The biggest news in Philadelphia sports this winter could be similar to the biggest news out of town this spring: One of the three major teams releases an iconic star without getting anything in return.
The Philadelphia Eagles made that move by releasing DeSean Jackson in the early spring. The Philadelphia Phillies should follow that by releasing Ryan Howard. There have already been “internal discussions” about doing that, according to this tweet by a Philadelphia sports talk radio station:
What to do w/ Ryan Howard? Rumors they could be talking internally about releasing Howard and eating the money. What about these other guys?
— Jon and Sean Show (@JonandSeanShow) July 22, 2014
Even though baseball contracts are guaranteed and football ones are not, this proposed move makes sense on a number of levels. Dangling Howard out there and the $60 million he’s owed on a $125 million contract signed in 2010 might attract a team crazy enough to take the $60 million off the Phillies’ payroll since that team would not have to give the Phillies a single prospect in return.
The more likely outcome — that no team wants Howard and his .219 batting average — also would be good for the Phillies since they would not be obligated to roll out a guy who gives them .219 production every day. It would open a spot for the younger Darin Ruf to play first base, his more natural position, and give him a chance to play extended baseball that he has not been given previously. Ruf has some pop in his bat — he hit 13 homers in a limited role last season — and would have to be pretty bad to hit .219 or worse. Newsflash: Ruf is just not that bad.
Howard is and he’s hitting .219 in 405 plate appearances this season. To illustrate just how bad Howard has been this season, two former Phillies — current GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and Steve Jeltz — hit .219 in roughly the same number of plate appearances in 1992 and 1986, respectively. Neither Amaro nor Jeltz will ever make the Phillies’ Wall of Fame.
Howard will based on his past, but that was a long time ago; and for the Phillies to move to the future, they must cut ties with him.