If they could somehow put Ruben Amaro Jr. in a self-help group with his fellow basement-dwelling GMs, he’d probably sit down in a folding chair and say: “Hi. I’m Ruben Amaro Jr. and my team stinks.” The other guys say, “Hi, Ruben” and welcome him and his Philadelphia Phillies to the recovery group.
Failed general managers anonymous it wasn’t, but Amaro pretty much did that on Monday after three straight losses and a 3-13 stretch. Finally ripping his team a new one by suggesting that once Darin Ruf comes up from rehab first baseman Ryan Howard could sit is step one in the recovery process.
Admitting your team and various players on it stink at least is a start.
For way too long players like Howard and shortstop Jimmy Rollins think they can take their subpar averages out there every day and it is going to be enough to remain in the lineup. The fact that Amaro put them on notice is one thing, but following it up must now be another.
The Phillies are forced to play Rollins now because shortstop phenom J.P Crawford is at least two years away in high Single A.
Howard, though, is another story. Once known in Philadelphia as “The Big Piece”, Howard is pretty much vilified for being a big piece of an unflattering kind since his Achilles tendon snapped at the end of the 2011 season. He only halfheartedly embraced rehab and, as a result, is about 20 pounds over the playing weight during his most productive seasons, which were prior to 2011. The weight has also contributed to a rapid deceleration of his fielding ability, which was never outstanding. Plus, he’s hitting .231 and he kills the few rallies the team is able to muster by stubbornly hitting into shifts.
Howard is not going anywhere due to the bloated five-year, $125-million extension signed in 2010 that has essentially locked him in Philadelphia, but that does not mean you have to keep rolling the guy out there every day. Howard has proven he cannot hit left-handed pitching (.176 averages in each of the last two seasons), so why not platoon him with Ruf at first base? An ancillary benefit to such a move would be to send a message to the rest of the veterans that a .231 average is unacceptable for a starter.
Certainly, with a .176 benchmark against lefties, Ruf could do no worse and probably a lot better. Admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery and, in Howard, the Phillies have a big piece problem that needs to be addressed immediately.