Joe West’s 'record' is a testament to inertia

“Legend.”
“Legend.”
Image: Getty Images

I wasn’t aware that the Major League Baseball Umpires’ union had a Twitter feed. I mean, why wouldn’t they? You also might, for a very brief moment, ask if it’s an outlet where the union might help explain some controversial calls or the like. But then you’ll quickly remind yourself that this these are MLB umps, and their only explanation for anything is “Fuck you.”

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Either way, there was that feed exclaiming that this week, Joe West will break the record for most games umpired by anyone. Which is an accomplishment, in some form. I’m just not sure which.

I guess it’s an accomplishment in that, for the most part, being an ump probably sucks ass. You’re on your feet for three to four hours every day, mostly in uncomfortable heat in clothes that definitely don’t look like they breathe much, and when it’s not ungodly hot there’s a decent chance it’s pretty damn cold. And you’re not doing anything for so long! Well, one guy is, he’s behind home plate doing a job that’s pretty much impossible. He’s guessing. Because no human eye can correctly detect when a rock thrown at 95 MPH or more, or breaking a foot or more sometimes, passes through an imaginary opening some four feet in front of you.

But if you’re not doing that job, you’re just standing. There’s no, or little, adrenaline rush. Basketball, hockey, and football refs may have it no better in a lot of ways, but at least they’re running/skating around while there’s furious action going on around them. The adrenaline has to kick in at some point. If nothing else, movement is fun.

Baseball umps are watching 10-13 other guys mostly standing around as well. And sweating their balls off. Especially these days, when there’s more standing around than ever. If you’re umpiring third base that day, you might have like, four things to do over three-and-a-half hours.

So I guess if Joe West has had the patience to do that more times than anyone, especially given the shape he’s in, that’s worthy of some esteem. Or a team of therapists, I don’t know.

Except ...?

Except he sucks at the job. And everyone hates him. Fans hate him. Managers hate him. Players hate him. They can’t say that, because Joe West is just the type of vengeful and petty fuckwad who will make them pay for it for years.

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And it will be years! Because he’s never going anywhere. And even though on the field West shows all the passion of an overserved sloth –– seriously, he even makes his strike calls look like a chore and an insult that he has to be woken up from his slumber to do them –– West loves nothing more than to make himself the show. It’s all part of the act. So taking out hurt feelings on any manager or player that might have publicly suggested that West should have been left on by a country highway long ago would absolutely be right in his wheelhouse. The entire stadium focused on him? That’s probably the only thing that gets any blood pumping where you definitely don’t want to think about Joe West’s blood pumping.

The only thing West has ever been good at, at least in the past 15 years, is making everyone for sure know how good he thinks he is at the job. It’s amazing that I can think of some games, but nowhere near them all, that have been held up while West proves just how much he knows every minute rule in the book and is going to show everyone. The last one I recall is West stopping a game for five minutes because a Phillies pitcher had a printed out scouting report in his back pocket that he would check. Or it was the signs sheet. Either way, they were pretty common then. And no one else cared. But West knew they were a “foreign object or substance,” even though you can’t do anything to the baseball with it. No other ump gave a flying fuck about such a thing, but not only did West give such an airborne fornication, he was going to make sure eveyone else did too by the time he was finished. The game wasn’t hurt by the pitcher having it. He couldn’t possibly cheat with it. But not only did West intervene only to please himself, it was all a big production. And that kind of shit happens all the time with West.

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And yet here he is, about to break some record that someone somewhere might care about, simply because no one’s bothered to tell him to go home. Baseball umps never get fired. Do they even get evaluated? If they did, would West, or Angel Hernandez, or C.B. Bucknor have been in the job this long?

Joe West represents inertia in every sense. It’s not like he can move, and if he were to ever waddle more than 10 feet to see if a ball was caught or cleared the outfield wall I’m sure he’d melt. Everything he does is laconic and stationary. And his continued presence through decades of work is a result of no one making him move or bothering to move to see what kind of job he’s doing. He throws out managers and players for making him move.

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And all he’s had to do to break this record is stand still. No improvement, no change, no deviation, and no force imposing on him to do so. All if it is a result of inaction.

Boy, if that isn’t a metaphor for the entire sport...

 

We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport...talking? It's a little fishy.