Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has followed up a career-worst 2014 season with a terrible start this year, going 4-for-24 (.167) with zero walks and eight strikeouts through six games.
Howard has hit a combined .232 with a .306 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage in 1,281 plate appearances dating back to 2012 and now at age 35 teams have given up all pretense of treating him like a former MVP.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the Mets “made it no secret … they don’t think Howard can hit a good fastball” by rarely even throwing him an off-speed pitch.
Admittedly the Phillies’ other lineup options are lacking, but manager Ryne Sandberg has kept Howard in the cleanup spot. He did bench Howard in the one game the Phillies have had so far against a left-handed pitcher, which is a no-brainer move at this point.
It’s no secret that the Phillies would love to part ways with Howard, as reports all offseason stressed their willingness to eat a big chunk of the $55 million left on his contract. Their inability to find a taker for a 35-year-old first baseman who’s below average offensively and defensively is predictable, but if Howard doesn’t turn things around fairly soon the possibility of simply releasing him becomes more and more realistic.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Major League Baseball Players Association has submitted a proposal to the league concerning the 2020 season. The proposal includes a 114-game season with an end date on October 31, playoff expansion for two years, the right for players to opt out of the season, and a potential deferral of 2020 salaries if the postseason were to be canceled.
Passan clarifies that among the players who choose to opt out, only those that are considered “high risk” would still receive their salaries. The others would simply receive service time. The union also proposed that the players receive a non-refundable $100 million sum advance during what would essentially be Spring Training 2.
If the regular season were to begin in early July, as has often been mentioned as the target, that would give the league four months to cram in 114 games. There would have to be occasional double-headers, or the players would have to be okay with few off-days. Nothing has been mentioned about division realignment or a geographically-oriented schedule, but those could potentially ease some of the burden.
Last week, the owners made their proposal to the union, suggesting a “sliding scale” salary structure. The union did not like that suggestion. Players were very vocal about it, including on social media as Max Scherzer — one of eight players on the union’s executive subcommittee — made a public statement. The owners will soon respond to the union’s proposal. They almost certainly won’t be happy with many of the details, but the two sides can perhaps find a starting point and bridge the gap. As the calendar turns to June, time is running out for the two sides to hammer out an agreement on what a 2020 season will look like.