New York Yankees: Raul Ibanez’s Crazy 2012 Postseason

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At 40 years old, Raul Ibanez played like a youngster in 2012 for the Yankees.

Right before Spring Training in 2012, general manager Brian Cashman added outfield depth to the New York Yankees roster when he signed veteran Raul Ibanez to a one-year, $1.1 million contract. Coming off a season in 2011 where he had 37 doubles, 16 home runs and 83 RBI with the Philadelphia Phillies, it looked like a low-risk, high-reward signing.

Ibanez was not a starter to begin the season, but an injury to Brett Gardner opened the door to more playing time and he took advantage. The 40-year-old finished the regular season hitting .240 with 19 doubles, 19 home runs and 62 RBI in 130 games.

The Yankees went 95-67 to win the American League East and finished two games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees were able to hold off the O’s thanks in part to Ibanez. He blasted a game-tying home run in game No. 161 against  Boston Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey at Yankees Stadium in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Three innings later, he hit a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 12th for a 4-3 victory that clinched the AL East.

Ibanez saved his best for last in October. With the American League Division Series tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, the Orioles took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning with closer Jim Johnson heading to the mound. With Alex Rodriguez due up in the ninth, then-Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to have Ibanez pinch-hit for A-Rod.

What a move it was. Ibanez tied the game with a solo home run to force extra innings.

But he wasn’t done that night. Three innings later, Ibanez launched a solo home run on the first pitch he saw for a 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead. After the Birds won Game 4, Ibanez broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning of Game 5 with an RBI single to spark the Pinstripes to a 3-1 win, which sent them to the ALCS to face the Detroit Tigers.

In Game 1 against the Tigers at the Stadium, Detroit led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth. After the Yankees cut the deficit to 4-2 with a two-run home run from Robinson Cano, Ibanez stepped to the plate with two-out and Mark Teixeira on first, and promptly hit a two-run homer of his own to the tie the game and send it into extras.

Ibanez became the first player in MLB history to hit three home runs in the ninth inning or later in the same postseason.

The Tigers would end up sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS, but in his one and only year in a Yankees uniform, the New York City native had one of the most clutch postseasons — at 40 years old!! — despite his team not winning a championship.

Ibanez played two more seasons (with Seattle in 2013 and a split in 2014 with the Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals) before he retired in 2014. He retired with 2,034 hits, 305 home runs and 1,207 RBIs, all the while hitting an impressive .273. He had one All-Star appearance in 2009 with the Phillies.

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After his retirement, Ibanez interviewed for the Tampa Bay Rays managerial position in 2014 and was mentioned as a possible replacement for Girardi in New York, but Kevin Cash and Aaron Boone ended up with those positions. Ibanez was hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 as a special assistant in their Baseball Operations Department.

Don’t be surprised if he’s managing a team within the next couple of years, though.