Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin is, we know, a class act with an open mind. But even Conlin can’t resist the chance to say “I told you so,” and this time he’s bragging about just how right he was about Raul Ibanez.
I saw Ibanez play often the past 3 years and didn’t need Pat Gillick to tell me the Phillies were getting one hell of a ballplayer. Yet when I uncurbed my enthusiasm for Raul’s all-around game, despite his age, I was buried by peeved naysayers. “Worse fielder than Pat . . . ” “Horrible arm, can’t run the bases . . . ” “Lacks Pat’s leadership and long-ball threat . . . ” Yadda, yadda, yadda. Weeks and weeks of yadda, yadda and anti-Raul ranting. Maybe it’s too early to say “I told you so,” but, here goes: I told you so. The guy was the Phillies’ best player the first month. Pat Burrell, whose defense also has been perfect, has one homer and 12 RBI for the scuffling Rays.
Baseball Daily Digest’s Bill Baer has already penned an exhaustive post about Ibanez’s performance and what many of us expected, so I’ll spare you the diatribe. But I feel inclined to point out that just because Burrell is off to a slow start in Tampa doesn’t mean he would have started slow had he stayed in Philly. Getting used to a new stadium, a new position and a slightly tougher league isn’t easy. Also, just because Burrell is off to a slow start doesn’t mean he’ll finish slow. He’s a notoriously streaky hitter. Last season, Burrell was the team’s MVP in the first half of the season (.404/.575/.979) and the team’s LVP in the second half (.313/.413/..575). Maybe this year he’ll start slow and finish strong? And maybe Ibanez won’t finish the year with 50 HR and 150 RBI (his current pace). I know that’s going out on a limb, but I think Raul is gonna cool off a bit, at the plate and in the field.
My biggest problem with the contract the Phils gave Ibanez is the length. Ibanez is 37 and Ruben Amaro Jr. gave him a three-year deal. Nobody doubted that Ibanez could continue to cheat time for one more year. Maybe two. But three? If Ibanez is still playing at an elite level when he’s 40, well, I really will owe Amaro and Conlin an apology.
PS. Hey Bill, remember that column you wrote in September of last year when you wished out loud that the Phillies had Gavin Floyd back? You drooled all over Floyd and his 18 wins, neglecting to take into account his unsustainably low babip. How is Floyd doing so far this season? What’s that you say? A 6.29 ERA? An ERA + of 80? Maybe you were wrong about Floyd? Maybe his high win total in 2008 was more luck than skill? Ha ha! Suck it, Conlin! Score one for wishful fan numbers!