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.”