The Cub Can Of Worms: Lenny Harris

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Even though Lenny Harris was 38 years old in October 2002, he had had a decent year for the Brewers that year (.305/.355/.411, 103 OPS+ as a part-time player), was a good pinch-hitter (.306 with 22 pinch-hits in 2002), and so when new manager Dusty Baker (back when he was still liked) talked Jim Hendry into signing him as a free agent, most Cubs fans welcomed him as a good bench player.

photo via jamd.com

He started out fine -- on April 30 he was hitting .250/.280/.417, down a little from 2002 but nothing to be alarmed about. But then Dusty's first little obsession -- with bad hitters that became "his horses" -- started to show. He began to start Lenny at third base, despite the fact that he had the mobility of a statue and hadn't played third base on a regular basis since 1991. Between May 1 and the time he was finally released on August 2, he started 23 games at 3B -- including two after Aramis Ramirez was acquired from the Pirates. During that time he "hit" .168/.250/.187, which is to say, he might as well have just sat on the bench and announced "You can have another out, I'm just going to stay here and conserve energy."

Lenny, though, got the last laugh. Nine days after the Cubs let him go, he signed with the Marlins. Jack McKeon outsmarted Dusty Baker in the playoffs, and he knew how to use Lenny -- as a pinch-hitter. For Florida, Harris played in 13 games -- all but one as a PH. That one was a start in right field the day after the Marlins clinched their playoff spot. Apart from that start, he played in the field two other times, remaining in LF after pinch-hitting in two blowouts, one a win, the other a loss.

Had Dusty Baker known how to use Harris -- as Davey Lopes and Jerry Royster had done in Milwaukee in 2002, mostly as a PH, starting him occasionally in the outfield and rarely at 3B, he might have stuck around and contributed in the postseason. Instead, he got a World Series ring... for the Marlins.

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