Why the MLB wants umpire Joe West out of the game

17 Jan

Major League Baseball umpire “Country” Joe West was recently dubbed “Cowboy” Joe West because to be honest – the guy has gone insane. West has not gone rubber room drooling on his chin insane, he has gone umpire insane violating nearly every cardinal rule that umpires at the highest level are to live and die by. West actually believes paying fans care about him and pay to see him. He has clearly demonstrated he believes he is bigger than the actual game on the field.

Joe West made his MLB debut in 1976 at the age of 24 which means that in his 32nd season (3 seasons were missed when he spearheaded a failed negotiating tactic for more money and less work before being rehired) in the big leagues he should know his role and respect it or take himself out of the game. For the first quarter century of his career, West was a fairly well respected and liked umpire. Sure he had his off field pursuits that were little more than cute things that provided a little commentary for announcers in slow games, but he respected the game while he was on the field for the most part.

Around the 2000 to 2001 season complaints about West started filtering in. First they came from the players, but few listened to them. Pitchers always complain about inconsistent floating strike zones as do hitters. The usual response was everyone has an off day. A couple years later it was noted West was blowing an increasing number of calls not behind the plate, but again umpires a human, missed calls area part of the game, and the rise in technology only serves to catch those errors more frequently than others. Then there were the bizarre calls that always seemed to come back to West – but hey, things happen and when you have been around as long as Joe West sooner or later you see or call almost everything.

By 2006 Questec was in nearly all stadiums providing an electronic accounting of all ball and strike calls during a game. Cameras were literally everywhere in stadiums by that point for all games – not just the big ones – to monitor the fouls lines, each base from at least three angles, and of course the outfield wall. While the MLB office of the Commissioner study ranked West just barely in the bottom half of all umpires, MLB players surveyed ranked West the 4th worst ump in the game. Since then his rankings have failed to improve with any significance. If anything, West now has a target on his back from players, managers, broadcasters, fans, announcers, and now the MLB itself.

West has been facing several harsh criticisms for several years now. He has not only been accused of poor umpiring behind the plate and on the field, but deliberately making calls to alter the outcome of a game. If one player or manager said that it would be one thing – when nearly a dozen anonymously polled managers and dozens of players say it, that is a legitimate concern. It’s not just that however that makes West such a detriment to the game. He cites that games are too long and he takes it into his own hands to speed them up – even if his decisions are contrary to the rules.

He recently cited that Yankee/Red Sox games are too long and they need to speed up play. What several analysts quickly pointed out was that yes, they do have very long games when they meet, but that is not because the players are deliberately slow – it is the nature of the game itself. Each team is known for working the pitch count which increases the length of game. Each team has a powerful offense which usually translates to more plate appearances which makes a game longer. West however does not see that – he just sees that he spends an extra 45 minutes or so on the field and that gets him mad. His answer is rushing players into the batters box, calling a disproportionate amount of close plays outs, and allegedly telling players to “get your ass moving and get me out of here.” That is not the proper conduct of an umpire.

West is in the umpiring world a made man. He could probably drop his drawers, take a dump on home plate, and still have a job. That is extreme and unlikely on both counts, but under the tenure system West can be the worst umpire in the league until he decides to retire and there s no way to remove him from the game. He is bulletproof. West knows this and abuses it.

West is more concerned with having his publicist set up interviews for him – yes he actually has a publicist. He is more concerned with promoting his latest country music album, his umpire apparel line (as if that is a winning idea), his golf game, his wannabe acting career which encompasses a brief appearance in the 1988 film “The naked Gun”, and being a pseudo-celebrity.

Major League baseball has finally said they have had enough of Joe West and they have “reprimanded” him on the phone for his criticisms on the game and doing what has at best been described as a poor job, and at worst a job which is something that cannot be put in print in this venue.

MLB is tired of his holding grudges against players, managers, and even teams for years on end. They are tired of fielding complaints from nearly every team concerning him over the past 5 years, and they are tired of his self promotion at every turn. The problem is the MLB has to take up fining and/or suspending West with the World Umpires Association – and wouldn’t you know that West is the President of the World Umpires Association. That means even though a panel would be directed to act impartially it is unlikely hey will throw their boss and one of the most tenured umpires in the game under the bus – they never have before no matter how bad a tenured umpire was.

As Jeff Passan pointed out in his tirade against West, if West was even a good umpire – not great, just good – this would not be much of an issue. The problem is West heads the union, and has tenure which means he gets all the plum gigs like the All-Star game and postseason at a disproportionate rate and uses those platforms to sell himself. He has proved he cannot be objective when calling a game. Players have cited time and again he makes comments concerning getting the game over with quick because he has things to do – as if being overpaid to do a lousy job wasn’t something to do.

West is not invisible. An umpire should be nothing more than a footnote. Sure Ron Luciano was a high profile ump while active, but he was also a top rated umpire and loved by nearly everyone aside from Earl Weaver and Billy Martin – but they at least respected him. West is a cartoon and a distraction, and the worst thing baseball has done in this century riddled with steroids, HGH, and assorted scandals was rehire this pus filled airbag with diarrhea of the mouth and give him a second shot.

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