The following piece is on a Major League Baseball player of Cuban descent, who has been unbelievable the past several weeks, but will not be part of the 2013 All-Star Game barring a last-minute change.
His name is not Yasiel Puig, but is nearly old enough to be his father. No, I’m talking about Raul Ibanez, who is going absolutely nuts in his third stint as a Seattle Mariner.
In 73 games and 276 at-bats , Ibanez is now sitting on 24 home runs and 56 RBIs for the season, go ahead and multiply that by two and you’d have a prolific season by anyone, let alone a man who just turned 41. Since June 1, Ibanez has gone yard 15 times in 155 at-bats, in the process raising his batting average up to a very respectable .268. He is the oldest player in MLB history to surpass 20 home runs and 50 RBIs before the All-Star break.
As dramatic as his late-inning/postseason exploits for the New York Yankees were last October, Ibanez has managed to upstage those this season.
While Puig’s candidacy became a point of national debate that was sorted out in a ballot which saw him place second behind the “Braves Country” block that voted in Freddie Freeman, very few have stepped up to the plate to defend Ibanez.
Meanwhile, the American League version of the Final Man ballot featured five relief pitchers who most casual fans could not pick out of a police lineup.
it is the nature of the business. Wear Dodger Blue and have an intriguing back-story and your exploits will become front-page news. Play for the Mariners and…let’s just say what happens in Seattle stays in Seattle these days.
The amazing part of Ibanez’s stat-line this year is the damage he has done at Safeco Field. In 39 home games he has 16 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .645 slugging percentage. It is true that the fences were brought in at Safeco this year, but those numbers are still incredible. It is not like Ibanez is still playing his home games at Yankee Stadium, Philadelphia where he suited up previously.
Ibanez had a long road to get to the majors, and did not earn regular playing time until he turned 30. Despite being a late-bloomer, he is on pace to eclipse both the 300 home run (currently sitting at 295) and 2,000 hit (currently 1,954) plateaus before the end of the 2013 season. That will all depend on the playing time he receives on a contending team after he likely gets dealt before the trade deadline. He is also on pace to shatter his previous season-high in home runs (33 set in 2006).
Ibanez definitely passes the eyeball test, even at his advanced age – the man is in shape. I could see him even playing another year or two. But forget about the stats and his freakish physical skill-set for a minute. Ibanez also finished second to Jim Thome in a players poll of the “nicest players” in MLB done by Sports Illustrated a few years back.
Ibanez continues to turn back the unavoidable hands of Father Time, who remains undefeated. Even Thome got to the point this spring where he found no-takers in the free agent market, and recently accepted a front-office position as a special assistant for the Chicago White Sox.
It would be nice to see Ibanez get one final last back in his hometown of New York at Citi Field this Tuesday. If one American League position player pulls out of the All-Star Game last minute, I know the first number AL manager Jim Leyland should have on speed-dial.