What's eating Raul (cont.)
Raul, for his part, came out forcefully ... and I thought he mostly handled it beautifully. I don't know that he needed to bring out the old blogger-in-the-basement cliche -- which sent this whole discussion reeling into another tedious Mainstream vs. Blogger argument -- but hey, he was emotional and hurt. He forcefully denied the charges, offered to take a blood test, said he would return every dime he ever made in the game if he ever tested positive. I know Raul, and I know that he's a proud man. He should be proud. All this time, so many people have not believed in him, but he fought through that, he kept swinging, he finally made it to the top ... and for anyone to question him now was simply too much for him to take.
I don't blame him for his reaction; I applaud him for it. In fact -- and maybe this is a pipe dream -- I kind of hope that Raul will take us into a whole new stage in the Selig Era. He's strong enough to do this too: I hope he DOES stand up, rail against steroid use, volunteer to take the most advanced tests, leave no doubt -- or as little doubt as possible -- so that people will see that, yes, a man who was on the brink of being run out of the game, a man who has faced doubters and critics at every turn, a man who had every reason to break the rules did not break them, did not even bend them. I come more and more to the conclusion that what baseball could use now in this era of doubt is a pioneer, someone who takes it upon himself to take on all comers and say, "That's it. Yes, some unfortunate stuff happened, and a lot of people are to blame, but you know what? We're moving on. The game is moving on."
It would be a hard thing for any player to do. He would have to fight wars on multiple fronts. Like I say, I think Raul is strong enough to do it.
Now, I can tell you the part that I think Jerod missed, the part a lot of people seem to have missed, the part about Raul Ibanez that you don't hear enough about: This hot beginning is not at all out of line with Raul Ibanez's career. I'm telling you: This is ABSOLUTELY TYPICAL for Raul.*
*I wish that Jerod had seen this ... and then he might have kept the regrettable steroid stuff out of his piece. Jerod really did seem to be looking for a reason why Ibanez is hitting like he's hitting ... and in my opinion that reason was right there in front of his eyes.
The reason: When Raul Ibanez is hot, he's HOT. There's aren't many people in baseball like him.
Look: Through 55 games, Ibanez was hitting .329/.386/.676 with 19 homers.
OK, let's start in 2002. That year, Ibanez had a 50-game streak -- June 7 to Aug. 2 -- when he hit .328/.385/.704 with 15 doubles, five triples, 15 homers. He drove in 54 runs. Few noticed because the Royals were abysmal that year, and it was in the middle of the season. But that stretch, you will note, is about as good as the stretch he's on now. In some ways, it's even better.
In 2003 he had a 55-game stretch where he hit .326/.360/.514 ... not as good, but pretty damned good.
In 2004 he hit .365 over a 54-game stretch. In 2005 he got off to a dreadful start and then hit .330/.400/.524 over his next 55 games. In 2006 he hit 18 homers and drove in 57 runs in a 52-game stretch.
Over the last 52 games of the 2007 season Ibanez hit .363/.425/.652 with 15 homers.
Last year, for 55 games, July 12 to Sept. 14, he hit .374/.435/.648 with 17 doubles, two triples, 13 homers. And that, you might remember, was in Seattle and a lousy hitters' ballpark.
This is a man who, when he gets hot, absolutely tears up pitchers. I've seen it up close. He has had a 50-to-60 game hot streak EVERY SINGLE YEAR since 2002. Now, true, this time around, his hot streak started with Game 1. And why not? He was in a new league, in a new ballpark, facing pitchers who had not seen him as much. He's in more of a fastball/slider/change-up league, which is in his comfort zone (rather than curveballs and split-fingered fastballs which, generally, have eaten him up).
Point is: Raul Ibanez got hot, and this is how he hits when he's hot. There's nothing out of the ordinary here, nothing at all. Now, if he goes on to do this all year, if he goes on to hit 55 home runs, then yes, that would be out of the ordinary; that would be an outlier year like the years of Roger Maris, Davey Johnson, Andre Dawson, Luis Gonzalez, Brady Anderson and everyone else who had a wild and out-of-character year.
But for now, Raul Ibanez is just continuing what he's done year after year. It's just that people are noticing.
* * *
I really liked Jerod's comment on my blog post ... so I'm going to publish the key points in it:
What I am the most disappointed in is that if I were to make a list of 10-20 players whom I "most" believe in, Raul Ibanez would be on that list -- which is why, combined with the whispers I was starting to hear about him, I decided to research and write the post in the first place.
I've been getting lots of e-mails tonight from people who have been saying that I will be vindicated "when Raul tests positive" and that it is somehow inevitable. I obviously think that speculating is warranted, but I am absolutely rooting for Raul Ibanez, for many of the reasons that you cited above. I understand why today's game of Internet telephone has made this a me-against-Raul Ibanez thing; I just think it's unwarranted and disappointing. But despite what some may think who have not read my post and simply have jumped on the bandwagon of controversy, I'm rooting for Raul Ibanez, think he's clean, and would be crushed if he ever failed a drug test.
That got lost in all of today's drama, but it's true.
I realize I am now the face of the Raul Ibanez speculation, but at the end of the day I'm a dedicated baseball fan who WANTS players to be clean and who is rooting for Raul.
Joe Posnanski is a columnist for the Kansas City Star and the author of joeposnanski.com.
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