Happ: Honesty From '18 Can Help Cubs

"We got punched in the mouth a little bit last year," Ian Happ says.

Bernstein & McKnight Show
January 16, 2019 - 11:21 am
Cubs outfielder Ian Happ

Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports

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(670 The Score) The Cubs' sudden ending with a loss in the National League wild-card game last October was still fresh in the mind for team president of baseball operations Theo Epstein as he met with players in their exit interviews the day after.

Epstein took to heart what he learned from the Cubs players and from there began to make decisions on his team's future. The players began then to understand what Epstein was seeking after a 95-win regular season wasn't enough to clinch the NL Central crown, with the Cubs falling to the Brewers in Game 163 before their playoff exit at the hands of the Rockies a night later.

The sting was felt by the Cubs, as outfielder Ian Happ told the Bernstein & McKnight Show on Wednesday morning.

"We were all so frustrated with the way everything ended last year, it gave us the chance to be honest with each other -- for everybody to be honest about the way things ended and looked at how we can improve," Happ said. "When I was here in '17, we had a really good run at it (to the NL Championship Series), but it was like everybody was kind of beat (after the World Series title a year prior). Last year, it was like, 'Well that's not what we're used to. That's not how it's supposed to end.' 

"For us to really get upset about something and to be able to have those honest discussions can only help us moving forward."

The Cubs have made changes to their roster this offseason, with utility infielder Daniel Descalso the only notable addition thus far. Given the Cubs' financial restraints that have kept them from a serious pursuit of star free agents like Bryce Harper, Epstein is left hoping for better from a team that underachieved compared to its past production.

For the 24-year-old Happ, the Cubs' first-round pick in 2015, this offseason brought both time for recovery but also plenty of work. He has maintained a steady dialogue with manager Joe Maddon, both related to baseball and their lives away from the game.

The Cubs players have also stayed in touch through a group text, and Happ realized they understood Epstein's message for this offseason.

"Theo is really good at giving the sentiment of the players," Happ said. "When we've talked to each other in the offseason, that's been kind of the same grand scale messages. We're a really good baseball team. We got some really, really good players. We got punched in the mouth a little bit last year."