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How Ryan Howard’s injury will single-handedly change the look of the 2012 Phillies

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE"

Whether the Phillies won the World Series or not 2011, it was no secret that the look of the team would be altered drastically in 2012. Aging veterans like Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins are now free agents, and Placido Polanco’s better days are most likely behind him.  

However, as Ryan Howard fell to the ground in agony Friday night as the Cardinals were celebrating around him, we truly had no idea just how much things would be different, and how one injury could change the way the Phillies brass goes about their business this off-season. The hits just keep on coming for the Phillies off the field (it’s not like they had many hits on the field), and the off-season wasn’t even 24 hours old yet.
 
Our worst fears were confirmed in regards to Howard’s injury, as he has indeed torn his achilles’ tendon  and might miss the start of spring training and possibly part of the regular season. Some have said that this injury takes a full year to recover from.

As the late Dennis Hopper would say: "Bad things, man." 

In other injury news, it was also revealed that Cole Hamels has to have not one, but two surgeries this off-season: Hamels is having “loose bodies” removed from his elbow, and has an inguinal hernia that he will have surgery on sometime next week.

Everybody knew Hunter Pence had some issues with patellar tendinitis, but may possibly have surgery for a sports hernia.

And in news that surprised nobody, Polanco will almost certainly have surgery for his sports hernia, and pinch-hitter Ross Gload will have hip surgery.

Now back to Howard.To say that things have been going downhill for Ryan Howard since the 2009 World Series is a vast understatement.

33 home runs and 116 runs batted in are tough to replace. And when he returns, will he even be effective? The Phillies have $125 million reasons to hope he is. Do the Phillies put John Mayberry Jr. at first base and move him to left field when Howard returns? Chances are Mayberry will not equal Howard’s production, so do you sign a stop-gap first baseman who can also play the outfield if and when Howard returns? And where does Domonic Brown fit into all this?

Then there’s Rollins. How productive will he be at the end of a possible five-year deal? But do you now need Rollins’ leadership more than ever in Howard’s absence?  Or do you sign a temporary replacement until Freddy Galvis is ready for a September call-up  and let Rollins walk?  Or would you even consider trading Chase Utley and eat half of what’s left on the two years of his contract?

Is Polanco that hurt? Or is he washed up? Do you try and trade him and eat half his salary and land a younger third baseman? I’m running out of words other than ‘stop-gap’ and ‘temporary replacement,’ so I’ll just use ‘as a Mark Lewis one year-deal type of thing’ as another scenario for a replacement. Or, do you gamble with Polanco for another year until somebody younger like David Wright (and some even say Wright is on the decline) is available after 2012?

Decisions, decisions.

And here is another interesting scenario: Do you move Polanco and possibly trade one of your starters (Hamels, Vance Worley, or Joe Blanton if he’s healthy?) for some position players who actually have an approach to hitting and know how to actually work a walk?  This offense MUST be tweaked. You could get great market value for free-agent-to-be Hamels.  Just saying.......

A lot of these decisions need to be made sooner than later, and the future of some of the Phillies might have been determined when Ryan Howard took that fateful tumble.

You might want to also check out these articles:

Phillies' "Dream Season" a sham: Cardinals advance to play Brewers in NLCS

Will Ryan Howard’s career ever recover after his achilles injury and post season failures?

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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