As the whispers on the trade winds told us on Thursday, the Phillies acquired outfielder Chris Coghlan on a minor league deal. He will reportedly receive one of the Phillies’ hand-stenciled, glitter-bombed invitations to spring training.
Coghlan, 31, was a part of the exciting, hex-shattering, 2016 Chicago Cubs, but unfortunately is not one of the more exciting parts, having hit .252 in 48 games for the World Series cause. A year ago, the Cubs traded Coghlan to Oakland and four months later, Oakland traded him back. Coghlan’s last acceptable major league season was 2014, when he hit .283 with an .804 OPS in his first year with the Cubs. For five years before that he was with the Marlins as they shifted from being ignored by all of Florida to being just ignored by Miami. And in his very first year as a bonafide big league Fish, Coghlan was named the National League Rookie of the Year at a BBWAA ceremony where previous winners of the award such as Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, and Derek Jeter were in attendance.
Time will tell whether this award vaults him onto a career path as successful as those of Howard, Jeter, Pujols and Suzuki. But Coghlan isn't one to get ahead of himself.
Well, ten years and a minor league deal with a fourth place team later, time has told us that Coghlan probably isn’t on the same level as Derek Jeter. And that’s fine! But back in 2009, when Coghlan was accepting his ROY award after commendably morphing from an infielder to an outfielder, Phillies fans were left clutching their paper napkins in frustration.
Also in the running that year was a fresh-faced, Peru-born surprise from the Phillies’ farm system named J.A. Happ. The Phillies had dropped the 26-year-old into relief appearances that season until May 23, when they determined that Chan Ho Park’s 7.29 ERA wasn’t going to go down again and swapped him into the bullpen for the promising Happ, who made his first start of the season and never appeared in any other capacity again.
You probably remember Happ as the reference point being cited as all of the new, young Phillies pitchers break his records.
Nola is the first #Phillies rookie since J.A. Happ on Aug. 5, 2009 to throw at least 7 scoreless innings with seven or more strikeouts.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 9, 2015
Jerad Eickhoff's 10 strikeouts are most by a Phillies rookie since 8/5/2009 when J.A. Happ also had 10 against Rockies in Philly.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) September 26, 2015
On June 27, Happ shut out the Blue Jays for his first career complete game shut-out. The city went ludicrous with Happ fever. The highways were shut down and the national guard came in to restore order. They were promptly infected themselves by Happ’s second CGSO on August 5 against the Rockies, when he only allowed four hits and struck out ten on 127 pitches. He wasn’t a strikeout sniper or especially crafty, but he combined a lack of tape on himself, a steady repertoire, and what was clearly just fantastic luck to escape losses. The next week, facing the Braves, he walked six and allowed three hits but was only charged with a single run in 7.2 innings.
The Phillies scout that originally signed Happ in 2004 said of Happ’s velocity, "he didn't necessarily put the numbers up on the radar gun," which is a scout’s way of saying "Damn it, I handed the contract papers to the wrong kid again." But he went on to classify Happ’s "mound composure" and "ability to mix all of his pitches and locate them on the perimeter of the strike zone" as the reasons behind his success. We didn't really care; the amount of crack talents on this team meant every surprise prospect was a gift of heaven, whether his name was Kendrick, Worley, or Happ.
Happ kept that ERA under 3.00 to close out the season and made his first-ever post season start that October against the Rockies in Game 3 of the NLDS (after appearing in relief in Game 2). He lasted three innings, allowing three earned runs, but fortunately Colorado starter Jason Hammel wasn’t feeling particular "on" that day either. Happ would even get to partake in a time-honored Phillies tradition that post season: losing World Series games.
Then came November 16, 2009.
Still raw from the World Series loss to the Yankees, Phillies fans had only two more playoff runs to which they could look forward, and tried to find solace in Happ’s unexpected ROY candidacy.
Tragically, a young Marlins outfielder would win the day, to the surprise of baseball fanatics everywhere.
Thought Coghlan had a nice year but i felt the Phils Happ should have been Rookie of the year! I am a baseball fanatic!— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) November 17, 2009
Was he voted the Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year, the Players Choice Awards NL Outstanding Rookie, and the MLB "This Year in Baseball Awards" Rookie of the Year? Yes he was. But Happ likely threw all of those award into a trash can outside of the awards venues, like any of us would. The next year, he was the centerpiece of a trade that brought Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia.
Then, a bunch of other stuff happened.
Then, the Phillies signed Chris Coghlan in 2017. And now, the Phillies can see what all the fuss about this Coghlan kid is really all about. The point is, Coghlan v. Happ, the liveliest ROY debate in sports history was certainly more exciting than the careers of any other of that year's rookies.
Andrew McCutchen finishes fourth in the voting for 2009 Rookie of the Year behind Chris Coghlan, J.A. Happ & Tommy Hanson.— Pirates (@Pirates) November 16, 2009