If Ryan Howard is really serious about fixing his swing and getting back at least into some semblance of his prior form, he should report to the press box immediately.
That’s where one former Philadelphia Phillies’ great, Mike Schmidt, resides on Sunday afternoons. Schmidt flies to Philadelphia from his home in Jupiter, Fla. every Sunday to do the games on Comcast Sports Net Philly, and he summed up Howard’s problem succinctly during Sunday’s game with the New York Mets, saying: “He hits into the shift too much.”
That’s pretty much what every Phillies fan has been thinking all year, but maybe Howard needs to hear it from a guy with as much street cred as Schmidt. Even though Howard hit a grand slam to win a game earlier this week against the Houston Astros (ironically, to left), his long stretches of futility before that were a direct result of his stubbornness. Before Howard hit that game-winning grand slam, he went 1-for-25 on a road trip and then 0-for-14 at home. All 38 of those outs were either strikeouts or ground balls right into the shift.
There’s nothing wrong with sitting at home plate and going to the opposite field with a ground ball when there is only one fielder on the left side of the infield. Third base is also uncovered, and Howard can get a base hit — maybe even a double — if he just bunts the ball down the third base line every once in a while. Is that better than going 1-for-39? Darn right it is.
Howard has covered his ears all year when fans are yelling for him to do just that, but maybe Schmidt’s latest criticism will shake that stubborn streak out of him.