Philadelphia loves gamers. They love the Lenny Dykstra dirt dog that slams his body into the wall to make the catch. The fans don’t accept the "for who?? For WHAT?" type of player. A man to collect a paycheck and take his turn.
We love the guy with the fire in his belly. Most of the time you don’t get this from rookies. And as a fan, you usually can tell quickly if a rookie is going to be a leader pretty quickly. I don’t think anyone would have expected JA Happ to be one of those guys.
Most fans last season didn’t think much of Happ. He was a forgotten prospect by most after his abysmal debut against the Mets in 2007. I personally remember calling up a certain sports radio show and getting laughed at when I brought up the idea of giving the ball to Happ. Eventually he got the call and performed beautifully, then came 2008.
Happ was one of the 4 contestants in the "Win the 5th starters spot" game held in Clearwater Florida. Most, including me, figured he was a shoe in for the spot, especially after Kyle Kendrick was the first to fall out of favor in the race. Happ unfortunately finished 2nd in the race and lost to Chan Ho Park. While most were shocked at who won most accepted it. But not Happ
A report surfaced out of Philly that when Happ found out he wasn’t going to be the Phillies #5 the soft spoken Happ turned into Dr Jekyll. He flipped out and made the coaching staff fully aware that he was not pleased and that they made the wrong choice. Think Rick Vaughn from Major League when he found out that he was going to be released (damn that Doran)
This showed me a lot. It showed the signs of a gamer. Most would be happy to make the team but not Happ and he made it known. But instead of whining about it he went out and pitched his way into the rotation. He pitched his way into the ROTY. Now he continues to show leadership behind the scenes.
Happ was brought into Thursday’s game out of the pen in the shock of most fans in attendance and even more watching at home. After the Phil’s exhausted another one of the starters earlier in the form of Joe Blanton it appeared like Happ would be a shoe in to start game 3. Especially when you look at Colorado’s numbers against lefties compared to righties. 4 pitches later Happ exited after a line drive off his leg forced him to come out. The Phil’s ended up losing the game and most fans left CBP expecting to see 3 time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez come Saturday.
All signs still point to Pedro even though Manuel hasn’t named a starter but Manuel has named the two starters in the race. Joe Blanton and Pedro Martinez. Well that didn’t sit too well with Happ and he once again led by example. Reports surfaced out of CBP that after learning that he wasn’t be considered to start game 3 Happ marched into Charlie Manuel’s office and made his case for why he should start game 3. He wants the ball and that’s something you just don’t see.
Ill pose this question. Do you think Cole Hamels would ever demand that ball? I’ve made it known that Hamels is my least favorite Phillie. I don’t understand why he gets a pass yet fans complain about Brad Lidge. Hamels has a me first attitude and isn’t someone who would demand the ball, just demand his paycheck. I found myself remembering when Hamels had to leave earlier in the season after being hit with a line drive off the bat of Prince Fielder. Hamels flipped the ball to Manuel and left with a display of arrogance. I didn’t buy it. But I do believe Happ didn’t want to leave today and he made it known by wanting the ball on Saturday.
This is the story of two pitchers. One, who doesn’t get the credit he deserves and another who’s had a bad season, will go out and give up 4 runs in 5 innings, and the fans still cheer. Happ and Hamels are the exact opposite. Hamels has been no more than#3 and Happ has been a #1 so next time Hamels gives up 4 ER in 5 IP don’t pad his ego by giving him a standing ovation. I don’t know if he will ever be the ace he thinks but good news for the Phillies is they have a pitcher who wants to fill that void. And his name isn’t Cole Hamels, its James Anthony Happ.