|Joe West is used to tossing managers and players.|
If the mark of being a good umpire is never being noticed, then Joe West has to be the worst umpire ever. When it comes to consistently bizarre decisions, he's e only major league arbiter who comes to mind. I guess if he wants to be noticed, he is a spectacular success.
The latest incident involving West came on Friday night after a balk was called on Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox. Because a balk call is often contentious, it wasn't a surprise that Sox manager Terry Francona cam out to argue.
What happened next is being reviewed by commissioner's office and likely will end up with Francona suspended. Francona was arguing with Angel Hernandez, the ump who called the balk. As the argument heated up, West moved in between them and used his hands to push Francona away. The bumps between the two continued until Francona finally headed to the dugout, tossing his chewing gum at Hernandez as he walked away.
It's debatable whether West instigated the bumping, although Francona certainly thinks so. It's hard to give West the benefit of the doubt considering his history. Search YouTube and there are a disturbing number of games where things get out of control. Back in 1991, Cubs fans poured garbage on the field after West's extra wide strike zone caused Andre Dawson to erupt.
Then there was the 2008 game when West demanded that Milwaukee Brewers reliever Guillermo Mota give him the ball after he had thrown only five warmup pitches. Um, the standard is eight. It's been that number for the 45 years I have followed the game. But West told manager Ned Yost that five was plenty because Mota had thrown in the bullpen.
So, West believes he gets to make up his own rules.
Country Joe has been involved in enough strange incidents that there's even a Facebook page calling for his firing. The page has links and details of other West follies, including his off-the-field tirade against the slowness of Red Sox-Yankees games. He might have a point about that, but the appropriateness of an umpire making the comments is highly suspect.
Scanning the Facebook page, it's clear that West doesn't pick on any one team. He's even thrown out cameramen. See, Joe West knows he is in charge of everything. No one is outside his purview.
And it's not just fans that feel this way about West. A survey of players last year by ESPN The Magazine named him the second-worst umpire (C.B. Bucknor was deemed the worst.) The players showed they considered their opinions well: Jim Joyce, the ump whose blown call cost Armando Galrraga of the Detroit Tigers a perfect game, was named one of the three best. By the way, Hernandez is ranked one of the worst umps, also. So, baseball has a crew with two of the three worst umps on it.
I guess the best way to sum up West as an ump is to recall what Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski once jokingly told Ed Runge, ""Ed, you're the second best umpire in the league. The other 23 are tied for first."
Why baseball puts up with this boor of the base paths is beyond my understanding. Don't managers, players and fans deserve better?