MILWAUKEE — Maybe Cubs president Jed Hoyer will make this latest rebuild work with almost an entirely new cast of players than the group that produced the most successful six-year run in franchise history.
But until then, watching Kris Bryant wear Giants workout gear Friday as he talks about the Cubs for about a half-hour in the visitors dugout in Milwaukee looks like a mistake.
No matter who you want to blame — whether you want to blame an ownership family that prints money annually at biblical proportions or the broken business model of baseball that makes trading the franchise’s best homegrown player since Greg Maddux during an All-Star season sound like smart-guy stuff.
“I have no regrets at all,” said Bryant exactly one week after a flurry of trades wiped out the most successful Cubs core in history in the span of 24 hours — and one day after delivering two huge hits late to help the best team in baseball win another game.
“I showed up. I didn’t change who I was as a person or a player or what I believe in from the moment I stepped on the field. And I feel really proud of that. I feel like I always treated people with respect and ran hard down the line and was prepared for every single game.”
He also won an MVP award, what might be the most coveted team championship in American sports history, four All-Star appearances and started at six different positions for a team that desperately needed that versatility to have what success it did the first half of this season.
He’s what franchise players are made of.
And the fact the team’s best hitter during his 6 1/2 years in Chicago is playing for another franchise while still in his 20s is part of what looked so wrong on Friday in that dugout in Milwaukee.
Almost as wrong as Hoyer blaming the core players for forcing last week’s trades by refusing to sign extensions over the years — an assertion Hoyer walked back a day later.
“In his mind he’s going to be right and maybe in ours he’ll be wrong,” Bryant said. “And it’s OK to disagree, and then you move on from there.
“I wasn’t approached at any point [after] the spring after the World Series. That was the one time.”
Whether there was any general conversation between the Cubs and Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, since then, no offers were made, he said, nor anything of substance.
“After that it was nothing. I was always open to hearing them, like I’ve always said, but there just wasn’t anything after that,” said Bryant, who seemed visibly chapped at times in recent years at media assertions that he turned down massive offers.
“It’s tough,” he said of Hoyer’s comments, “because I’ve always wanted to take the high road and I’ve never been about calling out people who have done special things for me in my career. And regardless of the negatives or anything that have surrounded me or the situation there, I’ll always think back to my time there and feel happy about and have great memories about it.”
In fact, he said he has “praise” for Hoyer and his predecessor, Theo Epstein, despite some of the recent issues as well as the service-time manipulation as a rookie that kept him under club control for this additional, seventh season.
“I know there’s a lot of stuff that I went through and stuff that I didn’t necessarily agree with at the time,” Bryant said. “But they gave me an opportunity to wear the pinstripes and play for such a historic organization and win there. I’m always going to let that overshadow any negative things that are out there.”
Three days earlier Bryzzo pal Anthony Rizzo — who was traded to the Yankees last week — also pushed back hard on Hoyer’s comments blaming players for not signing extensions.
Bryant also pushed back on the narrative that somehow the White Sox have done such a better job of getting their young players signed to extensions than the Cubs did — a narrative that leaves out the fact the Cubs core won a World Series as a group of rookies and second-year players and already were All-Stars (and in one case an MVP).
“You can’t compare that,” said Bryant, who — like Javy Báez and Rizzo — has said for years they wanted to stay with the Cubs long term. “There’s nothing to say that it’s like ‘they didn’t want to sign here because they didn’t like it,’ or this and that. I think we all liked it. I’ve always said I liked it. I’ve always had great times there. It just didn’t work out.
“I think we were all on Cloud 9 after 2016 and rightfully so,” he added. “But at the end of the day, like Jed said, He puts his head on the pillow every night. And I know I gave it my all, and I was always willing to listen to anything. And at the end of the day, we had conversations after 2016, and that was it.
“There’s no hard feelings. I had unbelievable memories there. I look back, and it’s some of the happiest moments of my life. And nothing can change that.”