It’s the end of an era in the Bronx. After declining his 2021 option, the New York Yankees will be freed of left-hander JA Happ, whose tenure with the organization did not end well after controversy in 2020.
Happ, aside from his performance during the second half of 2018 after he was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays, did nothing but cause a distraction and hold the Yankees back. We hate to sound harsh, but that’s just what happened.
Even when he was pitching well in 2020, he managed to publicly call out the Yankees, accusing them of skipping over his starts so they didn’t have to pay his $17 million vesting option the following season. While he wasn’t exactly wrong, every time he was skipped over was so manager Aaron Boone could get in another start for Gerrit Cole … and that would’ve been done regardless of who was pitching.
Now, Happ’s Yankees career is officially over after he signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
Though Yankees fans might have expected too much from Happ, resulting in the vitriol from the onset of 2019, the lefty really did nothing to help his cause. We can blame general manager Brian Cashman for paying him way too much money (a two-year, $34 million deal with a $17 million vesting option was insane to give to a 36-year-old pitcher with a career 4.00 ERA), but nobody would’ve had an issue had Happ just provided depth.
It all came crashing down when the 2018 playoffs rolled around. One of the biggest reasons the Yankees traded for him was because of his career track record against the Boston Red Sox and at Fenway Park. Admittedly, it was a tall task for him to start Game 1 of the ALDS in Boston, but he didn’t even give the Yankees a chance. He allowed five runs on four hits and a walk in two innings and the Red Sox won 5-4. Once he left the game, the Sox scored zero runs on three hits in the remaining seven innings.
Then came 2019. He logged a 4.91 ERA in 31 games (30 starts), which earned him a bullpen role for the playoffs. Yeah, he was not going to be starting when the Yankees had Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton as options. Just wasn’t going to happen.
And when he got his biggest opportunity in the ALCS to hold down the fort in an attempt to help the Yankees take a shocking 2-0 lead over the Houston Astros with two road wins, he did this:
It certainly wasn’t a walk in the park to come in and keep the Astros at bay, but he couldn’t even do it for a single inning. Is it fair to blame the series loss on him? No. But this did pave the way for three straight Astros victories. That ALCS ended in horrific fashion when Aroldis Chapman served up that two-run walk-off homer to Jose Altuve in Game 6.
Then he had the audacity to complain that he wasn’t getting enough starts during a shortened 2020 in which the Yankees needed to ensure their ace was on the mound as much as possible because every win counted. Everyone can understand being a competitor and wanting to be on the mound for every possible outing, but some self awareness would’ve been great. He only delivered three quality starts, it’s not like he was pitching complete game shutouts.
Oh, and how could we forget! He was part of the infamous ALDS Game 2 pitching plan in which Deivi Garcia “started” and was removed after one inning. In came Happ, who proceeded to get tattooed, once again killing the Yankees’ postseason. He allowed four earned runs on five hits (two homers) and three walks over 2.2 innings. The Yankees lost 7-5. After the game? All Happ had to say was that he wasn’t pleased because he didn’t start the game, as if coming in after one inning is that much different. But alas, we blame the front office for this plan, because we’re not sure who thought Happ would be able to handle the Rays in a pivotal Game 2 that could’ve shifted every ounce of momentum in the Yankees’ favor. New York would lose the series in Game 5, again, because of Aroldis Chapman.
It’s not like he didn’t have multiple opportunities to get himself back in the good graces of Yankees fans!
So, farewell to Mr. Happ. You’re probably glad you don’t have to endure another second in the Bronx, and fans are certainly happier to see that money be spent more wisely in addition to the young options we have on the pitching staff.
Best of luck in Minnesota. Maybe we’ll see you in October. If we do, we like our chances.