You ever ask yourself what would happen if you took Tony Soprano, fed him nothing but baked beans out of a can for four months while only allowing him to listen to Hank Williams Jr. songs? The answer, my friends, is Joe West, who worked his shit-kicked-into-his-own-brains voodoo again yesterday.
In case you missed it, Joe West ejected Washington GM Mike Rizzo from the Braves-Nationals game yesterday. Now you’re probably sitting there, and after a moment to digest that previous sentence, asking how you eject someone who’s not actively involved in the game. That is a conundrum to most of the baseball world, and indeed anyone at least vaguely aware of decent societal rules. And frankly, we don’t know either. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing anyone would bother with.
But you — the likely reasonable soul that you are, or at least a fan of things moving along at a reasonable pace just so everyone can get on with their day in any given setting — are not Joe West. Joe West is the passenger on the plane who won’t let you out of the row to go to the bathroom because drink service will begin in five minutes. Joe West constantly tells the bartender when they’re low on ice. Joe West kettles protestors without informing them of curfew, then arrests them for violating curfew. It’s not so much that Joe West has to enforce the rules. He has to enforce that he knows the rules better than anyone. It’s not the order he’s after, but the acknowledgement, or more to the point the worshipping, of his knowledge and power.
So Joe heard Rizzo giving it to the home plate ump from his suite in Truist Park. A suite that has to be a good 100 yards from the field. That’s a byproduct of empty stadiums, but really no different than any other fan, except for Rizzo is a paid employee of one of the teams. Should Rizzo be yelling at the ump audibly from his suite? Probably not, but it’s also the kind of thing that that happens every game. It’s the kind of thing that could probably be solved with a solitary look, or maybe a pointed finger. But no, that won’t due for hilljack Joe.
So Joe delayed the game in order to, stick with us here, go to the dugout, get on the phone, and call security to have Rizzo removed. He caused Rizzo and security guards to have to interact, all so he could have his way. Not even his way, just so that he could show that he could have his way.
We discussed last week after the end of the Heat and Bucks game how NBA refs can’t decide if they want to be in the middle of the show or not, and it leads to uneven and inconsistent performances from them. West has no qualms about what he wants to do. He is sure everyone is there to see him, and if they’re not, he’s going to prove why they should be.
West has needed to be taken out back and put out of his umpiring misery for years. His strike zone sucks, he’s cantankerous at the drop of a hat, and he certainly isn’t getting around the diamond to get in position to make the right calls.
And yet MLB won’t do anything about him, or any underperforming ump, which baseball fans could name with the smallest amount of provocation. West is the perfect symbol or baseball — stubborn, intractable, born of another time, refusing to adjust to the times, incredibly sensitive to questioning, and backward.
Firing Joe West, or leashing him to some rock in the Salt Flats as he probably deserves, won’t solve baseball’s problems. But it certainly would be met with applause from fans, coaches and players alike. It would at least be an acknowledgment that the game can move forward from 1974.
In actual playing news, the Lakers tied their series with the Rockets at one, and LeBron continued his campaign to rob Russell Westbrook of any remnant of his soul. First there was this in Game 1.
And then there was this tonight:
There are great life lessons to be learned in LeBron blocks. Most of the time, if your planning is off, your process flawed, your goals self-serving, you may get away with it. Most of the time, the worst outcome is it just won’t work, but you’ll get to try again and no one will take much notice. Maybe it’ll even work, and though you know it’s not the right path, results are results. But every so often, if your process and your execution are off, an unseen and uncalculated-for force will appear from nowhere, and as soon as they come into vision, you will know there is no escape. And it won’t just make you feel wrong or send you back to the drawing board. It will erase any sense of purpose or confidence you have ever had. And though you may never encounter it again, you will know that it is out there. That it could. And from then on, your planning, your aims, your execution will have to be that much tighter. Because if it’s not, you know that there’s always a chance, no matter how slim, that death from above could be waiting to make you start all over from the very beginning again. There’s only so many times Sisyphus can push that boulder up the hill.