I know some of you will blame the ROY loss on Happ becoming a virtual lab rat after regular-season-ending injuries to lefthanders Jamie Moyer, J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre forced Manuel to reinvent the pecking order of a staff that was in flux from Opening Day.
But the games of Musical Rotation and Name That Bullpen didn't start until the postseason, and Happ himself had to be shut down during the September stretch. The dead-calm lefthander who went from April setup duty to a 12-4 record, a staff-leading three complete games and sparkling 2.93 ERA worked just 16 1/3 innings the final 4 weeks of the regular season. That unwelcome downtime, resulting from a strained rib cage, could have dropped him from first to second and second to third on some ballots. At the same time, Coghlin was putting on a charge that saw him lead all NL rookies in batting average (.321), runs (84), hits (162), doubles (31), total bases (232), multihit games (51) and on-base percentage (.390).
The kid had one helluva year. But so did Happ, who was more than good enough to prevent Cole Hamels' penthouse-to-outhouse plunge from being a blown tire in the Phillies' drive to a second straight pennant.
The annual BBWAA awards are based on regular-season numbers, so all ballots had been mailed before Happ became an unwitting pawn in a postseason game of rotation and bullpen chess that provided almost as much daily drama as the games themselves.
The dies had been cast before a postseason where the strike-throwing machine who walked just 56 hitters in 166 regular-season innings could not locate the zone. He started Game 3 against the Rockies in arctic conditions and needed only three innings to throw 76 pitches, just 42 of them strikes. He left trailing 3-1 in a game the Phillies pulled out, 6-5, on Ryan Howard's ninth-inning sacrifice fly. In Game 2, he had faced one hitter behind Joe Blanton, serving a single to pinch-hitter Seth Smith, and was yanked for Eyre. Manuel was planning to start Pedro Martinez in Game 3, but a snow-out landed the Illinois-raised Happ on the cold seat.
In the NLCS, Happ made three relief appearances totaling two-thirds of an inning, facing five hitters and walking three. He relieved twice against the Yankees in the World Series, allowing two hits and a run in 2 2/3 innings. With the benefit of hindsight, he probably should have been the starter in Game 6 instead of the reliever who threw the two-run double to Hideki Matsui that broke open the Yankees' clincher. The runs belonged to Chad Durbin, and Happ struck out the next two hitters with his best pitching of the postseason. Who knew Pedro would take an empty bag of tricks to the mound and an 84 mph fastball?
It was a season for Phillies pitchers where a number of Rich Dubee's troops soldiered through pain. Happ's sudden control lapse had to be wired to whatever signal his strained rib cage was sending. It is now painfully apparent - pun intended - that Brad Lidge's seasonlong inconsistency was hard-wired to the loose body removed from his right elbow last week. Now the Phillies appear to be looking at a third straight season when most of Lidge's spring training will be spent in rehab.
Hopefully, the Phillies have no more bullpen plans for Happ. He was their most effective starter until the injury - with the exception of Cliff Lee's amazing, 5-0 debut.
However, if Happ couldn't be the Phillies' fifth Rookie of the Year - Jack Sanford, Dick Allen, Scott Rolen and Ryan Howard are the foursome - it is nice the American League ROY went to an improbable local success story.
Andrew Bailey is a Voorhees, N.J., pitcher who starred at Paul VI and was the highest draft pick (sixth round, Oakland A's) in the history of Wagner College, Rich Kotite's school. In 2005, Bailey was a 21-year-old coming off Tommy John surgery. He went to A's spring training last February as a non-roster player and wasn't added to the 25-man until 2 days before the season opener.
All the 6-3 power righthander did was make the All-Star team and lead all AL rookie pitchers with 26 saves and a 1.84 ERA. No other AL rookie had more than two saves.
This time last year, Bailey was in the Arizona Fall League, pitching for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, and writing an entertaining blog.
From the AFL to ROY. Now that's stepping up in alphabet class.
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