The Phillies have lost 3 of their last 4 games and there are still more questions about this team than there are answers. Perhaps the biggest question right now is about the Big Piece, Ryan Howard.
Take a look at the timeline for Howard this past week and a half:
Howard had a cortisone injection on May 19th; he was back in the line-up May 21st and feeling better. By May 23rd, he needed a break again. He started the next 2 games and went 1-8. On May 26th, he sat out, but pinch hit into a double play later in the game. And last night against the Red Sox, Howard was visibly uncomfortable; he went 2-5 with a double play and a huge base running blunder where he got picked off at 2nd base. He appeared to be having great difficulty running.
All of this is very bad news. The MRI Howard had showed inflammation and changes in the meniscus, which basically means he has cartilage tears. If the cortisone injection lasted only a few days before he felt discomfort again, the options for treatment during the season will be limited. And he will be doing further damage to the cartilage as the season progresses and he continues to pound that knee.
And the plot thickens: According to manager Charlie Manual, “He has some arthritis. It comes and goes in his legs. He’s going to always be bothered by that.” Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease which has no cure. It can be caused by wear and tear as one gets older, or it can result from an injury. In Howard’s case, it could be due to the extra stress on his knee after his Achilles surgery.
Whatever the cause, it is beginning to look like Howard’s 5-year, $125 million contract is going to be one of the biggest bust’s in baseball history. With all the recent injuries, plus the arthritis, Howard will likely never be the same player again…at least, not the one they paid $125 million for.
And with the way this team is currently constructed, having neither Howard nor Chase Utley (currently on the DL with an oblique strain) healthy spells disaster. There is no way, with the age and the injuries on this team, that the Phillies can contend.
Remember all of the criticism Spring Training that that this team was too old and too injury-prone to win? Remember Howard’s response to that criticism? He told the media, “Just don’t be surprised,” basically saying that they were going to prove all the critics wrong.
Well, it is May 28th; the Phillies are in third place and have lost 3 of their last 4 games in spectacularly bad fashion. The following key players are all on the DL: Utley, Roy Halladay (will miss at least most of the year), Carlos Ruiz and John Lannan. There are 2 rookies pitching in the rotation. The bullpen is horrible. The offense is non-existent. The fielding errors and base running blunders are piling up.
As much as I hate to be a pessimist, stick a fork in them; I believe this team may be done.
Although, Howard is certainly welcome to prove me wrong…
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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography