When Raul Ibanez was signed on June 30th, not much was expected from him. After all, he did not exactly light up the stat sheet with the Los Angeles Angels, hitting at a mere .157/.258/.265 rate with three home runs. Needless to say, it appeared as though Ibanez was on his way towards retirement when the Royals signed him.
Even though Ibanez has not exactly been stellar in the Royals uniform either, producing a .208/.250/.361 batting line with two home runs, he has helped the Royals in other ways. Brought in by Dayton Moore and the Royals not just for what they felt Ibanez could do on the field, but for his veteran leadership and off the field qualities, Ibanez has certainly lived up to expectations.
In fact, those intangibles that Raul Ibanez provides may have been the difference this season. Back on July 21st, the Royals had lost four consecutive games, falling to 48-50 on the season, eight games behind the Detroit Tigers and in third place in the Central. The following day, during lunch, a player’s only meeting was called, where Ibanez called out the Royals for not playing up to their talent. Whatever was said during that meeting seems to have worked, as the Royals have gone 26-8 since, picking up ten games on the Tigers to seize control of the American League Central.
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Ibanez has done his part as well. The veteran leadership that Ibanez provides can only go so far if he is not producing. While Ibanez is not exactly hitting well, he has provided a few key hits. His home run on August 1st proved to be the difference in the Royals 1-0 victory over the Oakland A’s. The bloop single that Ibanez had last night in the eighth inning started the Royals six run innings, leading to a 6-1 comeback victory.
What Raul Ibanez has provided the Royals has gone beyond the stat sheet. His presence, and leadership, have helped to get the Royals to not only come back and surge into the lead in the Central, but may have also helped to get the Royals to believe in themselves as well. Sometimes, it just takes an outside influence to push a team in the right direction. Maybe, just maybe, that influence was Raul Ibanez.
Perhaps the correct designation for Raul Ibanez is as a player/coach for the Royals. Regardless of how he is considered, Ibanez has been far more valuable than one would have expected.