The Philadelphia Phillies have announced that a longtime franchise icon will be sent to the bench, at least for the time being.
Prior to tonight’s series finale with the Washington Nationals, the Phillies’ manager Pete Mackanin announced that longtime franchise icon Ryan Howard will be sent to the bench for the forseeable future.
In the starting lineup announced for tonight’s game, rookie Tommy Joseph will be playing 1st base and hitting in the cleanup spot of the batting order.
“We’ll see what Tommy does in three or four days,” Mackanin said per The Philly Voice’s Ryan Lawrence. “That very well could extend that period of time to a week. It depends on how well he looks. … It’s not really so much about Ryan. It’s about seeing the younger guy who tore it up in Triple-A and came up here to make a good first impression. We want to get a look at him. As we know, this season is about the future. We’re in the middle of a rebuilding process. We have to find out about him to see if he fits in.”
Something had to break with Howard, and it was likely going to be sooner rather than later. The former ‘Big Piece’ of the Phillies 2000’s glory run and World Series champions has not only fallen on hard times, but his performance has gotten downright embarrassing at the plate.
Thus far on the 2016 season, Howard is hitting for just a .154/.215/.343 slash line with eight home runs and 19 RBI. Unfortunately for this weak-hitting Phillies ball club, that home run total is tied for the team lead with slumping 3rd baseman Maikel Franco.
MLB insider Jayson Stark quoted both Mackanin and Howard this afternoon on his Twitter feed:
Howard is not likely to quit, even if his performance would seem to indicate that is something he should be considering.
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The fact is that Howard is making $25 million this season on the last guaranteed year of his contract. He is also due a $10 million buyout for next year if the Phillies do not pick up an option, which they certainly will not.
Logic would tell you that there is no way in the world that Howard, or almost any other sane individual, is simply going to walk away from whatever portion of that $35 has not yet been paid out.
After being advised of the benching, Howard was interviewed by Lawrence, stating: “I know where I am right now. You know, I understand. By no means am I trying to relinquish my job or anything but you know, I’ve played the game long enough to know and understand. Hey, I want to win. And I’m going to get my stuff figured out.”
Joseph was having a breakout season at AAA Lehigh Valley, earning a mid-May promotion for his first big league experience.
In 13 games, the 24-year old has received 40 plate appearances over which he has slashed .270/.275/.541 with three home runs and five RBI. The former catcher has also looked nimble and confident in the field at 1st base.
If Mackanin sticks to his announcement, the likelihood is that Joseph will be the Phillies starter at 1st base at least through the coming weekend series vs the Milwaukee Brewers.
That would give him four full games in a row for Mackanin to evaluate Joseph’s play and his effect on the overall team offensive production level.
Howard could sit out a few games, clear his head, and come back to earn at least a platoon role once again as he winds down his final season in a Phillies uniform.
However, there is also every chance that fans are now seeing the beginning of the end playing itself out, with Joseph taking over the starting role on a permanent basis.
Here’s to hoping that, whatever happens, that ending doesn’t become ugly. Howard, the Phillies, and the fans all deserve better than that in honor of the long, incredible run that would not have been possible without his early career performances.