Bryan LaHair may never have to buy another beer in Des Moines after tonight's performance.
The Iowa Cubs' first baseman etched his name into the team's record books tonight with a 6th inning solo home run off of Nashville's Daniel Meadows, his 38th of the year. That's more than any other player ever to don the pinstripes that come before you can don the big boy pinstripes at Wrigley Field.
Which begs the question -- given LaHair's monster numbers (.333, 38 HR, 109 RBI) and the Cubs' season going absolutely nowhere, why hasn't this guy been given a chance at the big league level? Or at the very least traded to someone who could use him in the lineup full-time?
At the very least, LaHair couldn't do any worse than what the Cubs are putting out at the three positions he plays (1B, 3B, OF). That's to say nothing of the fact that he could have saved ownership a whole lot of money on unnecessary payroll expenditures had the team have found a way to have rid themselves of Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena at the deadline.
While it may be comparing apples to oranges, LaHair's 38 HR lead all of minor league baseball, at the very least earning him a cup of coffee. Yet while he has continued to toil away in AAA, teammates such as DJ LeMahieu, Brad Snyder and Lou Montanez have all gotten the call to the show despite their having posted inferior numbers.
The problem is, LaHair seems to have established himself as the consummate Four-A player. Over the course of his career, LaHair always seems to have been too good for Triple-A but not quite good enough for the majors, save for a 45-game stint in the Show with the Mariners in 2008 (.250, 3 HR, 10 RBI). In six seasons in Triple-A, he's mashed 123 HR and driven in more than450 runs, numbers that on the surface are fantastic and yet he always seems to find himself in the wrong position in a logjam to get back to the big league level.
This is showing no signs of changing with the Cubs largely because it's hard to say where or if he fits in to the team's plans moving forward. Not considered a top prospect given his age (28), the Cubs have little reason to hold on to him as anything more than minor league filler especially if they plan to retain Pena or pursue another high profile first baseman in the offseason. He's expected to be a September callup but may not see much playing time with Pena and Ramirez earning so much money over the remainder of this season.
But if nothing else, he'll always have his magical 2011 campaign in Des Moines, a Crash Davis-worthy performance if there ever was one.