Raul the real deal


Will Raul Ibanez ever slow down?


No, really -- will he?


Here we are, on the cusp of summer, and
the Phillies left fielder already has 21 homers, 58 RBIs and 49 runs scored.
And a .322 average. And a .674 slugging percentage.


This, after another heroic day at the
plate Thursday, in which he not only extended his hit streak to a Major
League-leading 11 games, but did so by single-handedly defeating the Mets at
Citi Field in extra innings with a game-winning, three-run homer.


Did I mention he's 37 years old?


Yes, 37 years old -- one year older than
Michael Jordan was when he walked away from the Bulls.


For that reason alone, the assumption is
that Ibanez's MVP-caliber pace will only last so long before he begins to act
his age.


Because that's what typical 37-year-olds
do. They slow down. They get sent to the DL. They relax with family.


Then again, typical 37-year-olds don't
keep a hyperbaric chamber in their home and work out all six months of the
offseason and on off-days during the regular season.


Whatever he's done, it's worked. Ibanez
been proving doubters wrong his entire career, from when he caught on in Kansas
City at age 30 to his second time around with Seattle, where he established
himself as one of the AL's most reliable run producers.

The decision to leave behind Seattle's
vast home park -- SAFECO Field -- for Philadelphia's cozy hitters' park --
Citizens Bank Park -- is also paying major dividends. Ibanez sports a beastly
.688 slugging percentage at home this season, evidence of Citizens Bank's
predictable effect on a lefty slugger. The veteran has benefitted from more
than merely a change of location, though, as his .321 average and absurd .714
slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers reflect the work of a hitter
who has gone great lengths to improve his approach.


The numbers should slow down some, but a
run at 40 homers is no fantasy.


Alex Cushing, MLB.com

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