Kris Bryant seems tailor-made for the spotlight. Even walking onto a stage without one, his omnipresent smile and general aura of transcendent awesomeness throw off enough luminescence to let you see him clearly. Bryant didn’t really do anything spectacular in last night’s All-Star game, but he joined an elite pantheon of Cubs players nonetheless.
When he earned a spot on the NL roster for the Mid-Summer Classic, Bryant became only the 3rd Cubs rookie to do so. The other two? Well, if you haven’t already seen the names above you’d probably be guessing names like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, or Billy Williams. Maybe even Kerry Wood or Mark Prior. Alas, you’d be wrong on all counts.
No, the first two rookie Cubs All-Stars were none other than Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto all the way back in 2008. The game was played in Yankee Stadium that year and the hard-charging Cubs sent 8 players to the game, including Wood, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and, yes, Carlos Marmol.
Ah, but revisionist history is a trip, isn’t it? Few ever took issue with K-Wood, and people have really started to come back around on Ram-Ram, but almost every one of the other players has had his legacy edited with red ink (or is that meat sauce?), his accomplishments redacted or minimized. And Fukudome and Soto are two of the more frequent targets of fan remorse.
Bryant, on the other hand, is still coming into his own as a ballplayer and should have several more years before we turn him into a pariah and set about carefully reclassifying his efforts to make them seem somehow less than they really were. In all seriousness though, this selection doesn’t seem like a fluke.
I remember watching that game in 2008 and being really happy about seeing all those Cubs, but there was an undertone of guilt to my happiness. It was as though I had stumbled across some money on the sidewalk and, rather than chase down the little old lady up ahead, I pocketed it and headed to the store.
I’m sure this is not a feeling Royals fans have ever had though.
In any case, that Cubs team was well established and was full of veterans, some of whom seem to have made the game on reputation alone. But there was definitely an outpouring of support for guys like Soto and Fukudome, both of whom were having pretty successful rookie campaigns.
But again, much of their performance was unsustainable, as Fukudome would go on to prove pretty much every season he played. With Bryant, you get the feeling that he’s not even close to reaching his full potential, that he’s only going to get better with time. Just look at the way guys are pitching him.
Playing among the best of the best, Bryant was treated like the dangerous veteran hitter he already resembles. After entering the game in the 6th to replace fellow phenom Joc Pederson in LF, Bryant took his first at-bat against Dellin Betances (saying his name reminds me of Toonces, the driving cat) and drew a walk on 7 pitches.
I think the most impressive part of the AB was that final pitch, a close offering that most guys in that situation probably would have gone after. Had the pitcher been a guy with a little more cachet, I wonder whether KB would have gotten the call; but Bryant was the bigger star in this matchup, and his impeccable eye is already well-known throughout baseball.
Speaking of stars, Bryant played a key role in exposing an asinine statement from the blathering Harold Reynolds, one of FOX’s expert broadcasters. The former player told the viewing audience that the number of gold stars on the back of a player’s jersey indicated the number of times he’d been selected to play in the game.
Whether he was cutting to the first camera with a good angle or cutting Reynolds’ legs out from beneath him, the producer went to a tight shot of Kris Bryant and the two stars sandwiching the MLB logo at the back of his neck. It was beautiful in its simplicity. Of course, every player had only two stars, regardless of ASG experience.
The game itself was a bit of a snoozer on the whole, though there were some great moments and really nice performances; Jacob deGrom made Cubs fans everywhere wish the team had pulled the trigger on a Castro trade last year, unfounded rumor or no. And Mike Trout showed everyone why he’s the “white Bo Jackson.”
But the AL took the game, and with it, home-field advantage in the World Series. That’s actually good news for Bryant and the Cubs though, as it just means the they’ll clinch the title in Game 4 at Wrigley.
Clearly, I put too much faith in the Four Letter. I had not initially qualified the titular claim with “since 1955,” but updated after being alerted of my historical faux pas by BP Wrigleyville’s Rian “Don’t Call Me JJ” Watt. For more on the other three rookie All-Stars, check out his post.