This year was dominated by the Phillies. With their return to the World Series, mid season acquisitions, and the passing of Harry Kalas, the Phillies usually found themselves on top of the headlines. The Phillies were cool. It was the first time in years that Philadelphia finally felt like a baseball town. Early in the season though, it was newcomer Raul Ibanez who carried the defending WFC.
Ibanez replaced beloved Pat Burrell. While Burrell's departure left a void in Old City bars (filled by Jeff Carter), it certainly didn't leave one in left field. Ibanez made fans quickly forget about "Pat the Bat", hitting 17 home runs over the first two months of the season. Some even accused him of taking steroids, a rumor that was quickly dispelled. Ibanez's hot start endeared fans to him so much that chants of Rauuuuuuul quickly filled the air any time he did anything on the field. In a season that was poised to be unprecedented in terms of fan interest and ticket sales, it was Ibanez who led the way for the Phils in the early going.
Without his hot start, the Phillies may very well have not found themselves in position to repeat as World Champions. His mid-June injury derailed his season and led to a very mediocre second half, but fans never stopped feverishly chanting his name and wearing a wildly popular t-shirt bearing his likeness.
Ibanez was a lone bright spot in a rocky start to the defense of a World Championship, and for that reason alone, he kicks off our Top 10 of 2009 list.