Jesse RogersESPN Staff WriterClose
- Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.
Bryant, who went 2-for-2 with a home run in the Cubs’ Cactus League opener Saturday, said he felt slighted last year, when the former MVP missed a large portion of the season due to a shoulder injury and was less effective after his return.
“This game is all about, ‘What have you done for me lately,'” Bryant said. “And boy did I get to experience that last year. That’s all I have to say about that.”
But Bryant said more. A lot more.
“Definitely, a little bit,” Bryant said when asked if he heard the criticism. “But, boy, it was great. When you’re not playing, you have a whole lot of time to just sit there and either go through a Twitter rabbit hole and start seeing things about yourself, or seeing things about ‘trade him’ and this and that.
“And I’m like, ‘All right, I’m motivated. Keep ’em coming. Bring it.'”
Bryant, 27, knows he set a high standard for himself, becoming the first player to win college player of the year, minor league player of the year, rookie of the year and National League MVP in four successive seasons.
But then came the shoulder injury in 2018, limiting him to just 13 home runs in 102 games.
“You set those expectations super high and, when you don’t have a year like that, it’s kind of like, ‘What are you doing? You suck,'” Bryant said. “But at the end of the day, you probably don’t; it just wasn’t as good as it was during some of your best years.”
Bryant said it wasn’t the first time in his life that people have doubted him.
“The negative stuff always stands out more,” Bryant said. “Negativity sells. People want to read that stuff. I think that’s why I’m at where I’m at in baseball. I read one thing and it just motivates me, and it [success] just shuts that person up or proves them wrong. I’ve been doing that my whole life, so bring it on.”
The same goes for the Cubs, who also enter this season with doubters. Las Vegas oddsmakers project them to have their lowest win total in five seasons.
“We see some of these projections,” Bryant said. “They are selling us totally short. That’s not a good thing to do, because when our backs are against the wall, we turn it on. It’s going to be an exciting season.”