As Cubs season ends, Bryant puts frustration into words

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant walks the dugout after striking out against the Miami Marlins in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a National League wild-card baseball series in Chicago, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.

    Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant walks the dugout after striking out against the Miami Marlins in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a National League wild-card baseball series in Chicago, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/3/2020 6:39 PM

No player epitomizes the 2020 Cubs like Kris Bryant.

That is, unless maybe it's Javy Baez.

 

Bryant, the 2016 National League MVP, and Baez, the 2018 runner-up, both had miserable performances at the plate. Bryant hit .206 with just 11 RBI, playing in 34 of 60 games due to injuries. Baez finished at .203.

That pair went a combined 1-for-16 at the plate in the two-game sweep by the Marlins this week. For the record, Baez collected the hit, a single.

After Friday's season-ending loss, Bryant tried to describe where things went wrong.

"It's the toughest game, sport in the world, no question about it," Bryant said. "I'll sit here and debate anybody. Football, basketball, golf, whatever -- I've played all of them. Baseball is an extremely tough sport.

"You can't go out there and just force it. You've got to keep going out there determined for the next one and maybe that's the time when it clicks. It didn't this year. It hasn't the last couple of years. I don't know the answer to that."

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This was quite a change for Bryant, who enjoyed unprecedented success for most of his career. In a four-year span from 2013-16, he went from college player of the year to minor league player of the year to NL rookie of the year to MVP.

"Sometimes I sit back and watch these games on TV and I'm just like, 'Man, it looks so easy,'" Bryant said. "What are you doing swinging at that? Why didn't you hit that pitch?' Up in the box it's a completely different story.

"I've played this game for almost 24 years, since I was four. It's come easy at times, it's been a grind at time. You just kind of wait for those times when it comes easy again. It comes in cycles, but it just wasn't our cycle."

One of the basic questions facing Cubs management is whether to make changes or hope the main core of players come back with better performances next year. Bryant, Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are all signed for next season, but can become free agents after that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I have no clue, I really don't," Bryant said of the team's future. "You guys' guess is as good as mine."

It's obvious the Cubs need more contact, more runners on base and some guys who can hit in the clutch. The pitching staff is in pretty good shape, and with Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish locked up long-term, it may not make sense to make major changes and end up taking a step backward.

But something needs to change for the Cubs. And Bryant admitted he struggled with the pandemic season, where spring training led to a hiatus, then a 60-game schedule that began in late July.

"Going all the way back to February and ramping up for what we thought was going to be a completely normal season and then you're kind of just hit with this and you're home for three months and waiting for answers," he said. "Then it's like, 'Hey, here's the season. Here's 60 games, go out there and sprint.'

"Then we're in the playoffs, then we get punched in the teeth two games in a row, and now we're here. I don't know. It's the weirdest thing that I've experienced, maybe in my whole life, definitely my baseball career."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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