I don’t know if Wil Myers truly thought he could make a play at the wall or if it was a symptom of tryharditis, but his ill-fated leap Monday afternoon left him soaked in more than eyewash. Myers was tracking Kris Bryant‘s homer and had positioned himself against the ivy, right beneath a cascade of barley soda that erupted when a fan tried to catch the ball in his beer.
Maybe the Padres right fielder should have known a ball can’t actually come down through the basket, or perhaps he had mistakenly bought into the foolishness that Bryant can’t do damage going oppo. Either way, Myers ended up with a beer bath that probably left him smelling a little funky by the end of the game.
Still, that jersey probably wasn’t as nasty as the crow being eaten across Cubdom and elsewhere by those who believed Bryant was washed up. Some even said he was a bad player. The 2016 MVP is currently fourth in baseball with 2.7 fWAR and he’s done it while starting at least five games at five different positions. Bryant’s versatility has allowed the Cubs to cover up injuries to several different everyday players and backups, making his contributions even more valuable.
Kris Bryant's 2021 pace:
A start at every position on the field (kidding but only sorta)
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) May 31, 2021
That seems like the kind of player you’d want to keep as the cornerstone of your major-market franchise, not someone you trade at the deadline for pennies on the dollar in the hope that you can get back a fraction of his value 3-4 years down the road. If Bryant and the Cubs keep playing the way they are, ownership might actually see things the same way.
A lot of people think paying Bryant big bucks on a long-term extension goes against the spendthrift ways that have seen the Ricketts family cutting payroll and shying away from big deals lately, but that’s not necessarily the case. Not entirely, anyway. While it’s been clear over the past three seasons that ownership actively sought to pare the baseball budget, the results of so few extensions and long free-agent deals is that the Cubs have next to nothing committed to future seasons.
They also have a boatload of debt, which is where the contradiction comes in. The Ricketts family needs cash to service that debt, but having a competitive team with exciting players surely generates more of a surplus than going cheap and relying on the Wrigley mystique — plus federal tax credits — to carry the day. That’s more than just Bryant, of course, it’s Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras. Maybe they can’t all stay, but the decided lack of effort to keep any of them would be incredibly harmful.
This season is very different because we’d all been forced away from the ballpark for so long and the Cubs have been playing great in May. What happens, though, once the shiny novelty develops a patina and the product on the field is lacking? Do you really think an extra $20-50 million in payroll savings will cover the losses from a few hundred thousand fewer fans over the course of a season?
Remember, this is a team charging premium prices for an experience that, for most of the last seven years, has included a playoff contender. Asking season ticket holders and corporate sponsors to stick around through another rebuild might not be easy or fruitful. One could even say the efforts to do so would be just about as genuine and effective as Myers’ play at the wall.
But hey, enough of my proactive (and protracted) criticism, let’s get back to enjoying what Bryant and the Cubs are doing while we still can. For as much as I don’t trust ownership to do the right thing here, I am still holding out hope for an extension or three. At the very least, I appreciate the hell out of these players turning a teardown from a foregone conclusion into what right now looks like a grievous mistake.