A GRIP ON SPORTS
I'm not sure I'm a fan of Raul Ibanez. Read on.
• When you hit your 40s, your body changes. It happened to me. But I could take some solace in one fact: It happens to everyone, or at least I thought it happened to everyone. And that's where Raul Ibanez comes in. It hasn't seemed to happen to him. Let's look at the facts. Ibanez turned 41 this year. He's supposed to be on the downside of his career. (We know that to be true as he signed a one-year deal with the Mariners this season, returning home to Seattle – again – to finish out his 18-year major league career where it all started back in 1996.) But Ibanez isn't playing like a 41-year-old. Last night against the Angels, Ibanez hit his 23rd and 24th home run of the season, pulling within five homers of the best total ever hit by a 41-year-old player. That mark of 29 is held by none other than Ted Williams, one of the best hitters baseball has ever seen. Now, even Ibanez will admit he's no Ted Williams, but he's had a pretty darn decent career. If Ibanez hits those five home runs, not only will he catch Williams for that single-season mark, he'll have 300 for his career. He had three consecutive seasons with the M's in the mid-00's in which he drove in at least 105 runs. He hit 33 home runs with the Mariners in 2006 and topped that in 2009 with Philadelphia, when he hit 34 – at age 37. But this year is different. When Ibanez was brought in, joining other veterans Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales and Jason Bay, Ibanez's signing was thought to be more of a clubhouse thing than a playing thing. After all, Ibanez hadn't had the greatest of seasons last year in New York, though he had a pretty darn good postseason. But that didn't matter. Ibanez has a great work ethic, the Mariners have a really young team and the thought was put the two together and maybe some of it would rub off. The work ethic, I mean. Not the youth. But the latter seems have happened as well. Surrounded by young players, Ibanez is playing like a younger man. Heck, he looks a spry 38 at worst. And, that my friends, is why I'm not sure I'm a fan. I'm jealous. As I pull my creaking old bones out of bed each morning, having survived another strenuous day of reading or, if I felt adventurous, walking, I think about Ibanez and steam a bit. He hit a baseball 438 feet last night. I rarely get a golf ball to travel that far anymore. But I kid. No, not about the golf ball part, but about being an Ibanez fan. Who couldn't root for him? He's a class act who seems to treat his teammates, opponents, the fans, every aspect of the game, with respect. Whatever is behind his late-in-life career surge, whether it’s the aforementioned work ethic or a swing change or something else, it couldn't happen to a better guy. He's earned it and deserves it. And heck, at least my hairline has survived a bit better than his.
• WSU: Speaking of being a fan, I always had a special place for Marshall Lobbestael, the former Cougar quarterback and Jimmy John's aficionado. He's still playing football and still being successful. ... Oregon has attracted another highly sought-after running back.
• Shock: After a week spent working in Florida, the Shock will find out today if the decision to stay in the land of 98-percent humidity was worth it. Jim Meehan has an advance of tonight's game in Jacksonville.
• Mariners: The story from last night's 8-3 win over the Angels begins with Ibanez and his two home runs. But the Mariner offense seems to have awakened recently, as the team is averaging six runs a game in July. It might be the opposition, though the M's have played some good teams. And it might be a mirage, as the youth movement has produced results before. But whatever it is, it's fun to watch. ... The rest of last night's story? Joe Saunders had another good outing. ... That offense was stifled by a Boston knuckleballer a few days ago. His backstory is interesting. ... The M's made some changes in the pitching staff headed into the All-Star break, with Erasmo Ramirez headed to Everett so he can pitch on his usual schedule.
• Sounders: There is little in the way of positives when it comes to the Sounders health right now. The team may have trouble scoring tonight against San Jose as leading scorer Obafemi Martins is not expected to play. ... Macklemore and Spokane native Ryan Lewis will be performing in a music festival leading up to the MLS All-Star game. ... The roster is changing again.
• Our computer problems were easily solved yesterday, thus our post today has a little more heft to it. Now, I can't guarantee tomorrow. Who can? Until later ...