By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
February 24, 2016, 3:00 P.M. EST.
Ryan Howard has had a rough go of it over the past two years.
Legal issues with his family over his finances, allegations connecting him to steroids. and a declining skill-set have besieged the 37-year-old first baseman.
"That kind of stuff is life," Howard said on Tuesday. "Stuff that happens in life, it comes up and you have to deal with it."
Compounding matters, Howard - a National League MVP and World Series champion - is projected to be a platoon player on a club expected to finish with the worst record in baseball.
"Do I think it's fair? Me, personally, probably not," Howard said. "But it is what it is. The situation is the situation. You just go out there and play.
"The track record speaks for itself, It doesn't matter righty or lefty, I know I can get the job done. I know all the talk over the past few years, this and that, I'm not going to focus on that. For me, it's taking advantage of the opportunities when I get to go out there and play."
The biggest strike against Howard's ability to play everyday is his inability to succeed against left-handed pitching. He has hit better than .173 against lefties just once over the last five years and his.619 on-base plus slugging percentage against lefties over that period ranks 54th out of the 63 qualified left-handed hitters.
Given the rebuilding phase the organization finds itself in, it's logical to envision a significant cut in Howard's playing time in what will undoubtedly be his last season in Philadelphia. He's set to earn $25 million this season and the club is expected to exercise a $10 million buyout of his 2017 club option.
"Am I surprised that I'm still on this roster? Um, I don't know, to be honest with you," Howard said.
"You know, I'm still here. I've got a contractual obligation through this year and you just see what happens. I mean, I don't sit at home waiting for the call, 'Hey, Ry. You're traded.' I've got to focus on getting ready for the season.
"And do I want to be here? Yeah, I want to be here. Why wouldn't I?"
Howard holds the Phillies franchise record for most home runs in a single season and he will go down as arguably the best first baseman in club history. However, he believes the media has over-hyped his deficiencies and painted him as a liability in the clubhouse.
"The way I felt with everything that I've done here in Philadelphia, I just felt I was being portrayed as something worse," Howard said. "I felt like I was being portrayed as the bad guy. When you all know me, you know how I'm always joking and stuff. I didn't have a problem at all with my teammates. That's why I didn't talk to you all last year. It was more of a personal thing for me. But it's like, this year … last year is in the past, man."
Though the legal issues with his family have been settled, Howard now finds himself embroiled in a defamation lawsuit against Al Jazeera for running a report allegedly linking him to performance-enhancing drugs.
Howard said he has no idea why his name is one of the names that appeared in the report.
"I have no idea why," he said. "I can't tell you, I really don't know."
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