Chip Leader: Kris Bryant Drawing Motivation From Disappointment

I love chips. In the parlance of gastronomic gluttony, I’m what’s known as a bag killer, a man lacking the willpower to prevent his hand from diving time and time again for a handful of crispy, salty deliciousness. Chips to me are like pot to Snoop Dogg or boobs to Dan Bernstein.

There’s a crumpled Lay’s sour cream and onion bag on the side table in my living room to prove it. So serious is my predilection that not even the painful lesson I learned after wolfing down a whole canister of Olean-laden low-fat Pringles in one sitting could deter me.

So it’s no small statement for me to say that my affinity for Kris Bryant nears that which I hold for those thin wafers of golden fried potatoes. Perhaps that’s because Bryant now appears to be playing with one of them on his incredibly talented shoulder. Hey, maybe that’s what was causing the fatigue that held him out of a couple games earlier this spring!

In the wake of his assignment to minor-league camp earlier this week, it seemed as though everyone but the Cubs future superstar was talking for him. The MLBPA threatened litigation. Abrasive superagent Scott Boras called the move the “apogee of wrongs” and “ersatz baseball,” among other things.

Bryant’s once and future teammate Jon Lester was a bit less erudite in his appraisal, saying ““As a player, it sucks. It took me awhile to understand it when I was coming up. But the quicker you can learn that this game is a business, the better off you are. It is what it is. I think everybody in this clubhouse understands it.”

Three days after being cut from the big league camp, Bryant spoke publicly for the first time about his thoughts on the matter.

“I don’t want to say I’m mad or anything, I’m just extremely disappointed. I wanted my performance to matter, and to me it felt like it didn’t matter as much as I thought it would. The dream is on hold for a little bit but I’m hungrier than ever.

“I just go out there and put my head down and play as hard as I can. Baseball is such a performance-driven industry. I’m a big believer if you go out there and perform and work hard and you earn it then I believe you should get that chance to play up there. I guess it was viewed differently than I thought.”

The more I hear from this kid, the more I like; he’s measured without being fake, emotional without being irrational. Kris Bryant is a guy whose face will draw ooh and ahhs when plastered on that new video board in left and who will then do his level best to draw more of the same by driving a home run into that same digital visage.

For a team that has endured more than its fair share of disappointment to eventually succeed, it’s going to require the services of players who are willing to use their own frustration as fuel. Asked whether he was upset with the Cubs, Bryant said simply, “I don’t want to talk about that right now. When I put on a uniform it’s an honor to play for this team.”

But don’t take that to mean he’s going to leave this all in the past. Quite the contrary. I believe Bryant will continue to be driven by his team’s decision, that he’ll take the lump of coal he was given and allow it to push him on the diamond. He even said as much himself.

“I’ll use this as motivation and fuel the fire. I’ve been told a lot in my life I couldn’t do it. I kind of go back to my high school days when people doubted me. It’s OK to doubt me. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping my head straight and really working hard. Just more motivation for me.

“I’m excited to see what comes out of me with this motivation. I’ve never been in this situation before. Maybe my game will go to another level.”

For a guy who has excelled at every stop along his journey, the thought of reaching yet another level is one that should inspire nightmares in opposing pitchers. Then again, anyone can talk a big game; it’s what you do on the field that will eventually define you. Can Bryant live up to his words?

I’d say that’s a good start.  

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