Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras has received a reduced suspension for his altercation with home plate umpire Jordan Baker, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reported Sunday. Contreras was initially slated to sit out for two games, but he appealed the ruling yesterday and will only serve a one-game suspension. He’ll take a seat on Sunday when the Cubs go for the sweep in their series finale against the Cardinals.
The 25-year-old backstop was fined and suspended for arguing balls and strikes and inadvertently hitting home plate umpire Jordan Baker with his mask during Friday’s 8-2 win. Both Contreras and right-hander John Lackey were also ejected and fined for their actions. While Baker’s misread of a called strike three sparked a heated dispute at the time, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon told reporters that the catcher was nothing but remorseful as the team suited up for Saturday’s game.
“[Contreras] was dying to talk to him,” Maddon said. “He could not wait. He motioned to [Baker] from the dugout. When he got to third base, going first to third, I saw the exchange and they were both smiling.”
Without Contreras, the Cubs will turn to Alex Avila behind the dish. Avila is in his first season with the club after a midseason trade from the Tigers and is batting a cumulative .269/.388/.461 with 14 home runs and an .849 OPS through 357 PA this year.
We welcomed “Mason Saunders” into our lives on Sunday, thanks to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan. Mason Saunders is the alias of Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner when he competes in rodeos, something he’s done as recently as December (when he was still a free agent).
Given that one of Bumgarner’s other extracurricular activities, riding dirt bikes, resulted in a serious injury, many have been wondering how the Diamondbacks would react to the news that the lefty they inked to a five-year contract two months ago is roping steers in his spare time. It seems like the Diamondbacks just accept that that’s who Bumgarner is.
On Tuesday, Baggarly and Buchanan answered some frequently asked questions about the whole Bumgarner-rodeo thing. They mentioned that former Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in a radio interview on KNBR, slipped in that Bumgarner also hunts bears in his off-time. Bochy said, “You think, ‘Madison, you’re looking at signing your biggest contract ever to set yourself up for life and you’re going to risk it on the rodeo?’ But he’s got confidence. I mean there’s some stories I do know that he probably wouldn’t want me to share, with him bear hunting, and the tight situations he’s gotten himself into.”
As Baggarly and Buchanan explained, when Bumgarner — I mean, Saunders — is roping steers, he’s not taking much of a risk. They wrote, “The header and heeler don’t chase the steer around the ring. Each trial is more or less a one-shot deal and it’s over in less than 10 seconds. If the header or heeler misses on the first attempt, then no time is recorded.” Bumgarner has also said he ropes with his non-pitching hand. Hunting bears is an entirely different level of risk, one would imagine. That being said, no one seemed to be surprised that Bumgarner moonlights as a serious rodeo competitor. That’s likely also the case that he, as Bochy puts it, goes “mano a mano” against bears.