Cubs

John Lackey and Willson Contreras go absolutely bonkers on home plate umpire after insane call in Cubs-Cardinals

John Lackey and Willson Contreras go absolutely bonkers on home plate umpire after insane call in Cubs-Cardinals

John Lackey sprinted toward home plate, absolutely screaming at home plate umpire Jordan Baker.

Willson Contreras did a complete circle around Baker, needing both Joe Maddon and Javy Baez to hold him back.

Those will become the lasting images from an absolutely wild occurrence at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon.

Lackey was on the mound in the fifth inning against Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez, locked in a 1-1 ballgame with runners on first and second and two outs.

On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Lackey floated a breaking ball right down the middle of the plate. Martinez put his head down and started walking toward the dugout, conceding to the strikeout.

But Baker did not call the pitch a strike. Instead, it was Ball 3 and Martinez had new life.

Lackey wasted no time laying into Baker, screaming and pointing at Martinez, who was several steps toward the first-base dugout. 

"He almost walked to the grass," Lackey said. "He knew he was out."

For reference, here is where the pitch was located:

Contreras and Maddon both said the second-year catcher got crossed up on the pitch and wasn't expecting a breaking ball, but Lackey said there was no cross-up.

Lackey continued screaming at Baker and Maddon came from out of the dugout in an effort to calm things down.

"He missed the pitch," Lackey said. "It's a big spot in a huge game and he missed the pitch."

Lackey remained in the game, but on his next pitch, Martinez singled to right-center, plating Kolten Wong with the go-ahead run. Lackey sprinted in to backup the play at home, yelling at Baker the whole way. 

When the play was over and time called, Contreras also apparently said something to Baker and was subsequently tossed, resulting in this immediate reaction:

Maddon was already on his way out of the dugout and tried to hold Contreras back before Baez intervened and kept his teammate back.

Contreras' mask bounced and hit Baker in the foot, but the Cubs catcher apologized afterwards and said he clearly wasn't trying to hit or hurt anybody, just was frustrated in the moment and threw his mask on the ground, never intending for it to hit the umpire.

The end result was both pitcher and catcher ejected in the fifth inning of a crucial game in the pennant race. But the Cubs rebounded with seven runs in the sixth inning, cruising to an 8-2 victory. While the Cubs didn't place too much emphasis on the ejections working as a spark, Kris Bryant felt otherwise:

"It was a nice little spark for us and some energy that we all needed," Bryant said. "Yeah, the crowd got into it. I mean, we're always in the game, but anytime you see your teammates or brothers going out like that, getting a little fired up, it's not a terrible thing. I think it ultimately helped us."

Lackey is 38 years old and in his 14th big-league season, but he's always been a fierce competitor and Maddon knows he should never expect any other reaction to an umpire's call.

"Impossible," Maddon said. "I could say I'd like to see that, but why would I even think that? That's the definition of insanity. Why would I think he's gonna change in that particular moment? So God bless him.

"It's who Johnny is. I never want him to change. He's not gonna change, so why even expect that? It happened, we reacted and the rest of the group came together."

Does Lackey regret his actions?

"Not really, no," he said. "It's a pretty big spot right there. It cost me a big-league win; those don't grow on trees."

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, a source confirming the team declined a club contract option for next year and made a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

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USA TODAY

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

In Theo Epstein's end of season press conference on Friday he said that any coach Joe Maddon wants back will return in 2018.

Evidently, there's one coach Maddon didn't want back.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Cubs have fired longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Bosio served as the Cubs pitching coach from 2012-17. He was the team's pitching coach under former managers' Dale Sveum (2012-13) and Rick Renteria (2014), and was retained when Maddon was hired as manager of the Cubs in 2015.

Bosio, who is one of the most respected pitching coaches in baseball, was instrumental in the career resurgence of Jake Arrieta who captured the Cy Young award in 2015, and the development of 27-year-old starter Kyle Hendricks (MLB's ERA leader in 2016).

One reason that could've led to Bosio's firing was the pitching staff's control issues during both the regular season and postseason, which Epstein mentioned during Friday's press conference. The Cubs issued the fifth-most walks (554) in the National League during the regular season and the highest total (53) during the postseason.

As the Cubs hit the market for a new pitching coach, Nightengale mentioned that one name that could be on the radar is former Tampa Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, who parted ways with the organization following the 2017 season.

Hickey served as Maddon's pitching coach in Tampa Bay from 2006-2014.