Friday, April 24, 2015

Is Kris Bryant city's baseball savior? Of course not; that’s Jose Abreu!

Do I owe an apology to Kris Bryant, whom I’ll admit I mocked last week when he made his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs going hitless in four at-bats, and managing to strike out in three of them?

Considering that Bryant is supposed to be the big star player who is going to turn the pathetic Cubs franchise into baseball champions and that there were people all throughout baseball who were worked up that he wasn’t immediately called up to the major leagues this year (he hit .321 with three home runs and 12 runs batted in for the Iowa Cubs in seven games before getting the call-up to Chicago), it seemed funny to me that his big baseball debut was a dud.

OF COURSE, IT should be kept in mind that it was just one ballgame, and part of the beauty of baseball is that today’s goat is tomorrow’s on-field hero.

Since then, Bryant seems to be on a hitting streak.

In his seven ballgames with the Cubs as of Thursday, he has the .409 batting average (and a .591 slugging percentage, along with four doubles, six walks and seven strikeouts – three of which were those first-game whiffs that we’ve already mentioned.

Now I have amongst my Facebook-type friends a guy I went to Junior High School with who seems to have bought into Cubs-mania on account of Bryant. I’m seeing constant updates about how “oHHHHHHH-K” Bryant is, along with how he’s, “on fire. He don’t need no Gatorade. Let that Rookie Phenom Hit. Hit, Rookie Phenom Hit!” I took out his ALL-CAPS mania and translated it into readable English.

I’M ALMOST SURPRISED I have not received some sort of Internet-transmitted blip telling me where I could stuff my original commentary that called Bryant’s Cubs debut an example of quintessential Chicago Cubness – failing when it most mattered.

So I’ll admit that Bryant has basically had a good first week playing baseball in the Major Leagues. His games against the San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates (minus the first one) have been the kind of hot streak that any ballplayer wishes to have – and that the best of them rely upon to balance out the times when they “stink on ice” and can’t get a hit no matter what.

Then again, that is one week out of a 26-week long regular season. And Bryant is already being jerked around from position to position (center field, from his usual third base).

The real test will be to see how Bryant keeps hitting in mid-season, or in the weeks following the All Star Game. When fatigue sets in and the aches and pains any human body experiences when trying to play the rigor of a 162-game season takes its toll.

LET’S BE HONEST; Chicago White Sox star slugger Jose Abreu was the American League Rookie of the Year last year largely because he had such an overwhelming first half of the season.

I'm not saying he flopped come August and September, but much of the home run power that he showed early in the year and that had him in the running for much of the 2014 season to lead the American League in home runs dissipated.

He would have had 50-something home runs if he had kept up that ridiculous pace, instead of the still-respectable 36 home runs he finished the season with.

Besides, I can’t help but notice Bryant hadn’t hit any home runs as of Thursday. Abreu managed to get his first on Opening Day – being the lone run in that otherwise appalling 11-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

SO HERE’S HOPING that Kristopher Bryant, who gives us the most offbeat Cubs name spelling since “Ryne Sandberg”), does manage to accomplish something of significance. It would be nice if Cubs fans would finally shut up with their whiny routine about how we’re all supposed to feel sorry for them and think they’re special because their team hasn’t won a thing since back when V-J Day was fresh in the newspapers.

Although if you really want to see the best ballplayer in Chicago, you have to make the trip to U.S. Cellular Field – where Abreu has his 5 home runs this season (second in the league to 8 for Seattle’s Nelson Cruz), along with 12 runs batted in, 7 runs scored and .291 batting average.


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