There was a baseball game on Chicago’s Northside last night. I did not see it. I haven’t looked at any of them. But Twitter tends to tell me if anything important happened at the Cubs. I can’t say I’m uninformed. I just don’t have to watch Marquee Network’s high school AV club level production to get it.
But I couldn’t help but smile at Willson Contreras, who hit his 100th career home run. It’s not a huge number or anything, accumulated over six seasons and changes. Whether your Cubs fandom has gone into the past tense or not, it’s hard not to love Willson. He hit in his first career as an at-bat and pretty much took over the catching job for the eventual champions in that moment. Somehow that gets lost in the narrative that the Cubs themselves keep pushing for David Ross, the third catcher on that team who couldn’t bang a cop’s ass with a banjo this year, perhaps to seal his increasingly empty managerial career justify.
And pretty much from that moment, ever since he hit a homer on his debut, Contreras has been the heartbeat of the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo got all the fan attention as the team’s “leader,” though it was becoming increasingly apparent that Rizzo enjoyed directing the commercials and being the subject of every social media meme he could find, when actually it was Contreras Hold teammates accountable. Of course, once Ross took charge, he would punish Contreras for it while letting his drinking buddy Rizzo make five outs a week on the bases.
But Contreras’ emotions were contagious, and his energy kept the Cubs going in the years after the World Series. He’s also worked tirelessly on his design, which used to be terrible and is now pretty good. Combined with the howitzer on his right shoulder, he was pretty much everything you could want in a catcher and lynchpin of a team.
A milestone, however humble a 100th homer might be, should be a time to reflect and celebrate what Contreras has meant to the Cubs and their fans, and give thanks, appreciation and joy for years to come.
But of course Contreras are set to go free after the season and would certainly happily pay a little more than Fishheads and will be leaving soon. And after the game, that’s basically all he was asked about:
This garbage possession has now turned everything into a swan song. Anyone who bothers to turn up or watch (and 31,000 attended last night’s game, which is at least 20,000 more than this team deserves) must do so with the knowledge that it will be the “last time” for something could. And for a year and a half, for no other reason than that the Ricketts family had to save some money, for example to ensure that the Victims of rape and incest are forced to give birth.
The Cubs aren’t the only ones causing fans to have separation anxiety just to save money they’ll never realize, but they’ve been the most naked. Cubs fans use a list of teenagers as their Krusty Is Coming security blanket. But why would anyone think that if a combination of the prospects the Cubs have earned for the actual Major Leaguers they once had make it to the big club and actually produce, they’ll get paid too? We will repeat this cycle again. And not every conversion is a guarantee of success. How is it go to Kansas City?
I fired the Cubs so I wouldn’t have to go through this on a daily basis, but there’s no escaping it entirely. I see the highlights, read the quotes, and still feel that little pang of knowing that in a month or two, Willson will be wearing a different uniform. That’s now being demanded by Cubs fans and others. Pretending for even one night that things are as they should be, that Willson hits a grand slam on the first beautiful night of spring feels right. But too many of us can’t brush it aside and see straight through the facade. I wish more would do it as crooks like the Ricketts clan have been outed as buyers of the Cubs for exactly that reason that fans will jump off that cliff religiously like lemmings. You know the tickets are still on sale.
However, there are some of us who take every moment like this as yet another indictment. I’m sure there are groups in other cities who are wondering what they should be doing at all.