FIRE JOE MORGAN: For Sale: One 28-Year-Old 50-Home Run Hitter


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008


For Sale: One 28-Year-Old 50-Home Run Hitter

You're Ryan Howard. You won the Rookie of the Year in 2005. You won the MVP in 2006. You hit 47 home runs and batted in 136 despite missing 18 games last year.

And now, after 196 mediocre at bats, you're cat vomit, according to Gerry Fraley.

Dish: Phillies wise not to meet Howard's demands

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Pat Gillick plans to move on when his contract expires after this season. He will leave his successor, probably assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr., with a difficult call: Should the Phillies keep first baseman Ryan Howard?

Unless you absolutely can't afford to pay anyone, why are we having this conversation? Throughout his career Ryan Howard has been one of the better hitters in baseball. He's still in his twenties, he gets on base, he hits a home run once every 11.5874126 at bats. That's good stuff. These are the players you want.

Oh wait, no. You're the Phillies. What you want is to pay Adam Eaton $8.125 million.

The safe answer is yes.

"Logic" and "reason" and "numbers" would say yes. But I ask you this: Volvo makes the world's safest cars, and does Volvo use "numbers" to test their cars? No. King Wilhelm VII hand-sculpts each car out of the indigenous Swedish Metal Trees. So you see, sometimes the unsafest choice is the safest.

The bold answer, the one that could do more for the club, is no.

I am fine with this contrarianism if you want to make a rational argument based on MORP or aging curves or some analysis of the current free agent market. That's what, you're going to do, right, Gerry Fraley?

Howard is increasingly becoming a Dave Kingman-esque, one-note player.

Oh boy. Dave Kingman's career OBP was .302. Ryan Howard's is .387. (Kingman's career-high OBP was .343!)

And for those raring to point out that Howard's current slash stats of .209/.316/.469 look like a bad Kingman year, I refer you to Howard's current BABIP, which stands at a shockingly low .252. Howard's career BABIP? .341. So yeah, that batting average is going up. Way up. Because Ryan Howard hits the ball hard and he is a baseball monster who you want to pay to keep on your team unless you're the Pirates or some shit.

He began Wednesday's game against the Colorado Rockies tied for fifth in the National League with 14 home runs and tied for seventh with 38 RBIs.

That sounds wonderful. GET THIS ASSHOLE OFF MY TEAM.

But Howard was hitting only .209 with a sickly .785 on-base plus slugging percentage and was on pace for a ridiculous 225 strikeouts, 26 more than his record-setting total of last season.

BABIP. See above. And wow, those strikeouts absolutely killed him last year to the tune of a .392 OBP and the third most home runs in major league baseball.

Ryan Howard is a human-shaped anchor who will drag your team all the way to the bottom of the standings. He has never won a baseball game and never will, until he moves to China, where the fewest runs scored wins the game and the women have sideways vaginas and vertical smiles.

But Howard has been going in the wrong direction for more than a year.

He followed up his 2005 rookie-of-the-year performance by hitting .313 with 58 homers and 149 RBIs with a 1.084 OPS in 2006. Then, he dropped to .268 with 47 homers, 136 RBIs and a .976 OPS last season.

A .976 OPS!!! How dare he (multiple interrobangs)?!!??! This was only good enough for 7th in the National League, tied with that other loser, Chase Utley, who I've been meaning to kick off the team as well.

Jimmy Rollins should go. Cole Hamels is dead weight. Give me Pedro Feliz, the ghost of Jim Thome and the corpse of Kris Benson and I'll give you a pennant and a roller-coaster ride of a season!

Howard's chase-everything approach has continued this season. He has been increasingly vulnerable against lefthanders, with 36 strikeouts in his first 84 at-bats against them.

This is a troubling trend. Of course, the possibility exists that Howard is already in the midst of a Hafnerian decline phase, in which case it looks even worse that the Phillies waited until he was like 39 to call him up from Triple A. But Fraley's not talking about denying him a $200 million, 8-year deal. He's saying just cut him loose after this year.

The Phillies are paying $10 million for those strikeouts. With Howard eligible for salary arbitration annually through 2010, that number will continue to rise.

If you can get him year by year until 2010, of course you do it. Of course. I'd sign almost anyone to a one-year deal. I mean, shit, you signed Tom Gordon to a three-year deal worth almost $20 million, and he was a retired 53-year-old jazz saxophonist at the time.

And enough with the "$10 million for those strikeouts" bullshit. Strikeouts are only very very slightly more damaging than regular outs.

If Howard's pattern continues, the Phillies should not continue to meet his price. The next GM will have to make that call. Will he be bold enough to trade Howard and get the offense-choking strikeouts out of the lineup?

If Ryan Howard hits precisely .200 for the rest of the year, sure. But pardon me if I don't have absolute faith in Mr. Fraley's clairvoyance. In fact, in a hypothetical league filled with baseball teams general managed with men like Fraley, I would happily snatch up the following hitters for my team, all of whom finished in the top ten in the major league in strikeouts:

Ryan Howard
Adam Dunn
Grady Sizemore
Dan Uggla
B.J. Upton
Carlos Pena

The sky would turn black like at the end of 300, except with home run balls instead of arrows. My K-Men would be the most exciting, most infuriating team in baseball. Other teams would start putting infielders in the outfield and outfielders in the first few rows of the crowd. Daisuke Matsuzaka would commit ritualistic seppuku after getting bombed for 14 home runs. Then I would sell the team to Mark Cuban and purchase the lives of the scientists who taught monkeys to control robot arms with their thoughts. Not because I'm angry at them, but because I want them to teach robots to control monkey arms with their thoughts, and then have the monkey-thought-powered robot arms to fight the robot-thought-powered monkey arms.

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posted by Junior  # 6:55 PM
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