Being an umpire in Major League Baseball sounds like a dream job, but seriously, it’s one tough gig. You’re bond to upset players, managers and fans. And, since umps are only people, there’s going to be some bad calls here and there. Also, as we mentioned here in the past, it takes years, and luck, to make it to the majors. That’s why I believe most baseball fans, and players, can give an official a break from time to time. However, there’s one guy that isn’t winning over anyone.
I’m talking about “Cowboy” Joe West, who made headlines yet again, during the Phillies-Marlins game on September 4, 2011.
Joe West made his umping debut in 1976, has called four World Series, seven League Championship Series, and four Division Series during his career. What makes West perhaps the most recognizable ump for players and fans are the several controversies that have made him Public Enemy Number One. We’re not just talking about bad calls either. We’re talking about a Hulk-like temper and the fact that he has a bit of a power trip (which I guess he can have some MLB won’t do anything to stop him). Here’s some examples of “Cowboy” Joe West’s antics, which doesn’t include his attempt at making country music.
On May 9, 1984 he ejected two television cameramen from Shea Stadium when they allowed the Mets to view replays of a controversial play at the plate in which Hubie Brooks was called out. In 1990, West slammed Philadelphia pitcher Dennis Cook to the ground while breaking up an on field brawl, which made NL president Bill White prepared to suspend the ump, but commissioner Fay Vincent intervened and no discipline was imposed. On July 23, 1991, after Cincinnati pitcher Rob Dibble threw a ball at Doug Dascenzo and was thrown out of the game, West was bumped by the Cubs Andre Dawson in the same game. Dawson was later suspended for one game and fined $1000. On the check he wrote to the league, Dawson wrote in the memo “donation to the blind.”
In April of 2010, West called the long games between the Yankess and Red Sox “pathetic and embarrassing”. On May 26, 2010, during a game against the Indians, West ejected White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén in the second inning after a balk call (after Guillen had gone out to protect his pitcher, Mark Buehrle). One inning later, Buehrle himself was ejected after he allegedly threw his glove in protest of another balk call. After the game, Buehrle said “I think he’s too worried about promoting his CD and I think he likes seeing his name in the papers a little bit too much instead of worrying about the rules.” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said “Sometimes he thinks… people pay to watch him umpire. No matter what you say, what you do, how long you talk here, Major League Baseball doesn’t do… anything.” Guillen and Buehrle were later fined for their involvement. West was not fined or punished by Major League Baseball for his comments about the Yankees-Sox or the White Sox incident, but was “admonished firmly”, according to press reports.
In May of this season, West came over from third base to get himself in between Red Sox manager Terry Francona and home plate umpire Angel Hernandez. This was after Francona was ejected by Henandez for arguing a balk, so there really was no need for West, which is why Francona later said “Joe, as we all know, always wants to be in everybody’s business”.
Over the last several seasons West has been moving up on the list of worst umpires according to players. This year, however, 41 percent of players named “Cowboy” Joe the worst ump in baseball. Even former players still can’t forget about West, like Curt Schilling, who said that West “often times acts like he’d rather be any place in the world other than the field”.
From this fans perspective Joe West is definitely a guy enjoying the spotlight. That’s what myself, and everyone in the world of sports, should just ignore him. But, when an ump is getting involved with players and games this closely it’s rather agitating. Especially when the league won’t do anything about it.
So, loyal readers, what do you think of Joe West? Is he just misunderstood? Or, his he a renegade who should he be reprimanded for his actions?