Howard contract a total loss

It may surprise no one that the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies are not where they hoped to be in the win-loss column. After a disappointing 81-81 record in 2012, the worst finish for the Phillies in a decade, the hope was that even a past-prime dynasty could retool enough to squeeze another few solid seasons on the backs of an aging core. The team's TV contract with Comcast expires after the 2015 season, so the front office had an obvious incentive to keep the team together in the hope of cash practically falling out of the sky, as the Los Angeles Dodgers have experienced with their new TV contract.

Alas, it was not meant to be. The Phillies have continued their downward trajectory, and though they're only a few games behind the Washington Nationals, that's mainly because Washington has underperformed expectations, not due to any second wind similar to the one the Boston Red Sox are experiencing this season.

In the middle of a second frustrating season, it's not surprising to see fingers being pointed. Most notable among them has been team general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. calling out Ryan Howard's performance, telling 94 WIP in Philadelphia in a pregame show last week that "if Howard is now relegated to being a platoon player, he's a very expensive platoon player and needs to do better … right now, he's just not doing his job."

Given Howard's .266/.319/.465 line this season with typically mediocre defense, it would take some special delusion to think that he's been doing his job, but how much blame can we really put on Howard? How much was Howard really underperforming reasonable expectations before the recent news that he'll miss six to eight weeks with a meniscus tear?