Apparently, Ryan Howard was still playing baseball.
The Atlanta Braves, who signed the high-priced veteran slugger to a minor league deal in April, released him from AAA Gwinnett on Tuesday. He hit just .184 with a homer, five RBI and 11 strikeouts in 42 plate appearances for the Braves’ affiliate.
At 37 and pretty much out of options unless another team is willing to take a flyer on him, it’s probably time the former Philadelphia Phillies’ big swinger hung up his cleats.
The former NL Rookie of the Year (2005) and NL MVP (2006) had seven great seasons between 2005 and 2011, but then injuries and a decline in play have dogged him since. He hit just .196 in 112 games last season, collecting 25 homers and 59 RBI for the 71-91 Phillies.
He is but one of a few major leaguers who are on the down slope of good to great careers who should consider packing it in, while fans still have fond memories of their better days.
10. Carlos Ruiz, C – Seattle Mariners
The oldest player on the M’s has started to show his age, and being a catcher, the creaky knees are probably bothering Carlos Ruiz more than ever now. For nine seasons and parts of two others, the beloved “Chooch” was quietly one of the more consistently good catchers in the National League with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was an all-star in 2012 and hit .266 with 68 homers and 401 RBI in 1,069 games with the Phillies, before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August last year. The dependable catcher has a career .994 fielding percentage and has thrown out 226 of 820 possible base stealers (28 percent efficient). He won a World Series with Philadelphia in 2008 and has a career .255 batting average in the post season. Now 38, the affable Panamanian hasn’t played much with Seattle, getting in 13 games so far and logging 33 plate appearances. He has but three hits and one RBI and his batting average is sitting at .115.
9. Jered Weaver, SP – San Diego Padres
By our count, Weaver should have been done with baseball in 2014 with the Los Angeles Angels. The three-time all-star and former 20-game winner (2012), slumped to 7-12 in 2015, with his first 4+ ERA of 4.64 and a WHIP of 1,233, his highest in six seasons to that point. In 2016, Weaver got in 31 starts with the Angels, which is admirable, but his ERA ballooned to 5.06 and he gave up a league high 37 homers in just 178 innings pitched (just 5.7 innings per start). His walks per nine innings jetted up to 2.6 (from 1.9 the previous year) and his WHIP came in at a deplorable 1.461. If that didn’t spell the end of his tenure in the big leagues, his slow start with the Padres should be the death knell. In six starts, Weaver is 0-3 with a 5.51 ERA. Worse yet, he has surrendered a league worst 12 homers already.
8. Victor Martinez, 1B/DH – Detroit Tigers
At this point in his career, three-time all-star and career .300 hitter Martinez is almost exclusively a DH, as Miguel Cabrera has taken the most reps there. And it won’t be long before Miggy gets too old to field his position and has to assume the DH spot while someone younger like Andrew Romine or Alex Avila mans first. Martinez, 38, is on borrowed time, in our opinion and while his 2017 stats aren’t all that bad, they aren’t very good either for a DH. In 29 games Martinez is hitting just .264, with four doubles, a homer and 18 RBI. Projected over a full season, he could end up with just 20 doubles, six or seven homers and RBIs in the neighbourhood of 60 (most of his RBI are coming off singles so far). Martinez is not a lost cause, but the Tigers, who are tied for the fourth oldest average age in baseball at 29.4, may have some tough personnel decisions to make in the fall.
7. Jason Grilli, RP – Toronto Blue Jays
Grilli is a great locker room guy and has shown a lot of fire for a guy his age. But, with the Jays struggling out of the gate, Grilli’s 40-year-old arm has been exposed far too many times already in the young season. Primarily a set-up man for closer Roberto Osuna, Grilli pitched well in 46 games last year (3.64 ERA, 58 K in 42 innings), but is slumping hard through Toronto’s terrible start. In 12 games this season, Grilli is 1-3, with a 9.31 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 9.2 innings. He has a WHIP of 1.996 and has already been dinged for four homers after giving up just 10 in 59 total innings in 2016. Grilli has been a warrior for the Jays in his short tenure, however, there has to be room on a 12-20 team for a younger set-up guy to assume the role. After 15 seasons and nine teams, this Grilled Cheese might be burnt.
6. CC Sabathia, SP – New York Yankees
Good thing for Sabathia that the Yankees are off to a hot, hot start. Otherwise, he might be doing his work out of the bullpen, or worse, released. His career has progressively gone downhill since his last all-star season with the Bronx Bombers in 2012. He was 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 200 innings. Since then, he is a combined 34-40, with an ERA of 4.59 and 537 strikeouts in 604 innings pitched. Across the board, just about every significant pitching statistic has declined year over year, to the point his ERA (5.45), K/9 (6.8), HR/9 (1.6) and WHIP (1.515) this season are all well above or below his career numbers. If not for the fact that the team doesn’t have a reliable fifth starter waiting in the wings, Sabathia would probably be working in long relief out of the bullpen.
5. Chase Utley, 2B – Los Angeles Dodgers
The man who brought us the execrable “Utley Rule” will likely play his way out of the National League, given his horrible start. And not many will shed a tear for the 15-year veteran, whose dirty slide not that long ago brought in a rule no one asked for. In 24 games, Utley is hitting a paltry .098 (5-for-51), with one double, no homers and just one RBI. The 38-year-old has steadily declined since being an all-star in 2014 with Philadelphia, going from .270 with 11 homers and 78 RBI that season to .212 with eight homers and 39 RBI in 2015. He rebounded a bit in 2016 (.252, 14 HR, 52 RBI), but he did strike out 115 times, which is second worst in his career (also in far less plate appearances). Utley has been relegated to the bench lately, as young second sacker Chris Taylor slowly takes over.
4. Ichiro Suzuki, RF – Miami Marlins
He’s got his 3,000 hits, now it’s time for the popular Ichiro to slip away from major league baseball quietly and let a youngster man right field for the Marlins. The popular 43-year-old has not set a retirement date (as far as we know) and is currently the second oldest player in the majors not named Bartolo Colon. We’ll give him props for a Hall of Fame career that has seen him lead the American League in hits seven times and in batting average twice and for the fact he has 3,037 hits and counting. The Hall of Fame beckons, for sure. However, he’s occupying a spot a guy nearly half his age should be employed in and thus far in 2017 he is just 7-for-40 in 26 games, with two doubles, a homer and one RBI. Sayonara Ichiro, it’s been very nice knowing you.
3. Bartolo Colon, SP – Atlanta Braves
Speaking of Colon, is it just us or is the oldest team in baseball (30.4 average), the Atlanta Braves, a nursing home for aging hurlers? Colon, who is due to turn 44 later this month, is on a Braves pitching staff that features fellow geezer R.A. Dickey (who narrowly misses this list at 42), Jim Johnson (33), Jason Motte (34) and Eric O’Flaherty (32). The Clown Prince of Baseball is still enjoying the ride, but the wheels are going to fall off completely, sooner than later. He had a pretty fine season in 2016 with the Mets, going 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA in 33 starts. But, he’s playing with the bottom feeding Braves this year, which has affected his performance. Colon is chugging along with the 11-18 Braves at 1-3, with a lofty 6.27 ERA and 1.424 WHIP in six starts. We love Bartolo, but we can’t say the Braves will love him for much longer.
2. Carlos Beltran, LF/DH – Houston Astros
Baseball’s money guy in the playoffs rung in the new season with a milestone birthday, turning 40 on April 24. Now, Carlos Beltran is far from extended afternoon naps and prune juice smoothies, but his performance so far isn’t Beltran-like. A career .281 hitter, Beltran has limped out of the gate with a .243 average in his first season with the Astros and has but two homers and 10 RBI playing mostly designated hitter. Those numbers through 30 games (121 plate appearances) are a far cry from his 2016 totals between the Yankees and Texas Rangers, where he it .295 with 29 dingers and 93 RBI in 151 games. Yes, the Astros are in first place in the AL West with a 21-11 record, so Beltran’s job is safe, for now. However, should the team slump and his light-hitting ways continue, his value to the team will diminish. By that, we mean that if Houston looks like they might miss the playoffs, the career .323 hitter in the post-season will be gone, gone, gone.
1. Matt Harvey, SP – New York Mets
Yes, we do know that Matt Harvey is just 28 and not that far removed from an all-star season in 2013. But, if his injury history and latest shenanigans are true, he should pack it in. Harvey was suspended three games by the Mets for failing to show up for a scheduled start on May 6. According to a story in the New York Post, the reason he was suspended was for staying out until 4 a.m. that same day celebrating Cinco de Mayo with friends at a posh joint in the Big Apple. And, his taste for the nightlife has been noted by teammates and the press alike. He’s just 2-2 this season with a 5.14 ERA and a paltry 20 strikeouts in 35 innings (six starts). We all know what partying in the big city has done to a few careers in the Big 4 and Harvey is on a slippery slope if he is going to miss starts after boozing it up. Or, maybe if partying and carrying on is his true passion, he should just retire.