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December 18, 2008 at 1:55 PM

Ibanez: Why he left

Just got done talking to Raul Ibanez for the first time since he left the Mariners and signed a three-year, $31.5 million deal with the Phillies. Ibanez said his decision came down to wanting to play for a competitive team right away. The Phillies, he added, stepped up with the three-year offer he was looking for, while the Mariners were still not sure whether they wanted him beyond this year.
“The Mariners, they weren’t sure what direction they were headed in,” he said. “Which is to be expected, given their situation. They deserve a winner in Seattle, and I hope they’re successful in what they try to do.”
I asked Ibanez whether the Mariners ever gave him the sense they were prepared to go beyond a one-year deal.
“I wouldn’t say that it was serious,” he said.
Ibanez had plenty of good things to say about the city, the team, president Chuck Armstrong and many of the people he met here.
“No one cares more about that team than he does,” Ibanez said of Armstrong. “The team and the city. He was distraught with what went on last year. I know because I had some one-on-one conversations with him. He cares so deeply about the city and the fans. He wants them to have a winner. He wants nothing more than for the franchise to win a championship. Believe me, he cares more than people realize,”
Ibanez also wishes nothing but the best for the fans he said made things easy on him and his family.
“The people embraced us,” he said. “Not just as players but as people. And that, believe me, makes a difference and is something I’ll never forget.”
I broached the topic of Ibanez’s defense with him and some of the newer metrics that suggest he’s a poor outfielder. Ibanez is aware of some of the conversations that have taken place in the blogosphere about whether the Phillies were foolish to have given him so much money and might actually be worse off defensively.
“I have to say a number of things,” he said. “Number one, with sabermetrics in general, it’s a statistical probability thing,” he said. “And the way they come up with the defensive measurements, or ratings, is flawed. It’s as flawed as the Gold Gloves. One of the reasons is, they don’t consider things like ballpark factors, defensive positioning or allignement for certain hitters.”
Ibanez added that most of the people taking down the statistics that measure defense are doing so “off a television” and are “not equipped to assess talent on the baseball field.”
He mentioned a friend of his in Kansas City, who, he said, is deeply into sabermetrics and some of the new-fangled defensive metrics. But, he added, he’s not a scout. And when it comes to measuring defensive talent, Ibanez said: “None of these guys has had a baseball background per se.”
It’s not just the location of batted balls that has to be judged, Ibanez said, but also the speed and angle at which they are hit.
“Trying to judge accuracy on a camera view is not the same,” he said.
He also feels that some of the people looking at the numbers have already figured him a below average defender in their minds and discount anything good that he does.
“Some of those biases that are pre-determined biases come into that mindset,” he said. “Those are things that I’m going to have to continue to battle throughout my career. But if you go around the game, and you ask the players, you ask quality major-league scouts, you ask managers, they’ll tell you I’m the type of player they want on their team.”
Obviously, the Phillies thought enough of Ibanez’s outfield defense to make him an everyday fielder and pay big bucks for it.
“And if you look at the list of teams bidding for me, the ones that were the most serious tended to be in the National League,” he said. “They didn’t seem to have a problem with me playing the field.”
For now, he added, all he can do is keep playing his game and hope people change their minds by watching what he does. He’s excited about reuniting with Jamie Moyer and feels comfortable knowing that former M’s coach Sam Perlozzo and executive Benny Looper are already in the Phils’ organization.
“The biggest thing for me,” he said, “is the opportunity to be competitive.”
Photo Credit: AP



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