Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras’ audition for the New York Mets begins Thursday night at Wrigley Field, just as the White Sox come to a fork in Minneapolis.
This final weekend before the All-Star break looks to be an interesting one for the Cubs and Red Sox, two teams that have tested the patience of their most patient fans.
The Red Sox have not lived up to the high expectations the 2022 season has received, hitting the .500 mark in the first half as manager Tony La Russa takes a beating on the postgame show. The Cubs haven’t even lived up to the extremely low expectations most fans had for them in April, and they’ll likely trade the popular Contreras to the highest bidder. possibly even the hated Mets.
As the break approaches, Chicago has seen some of the worst baseball it has seen in years. Entering Thursday, the Cubs and Red Sox had a combined .400 winning percentage (35-54) at home, apparently reserving the worst for paying patrons at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate Field.
La Russa has done the unimaginable in his second year on the job: He has dominated the talk on sports radio, including on WSCR-AM 670, the Cubs’ flagship station. Not since former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a local sports figure created such a heated discussion on the airwaves.
It hasn’t translated at the box office, where the Cubs still outnumber the Red Sox by an average of about 8,400 fans per game. But it’s much more fascinating than the Rick Renteria era. The chants of “Fire Tony” have been quite frequent on the South Side to shake up White Sox management, though not enough to consider making a trade for 77-year-old manager and best friend of the president Jerry Reinsdorf.
La Russa invites criticism and says he’s harder on himself than anyone could be.
“If you’re preaching player responsibility, you better start with yourself,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I think our record should be better, so I should handle myself better.”
Many Red Sox fans agree, particularly when it comes to La Russa’s decisions to call batters who are already behind in the count for intentional walks. If you didn’t know better, you’d think he was misleading his critics, which include Ozzie Guillen, the former manager and postgame star. Guillen called La Russa “Renteria with credentials,” a shot at both Renteria and La Russa. He later apologized for Rentería’s shot.
The Red Sox have Johnny Cueto, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease on the mound this weekend for the matchup with the Minnesota Twins, with right-hander Lance Lynn scheduled for Saturday. Winning three out of four would end the half on a positive note and put them within a stone’s throw of first. Otherwise, it might be time to focus on the wild card race.
In the meantime, Beer mug snakes have received more attention on the North Side that games on the field. Even Baltimore Orioles fans were able to snap up Wrigley this week, thanks to the availability of tickets on the secondary market from disgruntled season ticket holders. They loudly shouted “Vamos O’s” during the wins on Tuesday and Wednesday as attendees stacked their glasses and ignored them.
In contrast to NBC Sports Chicago’s “tough love” approach to La Russa and the Red Sox, the Cubs are treated more kindly by their station, Marquee Sports Network. despite being on pace for a 99-loss season.
After his sixth straight loss on Wednesday, analyst Rick Sutcliffe concluded on the postgame show that Contreras needs to be traded for the good of the Cubs and for Contreras himself so he can try to win another ring.
Even as Contreras continually says that he wants to remain in the only organization has played, the narrative why he should go has been amplified in the network owned by the Cubs’ owners, the Ricketts family. Go figure.
NBC Sports Chicago’s postgame shows remind you of a college radio station taken over by radical students, while Marquee Sports Network’s postgame shows are more like a state newscast proclaiming the government’s line. “It’s different here” is more than a marketing slogan.
So Contreras is probably gone, even though he doesn’t really have to audition for the Mets. They know what he can do for them or any contending team in need of a top-level catcher/DH. But if Contreras wants to endear himself to New Yorkers, should he head to Queens, this would be a good time to do it. Mets fans are likely to take over the stadium in greater numbers than Orioles fans, and they are louder by nature.
Cubs manager David Ross he said his players understand that “it’s part of our business” when a team decides to offload valuable parts for future assets. The Cubs, he explained, are just trying to speed up the timeline to win.
“We know we have All-Star caliber players that are really good,” he said. “Sometimes that timeline doesn’t match up with where you can keep those guys.”
Contreras’ the days of playing for the Cubs at Wrigley are apparently numberedAnd like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez last July, he could spend some time this weekend looking around his future home. After the break, the Cubs have just two home games left before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
The long goodbye has officially begun.
By now, everyone should be familiar with the exercise.