When the Phillies signed outfielder Raul Ibanez in December, Phillies fans questioned the decision.
Ibanez never received much publicity playing for a bad Seattle Mariners team on the West Coast, so to the common fan he was an unfamiliar face and name. He was 36, turning 37 in June.
He was a left-handed hitter, even though the Phillies already had lefties Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the middle of their lineup. An even bigger reason the Philly faithful were skeptical of the signing was because it meant the team wouldn’t be resigning fan favorite Pat Burrell.
Sure, Burrell received his share of boos during his slumps, but he was a lifelong Phillie. He was drafted by the Phillies and actually signed with them, unlike J.D. Drew. When times were rough, he didn’t run himself out of town like Scott Rolen did.
Even when he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, Burrell took out a full page ad in Philadelphia newspapers thanking the fans for a great time as a Phillie and saying that he hoped to see everyone again in October for the World Series.
Throughout the offseason, Phillies fans peppered the front office with questions like “Why didn’t we bring back Pat Burrell?” and “Who is Raul Ibanez?”
To answer the latter question, Ibanez was a 13-year MLB veteran. A lifetime .286 hitter with nearly 800 RBI, Ibanez is only one of five outfielders to have 100 RBI in each of the past three seasons, along with Carlos Beltran, Carlos Lee, Magglio Ordonez, and Bobby Abreu.
Now, Ibanez is making Phillies fans ask “Pat who?”
Ibanez is off to a blistering start. He is a much more consistent hitter than Burrell, currently hitting .368—good enough for sixth-best in the major leagues. He has just as much power as Burrell, hitting 13 home runs and 35 RBI so far this season, and he leads the majors with a .735 slugging percentage.
His had his most impressive offensive display thus far this season yesterday against the Washington Nationals. In the first game of a double header, Ibanez went three for five with two home runs and drove in four runs. He followed that up in the second game with two hits in three at-bats, another home run, and three more RBI.
He’s also been clutch, hitting a two-run single Friday night to give the Phillies the lead in the 12th inning.
Ibanez is a more competent defensive player than Burrell, who was routinely subbed out late in games for a defensive replacement.
Ibanez is proving to be one of the best off-season signings. At a rate of $30 million over three years, Ibanez is also one of the biggest bargains, compared to the high price players such as C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and Manny Ramirez, who haven’t quite lived up to their hefty contracts.
While Burrell was a homegrown product who was a part of the franchise’s first World Series in 28 years, Ibanez is proving to be a fantastic addition.
Fans are no longer questioning the transaction. And those aren’t boos you’re hearing in the stadium. They are chants of “Raul!”
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