By Matt Abbatacola-
CHICAGO (WSCR) — With the Cubs season over pretty much after it began, I was hoping for two things to happen. One, for the players to not just go through the motions of a long meaningless season. This is a selfish reason since I was being to asked cover the games at Wrigley. Second, I wanted to see some unproven talent from the minor leagues get some regular playing time in September with the hope of providing some insight into the Cubs’ future.
The veterans came through and provided me with some decent baseball after the All-Star break … the dog days of Summer weren’t too bad. It was still meaningless, but at least somewhat enjoyable.
Unfortunately, I will not get to see players from the Cubs minor league system play on a daily basis this September.
Take for example, Bryan LaHair. He was the Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player – .331 AVG 38 HR and 109 RBI. Tonight, he’s starting in right field for Mike Quade.
LaHair, 28 years-old, may not be a major league player. No one will know unless he gets a chance to play on a regular basis during the regular season. Say for example, like this month for the Cubs. So why isn’t the Iowa Cubs’ first baseman playing first base for the remaining 20 games of the 2011 season?
“I still want Pena’s power and I want him in the lineup”, said Quade when I asked him that very question.
Can’t turn your back on Carlos. After all, he is a free agent after this season ends.
LaHair was selected by Seattle in the 39th round of the 2002 draft. This marks LaHair’s second-career stint in the big leagues. He hit .250 with four doubles, three home runs, and 10 RBI in 45 games with Seattle in 2008.
Maybe the change in organizations is something that LaHair needed to be able to make the jump from Triple-A to the Majors. He credits Iowa hitting coach, Von Joshua, with changing his hand slot in his swing.
Maybe he’ll be a career minor leaguer … there’s one way to find out though – play him everyday at first base for the rest of this season.
When asked about playing LaHair in right field, Quade said, “gotta find somewhere, so we’ll put Bobby Dernier to work and see how he handles him in right field. He’ll catch what he gets to. He’ll give you as good of an effort as you want out there. It’ll be a little unusual for him, but yeah, I wanted to see him swing the bat. He’ll do what he can.”
I sat in the dugout with LaHair before BP and I asked him when was the last time that he played right field.
“It’s been a while”, he replied. “The thing to get used to is the depth and the size of the stadium.”
“Right field is a son of a gun … here especially”, said Quade. “It’ll be a good challenge for him, but he’ll do the best he can.”
Here’s a novel idea – why not put the player in the best possible situation to succeed?
Or, should we review James Russell, the starter versus the relief pitcher argument again?
Quade was asked about LaHair’s defense at first, “I’m not concerned at first base at all.”
Quade said that playing the outfield for LaHair will be “unusual” and “a good challenge”, and when asked about his defense in the outfield, he replied, “I’m not really concerned about him in the outfield other than he’s just not fast. He won’t cover a lot of ground.” Well that’s good to know because I hate those fast outfielders that cover a lot of ground.
It’s all right though because, “I’ve seen a lot of good power hitting dudes that are out there – same thing”, finished Quade.
“We’ll mix and match and he’ll give Carlos a day here and there and I’ll try and find a way to keep him involved.”, Quade told me. Here’s a way to keep him involved – play first base for the last 20 games.
Let’s take the next step, Tyler Colvin should be in right field and D.J. LeMahieu should be at third base for the final 20 games. When the team had a general manager, you know someone actually in charge of the day-to-day baseball operations, the thought was that LeMahieu could play second base at this level and possibly play third base with even greater ability. So why not find out? That’s right, still debating on what to with Aramis Ramirez.
That decision is easy. Pay the 2 million dollars to buy out his contract and thank him for his service. Hell, you could even give him a statue if you want – I don’t care. I just don’t want him back next year.
Here’s another crazy question – why are Rodrigo Lopez and Ramon Ortiz still on this roster? Those two pitching spots could be valuable for this month to gain some insight into 2012 and beyond. Why not take a chance with two pitchers that the organization may not be certain on?
Maybe Tom Ricketts has a plan for this organization. If he does I hope his plans include the big league team as well.
Check out my blog tomorrow as I tell Tom Ricketts what I would do with this roster for 2012.