This season Raul Ibanez reaffirmed his status as a Hall of Famer, rocking 33 homers and posting a .289/.353/.516 line with the Seattle Mariners. He's now the owner of 138 career homers, tied for 91st All-Time amongst active players. Since he's tied with Matt Lawton, who's steroid usage destroyed our national innocence and directly led to the deaths of 10,000 children, Royals Review considers him the lone man at 91st. Thanks to Mark Teixeira's meltdown in 2006, Raul now owns a puncher's chance of catching Tex (140) in 2007.
To the Royals fans -- I'm sorry, the Royals Nation-- Raul's greatness is nothing new. Let me lay it out for you:
Raul Ibanez is KC baseball.
From 2001-3 Raul Ibanez wowed the fans of Kansas City and surrounding environs with some of the best baseball ever seen. A highlight of the Allard Baird Era Ibanez came to the Royals for his age-29 season after languishing on the bench for some very good Mariners teams.
Ibanez made his presence felt immediately in 2001, hitting .280/.353/.495 with 13 home runs. Ibanez shared time that season with the Mighty Quinn at DH, LF and RF. The 2001 Royals tied what was then the franchise record for losses, going 65-97.
In 2002, Ibanez served notice that he was here to stay, playing in 137 games and blasting the cover off the ball to the tune of .294/.346/.537 with 24 homers and 103 RsBI. Tucker also reminded many of the glory days of WhiteyBall in KC, as he finished 6th in the American League with 6 triples! Despite Ibanez's incredibly inspirational season, the Royals built on 2001's failure to set a new franchise record for losses, with a 62-100 mark that saw the end of the Tony Muser Experience. As the Damon-Dye years melted away, a new era of the Ibanez-Beltran-Tucker outfield. Its pretty remarkable to think that the Royals had Ibanez and Tucker at the same time. (You can read more about Tucker's tenure with the Royals here.)
Members of the UCLA Softball Team chilled with two of the greatest outfielders ever in 2003. The Ibanez bobblehead is currently worth over $11,000 dollars.
In 2003, nothing would keep Raul out of the starting lineup, as Ibanez was now fully-entrenched in the Kansas City consciousness. For someone not from the area, it is hard to explain how large Raul loomed in those days. It must have been something akin to Joe Montana and San Francisco in the 1980s of Michael Jordan and Chicago in the 1990s. He was ours and we were damn proud of it.
Therefore, nothing could have been more perfect than Ibanez leading the Royals to a mystical, magic and memorable 83-79 season that saw the Royals finish in 3rd place in the AL Central. Tony Pena won Manager of the Year and Angel Berroa the always-useful Rookie of the Year award. Of course, both awards predicted, nay, ensured the future success of the recipients.
Ibanez stepped back a bit in 2003, at least according to the statistics, posting a .294/.345/.454 line. Of course, this is Raul Ibanez, so a mild setback season for him still means performance of the highest order. You simply cannot measure the leadership he brought to that clubhouse. YOU JUST CAN'T. Without Ibanez the Royals don't win 25 games that year. Do you think 90 RsBI grow on trees? In 2003 Ibanez ripped 123 singles, finishing 7th in the American League in that illustrious category. In one of the great disgraces of BBWA voting, Ibanez received no down-ballot MVP support.
For the curious, the park factors for Kauffman Stadium during the Reign of Raul were 110, 117, 113, numbers surely artificially inflated due to Raul's regular presence in the lineup. Sadly, on November 19, 2003 the evil Seattle Mariners swooped in and signed Ibanez, and event that's still remembered vividly in Kansas City as the Thanksgiving of Despair. It was one of those, you-remember-where-you-were news items that sent reverberations of sadness across 12 midwestern states. Even worse, in 2004 Ibanez devastated the Royals with a .478/.571/.609 (8 singles, 3 doubles) line against the Royals in six games. In 2005 Ibanez continued the onslaught, hitting .306/.375/.444 in nine fun-filled games. In 2006, whilst Raul was enjoying his 100% expected career year with the Mariners, he once again blew up like a firecracker against the Royals, hitting .423/.469/.615. This beat-down of spite and revenge deserves restatement :
Raul Ibanez against the Royals since Being Stolen by Mariners:
Career (Pre and Post Apostasy): .336/.410/.486 in 159 PAs.
Never underestimate the power of an Ibanez scorned.
Still, Raul's legacy in Kansas City will never be forgotten, as Mr. Ibanez leaves behind a considerable column in the annals of team lore. Ibanez ranks 19th All-Time on the Royal homer list, with 55 homers, locked in deadlock with Jeff King and just behind mid-70s outfielder Ed Kirkpatrick. Ibanez got the last laugh on Kirkpatrick in RsBI however, finishing two ribbies ahead of him with 247 (26th). With 403 hits as a Royal Ibanez ranks 35th All-Time, wedged between the fantastic duo of Carlos Febles (414, 34th) and Rey Sanchez (398, 36th). Ibanez fares slightly better in the doubles category, clocking in at 32nd, with 81 two-baggers. Just this season on October 1st (the season finale) against the Tigers, David DeJesus passed Raul with his 82nd double as a Royal. To my knowledge, the Tigers did not acknowledge this feat at [Insert Corporate Name here]Park/Field that day, only deepening the divide of hate between the two fanbases. This isn't the first time that Detroit has failed to cover itself in glory.
Hopefully, the Royals will resign Jermaine Dye and Raul again at some point down the road so the score can be settled with regards to the All-Time steals mark. Jermaine and Raul each thieved 13 bases as Royals, tied for 66th in franchise history.
Little-remarked upon is the role that Tery Ibanez played with the Royals Wives during Raul's glorious run in the Metro. Thankfully, she spoke with KCROYALS.com in 2003.
Only a month before the Ibanez's left the city under a cover of darkness in 2003, Tery told the world this:
End the lies, Tery. Restore the trust.
Seattle fans know all about what its like to lose a transcendant player because of money, as evidence by their classy reactions to Arod in 2001 when they threw fake money on the field.
They understand our pain is their gain, I just hope they know how close to greatness they really are.