Monday January 2, 2012
Doug Booth- Baseball Writer: If Raul Ibanez has indeed swung his last bat in the majors, he should hold his head up high considering the last decade he put together. I have long respected Ibanez for foraging a decent career out after being one of the dozens of left fielders to fail the trio of Buhner/Griffey (and insert Miscellaneous Left Fielder) that played alongside these Seattle Mariners All-Stars from 1992-2000. When Jose Bautista made his improbable 54 home run statement season in 2010 with the Toronto Blue Jays, people often wondered how a player could come from out of nowhere like this. I quickly thought of Raul Ibanez.
Ibanez was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the Amateur Draft of 1992. By the age of 24, Raul found himself in the Majors with the Seattle Mariners. But lackluster results mixed with trips up and down from the Minor Leagues forced him to sign as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals before the 2001 season. Ibanez was called up from Omaha that year and hit .280 with 13 HR’S and 54 RBI in 104 games. The next year was Raul’s first full season in the Majors and he hit .294 with 24 HR’s and 103 RBI with the Royals. Mariners fans were now sad to see that management let their draft pick go and flourish with another ball club. Raul spent 2 more productive seasons in Kansas City before rejoining the Seattle Mariners.
Raul Ibanez was planning on being a full time DH, replacing the just retired Edgar Martinez. It was a great idea by the Mariners who saw Ibanez become hurt in the 2004 season, but saw potential with his inspired play. Raul’s first 2 seasons as a DH were decent with .304 16 HR’S and 62 RBI’s in 2004- and .280 20 HR’s and 89 RBI’s in 2005. But after the 2005 fall they signed newly World Series winning DH Carl Everett for the 2006 season. This meant Raul would have to go back to playing the outfield. While he wasn’t the slickest of fielders, he was aided by defensive minded Center Fielder Jeremy Reed. Raul did work hard and steadily improved on his defense every year. However it was his offense that started to fully thrive. The Mariners had Ichiro Suzuki cracking out 225 hits a year out of the leadoff spot, setting the table for the middle of the order. Raul had his best offensive season in 2006, hitting .289 with 33 HR’S and 123 RBI. This is no small feat considering Ibanez played half of his games at pitcher friendly Safeco Field. Raul played 2 more seasons with Mariners, registering consecutive 100 RBI seasons and 3 straight overall. Ibanez had turned himself into an annual offensive threat. Ibanez’s 338 RBI between the years 2006-2008 were one of the higher totals amongst Major Leaguers. This landed him a 3-Year $33 Million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Philadelphia Phillies fans were treated to a hot Raul Ibanez streak out of the gate in the 2009 season, where he hit .309 with 22 HR’S and 60 RBI in just 64 games before the All-Star Break. Raul was invited for his 1st and only All-Star Appearance that year despite hitting 22 HR’s and 70 RBI for the Mariners before the break in the 2006 season. There was even serious talk that Ibanez was an early season NL MVP favorite-this was all occurring while Ibanez had just celebrated his 37th birthday. This was one of the things that you had to love about this guy. He had stretches during the season where he could deliver MVP caliber baseball and win several games for his team single-handed. Ibanez was also in the middle of a pennant race for a change. Ibanez slowed down a little bit towards the end of the 2009 season but still hit .272 with 34 HR’S and 93 RBI. Raul set career highs in HR’S, Slugging % and extra base hits with 69 in 2009. Raul went onto hit 2 HR’S and drive in 13 RBI in 15 post season games that resulted in a World Series loss to the New York Yankees.
In 2010 and 2011 Raul saw his numbers decline, however he was still productive enough to warrant his contract as an above average Left Fielder statistically. In 3 seasons with Philadelphia, Raul earned his keep by slugging 70 HR’S and 260 RBI. Most of the Philadelphia brass would have taken this production in a heartbeat following the 2008 season in which the team said ‘so long’ to offensively declining threat Pat Burrell. This may be the end for Raul Ibanez, but he was still one of the most prolific RBI men in the years from 2002-2011. Showing remarkable consistency, Raul hit.284 with 225 HR’S and 942 RBI for those 10 seasons with 598 of the RBI’S coming in the last 6 years. Included in these years Raul also had 4-100 RBI seasons. Not bad for a guy who was drafted in the 36th round. I hope a National League team decides to pick him up for some pinch hitting duties for the 2012 campaign. The only question that remains is in this regard-would the Philadelphia Phillies fans cheer or boo him if he returned to Citizens Bank Ballpark as an opposing player? I firmly believe that they would cheer for him because he is as blue collar as they come.
*** Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Doug Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports. To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com***
Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback. You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook . To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.