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Were We Wrong About Raul Ibanez?

I think after all the criticism it is time to give him a welcome and a admit you were wrong about him?

That semi-question above is an email I received from a reader last night after the Phillies' thrilling victory over the Nationals, with Raul Ibanez's 8th inning grand slam capping another exciting comeback.  So, is this guy right?

When Raul Ibanez signed last fall, we mostly disapproved of the signing.  Too many years, too old, too much money, lefthanded, Ruben "paid retail" in a bargain hunter's paradise, etc. 

The fact is, we're not going to know the truth about this deal for a couple more years.  Trying to make a meaningful conclusion about it, one way or the other, after 18 games is incredibly hasty.  It's as foolish as writing off Jimmy Rollins right now.

1.  Ibanez is a very good hitter in the midst of an excellent hot streak.  I really hope he keeps this up but I don't know if he can maintain a 1.082 OPS over 162 games.  Again, I really hope he does, but I just don't think so.  Very good hitters tend to have hot streaks like this.  Ibanez is a very good hitter. 

2.  Nothing Ibanez has done defensively has changed my mind about him.  He's made some nice catches out in left but he's also absolutely butchered a couple of plays.  All consistent with the scouting reports and defensive statistics.  Again, 18 games means no meaningful conclusions.  As a matter of fact, playing in CBP's small left field will probably benefit Ibanez's defense over Safeco, a point we may have overlooked when slamming his defense.

3.  How is Ibanez going to be doing in July 2011, when he's 39 years old, and playing every day in left field?  Same contract, same dollars, same guy, different year. If he has found the fountain of youth, awesome!  But there are lots of players who fall off the cliff in their late 30s.

4.  Bad contract /= Bad player.  No one said, or no one should have said, that Raul Ibanez was a bad player.  If they said that, they're dumb.  But look at Adam Dunn.  Eight years younger, .311/.475/.607 so far, versus Ibanez's .342/.402/.685.  Yet Dunn got one less year, and earns about a million less per season.

5.  By nearly all accounts, he's the sweetest dude ever.  Just an endless stream of baseball players, coaches, and journalists talking up his nice guy bona fides.  I didn't know about this before, and yes, it does make him easier to root for.


Of course Raul Ibanez might flip us all upside down and hit like Albert Pujols all season, and keep it up for two more years.  I would absolutely love it if he did.  But that kind of late-30s jump in performance, without the help of the J.C. Romero Fun Times Pharmacy, is extremely unlikely.These first batch of games have been extremely emotional, with tons of drama.  The improbable has nearly become mundane.

And if he slumps for 18 games at any point, I promise to evicerate anyone who jumps up and down and says "I TOLD YOU SO!"  The baseball season is long.  There's a tendency not to see the forest for the trees.

So, Mr. Original Emailer from the beginning of this post, I hereby officially welcome Raul Ibanez to Philadelphia!


Warren Zevon - Werewolves Of London (live 1982) (via rewindbttn)