Wilson Contreras was the discuss of major-league baseball Monday as he returned to Wrigley Area with the St. Louis Cardinals.
However as a substitute of returning because the conquering hero who obtained the long-term deal he craved, Contreras was already the topic of commerce discuss on MLB Community, which spent a part of the morning speculating the place the previous Chicago Cubs catcher would go solely 5 weeks into the primary season of his five-year, $87.5 million contract.
Cubs followers gave Contreras a heat welcome Monday earlier than the Cardinals’ 3-1 victory, although the marquee at Murphy’s Bleachers threw a bit of shade on him:
“Hey Willson, How are issues goin’ in St. Louis?”
Everybody knew, in fact.
The choice by Cardinals administration to take the catcher’s glove away from Contreras in the interim and make him a delegated hitter and left fielder was broadly seen as a sign they already had soured on the veteran.
Cardinals supervisor Oli Marmol stated that isn’t the case and the choice was being “proactive” as a substitute of reactive.
They knew how folks would react to the information, which got here with the Cardinals off to an abysmal begin and the pitching workers placing up numbers one would possibly anticipate from an enlargement workforce.
“I truthfully really feel like we might’ve probably ended up in a worse scenario long run than what we’re experiencing right this moment,” Marmol stated. “That is simply noise. This goes away.”
That’s wishful pondering, however while you’re 11-24 you need to dream huge.
The Cubs in all probability ought to’ve put in a psychiatrist’s sofa within the visiting supervisor’s workplace for Marmol, who tried his finest to clarify his emotions of affection for Contreras with out explaining the explanation he doesn’t need him catching his pitchers.
Marmol on Sunday referred to as collectively Contreras and starters Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty to speak in regards to the determination and let Contreras know they nonetheless believed in his catching potential. He referred to as it a “big step” in making Contreras really feel beloved and appreciated.
“On the finish of the day, optically, persons are going to run in a variety of totally different instructions with it,” Marmol stated, including they really feel “fairly rattling good” in regards to the outcomes.
Wainwright stated they “poured into” Contreras that they “love this man, we’re glad he’s right here, we wish him to be our man” for the lengthy haul.
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“Nobody has given up hope on Willie,” he stated. “That was the principle message that we needed to share with him, and I feel he took it nicely. Actually, I don’t know if anybody has ever advised him that.”
Properly, Joe Maddon actually did when he managed the Cubs, serving to Contreras mature from an emotional hothead to a three-time All-Star who was instrumental of their 2016 championship. Their relationship was so robust, some gamers referred to Maddon as “Willson’s dad.”
Whether or not this methodology works received’t be recognized till Contreras returns behind the plate, each time that could be. As his penance, Contreras has to take a seat or stand subsequent to Marmol throughout video games and observe issues. That feels like a timeout for speaking out loud in school.
So it’s not Contreras’ fault, Marmol reiterated. However they simply felt one thing needed to be executed, they usually determined to do it now whereas letting him understand it’s non permanent.
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“The timing of it sucks, the place we’re at,” Marmol stated. “Nevertheless it’s a small blip within the story over the subsequent 5 years in the event you simply consider a three-week mark in April, or a two-week mark in Could, or no matter month we’re in. Thank God it’s not April.
“On the finish of the day, he wanted to listen to from some significant guys that: ‘You’re our man. We love you. We belief you. And the one means we get to the place we wish to get to is with you serving to us behind the plate. And right here’s how we’re going to do this.’”
The optics of the choice couldn’t be worse.
Former Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter texted Wainwright asking “what on the earth” was happening.
Wainwright responded: “Simply calm down. It’s going to be a pair days.”
Cubs administration spent two years refusing to increase Contreras’ contract regardless of his stable efficiency on the sphere and the unconditional love of Cubs followers. President Jed Hoyer by no means had a nasty factor to say about Contreras however clearly didn’t really feel he was worthy of an extension for causes Hoyer by no means defined.
The Cardinals jumped on the likelihood to signal Contreras to exchange franchise legend Yadier Molina, however then they put him in a timeout, catching-wise, making it seem like purchaser’s regret.
“When you consider the funding over the subsequent 5 years, I really feel actually good about what we’ve in place,” Marmol stated. “It might not make sense to many individuals in the meanwhile. I promise you it’ll.”
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Changing Molina by no means was going to be simple, however the collapse of the Cardinals workers on Contreras’ watch couldn’t be ignored.
“Yadi’s presence right here has been documented, and he’s actually exhausting to exchange,” Wainwright stated. “Nevertheless it actually doesn’t converse to being 14 video games beneath .500 going into (Sunday). Yadi is the best catcher that ever lived for my part, however does he make us go from 10 over to 14 video games beneath? That’s on us.”
Wainwright, who returned from a groin damage Saturday to make his first begin, stated this yr’s workforce is basically the identical as final yr’s, although he additionally identified that he and different pitchers have been on the World Baseball Basic as a substitute of getting acclimated with Contreras in spring coaching.
“This month is an ideal storm of badness for this workforce,” he stated. “We didn’t lose all these video games due to one participant. We misplaced a variety of video games for a distinct purpose seemingly on daily basis.”
Cardinals followers haven’t needed to take care of this type of begin since 1973, once they went 8-23 earlier than rebounding to complete 81-81 and one recreation out of first within the mediocre Nationwide League East. Marmol and the teaching workers have gotten a variety of warmth from the self-described “world’s biggest followers.”
“We didn’t make it simple,” Wainwright stated. “The historical past there speaks to profitable baseball video games, they usually’re not used to (this). … I don’t know if we’ve been 10 video games again the whole time I’ve been right here.”
Cubs followers know that feeling, however watching their rivals undergo this was a sense of schadenfreude they appeared to get pleasure from.