One famous Ryno wants another one to take a seat.
Ryne Sandberg, the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, doesn’t see the use in Ryan Howard, his team’s sidelined slugger, returning to the diamond this season. As Howard works his way back in Florida from left knee surgery, Sandberg is hoping the big guy does not hurry back.
“At this point, I think it would be counterproductive [for Howard to play this year],” Sandberg told reporters Thursday. “I don’t know what playing 10, 12, 15 games [would do].”
Howard has played in only 80 games this season while battling a variety of injuries that sidelined him indefinitely in July. He was batting .266 with 11 home runs and 43 runs batted in at the time of his surgery. Still, Sandberg said he thinks Howard can get back to his former dominance.
“He still has a knack for getting RBIs even if he isn’t totally swinging the [bat] or hitting the ball out of the ballpark,” Sandberg said. “He still gets RBIs in situations. … Start with [getting healthy] first and then allow his ability [to take over], and what the numbers are, just let those fall into place.”
Howard was the dominant left-hander hitter in the latter half of the last decade. His average year from 2006-2009 consisted of 50 homers, 141 RBIs and a .379 on-base percentage despite constant complaints about his high strikeout rate. (He never struck out 200 times in a season, but he came within one whiff in each of the 2007 and 2008 seasons.)
The Phillies signed Howard to a five-year, $125 million extension in 2010, one year removed from his last outstanding season. Howard hit 33 homers and drove in 116 runs in 2011, his last season at full health, but has missed at least half the season the last two years. Some critics call it the worst contract in baseball, non-Alex Rodriguez division.