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Raul Ibanez is 42 years old and hitting .153, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia is sticking with him

Jun 19, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT

Raul Ibanez Angels Getty Images

Angels manager Mike Scioscia is taking a lot of heat locally for continuing to play struggling 42-year-old Raul Ibanez, especially after the team called up first base prospect C.J. Cron to provide an alternative at designated hitter.

Ibanez is hitting .153 with three homers and a .514 OPS in 56 games. By comparison, Cron is hitting .275 with three homers and a .763 OPS in 33 games since being called up from Triple-A last month. And yet Ibanez has started three straight games over Cron, with Scioscia explaining to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:

There’s no doubt he’s making some strides in the batter’s box, and you’re seeing better swings. The bottom line is production. Nobody understands that better than Raul. He knows he needs to have better at-bats. Nobody is working harder than Raul, and we’re confident he’s going to contribute for us.

It’d be one thing to show patience in a star player going through a prolonged slump, but when a 42-year-old hits .153 in 56 games and wasn’t all that good to begin with in recent years … well, it would seem like an obvious opportunity to turn the page and give Cron an extended chance instead. Ibanez hasn’t topped an .800 OPS since 2009 and hasn’t topped a .310 on-base percentage since 2010. Scioscia is waiting around for a bat that’s nothing special anyway.

  1. O.Handwasher - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    As a Mariners fan, I dig this news.

  2. rollinghighwayblues - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    The exact polar opposite way Scioscia handled the Napoli situation.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      Or you could say it is exactly the same way he handled the Mathis situation.

      • infieldhit - Jun 19, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        Except Sosh perceived Mathis to have superior defense at a defensive position, which Ibanez clearly doesn’t provide. This all boils down to Sosh putting too much stock in Veteran Presence. At least his contract isn’t so huge that there’s even more obligation to play him.

  3. scatterbrian - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    I suppose Scioscia is correct: Raul’s K% has dropped each month this season. But that is an incredibly small nugget to inspire optimism.

    Thing is Raul’s been taking the Rob Deer route the last few years, sacrificing batting average (and OBP as a result) for power. The problem is he’s got a no power: a .104 ISO is terrible for a guy who’s game is power. For reference and mockery, that’s the career ISO of guys like Ryan Sweeney, Pokey Reese, Joe McEwing, Tony Pena…

    • genericcommenter - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      Even when Rob Deer hit .180, he still got on base over 30% of the time and hit a lot of homers. If Deer had the at-bats Ibanez had this year, even at .153 he would have something like a .300 OBP and 10HR

      • scatterbrian - Jun 19, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        Perhaps not vintage Rob Deer…Raul is still taking walks, he’s just getting no help on the balls in play portion of OBP.

        But I wasn’t really trying to make the best player comp. The point is Raul’s game the last few seasons has been a selective all-or-nothing approach, which stops working when the power dries up.

  4. sleepyirv - Jun 19, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    At least he’s not keeping Mike Napoli out of the lineup.

  5. 1981titan - Jun 19, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Can you say Stubborn?

  6. aphillieated - Jun 19, 2014 at 1:21 PM


  7. denny65 - Jun 19, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    Raul hit 29 homers last year for the Mariners. I wouldn’t give up on him too soon. (Although, yes, the Mariners did.)

    • danfrommv - Jun 19, 2014 at 3:16 PM

      Too soon would have been April 30. We’re in the middle of June now, and he keeps coming up in critical times and leaving men on base.

      And speaking of leaving men on base, Scioscia is demonstrating some further stubbornness by leaving Albert Pujols in the 3 spot. A .154 BA with RISP is ridiculous. He isn’t injured. He isn’t in a slump. He is declining. Is Sosh going to let Albert hit 3rd when he is 40 years old, and hitting 0.001? Maybe that’s why he is sticking with Ibanez, to prepare the fans for sticking with Albert.

      Of course, leaving all those runners on base means losses. Losses mean no playoffs. At some point Arte will get tired of that, won’t he?

      • doctornature - Jun 19, 2014 at 10:07 PM

        Does Arte even remember he owns a baseball team???

    • scatterbrian - Jun 19, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      There is way too much bad going on while waiting for those 29 HRs, and even if you get them they probably weren’t worth it.

  8. tmc602014 - Jun 19, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    Scioscia’s weaknesses become more apparent as years go by. He’s too loyal to veterans, and doesn’t handle the pitching staff well. LaRussa never worried about what a player would think or feel if he held him out or moved him in the order – and the players didn’t resent it because LRussa was a constant tinkerer. Scioscia is even keel. Keep the same attitude and lineup every day. Poker faced Garret Anderson was a perfect Scioscia player. Don’t get too excited. So the Angels, even when playing well, lack the excitement and fervor of the WS team.

  9. J. Robert Hanson - Jun 19, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    “Nobody understands that better than Raul. He knows he needs to have better at-bats. Nobody is working harder than Raul, and we’re confident he’s going to contribute for us.”

    To me it sounds more like someone upstairs is putting pressure on Scioscia to play Raul because of a terrible business decision to sign him in the first place. The “we’re” comment instead of “I’m” comes ringing through.

    • infieldhit - Jun 19, 2014 at 2:24 PM

      I doubt it. I think managers are just ingrained to say “we” instead of “I” lest they sound like they’re taking credit for the good things.

      Maybe Scioscia felt pressure to keep putting out someone like Wells because of what he was getting paid (though I’m sure it was more about veteran-ness), but that shouldn’t really apply to Ibanez.

  10. mazblast - Jun 19, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    Could Scioscia be sensing that his time in Anaheim is almost over, and he’s decided (to use a hockey term) to “take someone with him”, that “someone” being in the front office?

    • danfrommv - Jun 19, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      If the Angels miss the playoffs this year, DiPoto will definitely be gone. Sosh may also be gone.

  11. yahmule - Jun 19, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    On the surface, sports seems like the purest kind of meritocracy. By its very nature, the beneficiaries of nepotism are eventually mercilessly exposed. Yes, your daddy can bat you cleanup and make you starting shortstop in little league, but the manager at the local high school is not going to share his sentimental attachment and you better have the skills to do the job if you expect to win a varsity letter.

    At its highest levels is where you would think sports would be the most immune to external pressures or non-performance based issues, but the opposite is often true. High draft picks get way more chances than street free agents. High priced free agents get to play because it embarrasses the front office to sit them in favor of better performing, cheaper talent. Of course, the service time nonsense that keeps phenoms like Gregory Polanco on the farm while AAAA non-entities like Travis Snider rack up worse than replacement level playing time.

    Then you have guys like Mike Scioscia and he’s far from unique. Managers who make playing time decisions that everybody can see are unlikely to work in their inception have a nasty habit of stubbornly sticking with their poor choices and increasing criticism only steels their resolve.

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