The Philadelphia Phillies provided a good home for Raul Ibanez from 2009 to 2011. Phillies fans like myself made "Rauuulll" one of our favorite chants, and regarded Ibanez as one of our most important leaders. But for all he accomplished in three years at Philadelphia, he will now forever be known as a New York Yankee after the events of Oct. 10.
Ibanez was languishing on the bench while the Yankees seemed destined to face a 2-1 ALDS deficit to the Baltimore Orioles. But instead of watching Alex Rodriguez strike out yet again, manager Joe Girardi sent Ibanez in to pinch hit in the ninth inning - where he promptly delivered a game-tying home run. Three innings later, he crushed another pitch into the second deck to give the Yankees a stunning 3-2 Game 3 win.
The Phillies never even saw Ibanez show that kind of power in three years. The fact that he did it for the Yankees makes it hurt even more that he is gone, no matter how necessary it might have been. Yet the end result has him as New York's latest October hero, while Philadelphia watches and wonders what might have been.
Since Ibanez turned 40 this season and had his contract expire last year, the Phillies didn't give his departure much thought. Technically, they did need him gone so they could work out other, younger left field options, like Dominic Brown and John Mayberry Jr.
But it has been one year later, and Philadelphia still has no idea what it's outfield of the future will look like. If Ibanez had stayed on for another season, we might not have gotten any closer to finding out. Yet for all we known, perhaps he would have been the one aging Phillies regular who avoided breaking down, and provided valuable leadership during the team's dark times.
Still, Ibanez isn't the kind of player who can win or lose a game, so he might not have improved the Phillies' final 81-81 record. However, he didn't appear to be the kind of player who can hit two straight home runs to save a postseason game - and perhaps an entire season. Unfortunately, when he did that anyway, he just had to do it for the Yankees.
Now the unfair thing is that when Ibanez's career does end, all most casual fans will remember about him is this one big night for the Yankees. His time with the Phillies, no matter how successful it was or how beloved he was in Philadelphia, will still be an afterthought compared to a performance like this. Then again, Ibanez's years with the Seattle Mariners were easier to forget after he joined the Phillies, so maybe it balances out.
Philadelphia will always remember Ibanez as a Phillie, first and foremost. But after Oct. 10, the rest of America will remember Ibanez as a Yankee - especially if this performance leads to New York's 28'th world championship. After coming up short in three straight Octobers with the Phillies, it would be poetic justice for him to finally win it all now - even if it would be more bittersweet for Philadelphia.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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