Bryant, 29, spoke to Red Line Radio, a Barstool podcast, and was asked if there was joy for him on the field.
“At times, no,” Bryant responded. “It really got to me sometimes. The stuff I was hearing. The first trade rumors [in 2018] that started to pop up really got to me. I find myself [thinking], ‘Man, is this even fun anymore? Why did I start playing this game?’ Because it was fun.
“There’s a lot of other stuff involved. You make a ton of money and fame and all this. You have to get yourself back to why I started playing.”
Bryant is set to become a free agent after next season after settling on a contract with the Cubs for $19.5 million for 2021. He’s been the subject of trade rumors, as he and the team haven’t been able to come to an agreement on a longer-term deal. He’s also heard criticism of his play, perhaps for the first time in his career. That prompted the 2016 NL MVP to sound off at the end of the 2020 season.
“I don’t give a s—,” Bryant said at the time. “I really don’t. That’s a good answer. I’m over it. Sometimes I go out there and go 4-for-4 and it’s not good enough for some people, so I don’t give a s—.”
Bryant hit just .203 last season but battled injuries and was hardly the only Cub who struggled in 2020. He’s had some nagging ailments for a couple of years, which might have helped prevent him from returning to his MVP form.
Bryant, 29, is the only player in baseball history to win college player of the year, minor league player of the year, Rookie of the Year and MVP in four consecutive seasons (2013-16). But the last few years have been a struggle as he’s become somewhat of a poster boy — fairly or unfairly — for the Cubs’ offensive struggles, especially in the postseason.
On the podcast, Bryant recalled the joy of his dad picking him up before he reached home plate after he hit his first home run as a kid. The six-year veteran wants to find that happiness in the game again, though he indicated there are more important things going on in the world right now.
“I found myself sitting there, ‘I don’t have that joy right now,'” he said. “I’m trying all I can to get back to that place. This year was really rough for me personally, just statwise. I still had a good time [despite COVID-19 protocols and struggles]. Making the most of a terrible situation.”