During Cubs catcher Willson Contreras’ first start as a major leaguer, at Wrigley Field against the Cardinals in 2016, the great Yadier Molina stepped up to the plate and made Contreras’ day.
“You look great,” the iconic St. Louis catcher told him, speaking Spanish. “Just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re going to be an All-Star someday.”
The next time the two players meet on the field, fans may be looking for signs of tension between them. This, after Contreras made the following comments to the Sun-Times — OK, to yours truly — at last weekend’s Cubs Convention, in reference to Molina and the Giants’ Buster Posey:
“I used to watch a lot of those guys, but now I’m watching myself because I know that I’m going to be better than them. That’s my plan. That’s my [mindset].”
Molina, an eight-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner, responded by posting a photo on his Instagram of Posey, the Royals’ Salvador Perez and himself at the 2015 Midsummer Classic in Cincinnati. It was captioned, in Spanish: “Respect the ranks, rookies.”
The 25-year-old Contreras later tweeted that he was simply setting personal goals using “the best players” as motivation, and that he knows he is “lacking many of experience, and only time will tell.” Cubs fans who commented clearly had his back. Molina and Posey fans, not so much.
“Soooo,” wrote @thenorky, “better than arguably the best defensive and offensive catchers of all time? Got it.”
And that was one of the nicer ones I found. Suffice it to say, Contreras stirred up plenty of Bay Area bluster and copious amounts of that lovable St. Louis sanctimony.
My message to him? I’ll borrow from Molina: Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep pounding balls over the fence and fielding your position with bold confidence and all-out effort. OK, maybe stop fielding bunts and throwing down to first like you’re trying to kill Anthony Rizzo. Other than that, though, keep doing what you’re doing.
And now, on with Your Turn:
Now that the Blackhawks may have lost Corey Crawford for the rest of the season, what will be GM Stan Bowman’s next move? —@KevFromChicago
If Bowman believes the Crawford-less Hawks are a goalie away from winning another Stanley Cup, then he should knock himself out on the trade front. Yet why would he believe that? Why would anyone?
Here’s what the Hawks need: Crawford. They need their oft-criticized stud back on his skates and ready to carry this team. If his “vertigo-like symptoms,” to quote Sun-Times Hawks scribe Mark Lazerus, are going to shut him down for the rest of the season, then the team ought to roll with what it has and live with the results. Trading a promising piece off the current roster — like Vinnie Hinostroza, who seems to do something good every time I look up — and then losing in the first round anyway would be an absurd way to go.
Best use of the Bears’ No. 1 draft pick: best player available, best at biggest need or trade for additional picks? —@KirkTMellish
Did you feel that seismic shift? It was just me falling out of my chair at the notion that the Bears are good enough to be drafting for specific areas of need rather than purely raising their talent level.
I’ve heard one wonkish football guy after another describe Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson as essentially a “perfect” offensive lineman. By God, if you can get him, get him. He’ll probably play guard, but suffice it to say it isn’t hard to find a place to plug “perfect” in. I’ve heard lots of similarly superlative talk the past couple of years about Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. You’ll find a spot for him, but know this: You want him on your side of the dark alley.
Just add talent, baby. GM Ryan Pace has had a few impressive mid-round selections, so stockpiling picks isn’t the worst way to go. Just don’t blow ’em.
Who do you think is the best men’s college basketball team in Illinois, and which one has the best shot at making the Big Dance? — Karen, via email
Is Notre Dame in Illinois yet? Still no?
Somebody — Loyola in the Missouri Valley? — is going to have to win a conference tournament or there’ll be nothing to talk about.
Also, do you think DePaul should get out of the Big East and into a league where it can win more than one or two conference games? —Karen, via email
Well, hello again, Karen. No, DePaul and its shiny, new arena needs to stay right where it is — in that outstanding conference it’s lucky to be a part of — and otherwise pull its head out of its rear end and start getting a heck of a lot better. Just a wild, wacky thought: It might take the right coach to make that happen.
Big ups to you, my friend. You were one of the few sportswriters who liked the Lauri Markkanen pick and actually admitted it. He looks great and has a higher ceiling than most people wanted to believe. —@thickyfingers
Seven feet tall plus best shooter in the draft equals I’m on board. I can’t imagine why anyone wasn’t.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.