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Ryan Howard has officially been benched by the Phillies

Jul 24, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

Jim Salisbury of reported yesterday that the Phillies have considered releasing struggling first baseman Ryan Howard with more than $60 million remaining on his contract and today is the day it becomes totally clear that the former MVP has been benched.

Philadelphia is facing a right-handed pitcher, which the left-handed-hitting Howard has made a career of knocking around, and that right-handed pitcher is Tim Hudson, against whom Howard has hit .328 with seven homers and a 1.112 OPS in a ton of career matchups.

So if ever there was a game to start Howard it’s today, yet manager Ryne Sandberg has Darin Ruf starting at first base. Ruf hits right-handed and it’s possible Sandberg will eventually simply platoon him with Howard at first base, but it’s also possible that Howard will be released with the Phillies eating a huge portion of his $125 million contract and the odds of that seemingly rose today.

  1. sotehpr - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    God make this happen!

    • don444 - Jul 25, 2014 at 6:04 AM

      God has much better things to do than address your piddling irrelevancies.

  2. xmatt0926x - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    Great. They finally have the stones to make what is ultimately the right decision with Howard. I give them credit for admitting this is a disaster at this point. Now, time to move on to the disaster in the GM’s office.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      1 year ago – I said they should trade him to a AL team and pay $20 mil of his salary each year.

      As a $5 million dollar DH, he would have attracted some interest. Now….idk

      • paperlions - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        He’s owed $30M each of the next 2 years, that would make him a $10M DH.

        Even at $5M, he wouldn’t be an attractive player to most teams. He’s old. Can’t hit lefties at all, and hasn’t hit righties at all this year (last year’s production vs. RHP was associated with a .370 BABIP, which he isn’t likely to repeat).

        Some team might sign him for the vet minimum if he was a FA, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had to settle for a MiLB contract….old, injured, non-athletic…just not much upside there.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:12 PM

        It’s $25 mil per year – there is an option for 2017 or $10 mil buyout. But okay – so then Phillies would have to offer to pick up the buyout as well. My point was that a year ago, I believe you could have found takers to pay him $5 mil a year for 3 years, and give up something in return. He had driven in 99 runs in 600 PA’s over the previous 2 years. I think teams would have taken a chance on him as a DH for that price ($15 mil is chump change these days).

        But again, that was a year ago, not now

      • paperlions - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        It’s hard though….isn’t it. If a guy is productive and you are trying to win, you want to keep him. Amaro’s mistake was his belief that they were close to competing, because if you believe that, you don’t sell….if you wait until a guy isn’t producing…well…it’s too late.

        It is always better to sell a year early than a year late….but fans usually rip their teams if they sell a still productive player who the FO thinks will continue to decline.

    • bodrum53 - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      Ryan Howard is not totally to blame for the season the Phillies are having, I say play him and at the end of the season look at his numbers and compare those with the other sluggers, while doing that get rid of Sandberg and Amaro, this is coming from a Philly fan for over 45 yrs.

      • ewyorksockexchange - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:13 PM

        He’s not the only issue with the team, but Howard and his .682 OPS and -0.4 WAR show that he deserves some blame for the Phils’ season. Not total blame, but he’s undeniably contributed greatly to the failure of the team this season.

      • sportsfan18 - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:54 PM

        Sandberg hasno blame for this team.

        On sites before he was hired I wished him luck as the team would be bad and I figured his first managerial job would end badly and he would be scapegoated.

        No one could manage the group they have their and get them to win.

        Put it this way, with another manager, would the Phil’s be in first place?

        Would Howard be playing at a near MVP level?

  3. dan1111 - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    I would like to hear Sandberg’s rationale before we declare him “benched” based on not starting a single game against a righty. He played an entire 14 inning game 2 days ago. Maybe he just needs extra rest.

    • xmatt0926x - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      No, I think him sitting tonight makes a pretty clear statement. Maybe he isn’t “benched” in the sense that he will rarely start a game, but after all of the comments yesterday and him sitting against a righthander (who he has success against) tonight, I think at least Sandberg is trying to get a point across to Howard that his job is no longer secure.

      Don’t forget that Ruben made comments last week that changes would be coming and he not so accidentally mentioned that Franco could come up to the bigs and get time at 1st base as well as 3rd base. Tonight’s benching is no accident.

      • realgone2 - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:33 AM

        I guess he missed the part of the article where it said Howard kills Hudson and yet he is sitting tonight.

    • gothapotamus90210 - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      The other 100 games are a pretty good sample size.

      • dan1111 - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        I agree that Howard should be benched, but the Phillies have been playing him for years whether it made sense or not.

  4. thatsnuckinfuts - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    Owners should lock out the players until they get 100% guaranteed contracts going the way of the Dodo.

    • Liam - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      Yes, those owners are hurting so bad right now that they should shut down baseball to get the CBA more favourable to them. Brilliant.

      • thatsnuckinfuts - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        NFL owners and NHL owners are making money hand over fist. Yet they were smart enough to know the 100% guaranteed contracts are a problem.

        The day is coming, you tools are just too stupid not to see it.

      • Liam - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:37 PM

        You have no idea on the current state of baseball economics. 28 of the 30 teams are swimming in money. They’re not going to kill what is currently a very positive cash flow to try and pass a condition like this in the CBA, because the players would absolutely cancel a season over it.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      Your nick is very appropriate considering that absurd comment.

      • thatsnuckinfuts - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        The day is coming, may as well get it over with, of course you’re just thinking like a fan who would do and accept anything just as long as MLB continues without interruption.

        But hey, the current system where 1 bad long term signing can handcuff a small market franchise for nearly a decade is optimal isn’t it?

        Buffoon that you are

      • thatsnuckinfuts - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        And it will be idiots like you that whine and complain about the cost of going to a baseball game.

        Why don’t small market teams sign big time Free Agents? Can’t afford to be wrong.
        I swear I should stick to fangraphs where the commentors have a clue about the game.

      • tuberippin - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        I like that your responses have to include some type of insult to another person’s intellect because they disagree with your opinion.

        Have you considered gracing another website with your immense brainpower and superior ability to demean others who disagree with your opinion?

      • sportsfan18 - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:59 PM


        uh, another way to get rid of those long term guaranteed contracts is to NOT give them to the player(s)

        Tell your G.M. that they can’t give a 10 year $240 million deal and presto, they are not locked into that terrible long term deal.

        An owner could set up things based on age, production levels, any way he wants to pay players.

        no deals over 5 yrs.

    • 18thstreet - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      It really was a shame, how Howard held a gun to the Phillies’ owner’s head like that, and forced him to sign the contract.

      But what choice did the Phillies have other than to sign a first baseman who couldn’t hit lefties to a five-year contract extension two full years before he was due to hit free agency?

      The owners are obviously powerless.

    • 18thstreet - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      Ryan Howard, isolated power by year, in graph form:

      Yeah, you GOTTA lock a guy like that up, which they did after 2009. Because the trend wasn’t already apparent.

      • paperlions - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        I lot of us made that point at the time and were shouted down….really, the same happened when Pujols signed…many were claiming that he’d beat the odds.

        Getting old is a horrible thing…and age is hell on athletes at the highest lest of competition. No one beats age, the best you can hope for is to draw out the defeat.

      • 18thstreet - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        I remember. And I remember thinking that anyone who defended the contract wasn’t someone I wanted to talk baseball with.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      NFL = Apples
      MLB = Oranges

      Hence you comparison being pointless. It is FAR more likely that an NFL player will end his career in a given game than a MLB player would. Which is why the NFLPA knows full well they can not demand guaranteed salaries, and as such, they don’t look for it

      On the other hand, the NFL has a minimum that each team must spend, baseball has no such thing. So anyway you look at it, in both leagues, players have guarantees of cash coming in. It’s just that in Football, it is collectively guaranteed, not individually

      You have a nice day

  5. jets82jets - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    Not sure I understand this move. Send him to triple A maybe he will improve. Paying millions just to get rid of him makes no sense.

    • jets82jets - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      Thats coming from a Mets fan

    • realgone2 - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      He has to accept an assignment to AAA. They just can’t send him

    • xmatt0926x - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:33 AM

      He’s 35 and has an injury riddled bad body. He’s not going to improve in the minors. He’s also potentially blocking two different players who will need a position. He provides nothing. What about this makes no sense?

    • dan1111 - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:33 AM

      You can’t just send veteran players like Howard to AAA. He would have to agree to the assignment, which is highly unlikely. Also, what does he have to learn down there?

    • stupidusername - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      He wouldn’t have to accept the assignment, no one would claim him off waivers, and it would end up with him becoming a free agent. Teams can’t just send anyone to the minors just to get better.

  6. gothapotamus90210 - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    Labor Day Sunday in 2006 when Howard hit 3 HRs off Hudson as the Phillies were hard charging into the home stretch. Seems so long ago.

    • xmatt0926x - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      I remember that game too and remember being amazed that a pitcher like Hudson could be taken deep multiple times by one player in one game. Who knew it would eventually get this bad?

      • gothapotamus90210 - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:12 AM

        what made it all the better was that was when the team was up-and-coming. they broke our hearts again that year, as they did in 2005, but it can’t get much more exciting in September than it did from 2005-2008 for the phils.

    • paperlions - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      Well, it was a long time ago. 8 years a long time in MLB

  7. jc4455 - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    Has Howard ever been platooned? I know his numbers vs righties are bad this year, but he still projects to be an okay player if he’s used correctly.

  8. stupidusername - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    He has played 1B just as much as any other 1B in baseball. What’s amazing is that this is a sudden turn. Yes, I know Ruf has been injured, but still. Howard is that bad that it’s not like you can’t find anyone to play 1B. 15 games under .500, now is when you make a change? Why did it take a year and 100 games to consider Ryan Howard as something less than the everyday 1B? Amaro hoped and prayed Howard would bounce back. He said as much at the beginning of the season when he suggested the team would be good if healthy. And I am still skeptical this is any change. So he’s off one game vs a righty. They’ve had some long/late games this week. I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion he’s benched, like he won’t even platoon vs righties in the future. Unless you consider platooning as a benching. Either way, though, anyone but Howard makes them better. And while I’m at it, let’s talk about benching Dom Brown. It’s enough already. He far and away has the worst WAR in baseball. Of course, making changes now to put these guys with negative WAR on the bench only hurts their draft pick position since they’re buried enough in the standings to not make a playoff run.

    • gothapotamus90210 - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      In an injury plagued season last year, he did manage to post a .784 OPS (115 OPS+), so he did have a bit of goodwill entering the season. Given Ruf’s injury, and Franco’s struggles, my guess is they gave Howard a longer leash than they would’ve like to have.

      A sunk cost is a sunk cost. But you can’t trot out an AAAA player when you have a player who is getting $25M and who has/had the ability to hit for a lot of power. I think 100 games is a fair enough sample size to prove Ryan is finished, but saying that at less than 75 games would’ve been premature, IMO.

      • dan1111 - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        True, and also:

        1) They obviously vastly overestimate his value, which is why they gave him that ridiculous contract in the first place.

        2) Not playing your $25,000,000 per year player is admitting that you made a huge mistake. GMs get fired for mistakes.

      • stupidusername - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        Ryan Howard *is* a AAAA player. He was when the season started. It was suggested to platoon him last year. And why is 75 games not fair enough to finally platoon him but you’re allowed to use his .784 OPS from last year which happened in just 80 games? By the way, that’s not good for a 1B. That’s 15th among all 1B’s with at least 300 PA’s last year. At the beginning of the season everyone knew he should be platooned now because of the last, well, at least 3 years of decline and injury. 75 more games in 2014 is overtime.

        Most importantly, why would he be more productive this year? If he missed 82 games last year and is 34 years old why would he get better? If anything, missing that many games should suggest you need to rely on him a lot less than they did. Instead, he had just as many PA’s as any other 1B in baseball.

  9. robert2828 - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    That’s really shocking. I had no idea Ryan Howard was slumping like that. I figured a guy like Howard would always be near the top of the league in B.A and RBI’s.

  10. pandorasdadca - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    It doesn’t help that the guy has ZERO protection in that line-up.
    Could his sitting today be as much about a broken, down older player who did play all 14 innings the other night getting rest on a day fame after a night game too.

    • pandorasdadca - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      Day GAME. I should really proofread more.

      • jwbiii - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        Howard didn’t play last night. Granted, it was against a tough lefty.

  11. ronaldpaxton - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    About time. Might as well use the rest of the season to see what else you have at first base.

  12. eagles512 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    Sandberg is an idiot. I understand sitting him. But today is when you play him to see if he can get going. Over mashing as usual.

    • yahmule - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      Ah, **** it, I’ll quit smoking tomorrow.

  13. sisqsage - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    The Phils are in Barry Zito-ville with Howard. What to do with a huge contract and player who is so not worth the money. Actually it’s worse. He’s supposed to be an everyday player. The Giants only had to try to stomach Zito once every five days.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:59 PM

      Wasting away again, in Barry Zito-ville….

      • Kevin S. - Jul 24, 2014 at 5:51 PM

        Some people claim there’s a wo-man to blame…

        But I know, it’s Sabean’s fault.

  14. whocares44 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    I wonder when the Owners are going to wake up. And stop giving out the total Dumb money contracts. And the dumb long term one…
    two three years at most. And 12-15 million at most…
    If they don’t want it. Let them walk..
    Time to put a stop to the Dumb money long term contracts..

  15. jmadgett - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    Maybe I’m the only one who fails to see how stellar Ruf has been this year in the majors let alone last year in the minors. Yes, Howard is struggling to the tune of a sub .230 AVG, but having come off back-to-back multi-hit games to be benched twice in a row in favor of a 1-13 hitter…? Nonsense. If anything, the Phils should be showcasing Howard as much as possible in an attempt to get another team to bite at him (NYY with Teix injury?). I’m not sure what the agenda is here for the Phils but it leads me to believe this move might also have something to do with showcasing the almost 28 year old Ruf in an attempt to possibly move him in a Cliff Lee package deal as added value. If that’s not the case, I’m understanding more and more each day why teams passed up on making Sandberg their manager.

  16. andreweac - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    Wow, that was a quick downfall in his tWtW grade.

  17. dsaverno - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    Is everyone sure that RAJ hasn’t demanded Ruf play every day? You know Howard’s contract is coming off of the books in two years, and Ruf is just ripe for an extension . . .

  18. coryfor3 - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    I am not for GMs being fired without good cause and I mean this in no ill spirit. But I don’t understand how Amaro has been given so much slack to make so many mistakes that are generally recognized as ridiculous mistakes even at the time that he makes them. The people that he signs and for the amounts of money? Things started out well for Amaro with some of his big acquisitions but holy cow…lately?

  19. kctrain33 - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    I hope if they do release him that the royals make a move to get him. They could really use his power bat in the lineup, and Im sure he would sign a low money contract to play on a playoff contender.

    • nategearhart - Jul 24, 2014 at 4:31 PM

      Can’t hit for power if you can’t hit.

  20. acapertino - Jul 24, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    Why is all the blame on Howard. Yes he is struggling but i put this all on upper management.
    Ruben needs to go, he has not been a good GM from day one. Also VP of baseball operations needs to go, after his comments the other week it tells me he does not care about the fans nor what the team does. I believe as long as these 2 are still in philly, the Philllies will never see better then 500.
    Upper management made Howard unmoveable, he had his good years got the big contract then got injured. He has always been a power hitter and never learned situational hitting, the orginization never made him do that. Sandburgh does not know how to manage around Howard and his hitting style. Charlie knew how to manage Howard better therefore he had his better years under him. Howard needs to hit more in the 6 hole and put 2 people around him that would allow him to get more balls to be able to hit. Putting him in the 4 hole with no protection every pitcher knows how to throw around him and knows he is going to swing at junk and strick out.

  21. andrenna - Jul 24, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    Ryan Howard gets the huge extension, loses a ton of weight and all of the sudden power drops and injuries begin. Those are all the circumstantial arguments for steroid use. Reminds me of how Ivan Rodriguez showed up to Detroit camp after signing dropping all his weight. And more recently, seeing Hamilton come in 20-30 pounds down after signing his big deal with angels. All suspicious to me.

    With that said, if Phillies have to eat the contract anyways (by releasing him) why don’t they just trade and get something in return. There has to be a desperate team out there that needs hope. Seems like a move the Yanks might make

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