The rumors of Kris Bryant’s rancor were greatly exaggerated, as were the reports that he’d turned down “well north of $200 million” back in 2018. Bryant threw darts at a number of different balloons over the course of a 36 minute press conference last Saturday morning, putting to rest several ideas people had decided to run with over the course of the winter. Though he acknowledged that trade rumors and contract speculation are part of the business, he bristled at the notion that he was disgruntled and didn’t want to remain in Chicago.
Just like seemingly everyone else in Cubs camp, Bryant is extremely gruntled. Most of that is just a matter of getting back to being a baseball player again. He’s been busy helping his wife to get their home prepared for their first child, a son due in April, which he credited with keeping his mind off of trivial matters. He’s also been busy in the cage getting his swing prepared for the increasing trend toward fastballs up in the zone. Bryant sat a little straighter and beamed when talking about his baby, then he stood a little taller and hit laser beams during BP.
He did express a little displeasure with Jon Lester when the lefty jammed him inside and broke Bryant’s bat during a Tuesday batting session, eliciting an uncharacteristically profane “dangit” from the slugger. On the whole, though, Bryant is feeling great about the leadership of David Ross.
“I wanted to run through a wall,” Bryant said after the manager officially opened spring training with a motivational speech.
Far be it for me to tell a professional athlete how to go about his business, but I’d like to recommend against running into walls. Or sliding headfirst into first base, for that matter. Seriously, though, it’s pretty cool to hear the normally reserved slugger being so obviously boisterous about the start of the season.
“I’ve seen the intensity,” Bryant told Patrick Mooney and other reporters ($) Monday at Sloan Park. “But to see how he is as a manager — I don’t even know how to describe it. It was one of the best speeches I’ve heard from anybody in this organization. Theo gave a really good one, too. Just completely different sides of them, which I totally appreciated it. I already feel like the change is happening.”
Bryant also took the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Theo Epstein to reconnect on a more personal level and clear the air after a winter spent doing little more than texting. Whereas a somewhat similar situation in Colorado has resulted in acrimony between Nolan Arenado and GM Jeff Bridich, Bryant said he and Epstein “both feel great about” their relationship moving forward.
Though neither party has offered any specifics, Bryant’s comments on Tuesday indicate that he’s been given a little more clarity on his future in Chicago. He told reporters that his expectations in the wake of that conversation with Epstein are that he’ll be a Cub on Opening Day and through the July 31 trade deadline. Not that you’d expect him to do an about-face and demand a trade or anything, but his responses were far more definitive than even during the presser.
Kris Bryant, asked if he believes he'll be with the Cubs for Opening Day after his conversation with Epstein:
"Yes. I do."
Through the July 31 Trade Deadline?
"Yep. I'm a Chicago Cub."
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 18, 2020
Bryant said Saturday that his opinion is the only one that matters, Tom Ricketts said Monday that any decision on an extension for Bryant would come from “Theo’s camp.” And while we all understand pretty clearly that Scott Boras and Cubs ownership aren’t just going to stand idly by as their charges complete a handshake agreement, it’s good to know that everyone seems to be seeing eye to eye.
Or maybe maybe it more like eye to chin, since Bryant is a fair sight taller than his boss. He’s also a fair sight, as Ross made very clear after the superstar arrived in camp over the weekend.
“When you see the All-Stars walk in the room, especially when they’re like 6-6 with beautiful blue eyes, it makes you smile,” Manager David gushed. “And the great haircut that he has. I was telling him, too, he’s got a tan this year too. That’s a good vibe for me.”
Bryant looks good in pretty much every way you want to interpret that notion and he feels good about where he’s at both mentally and physically. Unless you’re the Astros or Lester after busting him inside, or perhaps the source of the report about the money he’s turned down and is currently seeking, sounds like ol’ KB is happy with just about everyone and everything.
“We know that we’ve completely failed the last two years and there’s no nonsense this year,” Bryant told reporters Tuesday. “We’re strapping it on. We’re ready to go.”
Sound like he’s really pegged the goal. Now if we could just hurry up and get to the actual games so everyone can watch him take out his (very healthy and normal) frustration on a few innocent baseballs. Okay, maybe not everyone. Xfinity patrons and cord-cutters who don’t have Hulu+ Live are just going to have to settle for listening to Pat Hughes’ call, which is a damn fine consolation prize if you ask me.