Kris Bryant Speaks Candidly About Mental Grind, ‘Absurd’ Rumors That He’s Unhappy in Chicago

If there’s anything more frustrating to Kris Bryant than going 0-for-4 and making an error in the field, it might be having to constantly address various rumors regarding his feelings about Chicago and the Cubs. As easy as it might be to say that he should just not pay attention to those things, something he’s done to an extent by deleting Twitter from his phone, the superstar third baseman remains very much aware of how people view him.

That goes for his performance on the field in addition to reports of his desire to hit it big in free agency, which can have him second-guessing himself. Even with all the awards and accolades, Bryant can’t escape self-doubt when hits a rough patch or finishes a disappointing season that would be a career year for most players.

“We play the game because it’s fun, but at the end of the day this is a job,” Bryant told Ian Happ and his co-hosts on The Compound podcast. “And there’s money involved and…we need to win games. So I’m sitting there at home talking to my wife about expectations and stuff and I feel like the worst player in the world sometimes. Then I’ll go look at my Baseball Reference page and I’m like, ‘I have a .900 career OPS.’

“And then I look at like some of Hall of Famers and I’m like, ‘Some Hall of Famers had a career .830 OPS.’ And it’s like, ‘Okay, Kris, what are you doing? Get out of this rabbit hole that you’re in and just pull yourself together.’ I don’t think I’m the only one, I’m sure you struggle with it too.”

In addition to hear him using harsh language like “pissed” and “crap,” the best part of this interview was how candid Bryant was about his mindset and how he approaches the game. He’s clearly very cerebral and is very cognizant of his numbers, which leads to the season being as much of a mental grind as it is physical. That can really wear a player down over a long stretch of games, even if he’s playing well the whole time.

Bryant and the podcast hosts discussed the importance of getting a mental break, admitting that it can be a relief when the bench coach tells you after the game that you’ve got the next day off. But that period of relaxation lasts about 30 minutes, after which Bryant said he’s already back to figuring out how to get better. There can even be self-doubt as he questions whether he’ll actually get his job back after the rest day.

That’s where a strong support system comes into play, having people in his life who put things in perspective. Being a father has changed Bryant’s perspective and priorities, but he said it’s also nice to have people reminding him that he’s playing a game and should try to have fun doing so. At the end of the day, though, it’s a business that pays him a bunch of money so it’s hard not to think about the rumors and reports.

“The biggest thing for me… is the trade rumors and the narrative that has surrounded me that people just completely don’t understand or they haven’t done any research or they haven’t heard any of the interviews that I’m talking about,” Bryant lamented. “[The idea] that I’m upset here or like I don’t want to be in Chicago, like ‘He just wants to leave in free agency or whatever.’

“When have I ever said that? I have nothing but great things to say about everybody in this organization and field and city. Like, where’s all this coming from? I don’t know if I’ve ever come across that way or any of that.”

Happ may actually have been more upset about this topic than Bryant, saying it’s absurd that anyone could believe Bryant doesn’t want to be in Chicago. Setting the contract stuff aside, just spending summers playing baseball in the city is enough to make anyone fall in love with the place and never want to leave.

“It is so absurd, it is so absurd,” Bryant agreed. “You have to handle the media a certain way, and I’m very guilty of kind of giving just very vanilla answers because I just don’t want it to create a story where it’s like, ‘No, that’s not what I said.’ Put the whole quote out there of what I said, not just the headline or not just the clickbait.

“We all know how I feel about playing here and everything that I’ve accomplished here and have done here, I want to continue to do here.”

Ah, but perception is reality and there’s something about Bryant that makes people question the veracity of his words. But the thing is, it’s got nothing to do with the player himself.

“I think a lot of it comes from Scott Boras being my agent and [people thinking] he wants the most money,” Bryant acknowledged. “Listen, Scott is…I’ve always had conversations with Scott and he’s like, ‘I want to do exactly what is right for you and your family. I don’t need to do this for you, I don’t need to do that for you. If you want to stay in Chicago, that’s a very real option for you.’

“Scott has this big name, but he does what his clients want him to do and he always fights for his clients. I understand some of the hate for him because he always fights for his dudes like they’re his own children. Which is what you want from your agent, but just because my agent is Scott Boras doesn’t mean I’m some greedy…I’ve never been described as greedy.”

Actually, Kris, more than a few uninformed keyboard warriors have mistakenly described you as such. They see a report about a player turning down “well north of $200 million” and they take it as gospel, even though the guaranteed money in any offer was not close to that figure and didn’t actually made it to Bryant. Hard to turn down what was never presented in the first place.

So unless Bryant is lying through his teeth about and being open to an extension to remain in Chicago, which he’s repeated frequently over at least the last year and a half, the Cubs have an opportunity to make something work. Radio personalities can come up with cockamamie hypotheticals about him opting out of the season to screw the Cubs for manipulating his service time, but that’s not who he is.

Somehow, though, the idea persists that he’s this ruthlessly manipulative malcontent, not to mention a disappointing offensive producer. It’s truly amazing to see the lengths to which “fans” will go to justify their opinions that Bryant is a whiner or crybaby, most of which are based solely on the fact that he filed a grievance back in 2015.

The sad reality is that signing an extension might be the only way to get everyone to believe that it was never about the money in the first place. The grievance was always about the principle of the matter, with Bryant standing up for himself and the players who would follow him. As we’ve been saying here for years, he’s not aiming for a record-setting contract or to create a new legacy somewhere else. While those things may very well happen, it won’t be because Bryant willed them into existence.

He’s gone on record as saying he’s more amenable to an extension now than ever before and I’d be willing to bet the value of that potential long-term deal is probably lower now than it would have been two years ago. Not only have Bryant’s priorities shifted in that time, but baseball’s financial situation has pretty obviously changed over the last few months. Whether you agree with it or not, teams simply aren’t going to be spending as big over the next two winters at a minimum.

So what gets it done? Something in the neighborhood of eight years and $200 million might be enough at this point. That would take Bryant through his age-36 season, at which point he might be mulling retirement. He’d have more than enough financial security and would be able to stay in Chicago with the kind of guarantee he hasn’t had from the organization since before the start of the 2018 season.

But don’t take my word for it, just listen to what Bryant himself has been saying this whole time.

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