And just like that.....he's gone.

And just like that.....he's gone.

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.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: Bryan LaHair, Cubs

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  • The Rizzo point is understandable, but I'm not sure why the Cubs didn't think that he would be a right fielder, either.

  • Great story something he can share with his grandchildren someday. Theo/Jed have a type of player they want and he
    did not fit.

  • I was hoping Lahair would find a spot in the AL so that I could follow him for a couple more years. Nice piece Felzz. I like it when perserverence pays off.

  • Thanks Felzz for summing up my thoughts on Lahair and similar players. I really got tired of others telling me "there's a reason he's "X" years old and hasn't made it to the majors". Like that should be the reason not to root for him. So what? I don't care. Why can't I root for the guy and get genuine excitement and joy during those moments he succeeds? I knew the Cubs were going nowhere this past season, but I still rooted for them and was happy when they succeeded. I don't see anything wrong with that.

  • As the Chicagoan based in Japan, I'll get to follow him next year - will keep you posted! He was a good story.

    He joins Murton, Hoffpauer and I think Scales was in Japan last year. Hendry seems to have had a knack for drafting future "AAAA" ball players...

  • Felzz--thank you for a 5-Star essay on Brian LaHair. You put it in good perspective by reminding us that sheer numbers never tell the story.
    LaHair was a good teammate for the Cubs. He never pouted nor complained, never gave up on his effort. He never bit back when so many people brought up his "shortcomings". And he was an All-Star in more than one sense. With all the others here, I wish him well.

    If the rest of us could use what we have--the best we can--and not obsess about what we don't have, we'd be a happier lot. Thanks for a great Thanksgiving story.

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    Nice piece Felzz. I've been reading your stuff all year and I really like your style. I still can't wrap my head around why Brain Lahair didn't switch to 3rd base.

  • In reply to Chi City Classic:

    A few million reasons come to mind.

  • Good luck in Japan Brian. Believe it or not, but the Cubs just did you a big favor. Go over there with a good attitude (as we all know you will), make the best of it and bank millions of dollars. Americans who play hard and perform become very popular -- just ask Matt Murton. I lived in Japan for four years in the 80s and guys like Leron and Leon (Derek's dad) Lee, and Warren Cromartie were big stars.

  • In reply to Bucky:

    I do think it's best for LaHair and I'm glad the Cubs gave him this opportunity. He's worked hard for so long to make it and maybe it didn't work out for him in the end, but it was a nice ride for awhile. I think he'll do really well in the NPB and it's nice to see him get some financial security after all that effort. He deserves it.

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    I almost left a negative comment the other day when John called him a bench bat. The first half of his season was worthy of recognition, so thanks for that, Felzz.

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    In reply to Mike Mayberry:

    :)

  • In reply to Mike Mayberry:

    I like LaHair and I certainly didn't want to offend him or his fans, but my purpose in that article was to analyze this roster situation from an objective viewpoint. What I actually said was that his skills are not suited well for coming off the bench. He doesn't offer defense or speed in that role and that's tough to carry, especially in the NL. No team was prepared to give LaHair a chance, either as a starter or as a bat off the bench -- even a team like the Orioles who had a need for an OF/1B/DH type. I wish things went better for him in the majors but once pitchers adjusted, he was unable to adjust to them. And the unfortunate truth is that if LaHair was closer to 22 than 32, he probably would have gotten another chance. It's just the reality of the situation and while I don't have to like it, I do understand it. I love what LaHair did early in the season, but I didn't feel it was right to sugarcoat his future with the Cubs. The writing had been on the wall since about August.

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    I am still surprised an AL team wasn't interested in him as a bench bat/DH/1B/PH type, but maybe the Cubs did him a favor by sending him to Japan. $4.5 mil is a nice payday, and though it won't make LaHair rich, he'll be just fine when it's over, thank you.

    And maybe $1 mil is more than we would have received from an AL club.

    The biggest favor LaHair did us was allowing the Cubs to keep Rizzo in Iowa that much longer. The extra time did Rizzo good, and set his FA back a year.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed, Zonk. Well put.

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    We've disagreed on more than our fair share of stuff this season, felzz, but here we are in 100% complete agreement. Until the All Star Game, this was the best story in baseball. It's heartrending that the ending had to remind us that we live in the real world, and not Fairy Tale Land. (Little OUAT reference there.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed. I think we all would have loved a fairy tale ending for LaHair. I hope when he looks back on it, he'll look at is as a positive experience overall. He made the all-star team and was a fan favorite for a few months -- then parlayed it into a nice contract. He beat the odds to make it as far as he did. I'm really happy for the guy.

  • Thanks for the nice comments everybody. Really appreciated.

    I doubt Lahair has the reflexes for third base. And being left handed kind of prevents from playing it, would be my initial guess.

    I missed the Thanksgiving thread so let me take this time to wish everyone a belated happy Thanksgiving. I will be forever thankful to John Arguello and Tom Loxas for letting me write recaps and posts for Cubs Den. And I've enjoyed the discussions with everyone who's posted. It's a cool community here and that's a rarity given all the Cub blogs out there. So enjoy the rest of the weekend and hopefully Epstoyer has a surprise or two for us in the next week or two.....

  • Great post felzz, nice work indeed.

    Speaking of 3rd base, I wish management would see if they could coach up Vogelbach at that position.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Would be a nice solution to the Rizzo/Vogelbach conundrum, but unfortunately Vogs has very limited range and athleticism, and perhaps more importantly, the left-handed throw from 3B is awkward even for a top defender.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree about a left handed 3b being awkward, but Vogelbach throws righty. There has been plenty of third basemen with limited range, quickness is more of an issue. Santo didn't have much range, but he was like a cat otherwise. If it's his arm. then get him log tossing to make it stronger and improve his accuracy.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    That's right, he only bats lefty.

    But he just can't play 3B, Toby. He can barely play 1B. Santo had very good range at 3B, at least per defensive metrics. You need some athleticism and ability, you need a starting point before you can be coached up. It's just not there with Vogelbach. The Cubs will be lucky if he becomes an adequate 1B, there's just no chance at 3B, which is a much more valuable position defensively.

  • Nice job Felzz. You've done a lot of great work but I think this is one of my favorites of the pieces you've written.

  • Hey felzzie ... Thanks so much for the great write up.

    I think John knows this ... I was at the night game in Sept 2011 against Cincy. Leake had a shutout going in the 9th, two strikes, two outs, LaHair the tying run. One of the group I was with said, "Wouldn't it be amazing if he hits one out."

    This on a night Colvin hit two BOMBS to dead center that the wind just killed.

    Very next pitch - LaHair nearly put the ball out on Sheffield!! Mike Leake was, quite literally, so distraught the pitching coach had to come out and calm him down!!

    The day before, 6 had turned around a 100mph FB from one A Chapman ... a frozen rope down the RF line. BB said, basically, "Wowzer!"

    Great story ... LaHair. Great piece by you!!! As always!!!

    Good luck 6. Make your coin, get your ABs and enjoy!! Many of us who bleed blue will remember you very fondly!!!

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    30 years from now, when I see his name in some baseball encyclopedia, I'll remember him for that 12 pitch walk against Jason Motte.

  • Any relation to BRYAN LaHair?

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