Maybe it's the theater/literature major in me, but I always look at baseball players as literary characters more than letting their numbers define them. It's why Derek Jeter has been my favorite player for almost a decade. It's why I didn't buy into a lot of the steroid monsters of the 90's and early 2000's. It also draws me to players 20-25 on major league rosters. And it was why Brian Lahair was one of my favorite Cubs last year.
Brian Lahair was shipped off to the Fukoka Softbank Hawks the other day. It's a great move for the Cubs and an even better move for Lahair. He'll hit everyday there, probably put up good numbers, and make a nice 4.5 million. While the Cubs get almost a million dollars for shipping him off. It's a win win. and yet part of me is kind of sad to see him go.
This isn't about Lahair making a triumphant return to the majors after toiling in the minor leagues for 10 years. That's a cool story and all, but I'll let Disney tell that tale. I like the angle that Brian Lahair got an incredibly shrinking window of an opportunity and with limited ability made the most of everything
A slightly better than average September in 2011 ( made better by the fact that the 2011 Cubs were a major pooch screw of a team) along with a slew of impressive minor league stats convinced Theo Epstein to give Lahair a chance. But when the Cubs acquired Anthony Rizzo, they basically turned over the egg-timer on Lahair's Cubs tenure. yeah, there was hope of moving him to the outfield, but that wasn't really fare to either Cubs or BLH. No, once Rizzo was ready it was simply a matter of when, not if Lahair would soon be gone.
So with knowing he was on borrowed time and knowing there was a flaw or two in his game that had prevented him from reaching the majors for almost a decade ( other than the cup of coffee with the Mariners in 2008), I think most players would have folded. Made everyone's job easier. Lahair went to Kansas City as an All-Star. And not an "Every team has to have at least one so we have no choice but to pick you" All-Star either. He actually earned it. Lahair's .286/.364/.519 was remarkable, better than any other first baseman not named Joey. And while the All Star game has been downgraded to a corporate sponsored afterthought, watching Lahair go through the festivities like a wide eyed kid made me remember all the love and magic that drew me to the game back in the late 70's.
Cub fans are focused on the future. I get that. And rooting for a player like Lahair is often misinterpreted as being delusional about his future or egregious homerism. ( AKA Hawk Harrelson-ism). But Lahair was a wonderful story. And to shoot it down in favor of constant "big picture" perspective really dampened my enjoyment of it all.
Rizzo came up and lived up to the hype, and the constant barrage of off speed pitches became to much for #6. Water found it's own level. Always does. But Brian LaHair made may and June fun an interesting during a season where the Cubs lost 100 games. That's pretty amazing.
So good luck Brian Lahair. I'm not really sure what a Softbank hawk is, but you're my favorite one.