Opinion

Joseph vs. Howard Issue About Patience, Respect

06-06-13RyanHoward_zpseb295094.jpgTommy Joseph had a good weekend.

The 24-year-old first baseman went 7-for-16 with a home run and a double, driving in two. Since being called up to the Phillies earlier in May, Joseph has hit .298 with a .300 on-base percentage and .544 slugging percentage. He’s hit four home runs and six extra-base hits in 60 plate appearances.

Tonight the Phillies face the Cubs and pitcher Jon Lester, a left-hander. Chances are Joseph (hitting .429/.467/.643 against lefties) gets another start, and he should. Compared with fellow first baseman Ryan Howard, Joseph has been the better offensive player, even with the small sample size.

But Tuesday the Phillies will face Kyle Hendricks, a right-hander. And Wednesday another righty, Jason Hammel, is scheduled to pitch against the Phils. That means we could see more Howard than Joseph.

And right now, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Manager Pete Mackanin is in a precarious situation. Despite Howard’s poor play he remains a high-priced veteran still considered one of the franchise’s greatest players, a long-time star who deserves the respect afforded to a long-time star. Should the Phillies have traded Howard before now? Maybe, but it’s likely they tried. But shouldn’t the Phillies just cut Howard today? No. They shouldn’t.

Saturday’s disgusting act – in which an attendee at the Phillies’ loss to the Brewers tossed an aluminum beer bottle toward Howard – underscores the fine line of frustration we’ve been walking with Howard. It’s fine to disapprove of his play. It’s fine to be frustrated. But tossing anything onto the field is crossing a line. Yelling derogatory words is crossing a line.

But all of these acts – whether disgusting or simply eye-rollingly annoying – show that, yes, some Phillies fans are tired of seeing “Howard” written on the lineup card. It’s a valid feeling.

But the Phillies shouldn’t listen to those fans. They shouldn’t cut Howard, and Mackanin shouldn’t stop writing Howard onto the lineup card. The reality is the Phillies, despite their hot start, are not a playoff team. Cutting Howard won’t change that. Plus, cutting Howard doesn’t mean a hotshot prospect gets an opportunity. It means the Phillies grab some veteran first baseman, a lot like Howard, to play behind Joseph.

So there’s no point in that.

Plus very few – if any – major league teams would be interested right now in Howard. Maybe in September a contending team needing a left-handed pinch hitter may come calling, but for now, Howard is here.

So while Howard is here, as I’ve stated before, don’t get angry or frustrated. And don’t worry about the lineup card. Joseph has played his way into more starts; certainly he’ll be getting the majority of starts for now. But it’s likely that Howard starts Tuesday or Wednesday, maybe even both games.

And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Tommy Joseph will get his time; in fact, it’s already happening. And there are still plenty of things he needs to polish, including his high strikeout rates. So he’ll play, absorb training, sit and watch – the whole nine yards.

I, for one, am content watching Howard get his time, too, since this is possibly the last of it we’ll ever see.

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