There’s no measure by which Kris Bryant’s 2020 season can be considered a success, though some good may yet come of it. His timing was off when the shortened campaign got started, then significant injuries to his left wrist and ring finger suffered while diving for a ball in left field hampered him the rest of the way. Add in the constant trade rumors and criticism for not being Mike Trout and you can see how the game wasn’t quite as enjoyable.
But just like the honey badger, good things happened when Bryant no longer gave a shit. Let’s make sure we’re clear on that statement before proceeding because it was not a matter of saying he didn’t care about fans themselves. Rather, he was saying he had actively chosen not to internalize those things from the outside that he couldn’t control.
“The last series was like, we know we’re going to play past this,” Bryant told members of the media on Tuesday. “I was like throwing on two gold chains and wearing my pants up. I, essentially, just was kind of goofing around, having fun out there. And, shoot, I hit some of the best balls I hit all year.
“Maybe that’s what I’ve got to do. Maybe I’ll just wear two chains all year.”
As of right now, it’s far more possible that Bryant spends the whole year and beyond in Chicago, a concept that seemed unfathomable when those ubiquitous rumors ramped up to a fever pitch over the winter. But a combination of his value — both in terms of trade return and as a piece of the Cubs’ foundation — and some shifts in Jed Hoyer’s budget appear to have changed things.
Where once it seemed as though the front office was being pressed to sell off anyone who wasn’t nailed down, there now seems to be momentum toward multiple extensions. Nothing is assured, however, so Bryant is choosing to remain in the moment and leave the future in the future.
“My mind is clear, I’m here, I’m present,” Bryant said. “I enjoy the new faces around me, I enjoy my time at home. It’s a good feeling. I like to see fans in the stands again.
“I’m not looking at it as my last year. Who knows what year it could be? I could have 10 more years here. Who knows? I could come back as a coach, I could live in Chicago. I don’t know.”
Though it’s still not anything like having a packed ballpark, you have to believe getting a few thousand fans back at Sloan Park and Wrigley Field will have a positive impact on players in general. It’s way too easy to hear your own thoughts when there’s no one around to cheer, almost like trying to fall asleep in silence when you’ve grown used to some kind of white noise.
Bryant’s still getting the feel down for his timing this spring, some of which may be due to slightly different mechanics that have him loading a wee bit more heavily into his back leg. He’s also worked to reduce the vertical angle of his swing path, so we’re seeing a few more balls on the ground than usual as he works on getting the feel for everything in live action.
Whether it’s his swing or his future in Chicago, trying to get all the moving parts to align could have caused Bryant to press a little in the past. As it is, he’s got plenty of time to let things play out over the next few days or weeks or months. Sometimes not caring as much about how things happen is the best way to make them happen.