From college star to world champion, Kris Bryant's MVP continues storybook career
Rookie of the Year, world champion and now MVP -- Bryant's done it all in two seasons
A phrase that has become a gigantic pet peeve of mine is "You can't make this stuff up!" I mean, has anyone ever heard of fiction? There are movies about aliens joining up with humans to fight against people who use the "dark side" of "the force." There are TV shows about zombies walking around. Every single thing that happens in reality could have easily been scripted.
In the case of Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, the beginning of his career could have been scripted, but many might have found it unrealistic. If nothing else, it's been just about as perfect as could be imagined.
Let's go back to the beginning of the 2013 college baseball season when Bryant was playing for the University of San Diego. What if someone told the Bryant family the following would happen?
2013 - Bryant wins the Golden Spikes Award for the top player in college baseball. He's drafted second overall by the Chicago Cubs and signs a deal worth almost $7 million.
2014 - Bryant gets all the way to Triple-A, combining to hit 43 homers in 138 games with a .325/.438/.661 line in Double-A and Triple-A combined. He wins Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year Award.
2015 - Bryant hits .275/.369/.488 with 26 homers and 99 RBI. He's an All-Star, helps the Cubs to the postseason for the first time since 2008 and the NLCS for the first time since 2003. He wins the NL Rookie of the Year unanimously and finishes 11th in MVP voting.
2016 - Bryant hits .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers and 102 RBI. He's again an All-Star, this time a starter. He's the best player on the first Cubs team to win the World Series since 1908. And he wins the NL MVP in overwhelming fashion, getting 29 of the 30 first-place votes.
Golden Spikes, MiLB Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and MVP in four straight years -- with a World Series championship for the Cubs on top of all that.
Holy smokes, that is outrageous. Even in his innermost, over-the-top confident place, Bryant surely wouldn't have believed all that would happen if you told him of it back in 2013, but here we are.
Bryant joins Cal Ripken (1982-83), Ryan Howard (2005-06) and Dustin Pedroia (2007-08) as the only players to win the Rookie of the Year and then the MVP consecutively. Pedroia was a member of a World Series champion in 2007 and Ripken was in 1983.
Neither, however, had a Golden Spikes or MiLB Player of the Year award. I'm not sure that should be a huge separation point -- as Ripken didn't even go to college -- but neither won the faux-curse-breaking World Series that broke a 108-year drought. Buster Posey's ROY and MVP years with two rings were separated a season that ended early with a broken leg. Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season, but didn't win the World Series within their first two years.
So herein is an argument that what Bryant's accomplished here in these last two -- or even four -- years is unprecedented.
Entering his age-25 season, Bryant is on a Hall of Fame track. Obviously, things could change. It's only two years and no one has ever made it on the strength of two years. We saw Tony Conigliaro's career ruined by a pitch to the face. Andruw Jones was an obvious Hall of Famer through 10 years until he let himself go and fell way outta shape. Bob Horner (91 career HR before he turned 23) flamed out by age 30.
Of course, none of those guys had a resume through age 24 that Bryant does.
As I've said to people regarding Mike Trout for years, if you are tired of hearing about Kris Bryant, you're in for a long decade-plus of baseball fandom. In all likelihood, we're only seeing the beginning of a Hall of Fame career. As noted above, it could derail. My bet is it doesn't. The first few chapters of his storybook career will likely continue into a full novel of greatness.
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