Another year, another disappointing, injury-plagued season for Ryan Howard.
Jumping in the way-back machine to 2012, Howard would play in just 71 games that season following his recovery from the torn Achilles tendon injury suffered at the conclusion of 2011. This past year, it was a meniscus tear in his left knee that would sideline him after just 80 games, his finale a 1-for-4 line against the Braves on July 5 in which he smacked his final home run of the year. The three-time All-Star and 2006 MVP was a shell of his former self, completing the 2013 campaign with a .266 average, just 11 homers, and 43 RBI.
His .718 OPS in 2012, actually rose to .783 in ’13. Those two figures still represent the lowest OPS totals, by far, during Howard’s illustrious career. And although the slugging first baseman has been sapped by leg injuries the past two seasons, his GM, Ruben Amaro Jr., managed to find a silver lining when announcing the meniscus tear in July:
“It could have been much more significant damage. We don’t want any of our players on the DL. But we know what it is and it’s treatable. Hopefully we can get him back in time to play this year.”
That never happened. Howard missed the remainder of the 2013 season with the Phillies far out of playoff contention.
In the midst of a much-discussed five-year, $125 million deal, Howard has yet to live up to the lofty numbers of the contract and the expectations that arrive with them. It has been two years since we’ve seen the Ryan Howard that Philadelphia fell in love with; the mammoth home run hitter able to change the course of a game with the flick of a wrist. He says that man still exists, as he told Todd Zolecki:
“Can I be a 30-100 guy?” he said. “Yeah, I definitely think so. I believe in my ability. I hear what people say. It’s cool. You guys are all entitled to your opinions. But let’s say I come back and I do what I do. Then what? If I come back and put up numbers like ’07, ’08, ’09, then what? Are we having these conversations?”
Setting aside your thoughts on the extension he inked during the 2011 season, Howard needs to be correct in his self-assessment if the Phillies are to go anywhere in 2014. But for 2013, it was more disappointment, more injuries, more of the same for an aging Phillies roster.
Grade: D: I won’t give him a complete failure although you could make an argument for it. Howard did produce some when in the lineup, although the Phillies probably would have been better off with a Darin Ruf platoon or just sitting Howard altogether at times. His future depends on healthy legs. Will he ever truly recover?