If the Yankees were the A-Team, Raul Ibanez would be B.A. (Bad Attitude) Barracus. We could debate about who’d be Hannibal (Girardi or Jeter) or “Howlin’ Mad” Murdoch (Swisher or Martin) and I’m not even going to get into the “Faceman” debate. I guess Susan Waldman would be Amy, but that is kind of depressing. There is no doubt, however, that Ibanez is B.A. Case closed.
Think about it. B.A. only did one thing, aside from own the infamous black custom van with a red racing strip on each side that for some reason the L.A. cops and federal marshals could never find; when all else failed, he intimidated the cuss out of the bad guys at clutch moments (usually at about the 52 minute mark in the hour long program). He couldn’t really fight (see Rocky III, fists down around his waist, footwork that makes Tony Siragusa look like a ballet dancer). He wasn’t much on thinking or flying (he never did figure out over 5 seasons that the boys were going to knock him out with a blunt object before they had to fly somewhere to take a job from some South American villagers or something). But every time Howlin’ Mad struck out, and the Faceman hit a double against the Red sox in the final series before the playoffs, B.A. would swing for the fences and connect, to tie the game. And then, with the formulaic regularity of a Stephen J. Cannell-produced 1980s serial, he’d get up in the 12th and drive the winning run home.
No, wait, I mean Raul Ibanez would do that – sorry, I mixed my metaphors. But, you get the point. Raul Ibanez is one-dimensional, but that one-dimension is really, really, really valuable. Consider his resume over the past season;
- April 6, opening day versus the Rays, Ibanez hits a three-run homer to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead in the third inning after Joe Girardi, perhaps thinking he’d given the signal for “I want a hot dog” when he actually gave the signal for “walk Sean Rodriguez to load the bases so that you have to pitch to Carlos Pena” in the first. The Yankees held the lead until a rare Mariano Rivera blown save cost the Yankees the game.
- April 16 versus the Blue Jays; an Ibanez grand slam lifts the Yankees to a 6-3 victory.
- September 22 versus the A’s, Ibanez, in an 0-18 slump, comes off the bench to hit a double and two home runs including a game-tying, two-run blast in the bottom of the 13th inning. Bombers win 10-9 in 14 innings.
- September 22, same game, Ibanez is out at the plate after he got into B.A. Barracus’ custom black van with the red stripes and ran over A’s catcher Derek Norris. Yes he was out, but, Norris has never been the same.
- October 3rd versus the Red Sox; Yanks down 3-1 with the outcome of the Tampa Bay – Baltimore game still in doubt (it turned out to be 1-0, Baltimore – but Ibanez didn’t know that at the time). Ibanez pinch hits for Eduardo Nunez, bottom of the ninth inning after Ichiro had just struck out and Curtis Granderson hit a double. Ibanez hits a two run-jack that ties the game. In the 12th, he hits in the winning run. Yankees go into the playoffs with the best record in the American League and home field advantage.
By this point, you are probably thinking, look, Mark, all of the above is true and we had never thought about Ibanez’s performance like that. Your comparison between Ibanez and B.A. Barracus is spot-on. You are an amazing analyst, an amazing scholar, and you’ve nearly succeeded in changing our minds about him. But, isn’t his defense the worst in MLB history? Even counting the days just after the Civil War when they used the old boots of Confederate prisoners-of-war as gloves?
Well, sure, his career UZR (if you believe in things like that) is an-appaulingly-bad-even-for-pre-Kindergarten-T-Ball –negative 37.2. But this year, his UZR is actually only an appaulingly-bad-for-triple –A- little- league 1.8. I’ll even concede that I buy into the conspiracy theory that the Yankees only play him in the outfield to make Curtis Granderson look like Joe DiMaggio. But, to be fair the Yankees added him to the roster for a mere $1.1 million in order to D.H. him on non-A-Rod DH days, and to pinch-hit him against lefties. When Brett Gardener got hurt and placed on the long-term disabled list on April 16, it forced Ibanez into a position with which he was a) too old and b) too unskilled. But that’s not exactly his fault.
Still, he’s got that rep. Consider what our friends over at River Avenue Blues have written:
“he’s been only slightly less useless than (Andruw) Jones since the All-Star Break, putting up a .190/.287/.356 in 140 plate appearances.”
True, but in the past month his slash line has been .306/.382/.744. This could not be happening at a better time. His slugging percentage is second over the same time period amongst Yankees with at least 20 at bats behind only Chris Dickerson. Over the past seven games, and in the midst of a divisional-title race, his slash line is .417/.462/.667. At this point, the only thing I don’t like about Ibanez right now is that John Sterling has co-opted his name for an stupid “Sterlingism”: “Raul B-seeing you in the right field bleechers!”
The Yankees will beat the Orioles in five games and then put the kybash on “Moneyball 2.0” by running over the A’s (who will beat the Tigers). The Yankees ain’t gonna get there on defense, but they will get a clutch post-season from B.A. Ibanez.