The list of New York Yankee players who have surpassed expectations during the 2012 season to date clearly starts with the Captain – Derek Jeter – and then there’s Raul Ibanez (why did I want to write: “And then there’s Maude?”) and that’s about it. Having already written a piece in praise of the aforementioned shortstop, it’s about time we take a moment to single out the new DH.
Raul Ibanez was signed by Brian Cashman late in the winter for $1.1M – ten million less than he had made the previous season – to be the lefty DH and occasionally play some outfield. We knew why the player would want to come to the Bronx and why he would take that significant pay cut to do so, but fans were suspicious: we wanted a return of Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui; we wanted to finally see Vlad Guerrero sporting pinstripes. We got Ibanez and during spring training some Yankee fans were calling for his release and/or his head and not necessarily in that order.
And it was just last month where one of the writers on this very site was getting on Raul hard for his outfield play (okay- that was me) which was embarrassing; nearly as cringe-worthy as that of the aforementioned Damon. Cashman had said he signed Ibanez because he could pay some outfield; the joke being he never said he could play it well. But over the last few weeks, his defense has gotten steady; Ibanez catches all the balls he can reach and he throws to the right base. Having rotated a number of bodies in that slot trying to fill in for the injured Brett Gardner, Ibanez is now doing an adequate job in the field.
Derek Jeter, who is all of a year younger than Ibanez, was making Methuselah jokes at his new teammates’ expense already by spring. This speaks of a guy who’s good in the clubhouse, a guy who’s going to fit in to the ballclub. Raul turned forty yesterday, but he’s been swinging the bat like a guy many years his junior.
Serving as better-than-they-deserve protection for the heart of the lineup, Raul Ibanez came into play this weekend hitting a respectable .268 which is actually good enough for third best on the active roster. His nine homeruns ties him for second on the club with Tex. He has knocked in more runs than either Cano or A-Rod. He trails only Granderson in longballs, doubles , OPS and in slugging. Raul’s so-called competition for that spot on the Yankee roster sees Damon hitting a whopping .186, Matsui .222 and Vlad Guerrero just got promoted to AAA. So at this point you have to say Cashman called the right agent.
There have yet to be too many bright spots on the Yankees this year, but Ibanez is a man clearly doing the job and exceeding expectations. His steady presence in the line-up (okay, I won’t miss seeing him in the outfield, but won’t hold my breath when he does) has definitely helped stretch the Bombers starting nine. So, yeah, Raul Ibanez, those are not “boo’s” — we’re “Rauuuu-ling” you.