to do, but do it they must for the overall good of the team.