Raul Ibanez of the Philadelphia Phillies is bristling at the suggestion in a blog that his offensive numbers could be the result of performance-enhancing drugs. And he's perfectly willing to be drug tested to prove it, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
"I'll come after people who defame or slander me," he said Tuesday night before the Phillies played the New York Mets, according to the report. "It's pathetic and disgusting. There should be some accountability for people who put that out there."
"You can have my urine, my hair, my blood, my stool -- anything you can test," Ibanez said, according to the report. "I'll give you back every dime I've ever made" if the test is positive, he added.
"I'll put that up against the jobs of anyone who writes this stuff," he said, according to the Inquirer. "Make them accountable. There should be more credibility than some 42-year-old blogger typing in his mother's basement. It demeans everything you've done with one stroke of the pen.
"Nobody is above the testing policy. We've seen that."
Ibanez, the leading vote-getter among outfielders on the National League All-Star ballot, was responding to a post on the Midwest Sports Fans site. In that post, the site's managing editor, Jerod Morris, using the pen name "JRod," tried to make the case that Ibanez's numbers were a result of several factors -- but added that given recent baseball history, speculation about performance-enhancing drugs could not be ignored.
Ibanez, 37, is off to a career-best start in his 15th major league season, his first season calling hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park home.
Entering Wednesday's games, Ibanez is first in the National League in four offensive categories, with 55 runs batted in, 47 runs scored, a .682 slugging percentage and 152 total bases. He's second in home runs with 20 -- just three behind his career average. He's hitting .327, a full 39 points higher than his .288 career batting average. His career slugging percentage is .491 and he's averaged 96 RBIs a season.
But Ibanez is playing in the wake of the steroid era, where big statistical leaps raise eyebrows and elicit whispers. He's also playing in the Internet era, where those whispers can take on a life of their own.
"Unfortunately, I understand the environment we're in and the events that have led us to this era of speculation," Ibanez said, according to the Inquirer. "At the same time, you can't just walk down the street and accuse somebody of being a thief because they didn't have a nice car yesterday and they do today. You can't say that guy is a thief."
In the original post, Morris, who says he's 27, detailed a number of factors that could explain Ibanez's hot start, including the hitter-friendly parks where he's homered and some of the poor pitching the Phillies have faced.
But Morris also acknowledged that in the current baseball climate, "It's time for me to begrudgingly acknowledge the elephant in the room: Any aging hitter who puts up numbers this much better than his career averages is going to immediately generate suspicion that the numbers are not natural, that perhaps he is under the influence of some sort of performance enhancer."
While Morris said he wanted to give Ibanez the benefit of the doubt, he also said the suspicion could not be dismissed outright.
"Maybe the 37-year old Ibanez trained differently this offseason with the pressure of joining the Phillies' great lineup and is in the best shape he's ever been in," he wrote. "And maybe that training included ... Well, you know where that one was going, but I'd prefer to leave it as unstated speculation. However, if Ibanez ends up hitting 45-50 homers this year, you can bet that I won't be the only one raising the question."
On Wednesday, Morris posted another entry and offered a partial apology. He said he felt more secure about Ibanez's numbers, noting Ibanez's improvement with men in scoring position, and said he had no ax to grind with the outfielder.
"I'll accept some level of accountability and offer a sincere apology to Raul Ibanez for advancing a public debate that, in his specific case, is very likely unfair and perhaps even unnecessary," Morris wrote.
"However, I'm not accepting complete blame and accountability for being the person who started this. I just tried to do my homework and write a cogent response to speculation I had heard from other sources," Morris continued.
"If Raul Ibanez, or any other player who is speculated about for putting up great numbers, is upset at the speculation, the majority of their anger and venom in my opinion should be directed towards their past and present peers who used steroids and PEDs," Morris added.