Photo: Hunter Martin/Getty

Last week, former Phillies superstar Ryan Howard insisted that his wretched play with the Braves’ AAA affiliate did not signal the rapidly approaching end of his playing career. Howard joined the Braves minor league system this year after 13 seasons with the Phillies, and while he was a world-class masher for a good chunk of his career, he did not age gracefully. A year after hitting .196 with an OPS of .710 against major league pitching, Howard managed to hit just .184 with an OPS of .501 with the Gwinnett Braves. He had just one extra base hit.

The Braves released Howard from his contract this morning, which probably signals the end of his playing days. Howard has been very vocal about his desire to keep playing until he can’t anymore, and getting dropped by the AAA affiliate of a club in the throes of a rebuilding project is something that would happen to someone who can’t play anymore. The Braves filled the deep bench spot they’d been holding for Howard with Twins utility man Danny Santana, who they acquired in a trade today.

As cool as it would have been to see Howard successfully work his way onto the major league roster and get a chance to see the field in spot duty, it’s clear that he just doesn’t have the juice.