The following is an editorial piece and does not necessarily express the views of the entire East Village Times staff.
Entering into 2018, Joe West had umpired more games (5,075) than all but two Major League Umpires, Bill Klemm (5,375) and Bruce Froemming (5,163).
In his 40-year career, he has worked for six of the ten Major League Baseball commissioners and umpired 61 Hall of Famers.
Joe West has been a part of three All-Star Games, eight Division Series, nine League Championships and six World Series, yet West may only be remembered for his on-field antics and a career that has lasted for far too long.
Joe West began his career full-time with Major League Baseball in 1978 after filling in part-time the two years before that for the National League.
The ex-college football player from Asheville, North Carolina was inducted into the Elon Sports Hall of Fame for the way he played quarterback during his time there. He is a singer/songwriter who has recorded on four different country albums, and most of the people who know Joe West can attest to the fact that his off-field persona is much different from the one displayed on it. If only the baseball-watching public could be privy to that side.
Padres Hall of Fame right fielder Tony Gwynn was ejected twice in the 2,440 games that he played; the first was by Joe West. It was reported by the Herald-Journal that, “Gwynn became so enraged that he picked up San Diego manager Larry Bowa and moved him aside in order to get at West.” This was on April 18, 1988, but, here we are, just over 30 years later talking about the same man doing the same old thing.
There is zero — zero — chance that Joe West was in the right here. Doesn’t matter what the argument was about. pic.twitter.com/kQ0jbZcN0h
— Grant Brisbee (@GrantBrisbee) April 25, 2018
“There’s nothing I can do about it. Nobody’s looking to call a balk there, fuck, if it doesn’t jump out at you. That’s why I called it. You saw how fast I fuckin’ called it. You hate that you have to do it, but you can’t let them cheat,” West said after the game Monday night between the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
His most recent event happened in the eighth inning when Tony Cingrani, the Dodgers left-handed relief pitcher, was called for a balk after trying to pick-off Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich at first base. Nothing occurred on the field, but that cannot be said for other calls in West’s past.
Literally the exact play Joe West got Cingrani on. https://t.co/WAY58CfXET
— Ethan Hanson (@EthanAHanson) April 25, 2018
Forget the balk rules for a second. It is left open for interpretation, leading to a problem like this, which is going to lead to a never-ending argument. The bigger problem is the behavior and the insistence to make a call. This is a play that gets overlooked majority of the time, yet West feels compelled to make a call, putting the attention on himself, which he has shown a propensity for in the past, while recently showing a lack of care while “working” on the field.
Remember when Madison Bumgarner and Joe West got into a starring match ???
— Baseball King™ (@BasebaIlKing) February 6, 2018
In 2017, umpires in the minor leagues got paid more than the majority of the players, starting at $2,600 a month in Single-A. It goes all the way up to $3,900 in Triple-A, not including benefits, travel expenses, and daily per diem’s. If they are one of the lucky 68 to make the Major Leagues, that salary jumps to $120,000 minimum, and it is not the easiest path to get there. This is not to discredit what they do. It is an incredibly difficult, thankless job and there is a plethora of obstacles facing professional umpires: Enrollment in two of MLB’s approved classes, passing the classes in the top percentile, and advancing through the Minor Leagues, usually starting in Single A, taking years to get to the upper levels of the Minor Leagues or Major League Baseball. All of this while meeting the following basic hiring requirements: High school diploma or G.E.D., reasonable body weight, 20/20 vision (with or without corrective lenses), good communication skills, some athletic ability, and the required preliminary training for the job.
With all of that being said, why does Major League Baseball not hold their umpires at the highest level to the same standards?
The protocol in the commissioner’s office is to keep the punishments with MLB umpires behind closed doors. The public is left in the dark for the most part, and only two umpires that can be found in the public record were fired since 2001; Brian Runge and Al Clark. And neither was for job performance – Runge was fired for undisclosed violations of the MLB Drug Policy and Clark for fraud that ultimately led to jail time. Yet here we are, watching Joe West take his post day-in and day-out, even though he clearly is breaking even the most basic of requirements that Major League Baseball puts in place for umpires.
The Joe West show has gone on long enough. His antics and general malaise for the game of late is enough. It is time for Major League Baseball to make a statement, set a precedent, and give a hardworking, young umpire the opportunity that is so hard to receive at baseball’s top level, for the betterment of the game. It is time to hold the people who police the rules of baseball to the same level that they hold the people playing it.