He was spectacular. Then he kind of stagnated. And then — poof — he was gone.
Outsized home runs, outsized reputation, outsized expectations.
Maybe Kyle Schwarber never had a chance to live up to the Ruthian portrait many of us painted of him.
After exploding on the Cubs scene in 2015 and making a Hollywood comeback in the 2016 World Series, Schwarber regressed. Or did he? Perhaps “settled in” is a better way to put it. He belted 94 home runs from 2017 through 2019, but he also got demoted to Class AAA Iowa, struck out a ton and lived in the lower .200s.
He was a good player — and a great teammate — but not the hitting machine we wanted him to be. Former manager Joe Maddon put it perfectly in admitting a while back that he, too, had played a role in fueling a narrative that, in the end, did Schwarber no favors.
“Maybe we should not have expected that much,” Maddon said.
Seeing Schwarber back at Wrigley Field this week in another team’s uniform, I can’t help but think he embodies the arc of these Cubs more than anyone else. He was spectacular. Then he kind of stagnated. And then — poof — he was gone.
Even after being sent down in 2017, Schwarber himself described his future in grand terms.
“I want to be one of the best in the game,” he said in the dugout in Des Moines, Iowa, the sting of his demotion still fresh. “I want to be one of the best out there. And I want to help the Cubs get back to the championship.”
The championship part didn’t happen. The “best” part hasn’t, either. Now 28, Schwarber is giving the Nationals essentially the same production he gave the Cubs. It’s not that it’s not good enough. It’s just that it isn’t great.
The way he describes his baseball dream has changed a bit.
“I’m [living] it right now, baby,” he said with a laugh before launching his sixth homer of the season in Monday’s series opener. “Playing major league baseball, you know? This is it.
“I want to be the best version of myself. I think that’s the biggest goal. I don’t want to go out there and chase other people’s numbers. I want to be the best version of myself and — whenever the end of the dream comes — [to] look in the mirror and know that you did everything possible to fulfill that dream and be happy and smile.”
That actually sounds pretty perfect. Schwarber’s time on the North Side wasn’t perfect, but when you really think about it? It was damn wonderful.
“There’s a lot of things here that made me the person I am today and the ballplayer I am today,” he said. “There’s things that you definitely keep with you. And so it’s hard to forget because this is where you came up, this is where you grew up in the big leagues, and you had the people around you that formed you into a major league player. There are special bonds that you make, and we’re all going to be specially bonded for the rest of our lives with what we did in ’16.”
Speaking of dreams, the Sky play their second game of the season Wednesday in Atlanta.
Against the Atlanta Dream, people. Come on, we should all know that name by now.
This is where I admit to being a terrible WNBA watcher, in that I’ve rarely watched it at all. Shame on me. But the Sky’s opening win Saturday against the Mystics was riveting. Why? Candace Parker, mainly. Her ball skills, at her height, are almost criminal. Her defense should be on an instructional video and taught to basketball players everywhere. Of course, there are many people who understood all this a long time ago. Good on them.
Get on board, you know? It’s never too late.
• Did you catch White Sox designated hitter Yermin Mercedes’ swinging away Monday on a 3-0 count in the ninth — his team already leading the Twins by 11 runs — and homering off position player Willians Astudillo?
Some old-schoolers didn’t like it.
Look, if you’re going to let ’er rip when the more polite thing to do would be to take a pitch, by all means leave the flippin’ yard. Of all the ways to violate baseball’s silly unwritten rules, that’s pretty much the best one.
• Albert Pujols on the Dodgers vs. Karl Malone on the Lakers:
• Stephen Curry and the Warriors against LeBron James and the Lakers is all the argument needed in favor of the NBA’s play-in tournament. It’s a keeper.
• New DePaul basketball coach Tony Stubblefield is on fire on the transfer front.
Brandon Johnson, a tough forward who more than held his own at Minnesota last season after three seasons in the MAC, is an instant frontcourt upgrade. Tyon Grant-Foster didn’t make much of an impact at Kansas, but he’s long and a leaper and did we mention the Kansas thing?
And remember the name Jalen Terry. The point guard and former Michigan Mr. Basketball — who turned down an offer from Michigan State — came off Oregon’s bench as a freshman last season and flashed serious scoring and playmaking ability.
This could get kind of fun.