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Saturday, October 25, 2014

MLB Needs to Handle the Joe West Problem by Firing Him

MLB met with umpire Joe West a year ago to try and harness his behavior. Now it’s time for them to pull the plug and finally fire him. West was a part of two ejections in the Red Sox-Twins series this weekend and his comportment has been completely unacceptable.

On Friday night, West (who was not the homeplate umpire) went out of his way to get in between Red Sox manager Terry Francona and umpire Angel Hernandez. Francona wanted to talk about a balk called on Tim Wakefield. He was trying to approach Hernandez for the conversation, but West decided to make their talk his business. He stepped in between Hernandez and Francona and tried to block every move Tito made as if he were an NBA player trying to beat him to the spot to take a charge. It was completely inappropriate and another example of West sticking his nose where it didn’t belong.

On Monday night, it was more of the same for West. Twins infielder Danny Valencia was leading off the 9th in a 1-1 game and had a 1-1 count. He checked his swing on a Jonathan Papelbon pitch, did not go, but homeplate umpire Joe West said he foul tipped the ball. Replays show he didn’t touch the ball, so it should have been a 2-1 count instead of 1-2. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out to contest the call, tried to get West to appeal to the first base umpire, but he refused. West ended up tossing Gardenhire (here’s video of the sequence).

What’s sad is this sort of behavior is part of West’s pattern. The man is more interested in making himself well known and popular rather than getting calls correctly. Umpires should be like holders and long snappers on place kicks in football — you should never know their names if they’re doing their jobs properly. But as Jeff Passan wrote at Yahoo! Sports a year ago, West has his own publicist, is interested in marketing a country music CD, and he’s busy trying to sell umpiring gear. He’s become too big for his own good, and he behaves with the goal of working his name into the game’s narrative.

Rather than being notorious for ejecting managers and players, umpires should be willing to listen to objections. Umpires frequently miss calls, but luckily they have four to a crew; there’s always an opportunity to appeal to try and improve judgment. The umpire’s goal should be to get the call right, not to be the biggest jerk in the game. Sadly, the egomaniac Joe West prefers to be the story instead of being accurate. There is no place for such behavior in baseball, and MLB needs to respond accordingly.

Commenting that Red Sox-Yankees games were taking too long last year was bad enough. Ejecting Mark Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen in the third inning of a game last year was awful. Umpiring should not be a one-way dictation; there should be room for discussion in order to achieve the objective of getting calls right. MLB needs to do what it can to get rid of Joe West whose top interest is being a sideshow.



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