Kris Bryant buried the disappointment of not making the team in Arizona.
“I don’t think about the past at all,” Bryant said Friday at Wrigley Field. “I’m here now. And I’m ready to play some ball.”
That’s exactly what the Cubs want to hear. Anyone inside the interview room/dungeon expecting a sarcastic comment – or any public hints of bitterness – doesn’t know Bryant.
The media circus followed Bryant, who sat at the podium before his big-league debut and looked out at the row of six TV cameras, inside a cramped cellar filled with about 40 media types. The dream-come-true vibes felt different than the it’s-just-business rhetoric from spring training.
Super-agent Scott Boras ripped Cubs ownership and again questioned the Ricketts family’s commitment to winning. The players’ union called it a “bad day for baseball” when the Cubs sent Bryant down to minor-league camp. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told Boras to stay out of the team’s business. Bryant Watch became a trending topic on Twitter.
The Cubs needed Bryant to miss at least 12 days from the major-league calendar in order to gain an extra year of control and kick his free agency down the road, until after the 2021 season. Bryant missed exactly 12 days – while the Cubs went 5-3 and surged into first place – and did his time at Triple-A Iowa.
“I sure hope I can look back on this and laugh at it 15 years from now,” Bryant said. “That would be a pretty good situation for myself. But like I said, it’s all in the past. I did what I needed to do.
“I took what happened to me and I went down there and played as hard as I can. And that’s all I can really do. I had fun with it. I’m embracing every moment that I get in this game, because I know that I’m not going to be playing this game forever.”
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein insisted there’s no bad blood between the two sides, recognizing Boras is just doing his job and seeing Bryant as a franchise player.
“There is no service-time issue,” Epstein said. “He’s here to play baseball. The major-league team had a need. He’s a really good player. He’s ready to go.
“He’s ready to be a Cub for a long time.”
Epstein won’t get into the financial implications, but he said injuries factored into the timing of Bryant’s promotion. Third baseman Mike Olt saw a specialist on Thursday and an MRI revealed a hairline fracture in his right wrist. Infielder Tommy La Stella (rib cage) had already been put on the disabled list.
“No, we wouldn’t have done it today (otherwise),” Epstein said. “You script things out for a player’s development, try to figure out exactly what the last steps are in his development, when the exact right time is to debut.
“We like to do it on the road for prominent players who are going to get a lot of attention and have enough to deal with. So we would have done it a little bit later. But you can’t script everything out in baseball.
“It’s a great day and we hope the start of something special.”
Bryant’s father, Mike, couldn’t miss the frustration after his son hit nine homers in 40 Cactus League at-bats – after being the industry’s consensus minor league player of the year in 2014.
“He was disappointed,” said Mike, who once played in the Boston Red Sox farm system. “I didn’t talk to him for three days after that, (but) he handled it. It’s not that he was expecting it. He blocked out that part of the process right there.
“He was not focused on any business part of the game. You remove that from the equation as a baseball player. You cannot think about it. Otherwise, it’s just a distraction.”
Boras Corp. will probably get four bites at arbitration and should be drooling at the idea of Bryant hitting the open market. But almost seven years is an eternity in this game, more than enough time for the Cubs, Bryant and Boras to get what they want.
As Bryant said, he wants a bulldog working for him, not a poodle. This won’t be the last time the Cubs will be sparring with Boras.
“I’m glad he’s on my side,” Bryant said.