The Rundown: Time to Stop Schwindel/LaHair Comparisons, Stroman Chirps at MLB Owners, League Proposes Federal Mediation to End Lockout

Once the 2022 season starts, whenever that may be, it will mark the 10-year anniversary of Bryan LaHair being named to the National League All-Star team. You might remember LaHair as the temporary first base occupant while Cubs fans waited for the debut of Anthony Rizzo. Yes, he turned a cup of coffee into an appearance at the Midsummer Classic, a legend even greater than that of fictional Triple-A catcher Crash Davis.

“Yeah, I was in the show,” Davis said in the movie Bull Durham. “I was in the show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.”

LaHair began the 2012 season with the Cubs and got off to a splintering start, at least in comparison to his teammates on that awful 61-101 squad. After going 3-for-4 against the Padres on May 28, Lahair was batting .312 with a .998 OPS and 10 home runs. Rizzo arrived on June 26 and got the bulk of playing time almost immediately. Lahair’s season ended on October 3, when he went 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBI, as well as a walk-off single, in a 5-4 win over the 55-107 Astros.

The All-Star finished the season with a .259 batting average, a .764 OPS, and 21 taters. The Cubs released LaHair six weeks later when Theo Epstein couldn’t trade him, and he never returned to the show. After 10 seasons of Rizzo, the one-year wonder was rarely mentioned when Cubs fans gathered to discuss past and present iterations of the ballclub. LaHair hasn’t made a single appearance at any Cubs Conventions (to my knowledge), and he was long-forgotten until the Cubs traded Rizzo last July.

That’s when Frank Schwindel started a torrid run that would last through all of August and September. Schwindel batted .342 in 56 games with the Cubs and finished the season with a 1.002 OPS. He batted .361 with 12 home runs and 31 RBI in his plate appearances while Chicago was tied or trailing by a run. Think about that for a second, because giving your team a lead or tying the score 31 times in 56 games is incredibly clutch. Chicago only won 21 of those games despite his efforts.

Those unlikely heroics spurred the common refrain that Schwindel’s might only be the second coming of LaHair. Many think the 29-year-old will be a bust, yet most of those fans still have high hopes for David Bote, who is only one year younger and has batted a cool .200 for the past two seasons.

Yes, what Schwindel did last season is unsustainable, or at least we all think that. Many said this bubble would burst on a daily basis last season and that he would land uncomfortably as the fringe player three other organizations thought was his realistic outcome. All Schwindel did in that time was challenge those assumptions with 21 multi-hit games, including three straight three-hit games against the Pirates September 3-5.

Schwindel did slump over the final two weeks of the season, including three games when he went 0-for-5. Still, he’s not LaHair, who essentially had three torrid weeks for the 2012 Cubs before becoming a sometimes right fielder and pinch hitter once Rizzo arrived. There was that All-Star appearance though.

The 2012 classic was played at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and the American League topped the Senior Circuit 8-0 in a game that was all but over at the end of the first inning. LaHair had one at-bat in the 8th inning, grounding out on a first-pitch fastball from Fernando Rodney. The fastball was Lahair’s ultimate undoing. He hit .237 against heat and once the league learned he couldn’t catch up, pitchers just got after him. LaHair struck out at a 32.6% rate with a .358 BABIP that season.

That’s where the comparisons to Schwindel should end. The Cubs’ current first baseman strikes out about 15% of the time with a .362 BABIP. Schwindel’s ability to put the ball in play ultimately separates him from LaHair and means it’s time to drop the misperceived connection between the two.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

According to Kevin Costner, Mickey Mantle had one of the more interesting takes after seeing Bull Durham for the first time.

Today’s Baseball Jones

In May 2019, Kris Bryant hit three home runs in three innings against the Nationals.

MLB News & Notes

Andrew Heaney and Matt Harvey are on a witness list in the upcoming trial of Angels employee Eric Kay, who has been accused of providing drugs to players, including ones that led to the death of Tyler Skaggs in 2019.

Minor League Baseball announced that the Triple-A schedule will be expanding from 144 to 150 games in 2022.

The Mariners have been named baseball’s top farm system by Baseball America, supplanting the Rays, who graduated a number of prospects and only fell to No. 2.

Tyler Glasnow said he would prefer to stay in Tampa rather than be traded.

The Giants shouldn’t be labeled as disinterested when it comes to bringing back Bryant.

If Nashville really wants a baseball team, they should seize an opportunity to convince the Rays to relocate.

When it comes to helping minor league players, MLB still has a long way to go.

Negotiations and Love Songs

MLB has told the MLBPA it will not make a counteroffer after MLB said two days ago it would.

Major League Baseball’s push for federal mediation in collective bargaining talks is a “win-win” for the commissioner’s offices.

Perhaps the threat of mediation will spur the sides to “miraculously” come to an agreement without cutting too much into a normalized spring training schedule.

Learning on WAR to determine salaries for baseball’s pre-arbitration stars could be a recipe for disaster.

Extra Innings

When a player, in this case, Tyler O’Neill, doubles as the team mascot, even without the costume.

They Said It

  • “It was emotional. It was almost like, ‘This could be my last Major League at-bat ever.’ You never know what’s next, you know? It was just kind of a special moment. It’s something I’ll always be able to look back on.” – LaHair (in 2019)
  • “There are a lot of good players who perform all the way through the minor leagues who fail in limited opportunities in the big leagues and never get a longer look. When those players eventually do get a longer look, they have success. I think it benefits us to see what [Lahair] can do. We think he’ll hit big-league pitching, so we’re going to find out.” – Epstein (in 2012)

Friday Walk-Up Song

Take On Me by a-Ha – The greatest one-hit wonder of all time is performed by a group whose spelling forms the middle portion of “LaHair,” and contains the lyric “I’ll be gone in a day or two.” Somebody call Unsolved Mysteries.

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