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Willson Contreras gets two-game suspension following altercation with umpire

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Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras has been handed a two-game suspension and a fine after a heated confrontation with home plate umpire Jordan Baker on Friday afternoon. Right-hander John Lackey has also been fined, though neither amount has been disclosed.

The altercation arose in the fifth inning of the Cubs’ 8-2 win over the Cardinals, when Baker misread a pitch to Carlos Martinez and called Ball 3 on what should have been an inning-ending strikeout. Not only did the botched call extend the at-bat, but it gave Martinez the opportunity he needed for an RBI single, handing the Cardinals a 2-1 lead as Kolten Wong scooted home. From there, things got a bit dicey:

Predictably, both Lackey and Contreras were ejected following the tiff. Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon came to his catcher’s defense in the postgame press conference, telling reporters, “There was no intent at the umpire whatsoever. He slammed [the helmet] down in anger.”

Intentional or not, arguing balls and strikes and making contact with an umpire are two pretty clear-cut no-nos. As expected, Contreras decided to appeal his suspension and will still be eligible to play in Saturday’s game against the Cardinals.

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

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Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.