Veteran umpire Joe West made headlines earlier this month for saying the slow pace of Yankees-Red Sox games were “pathetic” and “embarrassing” and “a disgrace to baseball.”
He’s apparently making it his personal mission to speed games up, but Joe Maddon wasn’t happy about West immediately walking to the mound as soon as the Rays manager stepped onto the field to change pitchers.
I didn’t like that. It’s not the way it should be. It has nothing to do with the pace of the game. That’s inappropriate. A manager should be allowed to go out to the mound, talk to his pitcher and then you make the exchange without the umpire being privy to the conversation.
I didn’t like the idea of being shadowed so quickly when I got out there, and the bad part is I’m going through this exchange with David [Price] coming out of the game, and it’s not good, because David shouldn’t be subject to all that, he really shouldn’t. That should be between David and I, I get it done, and then the umpire comes out and I say I want the next pitcher.
I think most fans would agree with West that the pace of games are too slow, but there are far better ways for him to approach that than what he did to Maddon and ultimately one rogue umpire trying to change things in the one game he’s at each night isn’t going to do much of anything aside from adding to the inconsistencies that help contribute to the slow pace in the first place.
Pitchers like Mark Buehrle are consistently involved in the quickest games and it’s not because the umpire is beating the manager to the mound for pitching changes, it’s because the guy on the mound is delivering the ball within seconds of getting it back from the catcher. Encouraging that and in turn encouraging hitters to remain in the batter’s box is the way to go if West and MLB are truly interested in having an impact.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉