The quiet confidence of Kris Bryant, the stoic Addison Russell, the flashy Javy Baez, the always smiling Dexter Fowler. The Cubs have a ton of personality on the roster that comes in many different forms. While Anthony Rizzo is surely the leader of this club and has shown immense passion from time to time (just ask Aroldis Chapman), the Cubs haven’t really had the type of guy that other teams love to hate. The guy who always finds himself in the middle of things, who always wears his emotions on his sleeve and the guy that fans of other teams absolutely despise. The Reds have Brandon Phillips. The Pirates have Sean Rodriguez. The Cardinals have Yadier Molina. The Cubs have Willson Contreras.
Only with the team for a couple of months, we all know about the baseball skills of Willson Contreras. Through 41 games, Contreras has a .283 tAV and has amassed 1.2 WARP. However, it’s the passion he plays with and the fun he has on the field that has endeared himself to Cubs fans already. I’m here to highlight some of my favorite Willson-isms.
The Fun Side
On August 1st, Willson Contreras threw an innocent back pick to first behind Marlins speedster Dee Gordon. Gordon responded with a light-hearted finger wag in Contreras’ direction.
Heh. Here was Dee Gordon's finger wag and fun before Contreras threw him out. pic.twitter.com/0cptKAQJx1
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) August 2, 2016
On the very next pitch, Gordon took off and Contreras nailed him with a perfect strike to second. Naturally Contreras responded with a Mutumbo of his own. Take notice MLB, you don’t run on Willson Contreras.
The Mutombo finger wag, classic. pic.twitter.com/f5iQTSmgYi
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) August 2, 2016
The Intense Side
Maybe there’s something in the water when the Cubs play Miami or maybe Willson is just a little crazy, but when you’ve been in the league for less than two weeks and are facing Jose Fernandez, the expected reaction would fear and/or nervousness. Contreras had other thoughts going through his head when he faced Fernandez. After fouling a pitch straight back to the screen, Contreras wanted to make sure to let Jose know that he was right on him and did so with a long stare and a little tongue wag. Fernandez flashed a smile back and the battle continued (Contreras eventually struck out).
— FullCountTommy (@FullCountTommy) August 8, 2016
The Fiery Side
While his experience is limited, the league already knows about the passion that Contreras plays with. The Atlanta Braves got to see that first-hand when Contreras ripped a triple to center in the bottom of the 8th inning to take a 3-2 lead. When he got to third base, he let everyone in Chicago know just how pumped he was with a couple pounds to the chest. It was the most pumped up I’ve seen a Cub all season and this is the type of fire that can really set the tone for a team.
The “Doesn’t Take Any Crap” Side
The next inning after Contreras’ go-ahead triple against the Braves, Willson showed that he’s not going to back down from anybody, even respected veterans like Jeff Francoeur. After an inside pitch from Hector Rondon, Francoeur gave Contreras a look back as if to day “Really, dude?” Contreras was having absolutely none of it. The two exchanged words and the benches eventually cleared. While I’m not a fan of the fake tough guy stuff that we often see when MLB benches clear, it is certainly something that players in the league respect. In fact, many believe that the day that Anthony Rizzo truly took over as a leader of this Cubs team is when he single-handedly charged towards the Reds dugout a couple years back. While Willson isn’t taking that title from Rizzo, he absolutely refuses to back down and that moment surely earned him quite a bit of respect from everyone in the Cubs dugout. When asked about it, Contreras had this to say, “I just care about my team. And I’m trying to protect my pitcher.” That is how you get a pitching staff to fall in love with you very quickly.
The “Ouch, That Hurt” Side
Catchers take an absolute beating behind the plate. They are constantly taking balls off the mask, the shoulder, the leg, the hand and anywhere else you can think of. On June 28th in Cincinnati, Contreras took a ball off the one place that nobody wants to. He let everyone in attendance and watching on television know just how much pain he was in by doing a little dance. Unfortunately after that blow I don’t think he was making a little love or getting down tonight. Take notice of how Contreras is probably the only one in the stadium who isn’t laughing, and that includes his teammates. Not cool, Eric Hinske.
Willson Contreras continues to be one of the most exciting Cubs players to watch. His immense talent combined with his fun antics on the field make him must-see-tv every time he is on the field. His great talents even show up in his tweeting ability, though he is a bit of a two-trick pony when it comes to the emoji use.
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports.