Cubs

Kris Bryant’s attitude with Cubs at low point: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’

Kris Bryant’s attitude with Cubs at low point: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’

WASHINGTON – Kris Bryant called it the “lowest point” of his charmed career as a Cub after a 9-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field dropped the defending champs to 30-31 on June 10. 

Since then, Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) experienced a setback that will likely delay his return to the rotation until after the All-Star break. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (left wrist inflammation) and Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward (left hand abrasion) went on the disabled list.

All-Star shortstop Addison Russell had to answer questions about divorce proceedings and a Major League Baseball investigation. Playoff legend Kyle Schwarber got demoted to Triple-A Iowa. Veteran catcher Miguel Montero torched Jake Arrieta in an epic postgame rant and got designated for assignment. The Cubs won nine of their next 17 games.       

Almost forgot: Bryant heard his right ankle pop on Wednesday night at Nationals Park when he awkwardly landed on third base while catching a pop-up. The reigning National League MVP walked through the visiting clubhouse on Thursday afternoon carrying a book recommended by mental skills program coordinator Darnell McDonald: “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F---.”

“I don’t know if it’s any different,” said Bryant, who felt “relieved” and “a ton better,” doubting that the sprain would force him onto the disabled list. “It’s still kind of just – you win a game, you lose a game, you win a game. It’s OK, you’re keeping your head above water, but it’s just different than what I’ve experienced.

“There’s going to be times like that. But I just think it’s important that we learn from all the things that we’re going through now, so that it makes us better in the future. I definitely do think that this point – and being as low as we are right now – is still going to make us better.”

Where Anthony Rizzo had been part of Cubs teams that lost 286 games between 2012 and 2014, Bryant helped the franchise win 97 games and two playoff rounds during his Rookie of the Year campaign – and then deliver its first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. 

What the Cubs need now are the qualities that separate Bryant beyond just his sweet swing and athleticism – mental toughness, emotional intelligence and the ability to process failure.

This is someone who – as the No. 2 overall pick in the draft – went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in his Class-A Boise debut in the summer of 2013. And whiffed three times and went 0-for-4 when he made it to The Show in April 2015. Bryant joked about Los Angeles Dodgers sensation Cody Bellinger.

“He’s starting off way too hot,” Bryant said. “I didn’t hit a home run for my first 20 games or something. But that stuff does go a long way and help you (when you realize): I’ve been through this before. I’ve hit under .200 for a month. You just fall back on those things. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

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USA Today

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon’s time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon’s departure are evidence of that.

“I love him like a dad,” Anthony Rizzo said

“I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner,” Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.

Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon’s guidance. Maddon — a catcher himself in his short time as a player — never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it’s clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years. 

Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:

The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:

Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We’re not crying, you’re crying.

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Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.

Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.

David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday. 

MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.

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