Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. says Ryan Howard is likely to be with the team in spring training

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Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. said in a radio interview back in December that they’d be better off without Ryan Howard. One month later, they still haven’t found any takers on the trade front. There’s plenty of awkwardness in the air right now, but Amaro told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News yesterday that the veteran first baseman is likely to be with the team in spring training.

“Regret being too honest?” Amaro said. “I guess sometimes. But I think that if Ryan’s with us, and he’s likely to be with us in spring training, I think Ryan’s got to prove to us that he’s ready to play every day at first base for us. I mean I’m kind of looking forward to him being ready and healthy and contributing. Right now, there’s nobody really that can unseat him.

“He’s a more productive player than anybody else we have there right now. But that could change. But he’s going to get every opportunity to play and be our first baseman, and I think that he’s going to be productive. Will he be productive enough to be part of what we want to do moving forward? We’ll see.”

Howard amassed 23 home runs and 95 RBI over 153 games last season, but he hit just .223 with a .310 on-base percentage and a .390 slugging percentage. The 35-year-old is owed $60 million over the next two seasons. Trade interest has naturally been hard to come by, even though it’s assumed the Phillies would be willing to eat a substantial portion of his contract in a deal. While it looks like Howard will be in camp this spring, the Phillies could potentially release him if they can’t find a taker between now and Opening Day.

If the Phillies finally decide to turn the page, they could rely on a combination of top prospect Maikel Franco and Darin Ruf at first base.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

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Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with MLive.com.

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.