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Cubs’ Ian Happ on Mather: ‘It’s unfortunate that is how a number of people think on the other side’

“I think that it’s a good thing that the fans can see some of the underbelly of the game and some of the issues that we have, especially leading into the end of this year and into a bargaining cycle,” Cubs’ player rep Ian Happ said.

John Antonoff/Chicago Sun-Times

It seems like Major League Baseball and the Players Association have been at odds for the last five years over a variety of issues, including service-time manipulation, free agency, player salaries, a universal designated hitter and an expanded postseason. And with the league’s current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in December, any misstep on either side makes people wary of a potential work stoppage.

Comments such as those made by former Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather don’t help the relationship between the league and its players and drive a wedge further into any hope for a resolution.

Mather came under fire this week after a video surfaced of him discussing the Mariners’ business decisions regarding their young prospects, blatantly manipulating their service time among several other inappropriate comments during an online Rotary Club meeting.

Mather resigned Monday.

As the Cubs’ union rep, Ian Happ knows about the ugly side of the game, and while most aren’t surprised that many still think like Mather, both the league and the union can work together to improve the system.

“I think that it’s a good thing that the fans can see some of the underbelly of the game and some of the issues that we have, especially leading into the end of this year and into a bargaining cycle,” Happ said. “It’s unfortunate that that is how a number of people think on the other side, and in and around baseball. I don’t think that’s an isolated incident, and I think that it’s very important that people understand that. I hope that both sides can work together to improve that because the system allows for it.

“I think this is something that players have known for a long time has been happening in different places at different times. Not just with the service-time manipulation, but with the way free agency is viewed. And with just a number of the issues that we’ve talked about. It’s not something that players are unaware of, and I’m glad that fans and more people are able to hear that and kind of process it. Because as a fan of the game, you don’t want to think of your favorite players being viewed that way.”

Arbitration pays off for Happ

Players rarely go to arbitration with the Cubs, but the decision was worth it in the long run for Happ, who won his hearing with the Cubs on Friday and will make $4.1 million this year.

It’s the first arbitration case the Cubs have had since reliever Justin Grimm in 2018, and only the third since 1993.

“It’s a tough experience for both sides,” Happ said. “It’s difficult, but it’s part of the business of the game. It’s something that we’ve obviously negotiated for, and it’s an honor to get to that point in my career, where I’m able to go through that process. Not everybody gets there. And just to be able to be in the system is quite a privilege.

“The system is set up so that you as a player can go through the process and fight for what you think your value is. Obviously, as a first-year player, those happen a lot more often as you set the table for your future raises. . . . I think being the rep gave me more insight into that. And it allowed me to be much more objective throughout the process.”