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Phillies have a couple of team players in Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf

There sure are a lot of complaints about a couple of guys who don't cause trouble.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, they don't cause a lot of trouble for opposing pitching, either. That's probably where all the complaining comes in.

The Phillies have some young players that can be developed or shaped without too much of a strain. In the mean time, the help they've brought in to fill in the gaps are three or four-position utility all-fielders. You saw over the winter - every guy they signed or traded for was to "add depth" in multiple spots.

Except at first base. Unfurl the depth chart and look for yourself; there are just two names listed there, one that feels like it's been there forever, and another that's only starting to feel that way. Whispers in the dark at times list Maikel Franco as the eventual first baseman of the future, but that day has not arrived.

Ryan Howard is 36. He is probably sick of hearing about being one of the last two pieces of the previous generation who is still around. In recent years, he's dealt with family turmoil and was linked to a deeply questionable steroid allegation last year. After arriving in camp this year, an annoyed Howard explained  to the press that he did not appreciate their coverage of him.

Look how interested he is in speaking to the media!

But, after refusing to explain exactly what had upset him, Howard announced he was ready to move on. Several days later,

The media responded by publishing a column in which begging him to retire.

Darin Ruf is 29. He is probably sick of hearing about how he needs to find a role on this team. He has failed to live up to hastily stacked expectations that arose when he went for the Eastern League triple crown in 2012.

At least they have each other.

"[Ryan Howard and I] have a great relationship," Ruf said. "We try to help each other all the time, on the field and off the field. We get together as much as possible, get dinners, lunches."


"I just try to watch him the way he goes about his work habits," Ruf said. "If there are things I can pick up, implement in the kind of person I am, the way I treat my fellow teammates, coaches, I think it will lead to a long career."

By the end of last season, Ruf's .235 BA, .815 OPS, six homers and ten walks through the 25 games he played in from September-October were enough for people to feel like he had sent a message to the Phillies. Look at the confidence with which he steals his first-ever base.

Pete Mackanin had "hinted" that a platoon was possible, a concept that it's difficult to get someone to officially commit to, even though Ruf (and his ability to his lefties), Howard (and his inability to hit lefties), and the Phillies' first base position seem like a good situation for one. When asked, Howard said that he would not be into it, but he would do it if asked.

Ruf's days as anything but an emergency outfielder in a situation in which the game is for some reason not forfeit-able are hopefully over, so there aren't a whole lot of places away from first base that the Phillies can stash either one of these guys. This means they'll have a hard time staying out of each other's way, and there has not been a lot of outside interest in either of them. They are here stuck here, and here is stuck with them; a logjam with no rafts coming down the river. Now, they must suffer the endless people who look at them and think "Whhhhyyyy??"

The answer is a plethora of reasons, but the more intriguing notion is what/how long their futures will be. Howard is closer to the end of his career, Ruf is about in the middle after a late start. Howard especially has shown to be an accommodating veteran with the capacity to set a good example as far as attitude and mental strength. Ruf, trapped under his own low ceiling, is at least trying to emulate a positive influence.

Neither one of them is notably effective (Howard doesn't think his numbers against lefties are that bad and will curtly debate you on the subject if that press conference was any indication), but this is not a team that is one solid everyday first baseman away from glory (yet). In the mean time, at least nobody's grabbing their crotch.