On Sept. 15, I was watching the Cubs game. They were playing the St. Louis Cardinals, the team my brother pulls for. It’s always a big deal when the two teams play each other. With playoff hopes at stake, I wasn’t missing one inning.
I’ll never forget the third inning of that game. John Lackey — one of my least favorite Cubs — was pitching to Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez. Lackey threw a pitch that was clearly over the plate and umpire Jordan Baker called it a ball. Lackey is known to yell at umpires when a close call doesn’t go his way, so it’s not surprising that he started screaming at Baker about the call. For the most part, he settled down to throw the next pitch, which Martinez knocked into right-center field for an RBI single.
As the play developed, Lackey started yelling at Baker again. That seemed to be the last straw, as Baker ejected Lackey from the game in the middle of the play — something that doesn’t happen very often.
Then, in a crazy turn of events, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras also got thrown out of the game. From the replay, I couldn’t tell what he said, but he earned himself a suspension from MLB when he slammed his catcher’s mask on the ground and it bounced up, hitting Baker in the leg. Per MLB rules, a player will receive a suspension if contact is made with the umpire. It was easily the craziest three minutes of a baseball game I had ever seen.
I have been an outspoken critic of Lackey since the Cubs signed him prior to the 2016 season. I think he needs to control his emotions more. I get that he’s passionate, but he has to remember that umpires are human. They’re going to make mistakes. If I had a dollar for every call I missed when I spent the summers working as an umpire, I could buy myself a really nice dinner.
But one thing pitchers shouldn’t do is tick the umpire off by blatantly yelling and complaining about a call. As bad as it sounds, you will not get the benefit of the doubt on a close call if you complain during the game. Most umpires won’t say it, but I will. Players — not just pitchers — do more harm than good when they start whining about a close call.
Contreras needs to tone it down, as well. He is known to get really into the games and have the occasional outburst. Even Cubs manager Joe Maddon has acknowledged Contreras needs to better control himself. Even though his two-game suspension was reduced to one, it should be a teaching moment for the young star. Especially considering he was catching for Lackey, who is the epitome of what not to do when a call doesn’t go your way.
I have to give Contreras credit, however. The next day, Baker was making the calls at third base for the second game of the series and Contreras walked up to him to apologize for his actions in person. It takes a certain level of class to go up to someone you swore at no more than 24 hours before and say you were wrong. I wish Lackey would do the same instead of saying he has “no regrets” about his actions.
Whatever floats your boat, John.