5/8 – Atlanta releases AAA DH Ryan Howard
I can’t think of a worse place to try to relocate your old magic than in Buford, GA, but that’s what the Braves asked former NL MVP Ryan Howard to do. When signed, all Atlanta was seemingly looking for was a future bench bat who could DH on AL trips and pinch-hit in key situations against RHP, occasionally mashing one out of the park, just like he’s done 382 times in his major league career.
What they got, unfortunately, was confirmation that the one time thorn in the team’s backside is no longer a problem for pitchers. In limited play at AAA this season, Howard slashed .241/.267/.345 against righties. Those first two numbers aren’t particularly surprising or distressing. The third one, however, is disconcerting for the player affectionately nicknamed “Big Piece”.
Is this the end of Howard’s professional career? That seems likely, though someone with his name recognition could likely find a spring training invite or a minor league deal easier than most. If this is the end, Howard can be proud of an award-winning career. A 3-time All-Star and 2006 NL MVP, Howard won two HR titles, three RBI crowns, and a World Series. His all-or-nothing swing is his defining characteristic, compiling both homers and strikeouts at impressive rates. Yes, it’s true that Howard likely isn’t even one of the 50 best 1B to ever play, a consequence of a short peak and a career of terrible defense. However, I prefer to focus on what a guy did bring to the table, and for this Braves fan, Howard brought a decade of frustration. Against my Braves, he batted .280/.362/.573, and he hit 52 homers against them – the most Howard had against any opponent.
Only 22 players hit at least 20 HR in Turner Field. 21 played for Atlanta. The 22nd? Ryan Howard, whose 23 HR rank tied for 18th in Turner Field history with Kelly Johnson. Johnson batted nearly 800 more times there than Howard.
Sorry you couldn’t get the call-up to corporate, temp. Here’s wishing you the best, and if you manage to make yourself successful in the majors again, please, do it in another division.