A five-time Major League All-Star, two-time National League home run leader and an MVP has no place on the Philadelphia Phillies roster, says manager Ryne Sandberg.
The assessment isn't that harsh, but Sandberg doesn't seem to care about pedigree or track records. He wants his current roster to perform at a high level and that's not happening.
Especially not with Ryan Howard.
Dip in Form
The 34-year old, who has been with the Phillies since 2004, is struggling here in 2014. He's batting .224 with just a .305 on-base percentage. Howard does have 15 home runs, but he's slugging just .377.
He has battled through injuries the past two seasons and is currently fighting just to stay in the starting lineup.
"I do think it's important to have players who fit my type of players," Sandberg told Matt Gelb on July 18.
"That's important going forward. I think getting younger will be a step going forward."
Darin Ruf has been getting a bulk of the starts at first base since being called up from Triple-A in early July and is out-performing Howard. Ruf, 27, has one home run in 19 at-bats. In the minors, though, he hit .265 with a .700 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Howard had six-straight 30 home run seasons from 2006-2011. Now, he has 118 strikeouts to his name in 2013.
Howard has been suggested as being a trade chip for the rebuilding Phillies to lure some prospects before the July 31 non-tedner trade deadline. If no team wants to take a risk on the struggling slugger, or is $60 million contract, SJ Tuohy of Fansided.com has a silver lining.
"I suppose for the Phillies faithful it could be worse," Tuohy wrote. "At least Howard, regardless of how the trading deadline/rest of the season plays out is going to be off of the books in 2016 undoubtedly."
Ouch — how the mighty have fallen. Just like the Phillies, themselves.
They are in last place in the National League East Division with a 45-59 record and are 12.5 game back of the first place Washington Nationals.
Philadelphia missed the playoffs in 2013, finishing with just 73 wins. The Phillies finished 81-81 in 2012 and snapped a streak of five-straight years laying claim to the division crown.
As the Phillies have fallen off the baseball map, so has Howard.
Sandberg has been running out of advice and patience with the former star.
"He puts the time in the cage," Sandberg told Philly.com. "If his batting average went up 20 or 30 points, I think you'd see him increase the doubles on balls hit in the gaps and more hard-hit balls."
Looking into his own crystal ball, David Murphy discovers a cloudy, expensive situation for the Phillies future.
"Howard isn’t going anywhere," Murphy said.
"He is owed $25 million in 2015 and 2016 and has a $10 million buyout of a $23 million option in 2017. He can’t be traded, and the Phillies would stun everybody if they brought in a replacement. Which leaves them two positions to upgrade the offense while keeping everything else the same.
Which suggests that, for the foreseeable future, the results will be the same as well."
It's a far cry from Howard's ball-mashing days and the Phillies' World Series-winning dynasty days.