The Rundown: Contreras Has Become Leader Young Cubs Need, Morel Providing Leadoff Spark, Big Complex League Debut by Hernández

“The road is long with many a winding turn, that leads us to who knows where (who knows where). But I’m strong – strong enough to carry him.” – The Hollies, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

Trade Willson Contreras? It seems bound to happen, but I’ll have none of it.

If you do not subscribe* to the MLB beat reporter newsletters, I highly recommend you do. In his latest edition, Jordan Bastian, who covers the Cubs for, talked about the type of guidance Contreras has provided to Christopher Morel.

Last Wednesday night, Morel was at the plate in the 10th inning of a tie game against the Brewers and he was down 0-2 with the winning run on third base. Contreras was able to get the rookie’s attention and he stepped out of the box and looked at his teammate, who closed his eyes and made an exaggerated exhaling motion. Morel understood he needed to slow things down and get back into the moment.

“It happened to me once,” Contreras said. “I rushed because I wanted to get the base hit to walk it off. And it didn’t end that way. But when I saw him swing at the first two pitches, I noticed that he was rushing. The game was speeding up on him. I kind of whistled a little bit.”

Morel took the next pitch and followed with a game-winning sacrifice fly that sent the Cubs into a euphoric celebration. We talked in the comments section last week about who deserved the credit, whether it be Heyward for his mad dash home on a short sacrifice fly or third base coach Willie Harris, who knew Christian Yelich didn’t have the arm to nail Heyward at the plate. Nick Madrigal had an important at-bat in that inning, too. The truth is that Contreras is your unsung hero.

“It was a really cool moment,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I think Willson has a lot of that in his personality to help these guys out. And you see, when they do well, just the love in the dugout that they have for each other and the support they have for each other. That stuff’s contagious.”

Morel has reached base in every game since the Cubs called him up from Iowa, has outperformed projections at every level, has given the team a spark at leadoff, and his versatility guarantees he has a future with Chicago’s North Side baseballers. His camaraderie with Contreras is almost legendary after three weeks and it appears Morel will follow him into battle as brothers in arms without fail.

“Everything,” Morel said in Spanish when asked what Contreras has meant to him during this transition, according to team interpreter/media relations staffer Will Nadal. “What the cameras have captured is just a brief snapshot of everything that Willson does for me.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Contreras said. “I’m here to pick everybody up, to pick up on every detail as much as I can. I’m not going to be able to pick up every detail, every game, but those little things matter to me.”

The going rate for catchers is not overly exorbitant and you cannot put a price on that type of leadership. Unless, of course, that is all you are willing to credit Heyward with since he signed his albatross deal back in December 2015. A four-year, $64 million post-arbitration extension would probably keep Contreras in Chicago.

* To subscribe to Bastian’s newsletter, visit this page and mark “Cubs Beat” from the list. Make sure you’re following the Cubs on the site or that they’re checked as your favorite team.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Alex Lange is proof that the Cubs always knew how to draft pitchers, but struggled with developing them. Paul Blackburn of the A’s is another. Watching two former first-round picks find success with other teams is a bitter pill to swallow.

Climbing the Ladder

“‘Cause I’m the one who’s gonna show when there’s nobody.” – The Black Keys, I’ll Be Your Man

  • Morel has base hits in 18 of the 20 games he’s played with nine extra-base hits, 11 walks, and six stolen bases. If that reminds you of Dexter Fowler with a Ben Zobrist-like versatility welcome to the club. That’s exactly what you want from a leadoff hitter. Cubs fans have longed for Whit Merrifield for years. Though 20 games is a small sample size, Morel offers the same type of positional flexibility with high energy and a still-developing hit tool.
  • Since Schwindel hit rock bottom on May 10, he is batting .280 with six home runs and 22 RBI.
  • Though Ross moves players around quite a bit, catchers Wilson, Yan Gomes, and P.J. Higgins have combined to hit .266 with 13 homers and 36 RBI.

How About That!

Players like Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo are excited that rules regarding defensive shifting are going to change next season.

St. Louis might be a boring city, but Bleacher Report writer Zachary D. Rymer posits that Nolan Gorman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado make the Cardinals the most exciting team in baseball.

I promise I’m not trying to spoil your breakfast today, but Budweiser intends to celebrate the career-long bond between Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina with an advertisement in honor of “Best Friends Day.”

The president of Tampa Pride slammed Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson for choosing not to comply with the team’s request that players celebrate the LGBTQ+ community over the weekend, and that the pitchers were “hiding behind religion.” I was disappointed in the players but I don’t think shaming them is the right path to tolerance.

Have you heard of MLB Rule 4.03(c)(4)? Most people hadn’t until it was enforced over the weekend.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Hunter Greene – Cincinnati’s rookie hurler one-hit the Diamondbacks in a rain-shortened 7-0 win by the Reds, retiring 20 straight with eight strikeouts.
  2. Eduardo Escobar – On a 4-for-5 night, the Mets’ third baseman hit for the cycle and plated six runners.
  3. Michael Wacha – The Red Sox righty tossed a complete game shutout at the slumping Angels, striking out six in his 105-pitch effort. Los Angeles has lost 12 straight games.

Extra Innings

Cristian Hernández hit an oppo taco in his first Complex League at-bat, which should evoke a smile or two from Cubs fans.

Tuesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Developer Day is like MLB Opening Day for fans of technology, and Apple’s techs did not disappoint.
  2. Russia is peddling stolen Ukrainian grain, and the US is warning starving African nations not to buy any of it. What a wonderful world we live in.
  3. Not-so-shockingly, crypto scams are apparently real, and not everybody who works in that space is on the up and up.
  4. The Carolina Panthers have hired Justine Lindsay, and she is the NFL’s first transgender cheerleader.
  5. LeBron James is calling for Russia to release captive NBA star Brittney Griner and to do it “quickly and safely.”
  6. After working from home full-time or in a hybrid role, most U.S, workers are reluctant to go back to the office.

They Said It

  • “[Contreras] is always there for me. Outside of the cameras, and outside of the game, he does so much inside of the ballpark, outside of the ballpark. He treats me like a friend. He treats me like family. I’m really grateful to him, and for everything that he’s doing that doesn’t show up on the cameras to help me out.” – Morel
  • “The thing about Morel is just the way he gets on base, the way he looks in the dugout, the way he claps, the energy he brings. His love for the game is contagious, and I think a lot of guys just feed off that, for sure. He’s a real baseball player. You tell him something, he’s able to put it into action really fast, whether it’s defensively or on the bases. He’s learning really fast.” – Ross

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

I Will Possess Your Heart by Death Cab for Cutie – It seems we are all commonly united behind the success of Chicago’s rookies and prospects, and I’m here for every step of their journey.

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