Cubs' Kris Bryant 'ashamed' over MLB-MLBPA return-to-play negotiations

Cubs' Kris Bryant 'ashamed' over MLB-MLBPA return-to-play negotiations

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant expressed disappointment in the negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players union to resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bryant began the shutdown as the Cubs’ MLBPA rep before passing the title on to Ian Happ following the birth of his son. The 28-year-old was critical of proposals on both sides frequently being leaked to the media, echoing comments teammate Anthony Rizzo made last week.

“I was really ashamed of how things kind of went down in leaking in the media and negotiating in the media,” Bryant told reporters in Monday's Zoom session. “That never works for big corporations like this. It just doesn’t work.”

Bryant said the union believed there was an opportunity to play more than 60 games — they proposed 114, 89 and 70 at different points in the negotiation process — while MLB’s initial offer of 82 was as high as they went.

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MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2021 season, and some have speculated the recent negotiations are only the beginning of a bigger labor battle. Bryant noted the league needs to focus on getting through the 2020 season safely and keeping players and staff healthy, worrying about future negotiations later.

“And hopefully the next time around, we may be a little more mature about this whole process and keep it closed doors, maybe,” he said.


Quick takes: Pitching duel implodes in Cubs' loss to Brewers

Quick takes: Pitching duel implodes in Cubs' loss to Brewers

The Cubs just barely fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Brewers Friday at Wrigley Field.

In the ninth inning, Cubs relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel stepped into the highest-pressure situation he’s been in, perhaps all season. And he delivered. Kimbrel struck out Avisail Garcia and Manny Piña for the first and third outs of a scoreless frame. He also walked Justin Smoak and got Ben Gamel to line out to second.

But the Cubs offense didn’t overcome the late one-run deficit.

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Here are takeaways from the game:

Patience is a virtue

Jason Kipnis fouled off seven pitches before driving in the Cubs’ first run of the night.

It was the bottom of the fifth inning, and Jason Heyward and David Bote had just recorded the Cubs’ first and second hits of the game. Runners stood on first and third with one out.

Kipnis fouled off the first two pitches he saw, a changeup and a fastball. Just like that, he was behind in the count and his margin for error had shrunk. But he battled off fastballs and changeups that peppered the strike zone, and even strayed out of it. He watched a curveball in the dirt.

And then finally, Kipnis got a solid piece of an inside pitch. The Cubs played video of the Northbrook native’s friends and family cheering up on the video board in left field.

After Kipnis hit the tying run home, the Cubs’ offense kept flowing. Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ drew back-to-back walks for Bote to score. Anthony Rizzo poked a changeup out to right-center field to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead and force a Brewers pitching change.

Freddy Peralta replaced starter Brandon Woodruff on the mound. Peralta struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

Not quite pitch perfect

Alec Mills wasn’t even supposed to be pitching Friday. But when the Cubs scratched Tyler Chatwood from the lineup with mid-back tightness, Mills’ start moved up a day.

Mills was perfect through four innings, striking out six.

Mills finally put a batter on base in the fifth inning, when he walked Garcia. Then, Smoak got the Brewers’ first hit of the night off Mills. He pulled a ground ball to the right side. The Cubs defense was in the shift, so Bote, the third baseman, was playing in between first and second. Smoak’s hit snuck through the hole between Bote and second baseman Nico Hoerner.

Mills allowed two more hits but got out of the inning after giving up just one run.

The Brewers did most of their damage in the sixth. Eric Sogard singled to center field. Then, Mills hit Milwaukee’s Keston Hiura with a pitch. Christian Yelich drove them both home with a three-run homer to right field, erasing the Cubs’ lead with one swing.

Pitching duel implodes

Woodruff’s night mirrored Mills’ in many ways. The score remained locked in a scoreless tie through four innings.

The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo was the first player from either team to reach base. He did so on a fielding error by Smoak, the Brewers first baseman, in the fourth.

The first hit from either side was a single by Smoak the next inning. Woodruff didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning. But through 4 1/3 innings, he allowed three runs on four hits.

Where they stand

Despite the loss, the Cubs still have the best winning percentage in baseball. They are 13-4 (.765).

On Deck

The Cubs play two more games against the Brewers to finish the four-game series. What was once a 10-game homestand for the Cubs is now scheduled to be a 12-game homestand.

On Friday, Major League Baseball announced that the Cubs would play doubleheaders against the Cardinals on Monday and Tuesday, to begin making up the three-game series that was postponed due to more positive COVID-19 tests within the Cardinals organization.


Why Nico Hoerner, Cubs don't need extra incentive to follow COVID-19 protocols

Why Nico Hoerner, Cubs don't need extra incentive to follow COVID-19 protocols

The players in Cleveland’s clubhouse and executives in the front office sent a loud and clear message Friday about how seriously they’re taking the dangers of COVID-19 and the league’s safety protocols.

And whether the rest of the league was listening, starting pitchers Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger got the message when — after a team meeting — they were optioned to the team’s alternate site for violating protocols by leaving their hotel in Chicago last weekend and socializing with friends.

Plesac only made himself look worse by posting a 6 1/2-minute video Thursday to “express the truth” about the incident.

The episode not only raised questions about the two players involved but also about how many others among the 30 teams might believe a quick trip out of the hotel is harmless — not to mention how many more might begin to feel that way if their teams drop out of contention in the next few weeks.

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Cleveland, after all, was pitching as well as almost anyone in baseball and a contender with a lot to play for.

“Luckily, we haven’t had to deal with that yet,” said Cubs rookie Nico Hoerner, who wished Cleveland players good health and quick resolution to their clubhouse rift.

But luck doesn’t seem to have much to do with the Cubs’ respect for safety measures and the easily-spread nature of a virus that has killed nearly 170,000 Americans in five months.

And neither does any potential incentive from their hot start to the season, Hoerner said.

“I don’t think the success of our team is determining our following protocols,” he said. “I think it comes from caring about each other as people and just understanding the rules and having them be pretty black and white.”

The Cubs watched the virus ravage their pitching coach in real time on daily Zoom sessions until Tommy Hottovy’s monthlong bout took enough strength to force him to hand off duties in June until he recovered.

The team has built an effective enough plan and gotten enough across-the-board buy-in that no players have tested positive. The Cubs’ plan exceeded MLB’s initial protocols, and early results drew enough attention from the rest of the league that other teams reached out to the team.

RELATED: Cubs get more reminders in Cleveland -- that league only strong as weakest link

At the very least, it seems safe to say the Cubs got the message long before the Cleveland organization delivered one Friday.

“You couldn’t ask for a better group of men to be in a room with, especially going through a pandemic here and trying to complete a season,” left fielder Kyle Schwarber said. “You can’t speak enough to what everyone and their families are sacrificing on a daily basis, first off, off the field. It’s not just because there aren’t any positive tests. This is a big sacrifice in general.

“For us to not have a positive test, knock on wood, it’s been unbelievable. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”