DENVER — If only Kyle Schwarber had gotten under a July 2 fastball from Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias just a tiny bit more, it would have been yet another home run.
Instead, the bull-necked, barrel-chested darling of the Nationals roped a base hit into right-center, took a wide turn around first base and — oh, no.
“Oh, please,” Nationals TV play-by-play man Bob Carpenter said as Schwarber doubled over in agony on the bag. “Not him.”
Not June’s National League player of the month, whose preposterous home-run binge included 15 bombs in a 17-game stretch — a feat previously accomplished by only Sammy Sosa in 1998 and Barry Bonds in 2001.
Not the guy the D.C. area has fallen in love with and taken to describing in Ruthian terms. Sound familiar?
Not the guy the Cubs decided wasn’t an All-Star-caliber player, but, you know, is.
Alas, Schwarber strained his right hamstring badly enough that he was unable to cap his first All-Star experience with an appearance in the game Tuesday night.
“It definitely does stink,” he said, “just because it’s your first one, and it’s really exciting to see that people around you see the work that you put in. But it is what it is. I’m just here to take in the experience, be around the best in the game and just kind of watch and listen and see what these guys do.”
On a one-year, $10 million contract with the Nationals, Schwarber is setting himself up for the kind of payday the Cubs wanted no part of. Should they have dug a little deeper under the company mattress to re-sign their left fielder after the 2020 season? It’s probably a pointless question. The Cubs don’t seem to have much appetite for ponying up these days.
Would it hurt Schwarber to see what’s left of the Cubs’ World Series core — namely Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez — pulled apart?
“Yeah, man, it kind of would,” he said. “But you know what? I don’t even worry about the guys. I know that the fans will be hurt, probably, but this is the business side of baseball. I got a taste of the business side of baseball, too. But the guys, who are my friends, they’re going to be just fine. They’re going to be great baseball players wherever they go, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
For the most part, Schwarber has moved on.
“I love where I’m at,” he said. “I love it. This has been one heck of a time.”
The Nationals have been dealt an overload of injuries — NL All-Star starting pitcher Max Scherzer says there’s an “injury rat” sneaking around the clubhouse — and staggered into the break in a 2-9 stretch. But at 42-47 and only six games out in a winnable East Division, their hopes remain higher than the ones that may or may not exist at Wrigley Field.
Schwarber thinks his team has a legit shot at the playoffs. Sure, part of him wishes he were still a Cub and feeling the very same way.
“Now being a viewer from the outside in, I guess, there was a special group of baseball players there,” he said. “The talent was unbelievable. And we did something really cool in 2016, and we wanted to do more.”
Whether or not one World Series was enough, one World Series was what that group got.
“It wasn’t like we were satisfied we won the World Series,” Schwarber said. “We wanted to keep going. . . .
“But those guys there? The guys the Cubs might not keep? They did really good, special things in Chicago and made Chicago baseball a hot commodity. I think people get caught up in ‘we should’ve won more World Series.’ Look at the Dodgers: They just won their first one. These guys did special things in Chicago, and it was damn fun for me to be a part of it.”