Kris Bryant stands 6 feet 5 inches tall and tips the scales at around 215 ell-bees. In other words, he's what the kids might call a grown-ass man. But that doesn't stop nearly all of Cub-dom from reacting to his various exploits like a doting new parent observing their firstborn child.
I'm not sure whether my childless readers can grasp this, but I'm sure the parents out there know what I'm getting at. When you're a first-time parent, each sound or movement from your baby is reason for either celebration or worry. Are they breathing? Is the bottle warm enough? Is it too hot in the room?
The Cubs have called up prospects in the past of course, but Bryant is tracking to really being the first of the products of the new regime upon whom fans have heaped their expectations. Javier Baez clearly has a lot of hype as well, but he's more like a nephew or something, given that came from the Hendry regime.
So Kris Bryant has been viewed as this bouncing bundle of joy, triggering overreaction with each swing, both the ones that connect and the ones that (quite often) don't. Can he handle the adjustment? Should we worry that his first initial is showing up too often in the box score? Can he handle third base beyond AA?
Sure, most have taken a more measured and realistic approach to Bryant's development; they realize that baseball is a game of large sample sizes, of long-term adjustments. But that doesn't mean the periphery isn't taking each and every plate appearance out of context.
When my daughter was a baby, I remember hardly being able to sleep for the need to check on her every few minutes. I'd tip-toe into her room and hold my ear just above her tiny body, listening to the almost-t00-soft-to-hear sound of her breathing. I'd lay my hand gently on her chest, enveloping her as I did so, just to let the rhythm of her heartbeat reassure me that everything was all right.
I think it took me at least 6 months to cut down on my obsessive check-ups. So I get the immediate, almost viral reaction to another Kris Bryant strikeout at AAA; many out there are just like I was as a young parent, checking in the future a little too often and with maybe a little too much anxiety. When Bryant went through an 0-10 stretch with 7 Ks, many fans were feeling his chest to check for a pulse.
Of course, the same is true of Bryant's successes. Each home run is further proof that he's ready to dominate the big leagues, to lead the Cubs back to relevance and to rid the ghost of Billy Sianis. Did you hear that? I think she just said "dada." Either that or she was just babbling.
I suppose it's fitting then that the young man broke out of his mini-slump by blasting 2 homers on Sunday while his actual parents looked on from the stands. He's back!
But just as a large portion of the fanbase revels and wallows in Bryant's every up and down, I've noticed another, less well-meaning segment. Social media tends, particularly the Twitterverse, tends to be heavily tinted with snark, but I couldn't help but notice a little bit of "I-told-you-so" when it came to the reports of Bryant's "slump."
I'm still not sure what to make of that, whether it's a real thing or simply a case of my continued inability to discern the sarcasm font in those 140 characters or less. But as I've pointed out before, there does appear to a be a fan faction that doesn't want the team to succeed, at least not under the current direction.
It's entirely possible that, rather than actually wanting to see Bryant and the Cubs' plan fail, this segment is just opposing the overwrought narrative of Bryant's premature ascension into the pantheon of Cubs greats. And if that's a case, it's a voice that figures to grow over the coming months.
Bryant is still relatively new in his professional career and he's still got a lot of growing to do. But, more than ever, baseball is a young man's game and Kris Bryant figures to make his mark on it before too long. But in the meantime, I'd encourage all the "parents" out there to back away from the baby monitor and quit worrying about the kid for a while.
Follow me on Twitter: @DEvanAltman
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