Cubs: Kris Bryant keeping his head up despite recent struggles


Cubs: Kris Bryant keeping his head up despite recent struggles

It can be easy to forget that Kris Bryant is just 23 years old and only in his third week in the majors.

The top prospect in the game sounds mature beyond his years whenever he talks and when asked about his recent struggles, Bryant again said all the right things.

"It's baseball, man," he said before Sunday's series finale with the Brewers. "It happens all the time. Just play the game. Have fun with it. I never look into a bad game too much."

Bryant hasn't gotten a hit in his last 10 at-bats, watching his average dip from .341 to .280. He went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Saturday's loss and now has whiffed 18 times in his first 15 big-league games.

[RELATED - Cubs offense hits rough patch in loss to Brewers]

"That's what happens in the major leagues," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You have to adjust. He was swinging at some pitches out of the zone [Saturday] too.

"Just get back into the zone because that's something he had been doing well coming out of spring training. He wasn't chasing.

"He's been doing really well at maintaining the integrity of the strike zone. I'm fully confident he's going to do it again."

Bryant is in his usual No. 4 spot in the Cubs lineup Sunday and said Maddon has not talked to him about the slump.

"I don't think I need to be talked to," Bryant said. "I've been through this plenty of times before. It's part of the game. It's a hard game. The ball is small, the bat is small.

"You gotta take it with a grain of salt and learn from it and that's what I'll do."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Bryant called his slump a learning experience and said he knows he will have more rough games throughout this season and the rest of his career.

Maddon has been impressed with the way Bryant hasn't sacrificed his patient approach at the plate, for the most part. The slugger is still taking his walks - 12 on the season and four in the last four games.

With Bryant and some of the other young players like Jorge Soler and Addison Russell, Maddon has preached patience and focusing on changing their mentality rather than physical mechanics during struggles. The veteran manager understands these kids won't just figure it all out overnight.

After leading all of Major League Baseball with nine spring training homers and pacing professional baseball with 43 in the minors last season, Bryant is still without a longball in his first 15 games, spanning 50 at-bats now.

[MORE - Maddon, Cubs trying to 'unearth' Soler with lineup switch]

Cubs fans are getting impatient for Bryant's first homer, especially now that fellow rookie Russell hit his first Friday at Wrigley Field.

But don't point to that home run drought as a reason for Bryant's struggles.

"I don't necessarily see him trying too hard right now," Maddon said. "For the most part, he's been accepting his walks and working good at-bats.

"If it's really bothering him, I'm not really seeing it. But I do believe the moment he does, it will relax him a bit more. Get the monkey off his back."

For his part, Bryant insists he's not pressing at the plate, either.

"I could go the whole season without hitting a home run, as long as we're winning games," he said. "Right now, we're doing pretty good, so we'll see.

"But I know the type of player I am and like I said, it's a percentage game with me. I hit home runs and I'm due. Yesterday, I was due for a bad game. It happens."

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez had an absolutely fantastic 2018 campaign, but he is not the National League MVP.

Brewers star Christian Yelich was deemed the best player in the Senior Circuit, receiving 29 of the 30 first-place votes. Baez finished second with no first-place votes. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado finished third after leading the NL in homers (38) and posting a .935 OPS for a Colorado team that lost out on the division in Game 163 and then beat the Cubs in the NL Wild-Card Game.

It may not be popular with Cubs fans who love them some Javy, but it's easy to see why Yelich will take home the highest yearly honor.

The 26-year-old outfielder enjoyed a special season, leading the league in OPS (1.000), batting average (.326) and WAR (7.6 — FanGraphs), finishing 1.3 WAR above the next highest guy (Anthony Rendon — 6.3). For reference, Baez notched a 5.3 WAR.

Baez led the NL in RBI (111) and was among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category while also filling a huge role for the Cubs playing very good defense all over the infield (104 games at second base, 65 at shortstop, 22 at third base and even played an out at first base). 

It's easy to say Baez was the Cubs' most important and valuable player in 2018 and there's no way they win 95 games or maintain a share of first place through Game 162 without his contributions.

But the Brewers surged past the Cubs in the NL Central in large part because of Yelich, who slashed .372/.451/.762 (1.213 OPS) from July 14 on, driving in 68 runs and hitting 25 homers in only 68 games. He was even hotter over the last two weeks of the season — posting a .488/.621/1.116 slash line (1.737 OPS) while Milwaukee went 11-2 and caught the Cubs from behind. 

With both players under contract through at least the 2021 season in the same division, it'll be interesting to see if they can build off their breakout campaigns and continue to battle against each other for future NL MVP voting.

Bryce Harper professes love for Chicago food and oh hell yeah he's signing here

Bryce Harper professes love for Chicago food and oh hell yeah he's signing here

Ooooohhhhh it's happening. 

Recently, TMZ Sports, your trusted news source for all things sports and all things in general, caught up with superstar free agent Bryce Harper. 

They asked him which city had the best food scene, and his answer was *clearly* an indication of where he's going to sign: 

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We can confirm that fancy steak and deep dish pizza are both delicious, so this checks out. 

Choosing where to spend your life based on nearby food choices is deeply, deeply relatable.