Broken arm.

Broken season.

Not him. Please. Not Willson Contreras. The Cardinals can’t lose him. The fans can’t lose him. He’s the team’s best player. He’s the one guy the team and the public can count on to post up in every game that he plays with full focus, maximum intensity, and a competitive heart that beats harder and faster than anyone wearing the St. Louis uniform.

Not him. Please. Not Willson Contreras. Not this injury. Not a broken forearm that requires surgical repairs and will prevent him from playing until sometime in July.

The Cardinals have lost a vitally important player.

And they’re in the process of losing another year.  

The excruciating scene … Contreras in agony on the ground, bellowing in pain, squeezing his arm as if to put it all back together so he could play on … well, that was the worst moment of a season that’s gone really bad, really early. Without Willy the Cardinals will be hollow on the inside, and weaker on the field.

This is a team drifting deeper into the chasm, being taken down by an offense loaded with underachievers and hitters who disappear under pressure. And now this?

The Cardinals can’t lose Contreras – the one man who, more than any other in this lineup – has superior talent and an endless hunger for taking on opponents. He is forever willing to give everything he has to conquer them.

Contreras leads regular-lineup Cardinals in doubles, homers, extra base hits, walk rate, onbase percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. In park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) Contreras is 71 percent above league average offensively. That ranks 10th best in the majors and is way above any other hitter on this offense-impaired St. Louis team. Contreras also leads the Redbirds in talent, tenacity and toughness.

The Cardinals couldn’t take this kind of hit. They couldn’t afford to lose Contreras. This is a terrible development. But they’ll have to push on, stumbling, without him. And we may not see Contreras  playing again until after the All-Star break.

Contreras wears the equipment to handle the most physically challenging and potentially damaging position on the field. Catchers get hurt. They get battered and keep playing without anyone knowing about the true extent of their pain and discomfort. For catchers injuries aren’t just inevitable; they’re probable. Contreras can handle the usual hazards of the catching profession … but not this time.

Contreras was – down and then out – after being cudgeled on the left forearm on a heavy swing by the Mets’ J.D. Martinez. And we will see more of these accidents. With hitters and catchers occupying the same small plot of land, trying to get an advantage, more catchers will lose. The catchers will lose because they aren’t carrying the bat.

Martinez wasn’t technically in the batter’s box; part of his right foot was beyond the back line. And Contreras was leaning forward to get closer to the plate, to reach out and snatch and frame a strike for the umpire’s view.

It’s part of an aggressive, pitch-framing enhancement project that puts catchers down on one knee, in better position to finesse pitches low in the strike zone. It also puts them at greater risk. This is happening all over the major leagues.

Milwaukee catcher William Contreras went from being a poor pitch framer to a highly skilled framer by reworking his setup behind the plate. Catchers are really into this, which is why Willson Contreras sought his younger brother’s advice. They brothers worked together last offseason, and William played a major role in improving Willson’s framing game.

In 2023 Willson Contreras ranked 43rd among 63 innings-qualified catchers with a 44.3 strike percentage. This season, Willson’s 49.1% strike rate is tied for sixth best among 60 qualifying catchers. But he’s also put himself in a more vulnerable position.

In Tuesday’s horrible sequence, Martinez was setting up, loaded from the back to aggressively thrust forward with a violently hard swing. Contreras (as usual) was setting up low to try and turn borderline low-zone pitches into called strikes. Part of this anchoring himself to a spot that’s closer to the plate. And depending on the timing of the swing, Contreras and Martinez could be in a battle for the same air space. And when a hitter and catcher are competing for inches in an incredibly narrow zone bad stuff can happen.

“He’s close to the plate trying to steal strikes (and) as pitchers we appreciate that,” Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas told reporters after the game. “If we knew he was going to get hurt I’d rather throw a ball than have Willy get hurt. I don’t think any amount of strikes is worth a player’s health.

“Guys are getting paid and going up and down (to the minors) based on their framing metrics. The closer you can get, the better the framing metrics you can get. We’ve kind of forced these guys to scooch up as far as they can so they can steal low strikes and give the umpires a better view.”

Martinez awarded first base on catcher’s interference. And the rule was correctly applied. The pitch-framing competition has escalated, and catcher interference calls are rising like crazy.

With the help of Statcast, I put together a list that tracks the rising number of catcher interference infractions over the last 10 seasons. I did not include the pandemic-shortened 2020.

2014: one every 810 games.
2015: one every 809 games.
2016: one every 809 games.
2017: one every 540 games.
2018: one every 405 games.
2019: one every 80.9 games.
2021: one every 79.6 games.
2022: one every 65.6 games
2023: one every 50.6 games.
2024: one every 31.9 games.

Back in 2015 and 2016, there were only 12 catcher interference infractions over the two seasons. In 2022-2023, there were 170 such instructions over two seasons.

There are 33 already in 2024 – which puts MLB on a pace for around 140 catcher interference penalties for the entire season.

(Be careful, Ivan Herrera.)

The dangerous trend hit home in St. Louis on Tuesday night. I agree with those who say MLB must change the rules to keep hitters in the batter’s box – and keep catchers from moving up too far.

As baseball analyst Matthew Trueblood wrote:

“There’s no official front line on the catcher’s box in professional baseball. The league should create one, and it should be a foot or so behind the back line of the batter’s box. That would enforce a separation between batter and catcher, dramatically decreasing the chances of interference on the way to the ball or on a backswing. It would also create a clear boundary. If the catcher wasn’t in his box when hit with a backswing, for instance, the batter wouldn’t be culpable.”

New rules would help. But because there were no boundaries in place for 2024, the Cardinals have lost their best hitter. Their best overall position player. They have lost their best leader.

In an increasingly glum season, Willson Contreras was worthy of admiration and applause. He’ll never cheat the fans. Or his team. We’ll miss his energy. His love of the game. This isn’t an easy team to embrace, but Contreras was an exception.

THE ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The Cardinals have lost four in a row and six of their last seven games. At 15-21 they trail first place Milwaukee (21-14) by 6 and ½ games. On the eve of the 2024 season the Playoff Odds at Fangraphs gave the Cardinals a 34.5 percent chance to win the NL Central and a 50.3% shot of making the postseason. But 36 games into the new campaign the Cardinals have a 6.7 percent chance of taking the division and a 17.2% shot at getting to the postseason.

SLOW START, NOT GOOD: With a 15-21 record the Cardinals’ slow start is among the worst for the franchise during the post-expansion era that began in 1961. Only six Cards teams have been worse through the first 36 games of the season:

1973: 12-24
2023: 12-24
1972: 13-23
1978: 14-22
1980: 14-22
1986: 14-22

Four other Cardinal teams were also 15-21 through 36 games. It also happened in 1975, 1976, 1995, and 1996. The only team that recovered to make it to the postseason were the ‘96 Cardinals.

GOLDSCHMIDT AGONISTE: It’s becoming dang near impossible to find anything positive to say about Paul Goldschmidt’s showing in 2024.

In Tuesday’s 7-5 loss to the NY Mets, Goldschmidt went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. He is 0 for 23 in his last six games. The latest downslide leaves Goldschmidt with a .195 batting average on the season. His onbase percentage has diminished to .287, and his alarmingly low slugging percentage (.263) continues to sink.

This is really bad, my friends. Among the 56 hitters that had at least 150 plate appearances through Tuesday, Goldschmidt ranks dead last in slugging percentage and OPS (.550) and has the second lowest batting average and fifth worst onbase percentage.

In wRC+, Goldy has cratered to 35 percent below league average offensively. That’s the poorest in the majors among MLB hitters that have logged 150 or more plate appearances.

Goldschmidt had multiple shots to make a difference in big spots during Tuesday’s loss. With the Cardinals trailing 6-4, he struck out with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning. And with the Cardinals down 7-5, he struck out with two runners on base in the ninth. With an opportunity to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the first inning, Goldschmidt grounded out to strand a runner on third base.

The Cardinals left 10 runners on base in Tuesday’s crash. Goldschmidt had seven LOB. He came up with runners in scoring position three times and was 0-3 with two strikeouts. He’s 2 for 17 with eight strikeouts with RISP since April 13. Goldschmidt has left 59 runners on base this season; on the team only Nolan Gorman (64) has more LOB than Goldy.

STALLED OFFENSE: After delivering three runs in the first inning, the Cardinals got outscored 7-2 the rest of the way. Over their final eight innings the Cardinals struck out 11 times in 35 plate appearances (31.4%), went 2 for 16 with men on base including seven strikeouts, and were 1 for 8 (four strikeouts) with runners in scoring position.

The Cards scored five runs (or more) for only the 12th time this season and are 8-4 in those games. But they’ve lost their last two games when scoring 5+. On Tuesday the Cardinals clubbed three home runs in a game for the first time this season: Brendan Donovan in the first, Alec Burleson in the sixth, and Lars Nootbaar in the ninth. The Cardinals moved ahead of the White Sox in the season home-run count, 26-25. Those are the two lowest team HR totals in the majors.

MIKOLAS: ANOTHER BEATDOWN: After pitching four scoreless innings, Mikolas couldn’t protect a 3-0 lead. The Mets went ballistic in the fifth inning, battering Mikolas for six consecutive hits that plated six earned runs. He was absolutely defenseless under New York’s barrage of three singles, two doubles and a home run. The most destructive blows were a three-run homer by Brandon Nimmo and a two-run double from Pete Alonso.

The shelling left Mikolas with a 6.43 ERA in eight starts. That’s the second worst ERA by a big-league starter this season. (Patrick Corbin, Washington, is at 6.45). This season opponents have walloped Mikolas for a .288 average and .471 slugging percentage. He has a 7.56 ERA in his last five starts.

Mikolas doesn’t have much working for him in 2024. Opponents are slugging .696 against his slider, .636 on his curve, .500 on his sinker, and .500 on his changeup. And hitters have smashed his four-seam fastball for a 65.6 hard-hit rate.

Since signing a three-year contract extension for $55.75 million before last season, Mikolas had a 5.07 ERA in 43 starts.


Michael Siani is hitting .204 in 60 plate appearances this season, but he warrants positive recognition for going 6 for 12 in his last five games. With superb outfield defense, speed and the current hot streak, Siani has turned into one of the team’s better players.

Nolan Gorman: 1 for 21 with seven strikeouts in his last seven games. His strikeout rate has swelled to 33.6 percent.

Brandon Crawford: he’s 2 for 25 in his tour with the Cardinals. That’s an .091 average. And his strikeout rate is a horrendous 40 percent. So, the Cardinals are going to stick with this, huh?

Dylan Carlson: 0 for 8 since being activated from the IL.

The Cardinals have a 2.77 ERA in games started by Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn and Matthew Liberatore. And their ERA is 6.41 in games started by Mikolas, Steven Matz and Zack Thompson.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. Stream it live or access the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions, Spotrac and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.