So here’s a weird one for you. Former player Paul LoDuca is being sued by umpire Joe West. The suit alleges that LoDuca was on a podcast recently and told a story regarding a former big league pitcher – and member of the Phillies – who told him a story about how he got West to widen the strike zone for him back in 2006 and 2007 while LoDuca was with the Mets.
The story was told by Billy Wagner, a member of the Phillies in 2004 and 2005. As relayed on the Podcast hosted by The Action Network, while LoDuca and Wagner were both with the Mets, Wagner told LoDuca – the team’s catcher – that West agreed to give Wagner an expanded strike zone. Apparently, it was part of a deal that Wagner and West agreed to so that West could use Wagner’s ’57 Chevy anytime he was in town. West would reportedly go cruising in the classic automobile in exchange for the expanded strike zone.
The story was picked up by national media outlets and reported elsewhere, prompting West to become aware of the comments. “We know for a fact that none of this happened, so for LoDuca to say this is pretty vicious,” Kevin Murphy, West’s lawyer told The New York Times.
LoDuca and his representatives have not responded to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that the comments were made after a game against the Phillies. In the lawsuit, West and his attorney allege that the umpire did not umpire a game in either of those seasons where Wagner pitched. Another discrepancy from the podcast that is disclosed in the lawsuit is that LoDuca stated he had been ejected from games 15 times during his career and that West had tossed him eight or nine of those times. According to the suit, LoDuca was ejected only eight times during his playing career and only once by West.
The lawsuit states: “At the time the subject statements were made, Lo Duca knew the statements were false, or at a minimum, made with a reckless disregard for their truth or falsity.”
LoDuca claimed in the lawsuit that…
“We’re playing like a really tight game against the Phillies and Billy Wagner comes in from the bullpen,” Lo Duca said. “I used to go to the mound every time and like, ‘What’s going on?’ and he’s like, ‘Hey, Joe’s behind the plate. Set up a couple more inches inside. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Joe hates me.’ He’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no. Joe loves me.’ I go, ‘He hasn’t given us the corner all day.’ He’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ He literally throws 10 pitches and strikes out three guys. Joe rings up all three guys. Eight out of the nine pitches were at least three to four inches inside, not even close. Guys were throwing bats and everything. Joe walks off the field.”
The 66-year old West is the longest tenured umpire in Major League Baseball having started in 1976 and becoming a full-time umpire in 1978. He is second on the all-time list of games umpired with 5, 164 games under his belt. Bill Klem is the all-time leader, umpiring 5,369 between 1905 and 1941.
Wagner signed with the Mets after leaving the Phillies as a free agent following the 2005 season.