MILWAUKEE – The Kris Bryant debate would be a lot more fun if the Cubs had any sense of urgency.
Bryant isn’t going to singled-handedly fix an offense that went 22 innings between runs this week. Or help Travis Wood when the All-Star lefty can’t finish the third inning, getting smoked in Friday’s 11-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Or restructure a business operations department hoping to someday flex big-market muscles again.
Plus, Bryant still has to go to the Manny Ramirez finishing school at Triple-A Iowa.
It hasn’t even been a full calendar year since the Cubs drafted Bryant No. 2 overall out of the University of San Diego. But already the polished, powerful third baseman has Cubs fans and Chicago reporters looking at their watches wondering: When’s Bryant getting to Wrigley Field?
The Cubs are in no rush to start the meter for Bryant’s arbitration/free-agency years, but he’s also done exactly what they asked: Dominate.
Bryant leads the Southern League in the Triple Crown categories, hitting .347 with 17 homers and 46 RBI at Double-A Tennessee, living up to all the hype.
“With all due respect to everyone who’s looking at these young men and their numbers,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s actually doing very, very well and we’re happy that he’s doing very, very well. I’ll say this: Even when you get to the big leagues, you always have some room to learn.
“That he wouldn’t have anything else to learn in Double-A? I guess that could be debated. But we’re glad he’s doing well. I think when, as an organization, everybody’s comfortable with where he’s at, I think then the organization will make a decision as to how he will progress.”
Renteria responded to a question that mentioned CSN Cubs analyst Todd Hollandsworth, who on-air wondered how much Bryant and Javier Baez are really learning in the minors. The National League’s 1996 Rookie of the Year put it this way: The sooner they start learning at the big-league level, the better.
This could have set off someone like Lou Piniella, who fired back at the criticism of how he handled young players before a crosstown game in 2010:
“Steve Stone, he’s got enough problems doing what he does with the White Sox. What job has he had in baseball, besides talking on television or radio? What has he done? Why isn’t he a farm director?”
Clearly, Renteria isn’t wired that way. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have gotten this job.
Bryant also has 62 strikeouts in 193 at-bats, there are long-term questions about whether he’ll stick at third base and anything less than franchise savior will be considered a disappointment. But, whatever, anything to deflect attention from a 19-33 team that’s 12.5 games behind the first-place Brewers.
“When the organization as a whole feels comfortable with the actions that we should take,” Renteria said, “then we will be the ones that make those decisions.”