Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Actually, this isn't a "whither" reference at all: we know where Brian LaHair is--he's in Japan, playing for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. (How you pronounce "Fukuoka," however, may influence your response to what follows.)

Nancy Reagan would have approved, but
she'd have been wrong...
The question is why did 29 other major league teams not take a flyer on a guy who hit 16 HRs and posted a 111 OPS+ last season for the Cubs. None of our usual Theo-thrashing applies here: it's clear that Anthony Rizzo was their first baseman of the future.

Now, don't get us wrong. LaHair is not the second coming of anything, even LaCock (that's Pete LaCock, for those of you who think we're suddenly going pornadelic on you). Brian is 30, he's big and slow, he can't hit lefties (as a matter of fact, he might not be able to hit them if they threw to him underhanded).

But he can hit righties, and even as he limped home in 2012 after a fast start made him the two-minute darling of those who have that eggy shape identifying them as likely basement dwellers, he demonstrated some proficiency as a pinch-hitter. As a platoon DH somewhere (Houston, what's your problem?) he still has some semblance of value in the majors.

A team like the Brewers, for example, could have taken a flyer on him. Their first baseman, Corey Hart, is on the 60-day DL and they are currently playing Yuniesky Betancourt (yes, you are reading that correctly) at first. Betancourt was picked up on the rebound when he was released in spring training.

The current production for the Brewers first baseman: .191 BA, .531 OPS. (That includes Betancourt's grand slam yesterday against the Giants. We don't recommend holding your breath for that to happen again anytime soon.)

Maybe if he'd had hair that
lived up to his name...
[EDIT: No, Yuniesky, you devil, you just hit another homer against the Giants... At this rate, you'll be leading the league by the end of the month.]

In that context, Brian LaHair looks pretty darned good, even if lefties do turn him into a turd in the punchbowl. [EDIT: And even if Yuniesky is bound and determined to do the same to us...]

He hit well against NL Central rivals in 2012, including the Brewers. Surely somebody noted that he was better in higher leverage situations, better against contenders--you know, subtle signals that he might be a useful bench player?

Ahh, no. So: Fukuoka, Brian. But cheer up: you may be the only player in MLB history released in the same season you made the All-Star team.

(Yes, yes, we know: anomalies r us.)

The randomness of decision-making when it comes to the 24th and 25th players on a baseball roster is kind of fascinating; someone with enough time on their hands should study it, even if the results proved to be, well, random.