Joe West is almost universally reviled in baseball circles. This is especially true in the younger, more progressive camps where he's seen as an obsolete dinosaur who manages to frequently and transparently amble himself nearer to the epicenter of attention. The veteran umpire's flair for the dramatic was on full display yesterday in Atlanta, where he found his way to a landline to call security in furtherance of removing Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.
Rizzo, who was up in the third deck, was allegedly heckling the boys in blue. That was the reason given for the ejection and not — which can't be stressed enough — the viral notion that he was tossed for not wearing a mask.
Here's West after the game, distilling the entire West experience down to its bare bones.
“I wouldn’t take that from a player. I wouldn’t take that from a manager,” West told The Associated Press. “If it was Donald Trump, I’d eject him, too. But I’d still vote for him.”
Alright. That's fine. Everyone who steps on a baseball field or is loud enough to be heard from one should be treated equally. If Rizzo were hooting and hollering from the dugout instead of halfway to Macon, he'd likely have faced the same consequences. As an American, West can be as loud and proud with his political views as he wants. So too can he rail against masks and embrace pseudoscience.
And that will be the last sentence in which I defend West, who is largely indefensible. He's ornery. Showy. Irritating. Often a deterrent to the fun and overall enjoyment of the game. But you know what?
He is, in fact, part of the game. Baseball's perfection is facilitated by its imperfection. There are physical and mental and emotional errors made constantly. This is a sport played by humans and officiated — for now — by those same fallible creatures. Play long enough or really not long at all and a person stumbles upon a Joe West. Or six Joe Wests. Or has a Joe West type on every team or is victimized by a Joe West-branded Ump Show at a lower level.
Baseball reflects life and life is full of, for lack of a better term, some bleep-holes. You have to deal with them. It's not ideal, but that's the way it is. Make the best of it, make your peace with it, and try to move forward.
Remember, to guys like West, it's you that's the bleep-hole. There's room for all types of personalities in baseball. Honey. Vinegar. Whatever gets flies. And yes, there will inherently be some oil-and-water dissonance. Certain things don't mix. West doesn't mix with a lot of other people, which should signal that he, as the common denominator, may be the problem.
None of this is new. He's been a problem for a while. There will be someone else to fill the void of Public Enemy No. 1 in the balls-and-strikes, outs-and-safes department. Everyone under the MLB umbrella can't be an All-American hero with great credit and a fantastic Q Score.
Just doesn't work like that.