Analysis

Old Friend Raul Deserves Props

Raul came up huge last night. (AP)

Maybe it didn’t work out the way we all wanted it to during his tenure here in Philadelphia. After all, Raul Ibanez was paid over $30 million and had his moments, but fell short of the lofty expectations that come with such a contract. Last night in the Bronx, in a most-improbable situation, Rauuuuuuul pulled through for his team, the New York Yankees.

Pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez, the first time that’s ever happened in a postseason game, Ibanez went yard in the ninth inning, and again in the 12th to push the Yankees past the Orioles, 3-2. Ibanez also became the first player in postseason history to hit a home run in the ninth and a home run in extra innings in the same game. It has been another up and down season for Ibanez, but one that has hit its peak at the right moment.

During the regular year, Ibanez hit .240, slugged 19 homers, knocked in 62 runs, and was your basic league-average player with a 0.3 WAR. It mirrors his contributions to the Phillies in the three seasons he was here, save for a large chunk of his first season, one in which he hit 34 home runs and knocked in 93. But for one night, even though he plays for the Evil Empire, Raul deserves some props down here in Philly.

After dealing with injuries and a bat that too often disappeared, Ibanez was the quintessential average outfielder. Not all that good defensively, not all that great offensively, but just kind of there. I’ll save the sugary remarks that he’s one of the “good guys” in the game, which he is, because Phillies fans probably don’t want to hear it. That said, he was one of the hardest working Phillies I’ve met during my tenure as a beat reporter.

Of course, this posts an interesting question, and I’ll leave the answer to you: with hindsight being 20/20, would the Phillies have been better off keeping Ibanez knowing what happened with the offense this season? Ibanez clearly would have added a power threat, but also would have driven the fans mad with his up and down play. Would you rather have had Juan Pierre and his .300 average and speed, or Raul’s .240 average with power? The right answer is likely Pierre, but it makes you think…

That’s why it’s so cool to see him pull through. At 40, many are expecting him to fade away, as 40-year-old ballplayers do. He’s never going to be a .300 hitter like he was nearly 10 years ago in Seattle, but he can still win you a game when that lefty swing is quick and compact, something he struggled with here. That short porch at Yankee Stadium is a Godsend for a guy like Raul.

So no matter what you think of him or his team (I’m personally rooting my ass off for an O’s/A’s ALCS), give it up for Rauuuuuul.

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