If you read Todd Zolecki’s article on the team's response to Ryan Howard’s injury situation, the most disturbing part isn’t that the reigning MVP will be held out the next two games; it’s that nobody seems to be on the same page about it. [Link]
Here’s what we know: Howard is nursing at least two injuries, a sore left quadriceps muscle and a strained ligament in his left knee. The quadriceps has been sore since March 1. Howard came out in yesterday’s papers and said time on the disabled list might not be such a bad idea. The Phillies will instead keep him out of the starting lineup the rest of their series with Arizona, then have him meet with the team doctor once they return to Philadelphia.
Manager Charlie Manuel, foremost a hitting guru, says the injury has hindered his ability to generate power off his back leg, causing him to take awkward, unbalanced swings. Manuel also said it’s a matter of Howard "Trying too hard."
Perhaps recognizing that "trying too hard" does not require any sort of official team action, General Manager Pat Gillick has pushed all his chips on mental fatigue, going so far as to say there’s nothing at all wrong with Howard’s swing.
"I think he's trying too hard," Gillick told the Inquirer. "I don't think it's his approach or his swing. I just think he's trying too hard. I'm not worried about him. I don't see anything mechanically. I don't see anything with his approach to his swing that's out of whack."
The man responsible for making sure Howard’s swing stays "in whack," hitting coach Milt Thompson, offered a different perspective.
"He's not driving the ball to left field like he did last year," Thompson said in the same article. "They're busting him in, so now he's trying to be inside-conscious. The good thing about Ryan is that he lets the ball travel. He'd actually let the ball get on the plate and hit the ball out there. And right now, due to the fact of his quad or something, he can't stay on that leg and drive the ball back there."
Others who’ve noticed Howard’s flawed mechanics include the Phillies' broadcast crew, who first talked about Howard pulling off the ball in the first broadcast from Spring Training.
Beerleaguer: As I sit and watch another season drift away, my hope is that someone would start taking matters seriously for a change. Instead, the strategy, once again, is to wait it out, just as they’re doing with Howard apparently. "Wait it out" could be the team's new catchphrase. Think of all the ways it would apply. Manuel's term. Gillick's term. Gordon's arm. Howard's slump.
If they know Howard is hurt, why not put him on a plane back to Philadelphia at once and start providing him with proper treatment? This isn't Greg Dobbs or some other non-factor. He's the life-force of the entire organization.