If Ian Happ needs another agent and David Ross needs a side hustle, the two might benefit from a business meeting one of these days.
In the meantime, Ross put in some pro bono work Thursday after the Cubs’ loss to the Reds, stumping for his left fielder’s Gold Glove candidacy.
“I haven’t looked at the rest of the league, but it feels like he’s played some of the best defensive left field in the league for me,” the Cubs manager said. “Hopefully, he’s starting to get into the Gold Glove conversation.”
Consider the conversation begun.
After two more highlight-reel catches in left field during Thursday’s 4-3 loss — both in the third inning with the score tied — the only thing to add to the conversation on this day was what that did for some of the metrics that already favor Happ.
Happ entered the day with nine Defensive Runs Saved, second in the majors among left fielders to Cleveland’s Steven Kwan (16) and first — by far — in the National League, ahead of San Diego’s Jurickson Profar (three).
Among NL left fielders in Outs Above Average, Happ (one) is second to the Cardinals’ Tyler O’Neill (two).
Whatever anyone thinks of defensive metrics, the eye test held up for anyone watching Thursday’s third inning, when Happ charged and slid to catch a shallow drive for the first out of the inning and raced into the gap for another sliding catch to finish the inning.
He also came up short trying to reach over the brick wall in foul territory on a play in the fifth — a catch he “really wanted” on an out-stealing move he also tried the night before and that’s been on his mind “for a while,” he said.
“Everyone sees it, and we appreciate it,” Cubs starter Adrian Sampson said. “He’s been doing it all year. He’s looking for the big play, so when something happens like that, he’s never caught off guard.”
Whether Happ scores the Cubs’ first Gold Glove since dearly departed All-Stars Anthony Rizzo (first base) and Javy Báez (shortstop) in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, his play in left has been an unsung part of a personal breakout season that included his first All-Star selection.
It’s been especially impressive for a player who played mostly second base and center field, with mixed results, before being allowed to settle into the one position this season and know he’d be in the lineup daily.
“It feels like it’s been a lot [of plays] here lately,” Ross said. “A lot of character plays, too for him, just continuing to stay in compete mode. The way he’s playing the game right now, there’s a lot of leadership qualities that are coming out in just how he’s setting the example day in and day out, every day all year.”
The figures to come into play when the Cubs talk this winter about a possible extension with Happ after shopping him at the trade deadline without moving him.
Meanwhile, there could be first career Gold Glove to try to win over the final four weeks of the season.
“That’d be really cool,” Happ said. “We’ve still got a lot of baseball left, and you come to work every day and do your job, and then you look at that stuff at the end of the year.
“But, honestly, that’s one of those honors that I thought about a lot as a kid when I was playing shortstop, not as much as a left fielder. But that would be really cool.”