What should LaHair's role be in 2012?

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What should LaHair's role be in 2012?

Where will Prince Fielder sign?

Who cares? The Cubs have their first baseman of the (near) future already.

I mean, don't they?

Bryan LaHair certainly deserves at least a long look for the vacant position. The 29-year-old had a very solid season in 2010, his first year with the Cubs organization. But it was nothing compared to his 2011 (to date).

He absolutely annihilated Triple-A pitching this season and he didn't slow down over his brief stint in the Majors or during the Venezuelan Winter League.

In all (Triple-A, Majors, Winter League), LaHair has hit .311.405.629 in 677 at-bats with 127 runs, 211 hits, 51 doubles, a triple, 54 homers, 143 RBI, 105 walks and 180 strikeouts.

The whiff numbers are a bit high, but you can't argue with that power. Four-hundred-twenty-six total bases in 677 at-bats is just astounding. Those are video game numbers.

Granted, Venezuelan Winter League isn't exactly filled with a bunch of Cy Youngs, but it's no slouch of a league.

LaHair's 2011 Triple-A success netted him a slew of accolades, including the Pacific Coast League MVP, Joe Bauman Home Run Award and a spot on the Baseball America 2011 Minor League All Star team.

He showed the same ability in the brief stint with the big-league club with time at first and 14 games in the outfield.

It's true he could be one of the Cubs' outfielders next year or rotate through first and outfield. But on a team currently without a first baseman, LaHair has the bat to fill that position.

Theo Epstein says he doesn't believe in the "Four-A" players, or guys who are too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the MLB. Given LaHair's numbers, he's too good for Triple-A now. Which means he deserves a shot.

The former 39th round pick of the 2002 draft turned 29 in November, so while he's too old to be considered a prospect, he's still young enough to have at least three full seasons in his physical prime.

The power is for real. The 2012 Cubs are sorely lacking power and the free agent market is sorely lacking in talent at first base -- apart from Fielder, who is still a relative long shot to sign on the North Side because of the financial commitment, and Carlos Pena, who very well may re-sign with the franchise that grew to admire him.

Signing Pena to another "pillow contract" would be a pretty good move, which could slide LaHair in as the backup first baseman and at least a part-time outfielder (if the Cubs deal Soriano, LaHair could get the lion's share of time in left).

Either way, LaHair has proven he deserves a shot and he has the big bopper potential this 2012 Cubs lineup needs.
(numbers are through Tuesday, Dec. 27)

A surreal offseason puts world champion Cubs in the White House spotlight

A surreal offseason puts world champion Cubs in the White House spotlight

Three days before Election Day, Alec Baldwin walked into a dressing room on the eighth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza to meet the Cubs in New York. Dressed in a full Donald Trump costume – but still talking in his normal voice – Baldwin chatted with Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler and David Ross while they rehearsed with Bill Murray before "Saturday Night Live."     

That scene sums up the surreal nature of two seismic events colliding, the joyous victory tour that saw Kris Bryant appear on the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" set with a goat and a bitter presidential election that pitted sides of the Ricketts family against each other.

President Barack Obama called Cubs manager Joe Maddon from Air Force One after the team ended the 108-year drought in early November, winning the franchise's first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Obama amplified the message he posted on Twitter: "Want to come to the White House before I leave?"

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will happen on Monday after about two months of scheduling and discussions, with chairman Tom Ricketts downplaying the idea that the Cubs might have stalled for his brothers Todd (Trump's pick for deputy commerce secretary) and Pete (Nebraska's Republican governor). 

This is part of the family business. Laura – their sister and another Cubs board member – has clout in Democratic circles as a superdelegate/fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. The patriarch is Joe, the billionaire TD Ameritrade founder who's heavily involved in right-wing politics. 

"There's no big conspiracy here," said team president Theo Epstein, who attended Obama's farewell address at McCormick Place last week. "Tom is a very reasonable guy. And in the end, the president invited us, and then they followed up with a real invitation. Once there was a real invitation, we figured out if we could make it work. We could, and we were happy to go."

Cubs Convention – where last year Todd made headlines by describing New York Mets fans as "really, really obnoxious" and dismissing All-Star pitcher Matt Harvey as a wannabe "tough guy" – would be the only logical offseason staging ground.

Todd did not participate in this weekend's ownership Q&A session with fans at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. The Cubs will also be in Washington this summer for a four-game series at Nationals Park, not far from Todd's nominated Cabinet position. 

Epstein paused four seconds after hearing the question: Would you have gone to the White House in June?

"Uh…" Epstein said. "Yeah, if the whole team was going, I probably would have gone.

"I'm not going to tell you what I would have been wearing. But I would have gone." 

Epstein campaigned for John Kerry in New Hampshire after the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series and then shook hands with George W. Bush during that White House visit. Epstein missed the ceremonial trip with Boston's 2007 World Series team because his young son had been hospitalized and recovering from an illness at the time: "People took it as a protest, but it wasn't."

[MORE CUBS: Cubs benched Jorge Soler several times in 2016 for lack of hustle]

Jake Arrieta doesn't want to be misinterpreted, either. The Cy Young Award winner explained his anticipated absence on Monday has nothing to do with his post-election "#beatit" tweet.  

Arrieta – who is dealing with family medical issues back home in Texas – said his "#illhelpyoupack" message wasn't an explicit endorsement of Trump's agenda. Arrieta said he didn't vote and aimed the tweet at Hollywood celebrities who talked about leaving the country if Trump won. 

"People view us as athletes as being Republican and only caring about lower taxes, which isn't the case," Arrieta said. "If paying higher taxes is going to benefit the majority of society, I'm fine with that. 

"It's tough when people start talking politics. But I'll be open and honest: I just want somebody to lead our country and do a good job. Whether it's Obama – whether it's Trump or Hillary – I just want to see somebody do a good job for the benefit of everybody."

Fowler will be there on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to meet the nation's first African-American president and reconnect with his old teammates after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

The Cubs had waited so long for this – winning their last National League pennant two years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 – that Fowler became the franchise's first African-American player in the World Series.

"I'm most happy for our players," Epstein said. "It's just a really special part of winning the World Series. You feel like you've finally made it. You're in the most precious building in the country, really, and you get to strut around as world champs and meet the president. 

"It doesn't get any better than that. It's very fitting that we're seeing a Chicagoan, and in his last week in office makes it even more special."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon met Obama while managing the 2009 American League All-Star team at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the president wore a White Sox jacket while throwing out the first pitch. 

Maddon already went to the White House for a ceremony honoring the 2002 Anaheim Angels. Maddon and his wife, Jaye, also attended a small group dinner Bush's staff organized during the final days of his presidency in January 2009.  

"No matter your politics, you get invited to the White House, you go," said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. "I'm like giddy to be able to get invited on the trip." 

The Cubs are also expected to tour the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. Rizzo hopes to present the nation's 44th president with his No. 44 jersey. It will be a day in the life of the 2016 Cubs. 

"It's going to be amazing," Rizzo said. "I think everyone except the true diehard White Sox fans have a little spot for the North Side in their hearts, just because of how long it's taken to get to where we've been."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Recapping the Cubs Convention

Cubs Talk Podcast: Recapping the Cubs Convention

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Cubs Double A broadcaster Mick Gillispie and CSN's Tony Andracki recap the 2017 Cubs Convention and how the World Series championship changed everything about the Opening Ceremonies, the panels and the overall buzz and positivity surrounding CubsCon.

Gillispie also provides a unique perspective on some of the young, homegrown heroes that helped lead the Cubs to glory as well as his experience watching the Cubs' run while making his way through the SEC with Alabama football, including turning a bar into "Wrigley South."

Listen to the Cubs Talk Podcast below.