Why Happ’s Instant Success is Un-Noteworthy

We see it every year, a young prospect is called up from the minors for a long week of  pro baseball, and the young rook’ hits around .500 and a goes deep a few times.  The media goes crazy and fans are looking everywhere to get the jersey of their “new star.”  While it is fun to believe every time this happens in the major league, or even any professional sport (see Jeremy Lin), you have a young all-star on your hands, the truth is, their debut is almost always “fake news.”

We saw it in ’08, when the Cubs signed Fukudome.  No one had heard of him until spring training, and when he stepped to the plate at Wrigley on Opening Day, no one knew what to expect.  Fukudome would end up going 3 for 4 with a game tying home run in the ninth inning. Kosuke would find continued success throughout his first weeks of pro ball, hitting for over .300 and playing a solid right field.  Myself, among other avid Cubs fans, purchased our jerseys in hopes of Jim Hendry finally finding the man that would help us get to the long-awaited promised land.  Cubs fans especially are famous for falsely looking for their very own “Moses” that will lead them there. What Fukudome really was, beneath his hot start, was a sub par hitter who would end up becoming a journeyman in what would be a short major league tenure.

The average fan does not understand how much preparation comes into a professional game.  Whether it be baseball, basketball, football, hockey, etc., for every hour of actual game is played, around 3 hours of preparation are applied to every hour of real time.  That may come from film, scouting hitting, or going over plays, the fact is that players are prepared to face the guys they are playing.  Rookies come into this fold as the surprise attack, the guys that no one prepared for, the men that simply “showed up” on the roster come game-day.  It isn’t that these guys hit better than the average player, or are “the next franchise” guy, it simply comes from the fact that they are professional athletes who were not prepared for.  Jeremy Lin rode the bench behind three other point guards, he clearly was not on any scouting report, and when he was called upon, no NBA opponent knew his game.  They didn’t know his tendencies, they couldn’t predict he would pull up from three or pass low at any given time.  However, after his initial burst of talent, he hasn’t shown anything out of the ordinary. He is not the star the “Linsanity” craze predicted he would be, he is just your typical backup NBA point guard.  NBA teams are prepared for him now.

I am not saying Ian Happ will be bad.  By all means, as a fan myself, I hope he becomes the next Cub’s all-star.  I simply am making the point to look at this outstanding week he had, and saying we need not get ahead of ourselves.  Let him go back to the minors, get everyday at bats, and then bring him up once more as a DH come our long cross-league trip.  He will perform well again there, I guarantee it.  The first time that we will get to see the true, authentic performance of Happ is the playoffs.  I am certain by then teams will be very aware of every player on the Cubs, and all their secret weapons and tendencies.

Happ looks to be the next Cub’s budding prospect, but he is not an all-star just yet, let’s wait and see what he’s got for us.

Matthew DeWitte (@matthewdewitte_)

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