Forget Cliff Lee. Ruben’s two major offseason additions were Raul Ibanez and Chan Ho Park. While some questioned the validity of adding an aging left handed bat to fill the hole created by Burrell’s departure – for $36 million at that– he quickly became a fan favorite by hitting a scorching .340 for the first two months of the season. That, combined with his incredible 17 home runs over the same period paved the way for an all-star appearance. His star blazed so bright for a 37 year old that there was even a brief internet flap questioning whether he was on the juice. But the point remains that Raul’s signing was quickly heralded as a stroke of genius, one that would only be eclipsed be the deadline trade for you-know-who.
On the other hand, the signing of Chan Ho Park was quickly adjudged a failure. While there were hopes he would add a solid veteran presence to the team, his terrible pitching in the first two months and swollen ERA hastened his removal from the rotation. In terms of offseason additions, Ruben hit on one and badly missed on the other – or so the thinking went.
As September draws near, times have changed. During the last two months, Ibanez is barely hitting his weight (.222 in August) with just one home run in the past two months. While injury is likely a factor, Raul’s performance is quickly becoming a source of real concern as the team gears up for what hopes to be a meaningful post-season run. Park, on the other hand, has become more than a reliable presence in the bullpen. He appeared in 8 games in both July and August, posting a very impressive ERA during this span (July .68)(August 1.59), scattering just nine hits over more than 24 innings pitched. In a perfect world, we won’t even see Mr. Park in the playoffs if our starters go deep and Madson and Lidge (gulp) get the job done. But if he is called on to appear, I have far more confidence in Park's ability to get the job done than on Ibanez to perform at his early season levels.