When the Royals signed Raul Ibanez three weeks ago, I assumed that it was primarily to provide leadership, and to supplement intangibles like team chemistry with his temperament and veteran presence. While he may rarely play in the outfield, he would mainly be used as an occasional DH and pinch hitter--nothing more. That would have made sense to me. Instead, they've played him fairly often, both exposing his ineffectiveness (at this point in his career) and making it virtually impossible to provide any of those intangibles mentioned above. One can't very well inspire his teammates while going 4 for 34 and committing a number of defensive gaffes.
At this point, given the circumstances, I don't see Ibanez doing much more than taking up space for the rest of the season. But fear not, there is another aging ex-Royal out there apparently looking to make a comeback! Johnny Damon recently told the Associated Press that he has been staying in shape, swinging the bat and is very eager to return to the majors. "When you feel you can still outhit at least half the league and you don't get that call, it's rough," he said.
Perhaps Johnny was exaggerating a bit, or maybe he's just delusional--either way, if it's veteran leadership the Royals are looking for, he's got plenty to offer. Damon, who helped the 2004 Boston Red Sox end an 86-year championship drought, has a .284 career average (better than Ibanez) with 235 home runs, 1,139 RBIs and 408 stolen bases (way better than Ibanez). He has 2,769 hits (better than Ibanez) and his lifetime on-base percentage of .352 is higher than every current leadoff hitter this season except Jose Altuve, Coco Crisp, Matt Carpenter, Shin-Soo Choo and Brett Gardner.
And it appears Johnny isn't the only one who thinks he could still play in the bigs. Rob Potts, a batting practice pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, reportedly ran into Damon last month in Wilmington, Delaware. He ended up throwing to him for about 15 minutes in the stadium and came away so impressed that he told Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to check him out.
"Johnny looks like he could play today," Potts said. "His last swing, he said: ‘I’m gonna go yard’ and he just turned on it. You can’t teach someone how to win a World Series and he’s won two. He’s a great clubhouse guy, had success playing in the bright lights in New York and Boston. In the ninth inning in a pressure situation, I’d still want to have Johnny Damon hitting for me."
So what do you think? Should the Royals give Ibanez the old heave-ho and bring Damon back to KC? He is two years younger, after all...