Cubs

6 memorable Cubs bench-clearing moments since 2000, including Crosstown clash

6 memorable Cubs bench-clearing moments since 2000, including Crosstown clash

One of the most memorable events in Chicago sports history occurred 14 years ago Wednesday. 

During the Crosstown Classic at U.S. Cellular Field, Cubs catcher Michael Barrett punched White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski in the face, starting a bench-clearing fight on the South Side.

Pierzynski scored on a sac fly, trucking Barrett, who was blocking home plate, in the process. Barrett took exception to Pierzynski enthusiastically slapping the plate, and as the Sox backstop stood up, Barrett corralled him in a bear hug and landed a clean right hook on Pierzynski's cheek.

After the dust settled, MLB handed Barrett a 10-game suspension and Pierzynski a $2,000 fine. Sox outfielder Brian Anderson received a five-game ban and $3,000 fine, and Sox bench coach Joey Cora a two-game ban and an undisclosed fine.

That's one memory to last a lifetime. On the anniversary of Barrett vs. Pierzynski, here are five other memorable Cubs bench-clearing incidents since 2000:

Kyle Farnsworth drops Reds’ Paul Wilson

Former Cubs reliever Kyle Farnsworth is a big dude. As in, he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. So, if you’re going to go at him, you best not miss.

Reds pitcher Paul Wilson missed on June 19, 2003. 

Wilson was attempting to get a bunt down when a Farnsworth fastball ran up and in on him. After exchanging a few words and engaging in brief a stare down, the two pitchers charged one another.

Farnsworth picked Wilson up by his waist, slammed him down and got a few punches in before the two were separated. Both pitchers were fined, though Wilson was suspended five games compared to Farnsworth’s three (later reduced to two).

Reds infielder Russell Branyan was also fined.

Derrek Lee vs. Padres’ Chris Young

Speaking of big dudes, two heavyweights in Derrek Lee (6-foot-5, 240) and Chris Young (6-foot-10, 255) got into it on June 16, 2007. Young hit Lee on the back of his upper left arm — one season after Lee missed several months with a broken right wrist.

Lee exchanged pleasantries with Young on his way to first base before coming to an abrupt halt and taking a swing at Young’s face. He didn’t land his punch, but he and Young did land five-game suspensions and fines.

Cubs hitting coach Gerald Perry was suspended three games and fined; Padres’ Jake Peavy and Brian Giles were handed undisclosed fines.

Anthony Rizzo takes on Reds bench 

On July 10, 2014, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman threw multiple 100+ mph fastballs near Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz' head. After striking Schierholtz out, Chapman took a long stroll and stare towards the Cubs’ third-base dugout, drawing the ire of Anthony Rizzo.

Chapman got out of the inning and dismissively waved his glove at the Cubs bench. Rizzo assumed his defensive position at first base and took offense to something said from the Reds’ dugout, charging them solo. No punches were thrown.

After the game, Rizzo said he has “the utmost respect” for the Reds” and hopes the matter was resolved. It wasn’t a big incident, but a memorable one at the end of the Cubs' rebuild.

Wild Card Game skirmish

Jake Arrieta mowed down the Pirates in the 2015 NL Wild Card Game, tossing a complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts. He hit two batters mid-game, and the Pirates responded by beaning him near the hip in the seventh inning, trailing 4-0.

The benches cleared, with Sean Rodriguez — who was subbed out of the game before his first at-bat — unforgettably being in the middle of the scrum. He appeared to throw a punch towards David Ross, who apparently grabbed Rodriguez around the neck. 

Rodriguez was the only player ejected. He took his anger out on a Gatorade cooler before going to the clubhouse and later apologized for letting his emotions get the best of him.

Cubs-Marlins tickle fight

Lewis Brinson hit a single to right field on May 8, 2018, but Ben Zobrist threw an absolute strike to nail Derek Dietrich at home plate. Dietrich was out by 10 feet, so he pushed Victor Caratini in an attempt to knock the ball free.

Caratini and Dietrich had a brief conversation as the benches cleared, and hilarity ensued afterwards. Kris Bryant snuck up on former Cubs teammate Starlin Castro, unleashing a wicked tickle to Castro's torso.

Rizzo then shoved Castro in the back, and the two laughed it off — once Castro saw who pushed him.

Gotta love a lighthearted bench-clearing incident, right?

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Cubs’ Jon Lester on shortened 2020 MLB season: 'A trophy's a trophy'

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USA TODAY

Cubs’ Jon Lester on shortened 2020 MLB season: 'A trophy's a trophy'

Because the 2020 MLB season is only 60 games long, some have posed the question of whether winning the World Series will come with an asterisk and be devalued.

Cubs starter Jon Lester is not one of those people. In fact, he doesn’t care how long the season is — he wants to win a championship. 

“No, a trophy’s a trophy. I don't care if it's 60 games,” Lester told reporters on Saturday. “I mean, you still have to win, you still have to play good baseball. It's not like they're just handing them out at the end, like ‘Oh hey here's your participation trophy 'cause you guys showed up this year.' That's not the case.”

Those comments echo that of Cubs manager David Ross, who said two weeks ago "If they’re passing out a trophy, I want it." They likely hold true across the Cubs, whose schedule is entirely against NL and AL Central teams this year. The Cardinals, Brewers and Twins are coming off playoff appearances; the Reds and White Sox are on the upswing, and the Indians won 93 games.

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The regular season is only 60 games, but the postseason format is unchanged. Teams who reach October face the same path to the World Series as years past. Whoever wins it all this year — assuming MLB can finish the season with COVID-19 afflicting the nation — will earn it.

“I think at the end of the day, we look back on this — yeah, people will talk about this season — but you still have to show up, you still have to play well and you still have to do your job in order to get that trophy, to get that ring,” Lester said. "That's still important to us and still important to me.

“I'm still fighting for that and I don't care if it's 60 games or 190 games or whatever it is. You still have to play well to get that trophy.”

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Why Cubs' serious, effective approach in COVID-19 pandemic might not be enough

Why Cubs' serious, effective approach in COVID-19 pandemic might not be enough

Giants catcher Buster Posey is a three-time champion, six-time All-Star and former National League MVP.

Is he a Hall of Famer? That’s the big question, right?

Not anymore. Not after Friday, when he officially opted out of playing baseball during a pandemic.

That changed the big Buster Posey question to whether he’s baseball’s smartest guy in the room.

On a day the Cubs delayed their workouts for the second time in a week over COVID-19 testing issues, Johns Hopkins University reported a single-day record of new coronavirus cases (more than 63,900) for the United States for the second consecutive day.

It’s two weeks until major league openers.

Posey, who expressed concern for the past week, was open about his decision, citing the risk when it came to the premature newborn twins he and his wife have adopted and who remain in a neonatal intensive care unit.

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He’s one of 11 players who have chosen not to play this season. Others such as superstar Mike Trout of the Angels — whose wife is due with their first child next month — continue to straddle the fence on whether to play.

And players such as Cubs star Kris Bryant expressed concern and anxiety over MLB’s first-week testing problems and at one point considered opting out before deciding to commit to trying to play.

MORE: Why Kris Bryant doesn't feel 'safe' and why his voice should matter most to MLB

“We’re taking every safeguard that we possibly can, and I’m proud of the way the players have been responding,” said Cubs president Theo Epstein, whose team is the only one, at least in the National League, without a positive test among players or coaches since intake testing began.

“But we can’t let our guard down, and we can’t fool ourselves into thinking we can control all the variables here.”

The variables, and certainly the risk, are constantly changing.

In Florida, one of the hardest hit states for coronavirus surges, Miami-Dade County reported an astounding 28-percent positive rate for its Friday test results — down from 33.5 percent Thursday.

That, of course, is the home of the Miami Marlins.

Two more of the hardest hit states across the sun belt, Texas (105) and California (149) reported one-day records for coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday.

They are home to seven more big-league teams, including Posey’s and Trout’s.

Again, it’s two weeks until major league openers — when teams leave their individual safe zones and start to travel.

Will Trout still want to play by then? Will Nationals closer Sean Doolittle? The Brewers’ Ryan Braun? Or anybody else who has dipped one toe into this experiment as they’ve talked publicly about their concerns and reservations?

And just how tight will MLB’s testing ship — and shipping of results — be by then?

The Cubs by all appearances are doing it right, from masks in the clubhouse and dugouts to social distancing and meetings among players to discuss being accountable to each other and staying out of bars and restaurants when they’re away from the field.

But what about the cluster of positives among the Phillies, or the startling virus rates in Arizona — or that one player in Cleveland who decided to party without a mask during the holiday weekend?

“That’s the reality of living in this country in 2020, is you’re never divorced from concern, no matter what you’re doing,” Epstein said. “Whether you’re home with your family or running errands or working from home or trying to pull off a baseball season in the middle of a pandemic, the subtext of everything that you do is concern.

“Not just concern for yourself, not just concern for your families, but concern for your teammates, your colleagues, your brothers and sisters, your community, the country as a whole and the world as a whole — although certainly the rest of the world has seemingly managed their way into a better place at the moment than we have.”

As countries through much of Europe and parts of Asia have effectively mobilized at a federal level to stem the spread of the virus, the United States has experienced a summer surge within what experts consider the first of possibly multiple waves of the pandemic, the death toll climbing past 135,000 — close to twice the total of Brazil, which has the second-highest number of virus-related deaths.

“We don’t have a huge margin for error,” Epstein said of the league’s safety and health protocols designed by the only major professional league trying to play games at all of its home sites. “As we move forward, as we continue to try to pull this off, we have to continue to find a way to keep our players safe and healthy.”

Against a moving target. Without any way to know what direction it might take tomorrow, much less August.

“The virus is the only thing in control right now,” Epstein said.

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