MLB umpire Joe West isn’t limiting his dust-ups to only active players anymore.
The longtime ump is suing former player Paul Lo Duca for defamation over claims from the catcher on a podcast in May that he accepted a bribe from one of Lo Duca’s teammates, according to USA Today.
That teammate is ex-closer Billy Wagner, who played with Lo Duca in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. The claimed bribe: letting the umpire borrow his vintage 1957 Chevrolet. Lo Duca reportedly claimed that Wagner told Lo Duca he would lend West the car for a more favorable strike zone.
"Joe loves antique cars so every time he comes into town I lend him my ’57 Chevy so he can drive it around so then he opens up the strike zone for me," Lo Duca claimed Wagner said, per USA Today.
West is the longest-tenured active umpire in MLB, having worked since the 1976 season. Despite that experience, he was voted by players as the worst umpire in baseball in a Sports Illustrated poll back in 2011. However, he was also voted the fifth-best, so it’s safe to say the man is a divisive figure among players.
Lo Duca would have run into West behind hte plate frequently in his MLB career as a catcher, playing for four different National League teams between 1998 and 2008. He received All-Star honors four times, though his legacy is clouded by his admission that he took performance-enhancing drugs after being named in the Mitchell Report.
West rebuffs Lo Duca’s claims
USA Today reports that West’s complaint claims the umpire suffered unspecified damages as a result of Lo Duca’s comments.
"These statements impugn the integrity, honesty and professional fitness of Mr. West and affect his profession as a Major League Baseball umpire."
The lawsuit was reportedly filed Tuesday in New York, with West denying that Wagner ever lent him a car. The complaint also states that no game as Lo Duca describes ever occurred.
"In reality, during 2006 and 2007, the two years that Lo Duca played for the New York Mets with Billy Wagner, Joe West was the home plate umpire for a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Mets only once, Billy Wagner did not pitch at all, and the game ended on a home run, not on called strikes," the complaint reportedly said.
West’s suit also reportedly corrected the record on Lo Duca’s claiming that West had been responsible for “eight or nine” of his 15 career ejections, saying Lo Duca had only been ejected by West once.
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