It’s no stretch to say that Willson Contreras’ tenure as a Cardinal has kicked off to a disappointing start. Acquired this offseason to perform the herculean task of replacing Yadier Molina—not just the team’s catcher since 2004, but the face of the franchise—Contreras has not lived up to the hype or his past performance.
Whereas last year, Contreras placed third on the Cubs with a solid 3.9 bWAR, he now places 10th on the Cardinals with just 0.7 bWAR nearing the All-Star break. Given the hefty price of his 5-year, $87.5 million contract, it’s already led to a number of fans (wrongly) turning against him. Contreras himself left a scathing review of his performance, laying out his frustrations in a post-game interview:
Given Contreras’ eagerness to join the Cardinals this season, his commitment to the team, and his fierce competitiveness, seeing him struggle to the point of losing his confidence is nothing short of devastating.
Since becoming a Cardinal, Contreras has done everything he could to show his appreciation and reverence for the Cardinals—the fans, the players, the club, and the team’s extensive history:
“No one could ever replace Yadier Molina,” Contreras wrote for The Players’ Tribune, “…but I do want to say that one of the biggest reasons why I’m so excited to be joining the [Cardinals] is because it’s going to be a huge honor to try to carry on the tradition of excellence that Yadi established during his 19-year career in the big leagues…This is truly going to be one of the great honors of my entire life.”
Actions speak louder than words, however, and Contreras delivered—paying homage to his hero with a classy pair of “Respect4” cleats for Opening Day.
This is all coming from a guy who not only played for the Cubs last season but grew up in their system.
Not only has Contreras wholeheartedly adopted the Cardinals as his new team, but he’s completely embraced the St. Louis-Chicago rivalry. In just his first game back at Wrigley Field, he begged his former fans to shower him in “boos.” Contreras is a Cardinal, through and through.
Despite his struggles and waning confidence, Contreras has showcased incredible persistence and his commitment to contributing to the team. Just two games ago, he put up a solid 3-4, 2 RBI game to help the team record their second straight series win. I sincerely think, given enough time, Contreras will revert to his old form. He’s a generational talent.
Despite the team’s struggles, he’s fighting hard, because he’s made it clear that St. Louis, the Cardinals, and their fans are worth fighting for. Instead of all of the hate and doubts he’s received, I think it’s time that he starts receiving some of the love he’s graciously dished out.
He’s showcased his appreciation for Cardinals fans, and I think a great way to show some appreciation back is through a hearty standing ovation on his return to Busch next Tuesday. It would be an excellent confidence booster—exactly what he needs to get back on track and help this team get back to their winning ways.