By Gary Hill
Raul Ibanez has spent the 2013 baseball season playing in a vortex where time and space have no meaning. He has shrugged away any questions of age as he continues to pump fastballs into seats throughout the American League.
Ibanez belted three homers over the weekend while driving in six and leading the Mariners to a series win over the first-place Athletics. Ibanez has now swatted 17 home runs on the season, which is tied for sixth in the American League. Only Chris Davis (27), Edwin Encarnacion (21), Miguel Cabrera (20), Adam Dunn (20) and Nelson Cruz (19) have gone deep more often. He only needs two homers to match his output from last season with the Yankees.
Ibanez has been impressive in 2013 without considering any other circumstances. However, the fact that he is 41 years old makes this season truly special. First, consider how home runs have been spread by age range in Major League Baseball since 1920:
Age 25 or younger: 123,564
Age 26-30: 233,352
Age 31-35: 126,122
Age 36 or older: 28,298
The inescapable truth is that age has eventually tracked down every single player in baseball history. Some players succumb sooner than others, but right now Ibanez is sprinting so far ahead of Father Time that he is not even in view.
Raul Ibanez continued his pursuit of baseball history with three more home runs over the weekend, giving him 17 this season and 27 since his 40th birthday. (AP)
Ibanez has already joined an elite group of hitters who remained productive late into their careers. He continues to climb ladder with the possibility of becoming the all-time home run leader in an age-41-or-over season.
1. Ted Williams: 29, 1960 (41)
2. Barry Bonds: 28, 2007 (42)
3. Barry Bonds: 26, 2006 (41)
4. Darrell Evans: 22, 1988 (41)
5. Dave Winfield: 21, 1993 (41)
6. Stan Musial: 19, 1962 (41)
7. Carlton Fisk: 18, 1991 (43)
8. Carlton Fisk: 18, 1990 (42)
9. Raul Ibanez: 17, 2013 (41)
10. Carl Yastrzemski: 16, 1982 (42)
10. Graig Nettles: 16, 1986 (41)
12. Reggie Jackson: 15, 1987 (41)
13. Willie McCovey: 15, 1979 (41)
Ibanez is currently on pace to reach 36 homers and 88 RBIs.
His current pace would also propel him comfortably into the top 10 for most home runs hit by a player after his 40th birthday. He is already in the top 20. Note: These are homers actually hit at 40 years or older and not simply in a 40-year-old season or older.
1. Barry Bonds, 78
2. Carlton Fisk, 72
3. Darrell Evans, 65
4. Dave Winfield, 59
5. Carl Yastrzemski, 49
6. Stan Musial, 46
7. Ted Williams, 44
8. Hank Aaron, 42
9. Graig Nettles, 40
10. Hank Sauer, 39
11. Edgar Martinez, 36
11. Harold Baines, 36
13. Julio Franco, 32
14. Rickey Henderson, 31
14. Craig Biggio, 31
14. Andres Galarraga, 31
17. Jim Thome, 30
18. Willie McCovey, 28
19. Raul Ibanez, 27
19. Brian Downing, 27
20. Reggie Jackson, 26
21. Eddie Murray, 25
22. Matt Stairs, 24
23. Willie Mays, 20
23. Tony Perez, 20
23. Jason Giambi, 20
26. Bob Thurman, 17
On Aug. 7, 1996, Ibanez started his very first Major League game as the Mariners hosted the Indians in the Kingdome. He went 0 for 3 along with getting plunked by an Orel Hershiser offering. He batted seventh in the order behind catcher Dan Wilson and ahead of third baseman Jeff Manto.
Ibanez struggled to carve out playing time in his early days with Seattle. From 1996 to 2000, he never received more than 227 plate appearances in a season. Shannon Drayer pointed out on the postgame show Sunday that Ibanez has smacked more homers this season than he did in his first five years with the Mariners (14).
The late-blooming Ibanez busted loose in his second year with the Royals as a 29-year-old. He hit .294 with 24 homers and 103 RBIs. He spent three years in Kansas City before returning to Seattle to churn out five more productive seasons.
Ibanez has spent 11 of his 18 MLB seasons in Seattle and has established himself as the best left fielder in the history of the Mariners. He leads all M’s left fielders in just about every single offensive category.
He also passed Bret Boone for sixth-most homers in franchise history:
1. Ken Griffey Jr., 417
2. Edgar Martinez, 309
3. Jay Buhner, 307
4. Alex Rodriguez, 189
5. Alvin Davis, 160
6. Raul Ibanez, 144
7. Bret Boone, 143
8. Jim Presley, 115
9. Ken Phelps, 105
Here are some Raul Ibanez home run fun facts:
• On Aug. 8, 1999 Ibanez went deep on current bullpen coach Jaime Navarro.
• His first homer came against Mike Oquist of the A’s on Sept. 26, 1997.
• He has belted 20 homers against Oakland, which is the second most against any team. Twenty-one against the Angels is the most against any opponent.
• Four home runs off of Jered Weaver and Javier Vazquez is the most against any single pitcher.
• He is the all-time home run leader at Safeco Field with 77.
• Sunday was the 18th time he has smacked two homers in a game.
• Ibanez has taken teammates Oliver Perez, Aaron Harang, Joe Saunders (twice), Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma deep.
• Ibanez has hit a home run against all 30 teams in MLB.
• He has homered in 32 different stadiums including Tiger Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, the Metrodome, old Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium and the Kingdome, which have been retired.