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 Talk Podcast: Reliving the 2015 Wild Card matchup vs. Pirates


Cubs Talk Podcast: Reliving the 2015 Wild Card matchup vs. Pirates

In 2015, the Cubs were riding high and on their way to the first playoff game in seven years and the start of four consecutive postseason trips. Jeff Nelson, Tim Stebbins and Nate Poppen discuss all the details about the 2015 NL Wild Card win and some details you may not have known about that game.

(2:25) - Why were the Cubs in the Wild Card game seemingly too early in the rebuild

(10:00) - Tommy La Stella started at third base and not Kris Bryant

(15:58) - The Schwar-BOMB to put the Cubs up early in the game

(24:00) - Jake Arrieta gets out of a bases loaded jam

(33:00) - Jake Arrieta gets the complete game shutout

Listen here or below.

Cubs Talk Podcast


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Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester kick-off Cubs All-Decade Team

Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester kick-off Cubs All-Decade Team

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

The circumstances which brought Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester to the Cubs could not be more different.

Arrieta was nothing short of a reclamation project when the Cubs acquired him from the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. With Baltimore, the right-hander went from top prospect to a wildly inconsistent pitcher, flashing signs of brilliance but struggling with his command.

At the time of the trade, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA, and 4.0 BB/9 rate in 69 games — 63 starts. He was 27 years old, and while the Cubs front office clearly saw something in him, Arrieta becoming a regular contributor was no guarantee.

On the other hand, Lester was the first major free agent to join the then-rebuilding Cubs, signing a six-year, $155 million deal in December 2014. Theo Epstein and Co. had a promising young core, though the Cubs lacked big-game experience. In Lester, they were gaining an anchor for their rotation, a formidable presence with two championships (2007, 2013) on his resume. He was exactly what the Cubs needed.

Despite their different paths to the North Side, both Arrieta and Lester were vital to the Cubs’ transformation from cellar dwellers to annual contenders since 2015.

Arrieta elevated from near-bust to one of the game’s best pitchers with the Cubs. He won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, thanks to a dominant second half where he allowed just nine earned runs in 107 1/3 innings (0.75 ERA), striking out 113 batters compared to 23 walks.

Arrieta tossed two no hitters during his Cubs career. He was dominant in the postseason (3.08 ERA, nine starts), leading the Cubs to victory in the 2015 NL Wild Card Game behind a complete game, two-hit shutout. He won both his starts in the 2016 World Series.

And, in classic Arrieta fashion, he shut down the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS — with the Cubs trailing the series 3-0. It was his last outing in a Cubs uniform, but a fitting send-off for the right-hander, nonetheless. He finished his Cubs career 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in 128 starts, racking up 793 strikeouts in 803 innings.

Lester has been everything the Cubs could’ve asked for and more. He’s been extremely durable, making 32 starts in four of his five seasons in Chicago, the lone exception being 2019 (31). He holds a career 3.54 ERA and 1.242 WHIP in five seasons with the Cubs.

And, about that championship experience: Lester sports a 2.44 ERA in 12 postseason appearances (10 starts) with the Cubs. When the lights have been at their brightest, he’s delivered, winning the 2016 NLCS MVP (co-recipient with Javy Baez) along the way.

Equally as important is the championship mentality Lester brought with him to Chicago. Fans can see the success he's had on the field, but it cannot be understated how important he’s been in the Cubs clubhouse. He joined a young group and helped build a winning culture after five straight Cubs losing seasons. 

Without Arrieta and Lester, there is no 2016 championship. Perhaps the Cubs would’ve won a title at some point without them, but the duo represented a formidable 1-2 punch atop the Cubs rotation. For that, they’re equally worthy of a spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Ryan Dempster, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, Jose Quintana, Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Zambrano

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