It never quite ceases to amaze me that there’s this conception among fans that athletes should think the same way about the good of the team and the sanctity of the game as they do. This arose earlier this winter in the fan reaction to the bluff made by Darren Oliver’s agent in an attempt to extract more money from the club, and I’m seeing it again today after sixth starter J.A. Happ voiced his displeasure with appearing to be ticketed for Buffalo to start the season.
“Considering it’s spring you’d think he would just keep his mouth shut and do what is good for the team. There’s no way AA is going to trade at this point in time no matter how much he cries? He’s still making major league money, time to suck it up,” says one comment.
“Happ needs to check his ego at the door and realize its all about winning,” says another. “Yeah, playing in the minors sucks but hes the 6th starter for fucks sakes. Its basically a given he will be up at some point and it could be even earlier if romero continues to suck.”
There are elements of these comments that I can’t help but agree with. The first is absolutely right that Happ doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter and should probably do a better job of not talking about it. The second is bang on about the fact that Happ isn’t very likely to wind up as John Lannan, who spent the bulk of 2012 in the minors after making 122 big league starts over the previous four years. The Nationals had remarkable health in their rotation last year– remarkable effectiveness, too– and it’s a solid bet that the Jays’ collection of arms aren’t going to quite be so otherworldly fortunate.
What’s missing, of course, is that Happ is concerned about his earning power as he heads into his third and final year of arbitration. Being “stuck” on this team as opposed to a number of others, where he’d actually get to start, could end up costing him two- or three-million dollars– if he stays down for a significant portion of the year. That’s not a tiny amount for a player of Happ’s stature in the game, even though it drives fans batty to think that someone could have the audacity to be upset when he’s already being paid more money than most of us could ever dream of. These players have a very short window in their lives in which to capitalize on the earning potential their baseball abilities, and at least a decade of full-on dedication to the sport have afforded them.