Ryan Howard does still live. He exists

Via Philadelphia News Beat writer Ryan Lawrence (h/t Hardball Talk) comes a suspicion-arousing quote from Ruben Amaro concerning the whereabouts of once-mighty slugger Ryan Howard. Of course, until we see living proof of Howard, we’ll never know whether he is indeed still alive or even if he was the most elaborate illusion ever conjured in the history of mankind.

I do hope that at some point over the next few weeks, Howard walks in as Amaro is hosting a press conference.

Amaro: "Ryan! You’re alive. I mean…yes. Of course, you’re alive.” Proceeds to laugh nervously.

Howard is coming of an injury shortened 2013 where he hit .266/.319/.465 over 317 plate appearances. He knocked 11 home runs and drove in 43, but for a guy whose main asset is supposed to be his power, that’s a little concerning. Since rupturing his Achilles tendon in October 2011, Howard has also dealt with a broken toe and a torn meniscus in right knee. Over the last two seasons, he’s played in just 151 games total.

So I could forgive Ryan Howard if, for some reason, he spontaneously combusted or was taking some time to:

  • Catch a screening of Anchorman 2
  • Replace the entire lower half of his body with titanium alloy, computer enhanced prosthetics
  • Work on his baseball reality show modeled on the MTV hit “Punk’d”
  • Learn another language
  • Grill ‘n chill

But where Howard is, and where he’s been, are less important than where he will go and where he will end up this season. Amaro seemingly has the Phillies in as best of a “win now” mode as possible, despite rumors that he’s been willing to trade any or all of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, and Domonic Brown. Re-signing Carlos Ruiz and bringing on Marlon Byrd are somehow part of this plan.

Howard certainly is as well. ZiPS projects him to hit 18 home runs and drive in 67 over the course of 393 plate appearances. If we put some faith in those numbers, and if Howard can get over the 20 homer mark, then maybe he becomes a bigger part of the “win” and less a reminder of the precarious “now” that the team finds itself in.

And there’s something philosophical to be said for this whole situation. Despite his injuries and struggles since signing a five-year, $125 million extension in 2010, Howard remains well-liked in Philadelphia. And as we know, no one in their right mind can blame Howard for signing that deal - we can only be perplexed at Amaro’s decision to hand it out. So he’s very much “there,” and yet very much “not there.” Money and performance.

Isn’t that one way to boil down baseball to its essence?

Perhaps, at the end of a season where the Phillies tear through the NL East and win the World Series, everything will become clear like the plot to a well constructed thriller.

As William Wallace once said: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”

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