MLB umpire Joe West has been disliked by many fans for his flamboyance on the field and his bad calls for many, many years.
Tuesday, West told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic something that ought to get him suspended, relating a conversation he had with MLB’s deputy commissioner Dan Halem:
“He said, ‘According to our doctors, you’re high-risk,’” recalled West, who lives in Clermont, Fl., about 22 miles west of Orlando. “I said, ‘Look, most of these people that they’re reporting are dying are not healthy to begin with. I’ve lost 25 pounds over the winter. I’m playing golf every day in the heat. I’m fine. I’m not going to back down now.’
“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus. I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths. I said, ‘I’m not going to opt out. I’m going to work. And I’m going to work until you take me off the field or I get hurt, whatever. I’m working.’”
West and Halem were having a conversation about whether or not West would opt out of umpiring this season. It appears that MLB officials would have liked West to opt out; clearly, it’s his choice, whether it’s safe for a a 67-year-old man to do that or not.
But what I really have a problem with is his statement that “I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus.”
Whether West believes it in his heart or not, it’s a fact: Over 133,000 people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic broke out.
You know, the other day Commissioner Rob Manfred claimed that Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was guilty of “insubordination” for simply stating his view about how MLB’s testing protocols were affecting his team:
“We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families,” Rizzo said. “Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”
Beyond the fact that Rizzo doesn’t work for Manfred and can’t be guilty of “insubordination,” that’s a simple statement of fact. MLB has to do a better job of resolving testing issues, which continued to get worse Tuesday, as BCB’s Sara Sanchez pointed out.
What does all this have to do with Joe West? Nothing, really, except MLB was quick to pounce on a team GM for telling the truth, while saying nothing about someone who IS actually a league employee for stating something that isn’t factual.
Really, West should have retired a couple of years ago, but here’s his reason for sticking around:
Another milestone — Bill Klem’s career mark of 5,375 regular-season games as a major-league umpire — is part of West’s motivation.
West, who is 65 games short of Klem, will not set the record this season because of the reduction in the schedule from 162 to 60 games. But if the season is played to completion, he would surpass Klem early in 2021.
West can’t hold a candle to Bill Klem, who is widely considered one of the greatest umpires in MLB history and who is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. When West finally does retire, MLB ought to negotiate a retirement age with the umpires’ union. Umpiring is a physically demanding job and older men simply can’t handle it as well as younger guys can. Apart from West, you don’t see umpires out of shape, as was the case with some decades ago.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear a public reprimand from Manfred regarding West’s false coronavirus statement, but I think I’ll be waiting a long time for that. There have been eight work stoppages in baseball due to labor disputes, strikes and lockouts from 1972-1995. The acrimony during those stoppages was palpable. I lived through that era and I say with confidence: Baseball is run much worse now than it ever was through any of that.
The Commissioner’s office is doing a really good job of ruining MLB’s public image this year, sad to say. Whether we have a 60-game season or not in 2020, they have a lot of work ahead of them to repair said image with many fans.