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Were The Critics Right About Bryan LaHair?


Chicago Cubs right fielder turned first baseman Bryan LaHair has had a roller coaster season for the Cubs during 2012. The ride began in the off-season when newly hired Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein passed on the opportunity to sign Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder and opted to give an opportunity to LaHair. LaHair, who was a down and out top prospect for the Seattle Mariners, had spent the previous two seasons displaying impressive power outputs with the Iowa Cubs. Though, like the Mariners, the Cubs did not appear to be willing to give the career minor leaguer a a chance.

In fact, there was indications that LaHair would be willing to sign a deal with a Japanese team in order to further extend his playing career. But things all changed when Epstein, followed by General Manager Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod became the top minds of the Cubs’ baseball department. In one of his first moves as the Cubs’ President, Epstein showed a commitment to LaHair. In one statement, Epstein dispelled the notion that LaHair was a “4-A hitter” and that all he needed was an opportunity.

"“The reality is, I’m not so sure there is something called a 4-A hitter.  It’s just (a) pretty good major league hitter who never got an  opportunity.”"

With that simple statement, it was enough for Epstein to look past Pujols and Fielder and look forward to seeing what LaHair could do with the opportunity that was given to him. Now the Cubs did acquire Anthony Rizzo in the off-season, but the Cubs’ front office had the intention of pairing Rizzo and LaHair in the same lineup. Or at least, LaHair’s opportunity was going to last until Rizzo was deemed Major League ready.

Nonetheless, it was an opportunity and LaHair was the Cubs’ starting first baseman to begin the season. LaHair had an impressive first month of the season that saw the first baseman hit .390/.471/.780/1.251 to go along with 5 home runs and 14 RBIs. With one month in the books, it was looking like all LaHair needed was an opportunity after all. While there was a considerable difference in LaHair’s batting line in the month of May as opposed to April, the first baseball still proved to be a viable power threat. During the month of May, LaHair hit .253/.343/.448/.791 to go along with 5 home runs and 8 RBIs. LaHair’s strong first two months of the season likely was strong enough to earn him his election to the All-Star game.

Because if the fans voted based from his June and July production, LaHair simply would not be an All-Star. In June, LaHair saw a change of positions to right field as Anthony Rizzo’s arrival was imminent. LaHair struggled considerably during the month of June as the rigth fielder hit .231/.286/.400/.686 to go along with 3 home runs and 6 RBIs. Even with LaHair’s struggles, with Rizzo now in the lineup, there was some hope that Rizzo and LaHair could form a productive combination in the Cubs’ lineup. While Rizzo earned National League Rookie of Month honors in July, LaHair’s struggles reached a new low. The right fielder hit .194/.275/.242/.517 for the Cubs during the month of July to go along with 1 home run.

Now in August with Brett Jackson becoming a regular starter in the Cubs’ outfield, LaHair has found himself on the bench. LaHair is hitting .250/.357/.500/.857 so far in August, though, the latter portions of his 12 at bats this month have come as a pinch hitter. Jackson, struggles in all, will be playing on a semi-everyday basis. That means that LaHair will likely finish the season for the Cubs playing as a reserve.

That should show the direction that LaHair’s future with the Cubs is going. Is LaHair the most recent version of Micah Hoffpauir? His 2012 season be an indicator of that. Whatever the case, with LaHair no longer a starter and no longer looking like a long-term asset, it would seem that LaHair will not be a part of the Cubs’ organization in 2013.