What’s eating Raul?

raulNEW YORK – The word came from the Phillies public relations staff that Raul Ibanez wanted to know if any of the regular scribes covering the team were interested in chatting with the slugging outfielder regarding the speculation of his performance-enhancing drug use. It was a curious thing considering Ibanez is always affable and willing to talk about nearly any topic.

That is, of course, if one can locate Ibanez. A tireless worker, Ibanez is always in the middle of doing something baseball-related, be it studying film, taking extra batting practice, stretching or getting a chiropractic adjustment. So to hear that one of baseball’s truly good guys offered, pre-emptively, to discuss something that was never an issue until a relatively anonymous blog post from a blogger with no access or credibility suggested that Ibanez’s hot start to the 2009 season could be chemically enhanced, was noteworthy.

But there were no takers. No, it wasn’t because no one wanted to talk to Ibanez. It was because no one wanted to talk to Ibanez about something that was never a story in the first place. Had folks in Philadelphia treated something called, “Midwestern Sports Fans” like they always did (you know… as if it never existed), perhaps Ibanez wouldn’t have offered to alter his pre-game preparations to talk about something that no one was even thinking about.

Yet since ESPN picked it up on Ibanez’s comments to the Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday, there was a low murmur around Citi Field about the “issue.”

“To be honest, I don’t want to talk about it,” manager Charlie Manuel said.

But even Manuel couldn’t resist.

“It upsets me,” he said. “I think if you’re going to put that out there he ought to have proof.”

Shane Victorino was less diplomatic, jokingly (maybe?) attacking the Internet and the advances in technology. The Phils’ outfielder pointed out that there are at least a dozen accounts on Facebook and Twitter in his name, but, “I never started one of them.”

That can lead to confusion, Victorino says, when family and friends see his name in places and want to connect with him. However, the biggest issue is the lack of accountability with some blogs. Because the blogger at the “Midwestern Sports Fans,” going by the handle, “JRod” never actually has to face any of his subjects nor ever sees how athletes like Ibanez go about their work, he has very little understanding of what damage his words can cause.

“It can ruin a guy’s life,” Victorino claimed.

It won’t get that far with Ibanez. Yes, he and the Philadelphia media understand how suspicion has invaded baseball. That’s the reality. But it also seems as if Ibanez was thinking about what some guy named “JRod” wrote before Wednesday’s game at Citi Field when he should have been thinking about facing the Mets.

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