Philadelphia hope Ryan Howard's problems stem from his repaired Achilles and that he will be back to his old self next season, but it is more likely he, and Chase Utley, are in steep decline, writes Carroll Rogers.
Howard's end nears but Phillies have no answer
A good indication of how far the big man has declined as a slugger came last weekend at Houston, where the Astros twice internationally walked Chase Utley to face Howard. Not long ago, those moves would have been deemed suicidal.
In a season after Achilles tendon surgery, the 32 year old is headed for career lows in batting average (.228), home runs (12), RBI (53) and games (64). His struggles have been one of the primary reasons Philadelphia's run of five division titles is ending.
Howard's best years may be behind him, and that is a problem for the Phillies, who owe him US$118 million (Dh443.4m) over the next five seasons. They can cut that back to a mere $105m if they spend $10m in 2017 to buy out the final year of his contract.
Ruben Amaro, the Phillies general manager, insists that Howard can return to his old, menacing form of four and five years back. But what else can he say?
The Phillies hope Howard's problems stem from his repaired Achilles, and that he can continue to recover physically and at the plate. But this should be their wake-up call that their two biggest offensive forces, Utley and Howard, are in steep decline.
The question their fans have is whether the Phillies have the financial resources to start rebuilding their line-up.
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