Paul Sul­li­van: Ian Happ not first Cub to suf­fer mis­er­able start, and Joe Mad­don un­likely to give up on him.

You shouldn’t ex­pect Bryant to hit .352 this sea­son or for MLB to make calls that please ev­ery­body

Chicago Tribune - - CHICAGO SPORTS - psul­li­van@chicagotri­ Twit­ter @PWSul­li­van

Ran­dom thoughts while grind­ing through an­other Cubs post­pone­ment:

Same old story: Spring num­bers can in­spire or de­press, de­pend­ing on who is re­ly­ing on them to project the rest of the sea­son.

It’s nice to think Kris Bryant will hit .352 this sea­son, but his his­tory sug­gests that’s not go­ing to hap­pen. Like­wise, those who worry Ian Happ will fin­ish with 200 strike­outs also should re­lax and re­al­ize it’s way too early to panic.

Few play­ers in Cubs his­tory were more snakebit­ten at the start of a sea­son than Ryne Sand­berg, who had a .230 ca­reer av­er­age in March and April. Even in 1984, his MVP year, Sand­berg hit only .259 with two home runs. He wound up with a .285 av­er­age and 282 homers in his Hall of Fame ca­reer, in spite of tra­di­tion­ally slow starts.

Since Sand­berg’s bad Aprils were so leg­endary, few wor­ried his slump would con­tinue the rest of the year. Happ is the lat­est Cubs player to suf­fer from a mis­er­able start, with 22 strike­outs in 45 at-bats, along with a .222 av­er­age. It’s not what any­one ex­pected, but there are still two weeks in April to get back to the norm, not to men­tion five months af­ter that.

Un­for­tu­nately for Happ, this is the first April of his ma­jor-league ca­reer, so he doesn’t have a full sea­son under his belt to prove it’s an anom­aly. Af­ter a cou­ple of hits Fri­day, Happ was asked if hav­ing five hits in eight at-bats over three games was en­cour­ag­ing af­ter his rough start, de­spite the small sam­ple size.

“That’s a small sam­ple size,” he said of his 41 at-bats. “Just wait un­til the end of the year.”

Man­ager Joe Mad­don is not likely to give up on Happ, at least not yet, and gen­er­ally speak­ing said it’s com­mon for fans to get ner­vous this time of year.

“There is a lot of over­re­act­ing in the be­gin­ning part of the sea­son,” Mad­don said. “Early in the sea­son a lot of times adrenalin plays (a role), and (even) af­ter the first two or three weeks, you still have to be pa­tient work­ing through April.”

Just ask “Ryno.” Blame game: De­spite protes­ta­tions from the Cubs, a Ma­jor League Base­ball source de­nied the league of­fice was re­spon­si­ble for the de­ci­sion to play in bru­tal weather Satur­day at Wrigley Field. Mad­don called the con­di­tions the worst he could re­mem­ber, and said Sun­day “ev­ery game is pretty much con­trolled from New York. Do not blame the Cubs or the Braves.”

The Cubs wanted MLB to take the blame af­ter the Braves’ play­ers com­plained. While the league does en­cour­age teams to get the games in and could have over­ruled the Cubs’ de­ci­sion to play, the source said nei­ther the Cubs nor the Braves told MLB they pre­ferred to post­pone the game, if they did. Thus there was no rea­son for MLB to in­ter­vene.

The com­plaints about play­ing in the bad weather only came af­ter the fact, the source said. If the Braves hadn’t blown an eightrun lead would they have been as up­set with the de­ci­sion to play? We’ll never know. Skinny seats up­date: Af­ter fans in Aisle 6 down the left-field line com­plained dur­ing the home opener about their new “skinny” seats in­stalled dur­ing the off­sea­son to ac­com­mo­date the new dugout, one of them brought out a tape mea­sure and found his seat was 143⁄4 inches wide in the front and 14 in the back.

The Cubs ap­par­ently be­lieve Chicagoans have slimmed down since 2017. Now some fans may have no choice. Yu’s non-balk: MLB should re­view the balk call on Yu Darvish from Fri­day’s game against the Braves and ad­mit it was wrong. Darvish, who hes­i­tates dur­ing the be­gin­ning of his wind-up, was called for a balk with Ozzie Al­bies danc­ing off sec­ond base and Fred­die Free­man at the plate.

“Over the course of my ca­reer I’ve done that many times and it was never called a balk,” Darvish said. “Even Free­man told me it wasn’t a balk.”

Mad­don was not al­lowed to protest the call, but asked why it was called.

“He didn’t stop,” Mad­don said. “I think what (the um­pire) saw was he turned more, but not that he stopped.”

Darvish didn’t use the balk as an ex­cuse for his poor out­ing. In­ter­est­ing to see if it hap­pens again. Right call: MLB’s de­ci­sion to award the 2020 All-Star Game to the Dodgers was no sur­prise and the right de­ci­sion. Their last Al­lS­tar Game was in 1980, and they play in an iconic park. The Cubs haven’t had one since 1990, two years af­ter the first night game at Wrigley.

Their turn is com­ing, but re­mem­ber, the Wrigley Field ren­o­va­tions aren’t com­plete. The vis­it­ing club­house and press box are the last big projects in the plan, so 2021 or ’22 seem like good bets. The next two games are in Wash­ing­ton (2018) and Cleve­land (2019), which last had one in 1997. It’s go­ing to hap­pen. What’s the rush?

Paul Sul­li­van On the Cubs

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