This past offseason, the Los Angeles Angels signed Raul Ibanez, a man who has continued to defy his age, to a one-year deal after he shocked the baseball world in 2013 by blasting 29 home runs during his age-41 season. Ibanez is expected to be the Angels’ primary designated hitter in 2014, but he has had a rather rough start to the season by going 2-for-11 with seven strikeouts through his first three games. He does, however, have one home run.
Ibanez was striking out at a much lower rate in Spring Training as he fanned just eight times through 20 games, but he still only managed to hit .218. It is also important to note that 24 of his 29 home runs last season came in the first half, and he ended the season with 128 strikeouts in 496 plate appearances. His batting average has also been mired in the .240 range for the past three seasons, and one does have to wonder if it is really possible for him to catch yet another “second wind” at his age.
Ibanez’s story is one of great perseverance, and he was the original late bloomer of this generation. Before there was Chris Davis, Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, Ryan Ludwick and Carlos Pena, there was Ibanez. He struggled to make a name for himself early on in his career, but he was eventually able to put it all together. And by the time he was in his early 30s he had established himself as a player who could drive in 100 runs. He has certainly made his mark on the game over the past 12 seasons, but all good stories must come to an end.
Granted, three games is a very small sample size, but it may finally be time for the soon-to-be 42-year-old to hang up his spikes and give someone else a chance if he continues to struggle the way he has thus far. There were many younger players in camp with the Angels this spring who were not fortunate enough to make the team but were capable of doing great things at the big-league level. Some of these players simply deserve to be given their opportunity to make their mark on the game.