JUPITER, Fla. — The St. Louis Cardinals officially kicked off their spring training season Saturday afternoon against the Washington Nationals, but the biggest controversy of the Grapefruit League opener came before a single throw cannot be thrown.
Before the game started, Cardinals manager Oli Marmol and Nationals manager Davey Martinez went to the plate for a routine meeting with the game’s officiating team. This is common practice, and sometimes seen with little fanfare – such as on Saturday, when Cardinals photographer Taka Yanagimoto waved to the group, which included referees Carlos Torres, Ron Kulpa, Angel Hernandez and CB Bucknor, from huddle together for a commemorative photograph.
But things didn’t go as usual: According to Marmol, when the skipper greeted Bucknor at home plate and held out his hand for a handshake, Bucknor refused to reciprocate. Bucknor and Marmol have a contentious relationship that dates back to the 2022 season.
“I went to shake hands with CB,” Marmol told St. Louis-based reporters after the Cardinals’ 3-2 loss. “He did not extend his. I came into this match fairly certain of what I thought of him as a referee. They weren’t very good. It just shows his lack of class as a man. This is the bottom line.
“I don’t think he’s good at his job, and that just shows a lack of class as a man,” Marmol added. “That’s my opinion on that.”
Marmol and Bucknor were involved in a hostile interaction last August when Bucknor was the home plate umpire for St. Louis’ road game against the Diamondbacks. Marmol, a rookie coach at the time, was ejected in the top of the third for arguing over balls and strikes.
The ejection led to a furious Marmol rushing to home plate, where Bucknor can be seen smiling at first, before shouting at Marmol. Another referee, Jeff Nelson, eventually had to restrain Marmol and help him off the field.
“I didn’t like (his) smile when I came out,” Marmol told reporters after the game. “And then he questioned my time in the league, so I returned the favor and questioned his time in the league.”
Despite this, Marmol approached Bucknor on Saturday afternoon with an outstretched hand as a sign of respect, he said.
“It was not (extending) an olive branch,” Marmol said. “It’s just respect. You can have disagreements, you always go to the plate. Every time I’ve been ejected from a game, I would go to the plate the next day for that very purpose.
Torres, Kulpa and Hernandez all shook hands with Marmol and apologized for Bucknor’s behavior, Marmol said.
“It’s super simple,” Marmol said. “I will repeat myself. I went home to shake his hand. He did not want. He has no class.
MLB and the MLB Umpires Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Athleticism.
(Photo: Jim Rassol/USA Today)