Cubs

Scott Boras explains how Kris Bryant lives up to MVP hype with attitude Cubs need now

Scott Boras explains how Kris Bryant lives up to MVP hype with attitude Cubs need now

LOS ANGELES — “Nope,” Kris Bryant said when asked if any sense of panic crept inside the Cubs clubhouse, pausing for four seconds, giving a death stare and turning to his right with a next-question look. “I’m not concerned at all.”

Bryant stood at his locker after Tuesday night’s 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers extended the scoreless streak to 18 consecutive innings, the Cubs falling behind 2-1 in this best-of-seven National League Championship Series. With a backpack slung over his shoulders, Bryant answered every question from any reporter, finally walking out of the room at 9:01 p.m.

The “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” chants echoed throughout Dodger Stadium the last time Bryant played here in late August. He managed the only two hits off ex-Cub Rich Hill in six innings, knocking two curveballs for singles, and then showing the attitude this team needs now.  

“He has the classic fighter-pilot personality,” super-agent Scott Boras said. “The more planes that are in the air, the calmer he gets. You know why? Because he goes: Great, I just get to shoot more things.

“That’s just his way of looking at life. Pressure – whatever it is – it’s just: Let’s go.”

Whatever happens next at Dodger Stadium, Bryant’s warp-speed development is a major reason why the Cubs believe they will keep playing deep into October for years to come.

As pointed and as personal as Boras could get while the Cubs tore it down to build the best team in baseball – “Meet the Parents,” “All-Day Sucker,” etc. – this time the agent didn’t at all oversell his client.

Bryant has been even better than advertised since the Theo Epstein administration made a franchise-altering decision with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Within the last two years, Bryant has accounted for 65 homers and 201 RBI and put up a .900 OPS while playing six different defensive positions. During that time, the Cubs have won 200 games and made back-to-back trips to the NLCS.

Since his junior season at the University of San Diego, Bryant has been the national college player of the year, the consensus minor-league player of the year, an NL Rookie of the Year and possibly a unanimous MVP.

“I remember when he was in college, I went to see him play in Irvine,” Boras said. “They had a night game. He hit a ball to the wall in right field, center field, left field. And then hit one out about 410. I go: ‘I’ve been watching games here forever – I’ve never seen anybody (do that).’ You’re talking about 1,500-1,800 feet of at-bats.

“He goes: ‘Yeah, you know, it’s funny. I came to the ballpark today and I really wasn’t so concerned about it. It was kind of relaxing.’”

Boras asked: “Why?”

“Well, I had three finals today,” Bryant told Boras.

“He took three finals and goes and rakes,” Boras said. “He’s just that kind of guy. Nothing fazes him.”

Like what could be the unbearable pressure of playing for a franchise that hasn’t won a World Series since 1908 – and being one of its centers of attention from the moment you got drafted – and playing with “Embrace The Target” on your chest all season. 

Inside his home office in Southern California, Boras keeps an old photo of himself as a Cubs minor-league infielder. Before launching his career as the game’s most powerful agent, Boras worked as an attorney at a Chicago law firm, riding the El from Lincoln Park/Old Town and going up into a Loop skyscraper.     

Boras knew Bryant had no chance to make the 2015 Opening Day roster, the Cubs wanting to gain that extra year of club control and push his free-agency clock back until after the 2021 season. No matter how loud Boras yelled through his megaphone or whatever the Major League Baseball Players Association does with that service-time grievance.  

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But there is truth in advertising. Adidas got it right putting up that “WORTH THE WAIT” billboard in Wrigleyville last year. Red Bull then filmed Bryant with a goat in New Orleans for that “Down on the Farm” commercial.

“I figured if we’re going to be 11 days in the minor leagues, we’re going to do something special,” Boras said. “God gave us a big storm and (Kris) was wearing rubber boots. The Red Bull people really created it. Once we saw that, I (said): ‘Yeah, that looks good. Let’s do that. If we can’t play in the big leagues, at least we can kill the curse.’ And being a former Cubbie, we know a lot about that curse.”

No matter how many Cubs fans freak out on Twitter – or how lost the rest of this lineup sometimes looks against these Dodger lefties – Bryant still thinks this could be The Year. And that’s all that really matters now.

“Super calm,” Bryant said. “Nobody’s throwing stuff. Yeah, on the outside, you would kind of think that’s what would be going on because it’s fun to hit.

“But there’s no panic – nothing in here. That’s good. That’s right where we need to be.”

 

 

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

No matter how much people complain and Tweet, Joe Maddon will never go with a set lineup every game.

But that doesn't mean he won't let certain spots in the lineup settle in for a couple weeks in a row.

That's what may be occuring right now with Anthony Rizzo holding serve as the "Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time" once again.

Rizzo made his 5th straight start atop the Cubs order Friday after collecting a pair of doubles and a walk in Thursday's 9-6 victory.

Initially, moving Rizzo from the heart of the order to the top was in part to help the Cubs first baseman get going. Maddon is a big fan of hitting guys leadoff to help them reset mentally and find their stroke again.

But it is working — Rizzo entered play Friday 8-for-16 with 5 doubles, 3 walks, 3 runs and 3 RBI in the leadoff spot over the last week. The promptly reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk his first two times up Friday.

He's also been the team's biggest cheerleader:

So how long will Maddon keep this unconventional lineup?

"I don't know," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I don't know. He came up again in crucial moments [Thursday]. He looks really good out there. I don't know. That's my exact answer."

Yes, Rizzo is looking good in the leadoff spot, but his insertion atop the order has given the Cubs lineup a new dynamic. 

With Rizzo first and Kris Bryant second, the guys that are historically the Cubs' top two run producers are hitting atop the order and "behind" the pitcher's spot. 

But they're also the Cubs' top two on-base guys and Maddon is liking the look of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — two high-contact guys — following Bryzzo in the order, as they have done recently. (It doesn't hurt to have the NL leader in RBI — Javy Baez — hitting cleanup, either.)

"It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating," Maddon said. "So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

It's taken the Cubs on a 4-game winning streak endcapping the All-Star Break, though the Cardinals got up big early Friday afternoon.

For a team that leads the NL in just about every important offensive category, it's going to be a huge key moving forward if Rizzo gets going on a consistent basis in the second half.

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."