And by rule, the move that Tim Wakefield made that resulted in said balk call, may have been by rule a balk. Wakefield disputed that, as did his teammates, but maybe it was a balk. Fine. Whatever.
It’s everything else that followed after that moment that Major League Baseball should be embarrassed about.
Francona came out to have a word with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, the man who called the balk. The conversation should have and likely did start with a question in how in the world Hernandez could decipher the angle in which Wakefield was stepping toward third from home plate. But I digress.
Technically, you’re not supposed to argue balks, so Hernandez went by the book and gave Francona the heave-ho. Sure, Francona went off (perhaps in an effort to spark his lethargic team, already trailing en route to another loss), giving Hernandez a piece of his mind and the Fenway Park sod what was left of his tobacco and gum concoction.
But that should have been it. Francona would have gone down the tunnel, into the clubhouse and do whatever it is ejected managers do until the game ends. That should have been it except for the fact that Joe West was in the building, so naturally, he felt the need to get involved.
West came waddling in from third base, got himself in between Francona and Hernandez while simultaneously getting himself in the spotlight, the place he so desperately loves to be.
This move, however, was did not surprise Francona one bit.
“Joe, as we all know, always wants to be in everybody’s business,” Francona said of West. “That was me and Angel. Joe didn’t have anything to do with it. Didn’t appreciate what he did. I think he was wrong.”
West has a reputation in baseball circles for loving attention. That, you see, is a problem when your occupation is a major league umpire, and the truest judge of whether or not you’re doing your job well is whether or not you get noticed. If you go unnoticed, you’re probably doing something right. Joe West never goes unnoticed.
Naturally, West didn’t stop at just injecting himself into the brouhaha in front of home plate. He then proceeded to grab Francona and physically restrain him. This is where the biggest problem is.
If for some reason you switched roles, and it was Francona grabbing West, you can bet your bottom dollar that Tito would be getting a phone call from Joe Torre (now the MLB disciplinarian) and a subsequent unpaid vacation.
Instead, West will likely walk away from the incident scot-free, ready to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong again, as he has for so long. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing.
Umpires, players and coaches all share the same field. Players and coaches are to be held accountable for their actions, especially when they cross the line in a fit of rage. Umpires all too often are given the benefit of the doubt by the league and are allowed to keep on making spectacles with no repercussions.
MLB needs to do something about it. When I pay top dollar for MLB tickets, I’m doing so because I want to see the best baseball players in the planet. I’m not paying to see Joe West. Or Angel Hernandez. Or anyone else in blue.
Until baseball starts to discipline its umpires for actions like West displayed on Friday night in Boston, umpires like West will continue to inject themselves into the show.
Should Major League Baseball discipline its umpires for actions like Joe West showed on Friday night? Share your thoughts below.