Howard's decline is emblematic of the fate of the franchise.
Though expensively constructed, the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies came apart like a cheap suit.
It is hard to believe now, but in March and even into April there were Phillies fans who fervently believed that the aging heart of the 2008 world champions had one last playoff run in them.
Now we know that the Phillies are aged, not aging, And the thought of a playoff run seems as far away as it did in desolate Phillies days like the late 1990s.
Where did it all go wrong?
All of the Phillies' plans hinged on Howard being healthy and productive.
Not even the most ardent Phillies fans believed Ryan Howard would ever hit 58 home runs or drive in over 140 runs again.
But there was hope that the Achilles injury that felled Howard as the 2011 season ended and hobbled him for much of 2012 would finally be behind him.
Howard showed a solid power stroke in spring training. As a result, fans dared to dream of Howard putting together another workmanlike season with 30 home runs, 100 runs batted in and stability in the four hole.
It was not meant to be. And it never may be again.
Howard has been out of the lineup since early July with a left knee injury. Recent indications from manager Ryne Sandberg and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. suggest that Howard's 2013 season is finished.
The Phillies were able to get by with Domonic Brown hitting cleanup for a while. Now he is beset by injury, and Carlos Ruiz, long a staple in the seven or eight hole, is hitting fourth.
Which is sort of incredible when you think about it.
Hamels' recent brilliance came too late to save the 2013 Phillies.
Make no mistake: Cole Hamels is pitching his posterior off these days.
Since July 26, Hamels has pitched at least seven innings with three earned runs or less in nine straight starts. Incomprehensibly, he is only 3-1 in that stretch.
The temptation is to say that the Phillies just don't hit for Hamels. But that would suggest that the Phillies hit for anyone else.
And when the Phillies were hitting a bit in April, May and June, Hamels was not very good.
The regret for the 2013 Phillies with Cole Hamels is that, when they had enough offense to win in the first half of the season, Hamels pitched poorly. Now that the offense has been neutered by injury, Hamels is pitching like vintage Steve Carlton.
Papelbon's mouth writes a lot of checks his fastball can't cash.
The Phillies have two more seasons of Papelbon's antics, verbal and otherwise, to survive. It promises to be interesting.
Papelbon's numbers this season are not disastrous. His earned run average of 2.59 is more than respectable. His WHIP of 1.04 is terrific. And he is 5-1, which means, among other things, that he has more wins than Roy Halladay this season.
The only number the Phillies really care about, though, is seven. As in seven blown saves.
Papelbon is now tied for the National League lead in blown saves by closers with Heath Bell of the Arizona Diamondbacks (who has lost multiple closing gigs in recent years).
Maybe this is what Papelbon was talking about when he said that he "didn't come here for this."
Halladay's competitive pride got in the way of his good sense.
If the Phillies have one regret about Roy Halladay, it might be that he is such a competitor. Halladay's desire to pitch through pain, and thus not to have surgery in 2012, undercut his chances to have a productive 2013.
The Phillies spent the entire preseason hoping against hope that Halladay's compromised shoulder would hold up despite the seeming need for surgical intervention.
In spring training, Halladay had ups and downs, but by that time the Phillies had little choice but to cross their fingers and hope Halladay could figure things out from start to start and hang in.
Halladay is back now, pitching in an attempt to earn another contract from the Phillies or from some other team.
If Halladay and the Phillies had it to do over again, the wiser move would probably have been to shut Halladay down at the first sign of trouble last season.
Revere had just started to turn it on when injury struck.
Lost in the ongoing miseries of Howard, Halladay, Papelbon and others was the real misfortune the Phillies sustained when Ben Revere went down at the end of the first game of the Phillies' doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox on July 13.
Perhaps the worst part of Revere's injury was the set of circumstances that led up to it.
Revere only had to be batting in the bottom of the 11th inning—he grounded into the game-ending double play—because a number of his teammates had stranded the potential game-winning run in the previous two innings.
Revere hit .354 in June, and his average was up to .305 when he broke a bone in his foot by fouling a ball off it in that fateful at-bat.
It turned out to be his last action for the Phillies in 2013.
Manuel's departure was as unsatisfying as his tenure was gratifying.
The Phillies' handling of the firing of Charlie Manuel was the ultimate proof of the adage which holds that every ending is a bad ending.
Manuel deserved the opportunity to start the final season of his contract. He had earned that much after winning five straight National League Eastern division titles, two pennants and a World Series.
It would have been absurd to fire a manager for one .500 season after five straight playoff runs.
In typical Phillies fashion, though, they left their finger on the trigger for too long without pulling it, allowing the team to go on a mini-run that had the team at .500 on July 20.
At that point, the team might as well have announced that Manuel would finish the season. Because what ended up happening next was just sad.
The Phillies lost 19 of 23 games, leading to Manuel's awkward parting.
Of all the things the Phillies might regret about the way 2013 played out, Manuel's ending might be the saddest of them all.