Cubs’ Kris Bryant, feeling unsafe, critical of MLB’s coronavirus testing efficiency
The 2016 NL MVP weighed in on his future with the Cubs, his doubts that the 2020 season will be pulled off and — most pressingly — his concerns about the job MLB is doing with health and safety protocols.
It’s still early in preseason workouts, but Kris Bryant senses a little something extra in the way he’s driving the baseball.
‘‘A lot of dad strength,’’ he surmised almost three months after the birth of his first child, son Kyler. ‘‘I feel good.’’
It was a light moment in a mostly serious conversation covering the 2016 National League MVP’s future with the Cubs, his doubts the 2020 season will be pulled off and — most pressingly — his concerns about the poor job Major League baseball is doing of staying on schedule with coronavirus testing.
Emphasizing that he didn’t want to appear insensitive to regular folks who don’t have the same access to testing major-leaguers do, Bryant nevertheless laid out just how far behind MLB has been since reaching an agreement with players on health and safety protocols and other terms for a long-delayed season.
‘‘What we agreed to was testing every day,’’ he said. ‘‘We have had guys here that showed up on Sunday and hadn’t gotten tested again seven days later. And then you don’t get the results for two days, either, so that’s nine days without knowing. And I think if we really want this to succeed, we’re going to have to figure this out.
‘‘I wanted to play this year because I felt that it would be safe and I would feel comfortable, but honestly? I don’t really feel that way.’’
In as dicey a time as the sport has had in memory, the Cubs were, as of Monday afternoon, the only major-league team that hadn’t had a confirmed case of COVID-19 among its players. With MLB trying to run roughly 14,000 tests per week through its lab — and falling behind — several teams had canceled or pushed back workouts because of testing delays, all while the list of players opting out of the season continued to grow.
According to Bryant, he had to wait five days from his first test last Tuesday to his second one Sunday. He joined what soon could be a chorus of disapproval from around the majors.
‘‘I know there are going to be hiccups, but you just can’t hiccup with this,’’ he said. ‘‘It could be just one day that ruins everything.’’
Bryant said a cancellation of the season ‘‘wouldn’t surprise me at all,’’ admitted to having considered opting out himself and ripped the recent negotiations for being too focused on money and not nearly enough on safety.
‘‘It’s a shame that it went that way,’’ he said. ‘‘What else can you say about it? It was a mess. And it still kind of is a mess.’’
As for his future, Bryant — signed through 2021 — underscored his desire to remain with the Cubs. At the least, he hopes not to be traded at the deadline in August, as some have speculated he might be if the Cubs fail to contend for the playoffs.
‘‘I would like [the trade deadline] not to be a concern,’’ he said. ‘‘I would like to think that I wouldn’t be shipped out in the middle of a pandemic.
‘‘But I’m trying to make it clear that I really love it here and love playing here, and I love everything about the city and the people and the people in this clubhouse and all around. I’ve never not wanted to be here, regardless of whatever has happened in the past or whatever people have perceived about my situation or based on just because I have a superstar agent [Scott Boras] or this and that. I’m just Kris. I like playing here. I like playing baseball.’’
Bryant agreed the instability in — and outside — baseball makes him more interested in actively re-engaging in extension talks with the Cubs.
‘‘But there are a lot of other worries in my life and in the world right now,’’ he said. ‘‘I feel like it’s a little insensitive to be talking about big dollars and stuff like that when people are losing their jobs and their lives.’’