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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

August 8, 2012 at 7:09 AM

Bryan LaHair’s feel-good story is suddenly a feel-bad story

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Remember when Bryan LaHair was the toast of baseball? Remember when Seattle fans were lamenting how the Mariners let him get away? Remember when I wrote this piece exploring that very question? Remember when LaHair was the happiest guy at the All-Star Game in Kansas City, eagerly telling and re-telling his compelling story of redemption?

Well, the narrative has changed dramatically, and I suppose the lesson is never to jump to conclusions too quickly. Or, to put it sabermetrically, beware of small-sample sizes.

The latest LaHair news is that he is now being benched for the rest of the season — which has nearly two months remaining — so the Cubs can take a look at their latest hot-shot prospect, outfielder Brett Jackson. The details, and LaHair’s reaction, can be found here.

He’s taking it with grace, which is to be expected, but what an amazing comedown for a guy who, after hitting a homer in his only at-bat on June 7, was hitting .311 with a .390 on-base percentage and .598 slugging percentage. His .988 OPS put him up with the big boys.

But in 42 games since then, LaHair is hitting .198 with a .281 on-base percentage and .281 slugging percentage. His .562 OPS over that span puts him down there with the Justin Smoaks of the world. Over the last two months, he has two homers and six RBIs. Along the line, LaHair was moved to right field to accomodate top prospect Anthony Rizzo, and now he’s moving to the bench to accomodate Jackson.

I’m not ready to write off LaHair, because, well, remember the lesson we just learned about never jumping to conclusions too quickly? But after seemingly establishing himself on a major-league roster — finally — following years of hard knocks, it looks like he’s going to have to prove himself one more time.

The final lesson: Baseball is a fickle game.

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