To the shock of absolutely no one, Joe West made a bad call.
According to The Athletic, the veteran umpire told deputy commissioner Dan Halem that he plans to return for the 2020 baseball season, even though he could have opted out for being in a high-risk demographic. It turns out West isn’t really a believer in the deadliness of coronavirus, which has killed 133,000 Americans as of Tuesday.
“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus,” he told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. “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.’”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, eight out of 10 deaths in the U.S. due to the coronavirus have been in adults 65 years and older.
West is 67.
West, known as “Cowboy Joe,” is not exactly the picture of health, although he claims he lost 25 pounds in the offseason, and says he plays golf every day. West has been umpiring since 1976 and is just 65 games short of Bill Klem’s all-time record of 5,375 games umpired in the majors.
And he’s had his fair share of controversy and criticism over the years.
The controversial West was suspended by Commissioner Rob Manfred in 2017 for comments about player Adrian Beltre. In a 2010 poll of 100 players, West was named the 2nd-worst umpire in the majors. A study of 2018 ball-strike calls also showed West as one of the worst-performing umpires in the majors.
Despite that, West acts as if he’s needed on the field:
“I don’t blame anybody who decides they want to opt out. I’m not that way,” West said. “I’m a little scared for baseball. If you take the seniority off the field, these young guys will be out there in a boat without an oar.”