By: Alex Patt
The Cubs 9-2 start to the second half is is attributed to contributions by a number of the team’s players both on the field, at bat and on the mound. One of those players getting a lot of attention is Willson Contreras. The 25-year old backstop has been playing in the 4 spot in the lineup and has been an everyday player since the departure of veteran Miguel Montero. He has emerged as not only one of the more productive Cubs, he has emerged as a team leader.
Contreras since the first game in Baltimore (after the All Star break) is batting .341 (seven XBH) with five home runs and 15 batted in. He is now slashing .273/.336/.835 with 16 homers at the plate and has a 31% caught stealing behind the plate all adding up to a 2.6 bWAR. Since the break he has played in every game but one and has hit in every game he has played in but two. There is no doubt that the Cubs would NOT be 9-2 sine the break without him.
Contreras has shown a lot of fire and emotion on the field. Getting pumped up when his pitchers record a big out or gunning down a runner, kissing the flags of his native Venezuela on his arms when getting on base and showing frustration when he does not get a desired result on the field. His energy has evidently rubbed off on the players and they seem to feel better as they play better. He was the one saying, “I think we are back!” after the sweep in Baltimore. In interviews with David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune, he expressed that his play is, “Not about me, it’s about the team.” an OF Jason Heyward calls his energy “huge” for the club. Him being a team player and one who constantly tributes his playing abilities to his home county is the kind of unselfish presence you want in a clubhouse.
In addition to his on-field contributions, it was incredibly touching to see him on Tuesday surprise Daniel Rodriguez a 10-year old with Down Syndrome with some birthday gifts. These gifts included a Contreras jersey, helmet and a great friendship. Contreras said this his young friend means the world to him and there were no dry eyes around him when that gesture was made. The example of leadership and sportsmanship makes Willson Contreras a guy who deserves due credit and truly makes him a leader on the team.
The team is young and so is he, which is a great way to continue to bond and rejuvenate their clubhouse now that David Ross and Dexter Fowler are gone. Hats off to Willy.