Bryan LaHair is aiming for a starring role for the Cubs
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com May 14, 2012 10:36PM
Bryan LaHair (6) is congratulated after hitting his ninth homer of the season, a two-run blast in the fifth off Jake Westbrook. | Dilip Vishwanat~Getty Images
Updated: June 16, 2012 8:17AM
ST. LOUIS — Before the season started, Bryan LaHair got calls from his brother or friends whenever a new fantasy ranking came out.
‘‘I’d be like, ‘Dude, I don’t care about all that stuff,’ ’’ he said.
Good thing. He never made those lists.
‘‘I don’t think I was even in the top 50 first basemen,’’ he said. ‘‘And I was the first baseman for the Chicago Cubs. I was named the first baseman [before camp started].’’
But LaHair is on the verge of having the last laugh.
Even as fans and talk-show gabbers increase their calls to bring up big-hitting first baseman Anthony Rizzo, LaHair continues his assault on National League pitching in his first season. Could there be an All-Star Game appearance coming?
‘‘I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wouldn’t want something like that,’’ said LaHair, who hit his ninth home run in a three-hit performance Monday night to help the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 in the opener of a two-game series.
‘‘That’d be great, but it’s not really something I play for. I play for the team. I play to win. If my numbers and votes and those kind of things add up to where I’m at the All-Star Game, then it’s a blessing.’’
If he keeps up anything close to this six-week pace for the next six weeks, he should be a lock.
He’s hitting .350 with an OPS higher than 1.100. His two-run shot in the fifth gave him 20 RBI, and he has more homers than any first baseman in the majors — more than Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder combined.
He probably should have had four hits, but a shallow fly to left in the second was ruled an error after left fielder Matt Holliday had it go off his glove on a diving
The Cardinals didn’t give him a chance to put the Cubs ahead in the eighth, walking him intentionally in a 4-4 game with two outs and Tony Campana at second. Alfonso Soriano followed with a go-ahead single.
Not bad for a guy who put in 10 years of toil to get this opportunity — a guy a lot of Chicago baseball fans seem to want to punt into the outfield to make room for Rizzo.
‘‘He’s done everything we’ve hoped he would and then some because we really needed some offense out of somebody, and he’s given us that bat and the home-run power,’’ manager Dale Sveum said.
The rest of the Cubs have 13 homers combined.
‘‘It’s been great to see,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Hopefully, it just continues and he adjusts to everything that’s going to happen. When you start having that success, people start adjusting. You’ve got to start
LaHair’s been doing that his whole career. Between an approach that allows him to see a lot of pitches and natural power to all fields, the 29-year-old seems to have a good chance to maintain his hot start.
And maybe even earn an All-Star selection at one of the toughest positions to be selected.
‘‘It probably helps that Pujols and Fielder aren’t in the league anymore,’’ he said. ‘‘But I don’t know how it works. I don’t know who votes. I know a lot of it’s fan-based. I’m not sure how many people in the country really know who I am yet.’’