Maybe it’s just the way it’s going to be with this team all year.
The fun-loving Cubs – the team opponents love to hate – could barely enjoy the moment of their All-Star haul on Tuesday before the social-media backlash began over their MLB-high seven selections.
Shortstop Addison Russell got the early brunt of it – his MLB.com Twitter announcement filled with comments ranging from “not even close to worthy” to “freaking joke” to “lmao.”
The Washington Post featured him under the heading “what fans got wrong.” Fox Sports and ESPN also piled on.
And one of Corey Seager’s Dodgers teammates, Enrique Hernandez, even joined in from his own account, tweeting “Corey Seager not the NL Starting SS?! SMH!!”
“It is what it is,” said Russell – who has three home runs, a double and six RBIs the last three games. “I’ve never been one to listen to what anyone says or speculate how they think I play the game. I know how I play the game. I know what I bring to the table, and ultimately I know where my growth is going to be.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me.”
But it’s not just about Russell, who earned his first All-Star selection at 22.
The National League shortstop field certainly was robust, and debatable, with the Giants’ Brandon Crawford and three rookies – Seager (.304, 17 homers), Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals (.314, 11 homers) and Trevor Story of Colorado (19 homers, 50 RBS) – all with strong cases.
Seager was selected as a reserve; Story earned a spot on the fans’ final-vote ballot. The two others were left out.
“It stinks,” second-time All-Star Kris Bryant said of the criticism. “And then you just watch these TV shows, too. And some guys are talking about who deserves to be there.
“I’m hearing some of it, too,” Bryant added. “I think everybody here is.”
It wouldn’t be anything new for this team, which drew sideways glances from fans and opponents from afar almost as soon as they were installed as Vegas favorites to win the World Series and then decided to “embrace the target” – along with embracing mimes in spring training and wacky costumes on themed road trips.
Apparently getting off to the hottest start in baseball didn’t help to endear them to the rest of baseball.
Not one of the Cubs’ infielders finished first on the players’ All-Star ballots.
Could the All-Star backlash and criticism be about the “target” thing?
“Maybe a little bit,” Bryant acknowledged. “But I think it’s more just in general the world we live in nowadays, which is sad.
“It’s just part of society now, to maybe undercut someone’s achievements,” he said. “I think it’s just important for us to tune that out. It’s a skill you need in this game. I learned that [as a well-known prospect] in high school.”
The Cubs’ recent struggles on the field might only be encouraging the critics. The Cubs’ 5-3 loss Wednesday to the last-place Reds was their 12th loss in 17 games.
“The way we’re approaching what we’re doing right now hasn’t changed from the beginning of the season,” said veteran Jason Hammel, who could have made his own All-Star case each of three years in a row. “Obviously, we’re not playing as well as we did during the beginning of the season. When that happens people will talk.
“Even if you do something well, there’s going to be somebody that says you’re not doing it the right way.”
As for Russell who’s on pace for 20 home runs and almost 100 RBIs as one of the better fielding shortstops in the league, Bryant says the critics are uninformed.
“We would not be where we are without him,” he said. “And I think that’s kind of a definition of an All-Star what he does for the team. We certainly would not have as many wins as we do if we didn’t have Addison at shortstop.”
Said Hammel: “It’s noise. It’s just noise.”