Kris Bryant has hit more home runs in his first five seasons than anyone in Cubs history.
Yet the 27-year-old largely is underappreciated for his contributions, manager Joe Maddon said. And nobody is harder on Bryant than himself.
“People can be critical of him, but look at the numbers at the end of the day,” Maddon said. “Very few people do that.”
Very, very few.
Bryant surpassed Ernie Banks on Sunday with his record-setting 137th career homer, and he hit his 138th two innings later for good measure. He did not realize his accomplishment until he saw it printed in big font on the scoreboard in-between innings.
What did it mean to pass Banks?
“He’s got a statue out front,” Bryant said. “That gives me goosebumps.”
In addition to setting the five-year home-run record, Bryant joined Ron Santo and Aramis Ramirez as the only third basemen in Cubs history with multiple 30-homer seasons. Santo did it four times (1964-67), Ramirez did it three times (2004-06) and Bryant has done it twice (2016, 2019).
Despite his success, Bryant recently said he has had more bad days than good days this season.
Maddon said the comment reflected Bryant’s perfectionism.
“Think of where he came from,” Maddon said of Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft. “He was supposed to be this guy since he was probably 12, so he’s been dealing with these kind of thoughts for a long time. And any time he has a bad moment, it becomes over-amplified, there’s no question about it.
“I appreciate that, the fact that he is self-critical in a sense, but he’s also got to give himself a break. Cut yourself some slack, brother. I’ll tell you, there’s 29 other teams that would like to have him.”
Bryant thanked Maddon for his supportive messages throughout the season, including a recent email from the skipper that highlighted his career WAR (wins above replacement) and emphasized his value to the franchise.
“I really appreciate that,” Bryant said. “He has definitely stepped up this year in that area, showing me all these numbers that sometimes I don’t even know what they mean. Our hitting coaches are doing the same thing.
“It’s nice to always have that positive reinforcement because sometimes when you’re in a rut and you don’t feel great, you feel like it’s the end of the world and everybody hates you, nobody wants to look at you, it’s kind of hard to see those positive things. But you surround yourself with good people like that, great manager and coaches, they make it really easy.”
Bryant is feeling better now. He is hitting .500 (11-for-22) with five homers and 13 RBI during a six-game hitting streak.
Jose Quintana vowed to bounce back after giving up five runs on eight hits in 2⅓ innings.
The performance increased Quintana’s ERA to 4.37 and left him still in search of his career-high 14th victory.
“I didn’t get results, and this game is about results,” he said.