Q: What Phillie “slugger” hasn’t had a hit since Tax Day?
A: Raaaaauuuuuulllllllll Ibanez
The aged (calling him aging would be generous) slugger last got a hit on April 18 when the Phillies lost 6-3 to the Brewers.
After that 1-for-5 performance, Ibanez was batting a putrid .233. Since then things have gone for worse to worst for the career .282 batter.
He has gone an unbelievable 0-for-31 (0-for-34 including his last three at bats on April 18) with one RBI, one run, five walks and 11 strikeouts. He has been so terrible that in the 10 games he’s played since his last hit, Raul has struck out at least once in all those games but one -- including two games where he only recorded a single at bat.
The 38-year-old’s terrible start is a far cry from his first season in Philly. In 2009 Raul entered May batting .359 and slugging an astronomical .718 with five doubles, seven homers, 20 runs, 17 RBI and even three steals. This April he batted .161 and slugged just .218 with doubles, one homer, 10 runs, 10 RBI and, surprisingly, one steal.
Add in Raul’s 0-for-4 night (before he was mercifully pulled) Sunday and his numbers dropped to .154 avg. with a .209 slugging.
Check out how the Inquirer’s Matt Gelb describes Raul’s ineptitude:
Consider this: Ibanez's hitless streak is the sixth-longest for a non-pitcher in modern Phillies history, according to Baseball Reference. Granted, lots of game-by-game and play-by-play data from pre-World War years is unavailable, but this is what we have:
1. Danny Murtaugh -- 36 AB (1942-43)
2. Len Matuszek -- 36 AB (1982-83)
3. Desi Relaford -- 36 AB (1998)
4. Denny Doyle -- 35 AB (1970-71)
5. Joe Morgan -- 35 AB (1983)
The all-time record in all of baseball? That would be 46 at-bats by Brooklyn's Bill Bergen in 1909.
That’s really ugly Raul.
And it leads me to address the elephant in the room.
Is Raul done? Is his career as a successful baseball player over? I know slumps happen but simply put Raul is terrible right now and with him being a month short of 39 it’s fair to ask if he will ever return to respectable form.
Age is the one thing none of us can escape and it seems that Father Time has caught up with Raul -- taking the once proud slugger and turning him into a pedestrian at the plate.
Charlie Manuel can’t keep plugging Raul into the lineup each night if Raul keeps looking so late on fastballs that seemingly the catcher is throwing the ball back to the pitcher before Raul even takes a cut.
Considering Raul is getting paid an albatross-esque $12.17 million this season it would be difficult to entirely eat his contract. But with inexpensive bats like John Mayberry, Jr., Michael Martinez and Ben Francisco already on the roster and potential future All-Star Domonic Brown seemingly days from being ready to return from a broken hand, the Phillies could possibly eat Raul’s deal.
If I were Charlie I’d give Raul a week or two more. If he could put together a .280 or .290 streak with a few RBIs then I would keep pencilling him into the lineup but if he doesn’t then I would put him on the pine without any plans of using him unless it’s an extra inning game.
After a week or so of Raul being benched I see one of four things happening.
1. He re-enters the lineup and shines.
2. He and the Phillies find some sort of feigned injury and Raul winds up on the 60-Day DL.
3. Ibanez is released and the Phils eat the remainder of his deal.
4. Raul -- with a professionalism he has exhibited throughout his career -- retires.
I actually see the fourth scenario as the most likely conclusion. It lets Raul hold his head high. The Phillies could move on and, at least, maybe Raul could hang around in a consultant role. Think of how 39-year-old Mike Schmidt in 1989 -- three-years removed from his final MVP season -- realized that he was shell of the player he once was and called it quits on his terms.
(Raul of course is nowhere near the player Schmidt was but I feel the comparison to potential ways to walk away from the game is fair.)
The least likely scenario I see is the straight-out release. As unbelievable as Raul ever playing at an All-Star caliber again (scenario 1) is right now, the Phillies flat out eating the entirety of his deal without the ability to claim some sort of insurance seems even less likely.
What do you think? Does Raul have a successful future in red pinstripes?