One flu over a cuckoo’s nest: Twitter enough to make Kris Bryant ill

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ST. LOUIS – Joe Maddon calls it “just the world right now.” Kris Bryant said when he was called up in April that the hyper-scrutiny and media spotlight “comes with the territory” as a top-ranked prospect.

But when a bug he’d been fighting for a week forced Bryant out of Thursday’s game, did that “territory” include jokes and Twitter speculation that the Cubs rookie had a hangover?

Even as Bryant struggled to get back in the lineup Friday for the opener of a big series against the rival St. Louis Cardinals, his response to light-hearted questions about the social media “conspiracy theories” turned into him addressing “rumors” about being hung over.

“I think if you know the type of person I am [you’d know it’s untrue],” said Bryant, who drove in a go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning of the Cubs’ extra-inning game against the Cardinals. “And my friends and family and everybody in here knows who I am and what I believe in.”

Within minutes of that quote being tweeted as a response to “rumors” by a broadcaster listening to that Q and A, a half-informed aggregator nowhere near Busch Stadium, working for one of those click-bait blogs owned by a major news organization, had turned it into a so-called news story about Bryant “nixing” hangover rumors.

The post included the passage, “Flu-like symptoms is pretty common baseball vernacular for being hung over, especially when a player sits out a day game. It happens all the time around the league. Boys will be boys, I guess.”

Even giving benefit of the doubt to such general lore, the social media one-upmanship of this “story” ignores the facts that (1) Bryant tried to play and didn’t beg out of the lineup; (2) he’s well known among teammates to be a non-drinker; and (3) the entire narrative originated as a handful of joke and/or speculation-based tweets by people who in many cases don’t even use their names when firing off thoughts.

Bryant, who has started every game since his April 17 debut, said he doesn’t want any time off.

“I’m not really too much of a fan of days off. I think they’re missed opportunities,” he said.

“Last year I played all through the [minor-league] season,” he added. “I think if you take the right steps to get where you need to be and go to sleep at night, don’t stay out late, all those things, you can play. That’s how I did it last year and it worked for me.”

Regardless, the scope and singe of the public spotlight on some of these guys – even rookies – these days seems as volatile and fluid as the Cubs’ pitching roster.

Fair or not. Part of the territory or not.

“What’s important to me is what our group thinks, our team thinks, what our front office and ownership thinks,” Maddon said. “With all due respect to the fans, [maybe if] I was trying to run for mayor, I’d be worried about what they had to say a little bit more.”

Bryant shrugged off the hangover stuff and even got a laugh out of the 20 minutes of trade rumors – including dugout “hug watches” — before the team announced why he left the game.

“A trade would be way more believable,” he said.

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