June 2 – Happy Birthday Raul Ibanez

I was completely against the Yankees signing the then 39-year-old Raul Ibanez as their left-handed DH in 2012. It happened after New York surprised everyone by trading their young hitting prodigy, Jesus Montero to the Mariners. Montero was slated to DH for the Yankees against all pitching in 2012 but after he was dealt, the Yankees re-signed Andruw Jones and began their search for a lefty to platoon with him.

Quite a few names were thrown out there at the time by bloggers like me and the Big Apple media, including former Yankees Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. My personal choice would have been Matsui and I actually felt Jorge Posada should have been asked if he wanted the spot. But in the end Cashman went with this 17-year big league veteran. Believe it or not, my negative feelings for Ibanez stemmed from having him on my fantasy league team a couple of seasons back during his second year with Philadelphia. I’d start him for a week and he’d go 1-for-20 and then I’d bench him and he’d hit a homer and drive in three. I finally put him on waivers.

He got off to a quick start at the plate at the beginning of the 2012 regular season, which helped counteract the slow starts of several of his New York teammates and he was a class act both on the field and in the clubhouse . His swing seemed perfectly suited to Yankee Stadium. But then the Yankees lost Brett Gardner to an elbow injury and the 39-year-old Ibanez suddenly found himself playing every day including lots of time in the Yankee outfield. By the end of August, his average was stuck in the mid .230s and I really thought he was out of gas and would prove less than helpful during the team’s final month stretch drive, as New York tried to hold off the pesky Orioles.

The exact opposite happened. Raul suddenly started hitting again during the last ten days of the season and his clutch home run against the Red Sox on October 2nd helped New York maintain their half game lead over the O’s in the AL East. But he wasn’t done yet. With A-Rod not hitting at all in the postseason, Joe Girardi sent up Ibanez to pinch hit for Rodriguez in Game 3 of the ALDS and he homered off the Bird’s closer, Jim Johnson to tie the game. Three innings later, he hit a walk-off blast off of Brian Matusz. The magic continued for this guy in the first game of the ALCS against the Tigers when his homer off of Detroit closer Jose Valverdi capped a four-run Yankee rally that tied a game New York would go on to lose.

I honestly thought those last four outrageously clutch home runs Ibanez hit  as a Yankee guaranteed he’d be back for one more tour of duty in the Bronx in 2013. I was wrong. The Yanks let him sign with Seattle instead.

Ibanez was actually born in New York City but then moved to Miami as a youngster. He broke into the big leagues with the Mariners back in 1996. In addition to the Phillies, he also played three seasons with the Royals.

Ibanez shares his June 2nd birthday with this effective Yankee reliever from the late 1990′s, this former Yankee shortstop and  this former Yankee second baseman.

2012 NYY 130 425 384 50 92 19 3 19 62 3 35 67 .240 .308 .453 .761
18 Yrs 1981 7630 6892 995 1911 401 47 280 1139 47 645 1216 .277 .339 .471 .810
SEA (11 yrs) 1020 3902 3528 503 995 201 19 136 570 21 332 608 .282 .344 .465 .809
KCR (3 yrs) 398 1527 1384 209 403 81 16 55 247 13 121 208 .291 .347 .492 .839
PHI (3 yrs) 433 1776 1596 233 421 100 9 70 260 10 157 333 .264 .329 .469 .798
NYY (1 yr) 130 425 384 50 92 19 3 19 62 3 35 67 .240 .308 .453 .761
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2013.

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