Raul Ibanez Defies Age


Seattle Mariners veteran Raul Ibanez may be 41 this season, but he has been putting up power numbers like he’s 21 as either a designated hitter or outfielder. Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

He is one of those guys who just keeps hanging around and getting the job done. Surely, by now, when he is 41, we thought Raul Ibanez would be retired. But no, he keeps cranking out home runs for the Seattle Mariners instead.

Ibanez seems as if he has been perpetually underrated, but wherever he goes he proves to be a valuable addition. This is his 18th season in the majors and while he was a late bloomer he is still producing. A guy still in the majors at Ibanez’s age is usually a coach. He is thinking more about his pension than his next at-bat. If Ibanez hadn’t gotten off to such a slow start in 2013, he would probably have been a legitimate All-Star game candidate.

Going into Wednesday’s play Ibanez had 22 home runs, 51 runs batted in, and was batting .255 for the Mariners. Although likely half the baseball world thought he would retire rather than play this season, Ibanez has been a great hire for Seattle, his previous long-time Major League home. Ibanez was always appreciated in Seattle and always turned in solid seasons for the Mariners.

Still, during his several-season walk-about before returning to the Pacific Northwest, Ibanez recorded some of his best moments on the diamond. In 2009, at age 37, Ibanez made the National League All-Star team, his only All-Star selection. At the time he was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies and that season he belted a career-high 34 home runs.

Most baseball fans who only superficially know about Ibanez assume because of his name that he hails from a Latin American country. Sort of. Ibanez’s parents were from Cuba, but emigrated to the United States in 1970. Ibanez was born in the U.S., in New York, and attended high school in Miami.

Ibanez is playing some outfield and also working as a designated hitter for the Mariners. He is a large man at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, and he packs a wallop in his swing. Lifetime, Ibanez has 293 home runs (300 is a milestone definitely within reach this season) and brought a career .277 average into this season. A lefty swinger Ibanez also has 1,167 RBIs. Run-producing has been one of his strengths throughout his career. He has four plus-1o0 RBI years on his resume.

Somewhat of a late bloomer and someone who played a large percentage of his career in Seattle, Ibanez has frequently toiled outside of the limelight. His brightest moments on the national stage occurred when he was property of the New York Yankees and shined in the 2012 playoffs. It’s less than a year ago, even if does seem like a century has passed with all the things swirling around Yankeeland, but in those playoffs Ibanez became the only player in baseball history to hit three home runs in the ninth inning or later of playoff games.

Ibanez became a free agent after the playoffs, but his hometown Yankees didn’t sign him. Instead, he returned to Seattle for a third stint with the team with which he made his debut in 1996. Seattle fans have witnessed first-hand that Ibanez did not lose the pop in his bat over the winter regardless of how old he is. The way Ibanez continues to slug the ball, the Mariners should never let him go again, even if he will be 42 next season.