Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Was Joe West Only Suspended One Game?

The Vine above is everything you need to know about this incident wrapped up in seven seconds.

Let's start off with a quiz. Name as many Major League umpires as you can in 10 seconds. Go.

I managed to come up with Angel Hernandez, C.B. Bucknor, Dan Bellino, Jim Joyce, and Joe West. Why did those names come to mind so quick? Because they're all terrible.

Now, Joyce has been exonerated since he ruined Armando Galarraga's perfect game, but he is still a name that sticks out. When an umpire can get through a three-game series without most people knowing his name, not only has he done his job, but he has done it damn well. Umpires are responsible for facilitating the game, not dictating it.

As for those other guys... Hernandez nearly got a standing ovation during a game...after he had been hit by a line drive. Bucknor doesn't know how an out should be recorded and makes third strike calls on strike two. Bellino once threw out Adrian Beltre for joking around with his former teammate Felix Hernandez.

But let's focus on West for a minute. Sunday afternoon, the Phillies were enjoying a three-run lead going into the ninth inning when they brought in closer Jonathan Papelbon. Pap isn't the most well-liked guy in Philadelphia, never mind throughout baseball, so when you give up four runs in front of the hometown crowd and go on to lose the game, the walk back to the dugout isn't going to be a stroll in the park. So because Papelbon is an idiot, he decided to forgo even a sarcastic hat tip and just go straight to the crotch grab. His explanation is gold, though.

"This is baseball. I had to make an adjustment and I did it, and by no means am I directing anything at any fans. When I'm out there and in the moment, the fans are irrelevant to me. I don't see them, I don't hear them. To me, this is pretty stupid to be totally honest with you."

Not sure if it helps that he called the fans irrelevant...

Papelbon was suspended seven games, which was a combination of the ridiculous gesture and getting a little too close to West during the ensuing argument. We've seen some players in the past make some questionable contact with umpires, but why is there such a gap between penalties for the player and the umpire?

West received just a one-game suspension after he grabbed Papelbon by the jersey and brushed him off to the side when he decided he didn't want to hear what the already-ejected hot head had to say. Papelbon deserves the seven games, there is no doubt about it, but why is it that West can grab a player and get off virtually scot-free?

Cowboy Joe has had a history of hogging the spotlight, over the years, and has repeatedly been voted one of the worst umpires by MLB players. His actions Sunday can just be tacked on to the ever-expanding list of reasons why umpires need to be held more accountable for their actions. If umpires can't be ejected, why are they allowed to get in the faces of players and even initiate the arguments?

The league is giving them free range to handle the situations as they see fit, and if grabbing a player's jersey means the umpire "handled himself appropriately," as MLB VP Joe Torre phrased it, then the problem is only going to get worse.  Baseball needs to start analyzing the incidents that lead to these heated exchanges, identify who could be considered at fault, and hand out equal punishments, regardless of position within the game.

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