Having lived in Philadelphia for the better part of a decade, Ryan Howard prefaced his remarks with a battery of Philadelphia TV stations sticking cameras in his face: “I know what I say is about to be misconstrued but it’s just a game. I have a beautiful wife, a beautiful child. Those things are important.”
Howard was right about one thing. His remarks were misconstrued by Philadelphia Phillies fans and talk show hosts who used the word “offended” when referring to Howard’s remarks all week.
Howard could have added he has a gosh-ugly swing but did not. While his beautiful wife and beautiful child and the most important things to him, the really ugly swing is the only thing that matters to Philadelphia fans and a lot of fans took his comments to mean as long as he was getting paid baseball really doesn’t mean that much to him.
Now this latest comment, one reported by MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, seems to seal Howard’s fate as a Phillie:
Howard not talking about not playing, possible platoon. “Talk to him,” he said, leaving clubhouse. “Bye. Talk to the manager.”
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) July 24, 2014
“Talk to the manager” seems like a rather innocuous comment, but it’s much more than that. It fuels a schism in the clubhouse, pitting some players on the side of the manager and others, mostly older veterans, on the side of Howard. Already outfielder Marlon Byrd, who might be gone soon, questioned manager Ryne Sandberg’s decision to bench Howard and more may follow.
The final straw for Sandberg might have been earlier this week. Howard came up to the plate with the winning run on third and one out. All he needed to do was get his bat on the ball to put it in play and there was an 83.5 percent chance of a win in that situation — based on statistical data of players who are able to put it in play in that situation — and Howard struck out.
It wasn’t a one-time thing. It’s been happening a lot over the last three years and for that, along with his snippy comments over it, Howard needs to go immediately if not sooner.