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October 22, 2009 at 5:21 PM

Raul Ibanez gets a taste of the World Series

Raul Ibanez has waited a long time for a trip to the World Series and now he has it. We’ll know soon enough whether his Philadelphia Phillies will be facing the New York Yankees, but I’ve got to say, that would be the best possible matchup.
Of all the NL teams, the Phillies likely represent the best matchup for the power-laden Yanks. The Phillies are built like an AL team. They have power up and down their lineup. The fact that Ibanez is batting sixth demonstrates that. Having him at No. 6 is probably the best possible spot for him. Plenty of Seattle coaches and a couple of managers have lamented to me privately over the years that Ibanez was never a true middle-of-the-order hitter.
Photo Credit: AP

In other words, he’s not really a 35-or-40-homer guy like Russell Branyan would have been before his injury (even though Ibanez hit like a pure power guy at times this year). Ibanez did a great job in the spots he was used in and did indeed collect his 100-RBI seasons when the runners piled up in front of him.
But he probably should not have been hitting third or fourth. Nor should Adrian Beltre have been, but that’s another story.
Ibanez is most comfortable hitting behind the clean-up guy and, in this case, to break up the lefty bats, the Phils use him at No. 6.
For me, the key to upending the Yanks (once they inevitably dispatch the Angels) will be the Phils’ ability to slug toe-to-toe with them up and down the order. As well, Cole Hamels has to get his act together. The Phillies will need a solid one-two punch with Hamels and Cliff Lee to have a shot.
But this has the makings of a great Fall Classic, one with tons of interest for Seattle fans. For those who’ve missed it, the Phils also employ Greg Dobbs as a pinch-hitter, not to mention Miguel Cairo as well. On TV, we’re shown tons of cutaway shots of former M’s coach Sam Perlozzo coaching third.
Benny Looper is a Phillies executive as well, while Jamie Moyer is out with an injury but still on the team.
I’ve gotten to know some other Phillies players over the years from my time in Toronto.
Jayson Werth is a critical a cog in that lineup as any other hitter and has finally emerged as the big-time slugger first envisioned when he was drafted in the first round a decade ago. Werth comes from a family where his uncle, Dick Schofield, was a former major leaguer. But few know that his mother was a nationally-ranked sprinter who gave up her Olympic dream to raise a young Jayson when she was in college.
Scott Eyre, a middle reliever for the Phils, has struggled his entire life with attention deficit disorder.
I knew both players early in their careers, when they were fighting to make names for themselves and wondered whether that would ever happen. Now, they both have World Series rings and are shooting for another. Eyre has gone to the World Series with two different teams, having pitched for the Giants in 2002.
There’s a lot to like about both guys and I’ll be pulling for them to do well.
And let’s hope the umpires, after a terrible post season, finally do get it right.
Still, I think, when you boil it all down, the biggest interest for Seattle fans will be to see how Ibanez does.
Ibanez hit a critical home run for the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLCS, but slowed down a bit at the plate after that. He’s still hitting the ball hard — sometimes right at people. And he’s showing a great ability to work the count and force pitchers to execute. From what the article I linked to states, he’s in considerable pain at the moment. Let’s see if he can keep it up and continue to produce now that he’s reached the big stage that’s eluded him so often in the past.



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