Ryan Howard was once one of the most feared hitters in the National League. These days, however, he’s struggling to get any offense going in the International League — and the Atlanta Braves decided that they’ve seen enough.
ESPN reported that the Braves announced on Monday night that they had released the first baseman from his contract with their Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett, Ga., ending an experiment that saw the former Philadelphia Phillies star trying to resurrect his career at 37 years old — and possibly bringing an end to Howard’s fine professional career.
The rebuilding Braves signed Ryan Howard in the offseason after the Phillies declined their option on him, with both the Braves and Howard hoping that he would produce well enough to bolster Atlanta’s bench and give the Braves an option at designated hitter when they played in American League parks. The other benefit to having the former NL MVP in the organization was the hope that Atlanta’s young players could learn from his experience and his work ethic.
Ryan Howard was a major success at the second of the Braves’ two goals, but he never came close to the on-field production that the Braves were hoping for when they signed him at the end of spring training. In 11 games in Gwinnett, Howard batted just .184 with one home run. Batting average had never been what the first baseman was known for, but prior to 2012, he had at least managed to stay above .250.
But in his past five years in the majors, Ryan Howard saw his batting average drop significantly, as he hit .229 or worse in four of those seasons and never topped 25 home runs in a season in that stretch. That caused the Phillies to release him, and it was clear in Gwinnett that the Braves had received a shell of the man who had tormented them for much of the past decade as Philadelphia supplanted Atlanta as the kings of the NL East.
The question now becomes whether this was the end of a career that spanned 12 years in the majors and included three All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year award in 2005 and a World Series ring in 2008 when he helped the Phillies break a 28-year title drought.
If Ryan Howard is going to continue to pursue his hope of returning to the majors, he would almost certainly have to do it with an American League club that could play him as designated hitter. If this was the end, he would finish his career with 382 home runs and 1,194 RBIs, good for a solid career but likely to leave him well short of the Hall of Fame.
Readers, does Howard have anything left? Should he give an American League club a shot? Or was this the end of a good career that had an incredible stretch to it? Sound off in the comments and like and share this story!
Commentary by Dan Angell