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.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry 'we had Baez ahead of Lindor in the draft'

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry 'we had Baez ahead of Lindor in the draft'

David Kaplan and Luke Stuckmeyer are joined by former Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry.  In part 1, Hendry looks back at some of the players he drafted during his time with the Cubs and getting a deal done with Theo Epstein at the trade deadline in 2004.

00:45 - What he does now for the Yankees

02:30 - How involved is a GM with drafting a player

04:30 - Looking back at the drafting of Javier Baez

05:45 - What made Javier Baez so appealing as a draft pick

09:00 - Josh Donaldson moving to 3rd base after the Cubs drafted him

11:45 - On having to trade prospects at the trade deadline to put the team over the edge for a postseason spot

13:10 - Looking back at the 2004 3-way deadline trade that brought Nomar Garciapara to the Cubs

14:35 - On Willson Contreras' growth in the Cubs organization

16:40 - On going over budget to sign Starlin Castro

17:20 - Carlos Zambrano's growth within the Cubs organization

19:10 - How good could Gleyber Torres be?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

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.