Former KC Royals outfielder Raúl Ibañez retired from the playing field last winter. Though he is today part of Fox Sports World Series broadcast team, his legacy lives on in the Kansas City Royals clubhouse.
Ibañez is still a big part of what’s going on in Kansas City today.
Back in July of 2014, KC Royals GM Dayton Moore plucked Raúl Ibañez from the waiver wire in hopes the 42-year-old veteran might jump start his stagnant offense. Coming into the 2014 season after their first over-.500 record in 10 years, the Kansas City Royals were mired in a disappointing start.
The KC Royals stood 43-40 on July 1, the first day Ibañez played for the 2014 team. By July 20, a five-game losing streak put the Royals playoff hopes in jeopardy. That’s when Raúl Ibañez called a player’s only meeting because he had something to say to his young teammates.
When asked about the meeting in September of 2014, Ibañez recalled for USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:
"“I just gave my honest observations,” says Ibanez, who joined the team only three weeks earlier after being released by the Los Angeles Angels, “and told them about the potential and talent they had. The talent here is so incredible. They just need to believe that.“So I told them that looking in from the outside, every team hated to play them. Everyone saw the talent they had. This was their opportunity. They were on the cusp of greatness.“I just thought they needed a belief.”"
According to his teammates, the Ibanez’s pick-me-up speech worked. Jarrod Dyson told Nightengale:
"“See what I mean,” Royals teammate Jarrod Dyson says. “He does that to us all of the time. I can’t even tell you the impact he’s made on me, and everyone in this clubhouse.“I just know we wouldn’t be in the position we are today without him.”"
The KC Royals followed up Raúl Ibañez’s speech with a MLB-best 41-22 second-half kick to take the top wild card in the American League. They caught fire with an improbable four-run comeback to defeat the Oakland A’s 9-8 in the wild card game, which was the first time a team had overcome a deficit that big to win an elimination game.
The Kansas City Royals then swept their way to the World Series by reeling off seven straight victories, before falling to the San Francisco Giants in a seven-game World Series.
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When pundits doubted the KC Royals next spring, predicting that the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, or the Detroit Tigers to win the A.L. Central, the ignored Royals responded by posting the American League’s best record in 2015.
Now, they’re up 2-0 in the 2015 World Series.
Raúl Ibañez was indeed finished as an effective major-league player when the Kansas City Royals acquired him in 2014. He hit a mere .188/.278/.325 with two home runs during his brief stint in Kansas City. Yet, Raúl Ibañez earned every penny he collected from the KC Royals.
Since July 20, 2014, the Kansas City Royals have won more games than any team in baseball, going 155-97 if you include post-season play. That’s a tidy .615 winning percentage.
And they’re two wins away from winning their first World Series title in 30 years.
Thank you, Raúl Ibañez.