In his “Zo Zone” blog posting today, Philadelphia Phillies insider for MLB.com Todd Zolecki reported that manager Ryne Sandberg still considers Ryan Howard his starting 1st baseman entering spring training.
Zolecki quoted the Phils skipper: “Right now, unless he gets unseated, he’s the first baseman. He needs to prepare himself to be the best first baseman he can be.”
The manager reportedly spoke with his slugging 1st sacker about a month ago. In that conversation, Howard seemed anxious to be a part of the rebuilding process, allowing the team to form those younger pieces around his veteran presence.
Over the winter, GM Ruben Amaro was quoted as having told Howard that the team would be better off without him. “We talked to Ryan, and I told him that in our situation, it would probably be better for the organization not with him, but without him,” said Amaro. “With that said, if he’s with us, then we’ll work around him.“
It’s difficult to see what Amaro was hoping to accomplish with such a direct negative statement to the veteran who has been the NL Rookie of the Year, the National League Most Valuable Player, the MVP of the NLCS, a 3x NL All-Star, led the league in homers twice, and led the league in RBI three times. But then, it’s difficult to understand many of the GM’s moves and statements.
Clearly, the Phillies would prefer to move on from their once-great slugger and middle-of-the-order cornerstone. He turned 35 years old back in November, and is guaranteed $60 million over the next three seasons.
“Right now, unless he gets unseated, he’s the first baseman” ~ Ryne Sandberg, on Howard
Just as clearly, no one is going to take on that financial responsibility. And frankly, right now the Phillies simply don’t have a better option at 1st base than allowing their former star the opportunity to at least try to re-capture some of the old magic.
As Sandberg said to Zolecki: “He’s been a Philadelphia Phillie. He considers himself a Phillie right now so for him to take pride in that and going forward help out with the process, that’s something he can also help out with.“
The Phillies manager wants to change the attitude in the clubhouse from a year ago. He also wants to put the best team on the field possible in an attempt to defy the naysayers and fashion a winning 2015 squad.
One of the few ways such a feat is possible would be for Ryan Howard to turn back the clock, and again become The Big Piece in the Fightins’ lineup.