Large power hitters typically have a short shelf life after hitting 33 years old. All of Red Sox and mets slugger Mo Vaughn’s skills seemed to vanish overnight when he reached 33.
Much like Vaughn, the second-most prolific home run hitter in Phillies history, Ryan Howard, is in a downward spiral. The Phillies now have to decide if they can salvage something or cut bait.
“You don’t mess with Howard,” then-manager Charlie Manuel said three years ago. “He hits a certain way and it works.”
There was no arguing that from 2005 to 2011. Howard was the game’s greatest run producer during that period. During that stretch, Howard drove in more runs to tie or give his team the lead than any MLB hitter. Not bad considering such lionized sluggers as Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez were knocking in runs at a prolific rate at that time.
But Howard’s skills have eroded at the plate and especially in the field, where he is a defensive liability. General manager Ruben Amaro has stated the Phillies will hold on to Howard, but reports indicate the Phillies are considering releasing Howard and eating $60 million owed to him after the 2014 season.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” an AL scout said. “The Phillies would have to take care of every cent of that contract and I guarantee you some team, an AL team, will sign Howard and DH him. Maybe he’ll find himself and do a lot of damage in the American League. How will the Phillies look then?”
If the Phillies do cut Howard, it would not be surprising if he produces elsewhere.
“He still has the power,” Hunter Pence said last week about his former teammate. “I think he needs to make the adjustments. I think he can do it once he gets over what’s going on over there. He was a great teammate and he’s a special player. It’s sad seeing what’s happening there but I don’t think this is the end of Ryan Howard. I think he needs to do anything necessary to get it back. Maybe that means making a serious alteration. I don’t know what that would be but what I do know is that the guy is a difference maker, who can carry a team on his back. There aren’t many guys in the game that can do that.”
Howard still believes he can rectify the situation.
“You have good years and you have off years,” Howard said. “This year isn’t over yet. You’ve seen me catch on and hit 10, 11 homers in a month. If I have a great August and September, that’s 35 homers and 110 RBIs [for the season].”