Chicago Cubs: 2012 MLB All-Star Game

LaHair chose Cubs chance over Japan

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
10:05
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bryan LaHair's long road to Tuesday’s All-Star Game would have taken a detour East if not for an intervention by Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein last winter.

[+] EnlargeBryan LaHair
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonBryan LaHair got the answer he wanted from Theo Epstein in an offseason conversation and turned down offers from Japanese teams.
“I was on my way to play in Japan this year,” said LaHair, who will play in his first All-Star Game in his first full major league season at age 29. “Theo basically eliminated me going to Japan by his conviction that I had a place in their plans.”

After nine seasons trying to become a major league starter, LaHair and his family had a big decision to make over the winter. He was coming off a monster offensive season at Triple-A Iowa, leading the Pacific Coast League in home runs (38) and RBIs (109) en route to being named the league MVP. LaHair and his agent were listening to offers from six Japanese teams.

“My agent and I decided that when we talked to Theo if there was any doubt in his mind or any hesitation that I would be a part of it we were going to take an offer from Japan,” LaHair said. “(Theo) told us he was excited about me getting an opportunity and showing I could play for the Cubs every day so we were convinced.”

The decision paid off on the field but was costly financially for LaHair. According to a scout who works in the United States for one of the teams interested in LaHair at the time, the former journeyman minor leaguer turned down a two-year deal that would have paid between $2.8 million and $3 million in Japan. LaHair is making the major league minimum of $500,000 with the Cubs in 2012.

“My first obligation is to my family so I had to think hard about playing in Japan, but when I heard Theo say I would have a real chance to be a starter we decided to stay,” LaHair said. “I am happy I did and now look where I am at.”

LaHair knows that his near future is in the outfield for the Cubs as a platoon player against right-handed pitching now that top prospect Anthony Rizzo has taken over at first base. There is also a chance LaHair will get traded to a contender in need of a left-handed power bat for the stretch run.

“I have heard both, but until I hear I am being traded I will concentrate on getting better and enjoy being a Chicago Cub,” he said.

Soriano comes up short of All-Star bid

July, 1, 2012
7/01/12
6:36
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Although Alfonso Soriano has seven All-Star games under his belt, making the 2012 squad would have been a feather in his Chicago Cubs cap.

The Cubs will be represented on the National League team by shortstop Starlin Castro and first-time All-Star Bryan LaHair, however Soriano is the player who has carried the RBI and home run load for the club this season.

[+] EnlargeAlfonso Soriano
Jerry Lai/US PresswireCubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano hit eight home runs in June.
“I thought he would make it,” Castro said after the Cubs’ 3-0 win over the Houston Astros on Sunday. “He played very good for us. I thought three would make the team but he didn’t make it.”

The 36-year-old veteran outfielder has been singled out by manager Dale Sveum as an emotional leader on his ballclub.

“The outfielders that are going obviously deserve it,” Sveum said. “What Soriano has done for us going out there every day on those [sore] legs and leading the major leagues in home runs since May 15th is a tribute to a wonderful guy. You just wish that someone would appreciate him once and awhile.”

Soriano will go back home to the Dominican Republic and rest for four days during the All-Star break. You could tell, however, that he was disappointed not making the team.

“I am for happy for Castro and LaHair making the All-Star team. They worked very hard for it,” Soriano said. “There are a lot of good left fielders in the National League and those left fielders all had good numbers.”

Soriano, who got the day off on Sunday, had eight home runs in June and seven in May after going six weeks without a home run to begin the season.

LaHair joins Castro as NL All-Star

July, 1, 2012
7/01/12
2:04
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Starlin Castro was expected to be an All-Star for the Chicago Cubs, but the team with the worst winning percentage in baseball had a surprise waiting for them.

Bryan LaHair was also named to the National League team for the July 10 game at Kansas City, completing a run from minor-league journeyman to the Midsummer Classic in just a half of a season.

LaHair was notified of his selection by manager Dale Sveum at around noon CST, just before it was announced on live television. He was said to be both elated and speechless at the same time.

[+] EnlargeStarlin Castro and Bryan LaHair
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Getty ImagesThe Cubs' Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair will also be teammates on the NL All-Star team.
At 29 years old, LaHair is getting his first chance to be a major league regular and has made the most of it. His high point came during a red-hot run in April and on into May when he reached base safely in 32 consecutive games.

He entered play Sunday with a .284 batting average, 13 home runs, 28 RBIs and a .526 slugging percentage that was tied for 11th in the National League. He has struggled of late, though, with a .192 batting average in his last 18 games going back to June 6. He has just one home run since June 8.

Before this season he had just 65 games of major-league experience between the Seattle Mariners in 2008 and the Cubs last season. He dominated minor-league play, though, especially the past two seasons.

In 2010 at Triple-A Iowa he batted .308 with 25 home runs, 81 RBIs and a .557 slugging percentage. He was even better at Iowa last season, leading the Pacific Coast League in home runs (38), RBIs (109) and slugging percentage (.664). He even had a .331 batting average.

Even before this spring was to the halfway point, Sveum said that LaHair would be his regular starting first baseman.

While he has kept a positive attitude, LaHair’s recent struggles had coincided with all the talk about Anthony Rizzo's imminent arrival in Chicago and how the young prospect would take over at first base. That change became a reality on Tuesday as Rizzo arrived and LaHair has been turned into a right fielder.

There has been much more stability surrounding Castro. The new Cubs front office has been impressed watching Castro play shortstop on an everyday basis and general manager Jed Hoyer considers him a cornerstone which the franchise should be built around.

“The thing about Starlin, and Theo (Epstein) and I talk about this all the time, when we got here people questioned his ability to stay at shortstop,” Hoyer said Saturday. “I don’t think there is any question (he can play shortstop). I think he will be an above average defensive shortstop in time.

“He’s made some errors but he’s a 22-year-old shortstop. The range is there. We have worked really hard with Dale and (infield coach) Pat (Listach) on his defense. I think he’s going to be a shortstop for a long time. He has really proven a lot to us in a short time and I think he’s only going to get better.”

He will probably be an All-Star for a long time if he continues to grow. Indications are that he won the players’ All-Star vote by a landslide, but the St. Louis Cardinals' Rafael Furcal won the fan vote to be the starter.

Castro entered Sunday’s game batting .298 with six home runs and 40 RBIs and has continued to play solid defense despite some early miscues and mental gaffes.

Castro made his first career All-Star appearance last season at Arizona, striking out in his only at-bat. He entered the game as a pinch runner and stole two bases.

Players vote Castro, LaHair onto NL All-Stars

July, 1, 2012
7/01/12
1:23
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
The last-place Chicago Cubs landed two players on the National League All-Star team.

First baseman Bryan LaHair earned his first All-Star nod and will be joined in Kansas City by shortstop Starlin Castro, making his second All-Star appearance. Both players were voted to the All-Star team by way of the player ballot.

This is the first time the the Cubs have have multiple selections to the All-Star since 2008, when eight players represented the club at Yankee Stadium.

Coach Dave McKay, a member of National League Manager Tony LaRussa’s coaching staff, will also be representing the Cubs at the 83rd Major League All-Star Game on July 10 in Kansas City.

The 22-year-old Castro is the first Cubs shortstop to be named to the All-Star team in consecutive seasons since Don Kessinger’s five-year run from 1968-72.

LaHair, 29, is the first Cub to be elected as a first baseman since Derrek Lee in 2007.

Entering Sunday, Castro was batting .298 with 10 doubles, six home runs and 40 RBIs in 77 games. He was tied for sixth in the National League with 94 hits. LaHair enters Sunday batting .284 with 12 doubles, 13 home runs and 28 RBIs in 67 games.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167