MLB Has Had Enough of Cowboy Joe West
"Hey Joe, I've heard you shot your woman down,
shot her down, now "
I realize that it's a bit of a reach to make a metaphor where the job of umpiring and/or the game of baseball is Joe West's old lady, but nevertheless the lyrics seem appropriate after what has transpired this week and this season on the whole for the off-kilter and perhaps power drunk umpire.
West has been an umpire for more than two decades, and is even president of the umpire's union, which to me would indicate a level of stature and ability that isn't in line with the kind of behavior West engaged in. When he called a balk on the White Sox' Mark Buehrle Thursday, he went so far as to tell White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen that if he came out to argue the call, he would be ejected.
That was the first strange moment, but then to call a second, even more dubious balk on Buehrle later and follow it by ejecting him for dropping his glove on the ground in (fairly justified) frustration is another step worse.
Now believe me, it's not exactly an odd thing to get called for a balk two times in a single game as a starting pitcher. In the modern era (since 1970) it has happened 324 times, or roughly once every three weeks over four decades of baseball.
However, for it to happen to Buehrle - he of 10 career balks, five of which came way back in 2001 - is significantly more surprising. The calls themselves were suspect at best, and the fallout from the incident has Major League Baseball up in arms and leveling punishment on Joe West.
Thursday's game wasn't the last straw, though. West's publicist (yes, that's right, an MLB umpire with a publicist) sent an email to media members telling his schedule and saying that West would be available for interview, particularly if anyone wanted to revisit his April comments about the Red Sox - Yankees pace of play conversation.
So let's review this. A major league umpire makes accurate but unsolicited criticism of two teams in April, then calls two very suspect balks on a pitcher in May and ejects the only two people daring enough to question his apparently infallible authority.
All the while, he is promoting his country music CD and personalized line of umpiring gear. Lastly, he allows his publicist to tell people where he will be working (nobody in the league should know this, it could create opportunities for bias). and even suggests topics of conversation for interviews.
There are established celebrities who don't go that far to get press, let alone complete non-stars like Joe. Which I suppose makes it equally surprising that West's comments Friday about being fined (along with Guillen and Buehrle) started and ended with "It's none of your business."
"Hey Joe, said now
Where you gonna run to now?"
Maybe he'll do just like the song and disappear to Mexico. Shy of that, maybe he can at the very least be a little less "Cowboy" and a little more plain old "Joe" going forward.