For large stretches of this disappointing season for the Colorado Rockies, it was easy to forget that Kris Bryant was even on the team.
Of course, he was the biggest offseason acquisition for the club, signing a 7-year, $182 million contract not long after the lockout was finally and mercifully ended.
It was a divisive move both nationally and locally.
Some said it made no sense for a team that just shipped out Nolan Arenado and failed to retain Trevor Story and Jon Gray.
Some said that the team should be entering into a rebuild, something they’ve always been opposed to.
Some were also quick to question the length and size of the deal, adding addendums about Bryant’s age and injury history.
Suffice it to say, there were a lot of questions.
As the belated season drew close, though, some intrigue began to grow as GM Bill Schmidt added a few more bats to a lineup that suddenly looked like it might be able to do some damage around Bryant.
And at first, it seemed like the intended results would be achieved.
The offense in general got off to a very nice start and Bryant was hitting well but there was that one big missing part of the resume.
Over his first 15 games, he hit .281/.339/.351, consistently contributing to the offense, especially in the on-base department, but he hadn’t hit a single home run and had produced just four doubles.
Then came the back issues.
What was supposed to be a week off turned into a month off before he played in just two games in late May, picking up a hit and a pair of walks, before heading back to the IL. For more than a month.
During the end of May and through most of June, the whispers and speculations and updates were all nothing short of frustrating. Back pain is a tricky monster for a ballplayer, and also for the fans and the media trying to follow along with what happens next.
After several delays, though, the slugger who hadn’t been slugging (or playing) finally got back on the field on June 27 and has played in the 10 games since.
And he’s actually looking like himself. Or, at least, the version of himself that management had in mind when they brought him to town.
A slash line of .350/.395/.650 is a lot more like it for the boys in purple but even so he still came into the current road trip searching for his first home run.
Well, he’s now broken that seal as well, hitting his first dinger as a Rockie July 5th in Los Angeles.
That’s much later into the season than most people would have predicted but was also just his 24th game of the year.
Three games later in Arizona, he went yard twice, carrying the Rockies to a one-run victory.
He began the next game with another and just like that he had four round trippers in five games.
Out in the desert he may just have reminded the baseball world that he has been one of the best and most consistent hitters in baseball for years and doesn’t intend to stop anytime soon.
He’s got a long way to go yet to endear himself to the most die-hard of fans, especially those who will forever hold him responsible for the circumstances under which he arrived. But it’s also now quite a bit of a stretch to say that Bryant has been disappointing beyond the injuries.
“The best ability is availability,” as the saying goes. That’s the big hurdle. Nobody who watches this guy’s plate appearances regularly should be at all surprised that a power surge has come and may last for a while. Even without the home run ball, Bryant was contributing on offense in the vast majority of games he played.
Constant trips to the IL and promises from coaches and management will lead to a long seven years.
But enough nights like Friday in Phoenix and there will soon be a new King in Colorado baseball.