Joe West umpired his 5,000th game last night. For the occasion, Jeff Passan of Yahoo interviewed the Cowboy.
You will not be surprised that he does not care that people generally hate him. You will also not be surprised that he does not admit to being a less-than-great umpire. His view of the world is that people are always looking for someone else to blame when they fail and that the umpire is an easy target:
Baseball is a funny game. It’s typically American. If you don’t succeed it’s someone else’s fault. And the first person you want to look at is the official. Just look at our last election. When Hillary lost, it’s someone else’s fault. The Russians. Wikileaks. It’s the fact you couldn’t stand up and say ‘I lost.’ Nobody in today’s society wants to say ‘I wasn’t good enough.’ Baseball is a game of failures. The last hitter who hit .400 is dead and gone. There isn’t going to be another of those. For anybody to think this is a perfect game, they’re kidding themselves. Let’s be honest: How do you hit a round ball with a cylindrical bat square.”
A lot of people have focused on his Russia/Wikileaks comment, but I don’t care about that. Say what you want about the election, but I tend to agree more with people who favor complex explanations for complex occurrences rather than chalking them up to single factors. My political leanings notwithstanding, it’s rather silly to blame one single factor for Clinton’s loss, especially if that factor does not talk about the candidate, who made a lot of mistakes in an otherwise winnable race. That’s in the past, of course and matters less and less as time goes on.
No, the comment that leaps out at me is the one about people not admitting when they’re not good enough. From Joe West, who is arguably the worst umpire in baseball but believes otherwise because, hey, he’s had the job for a long time. Indeed, most of his career consists of incidents in which he’s blamed other people for controversies which arise due to his shortcomings. He believes that his status and the respect he’s owed because of his status trumps his performance. Joe West is never wrong.
Oh well. He has his moments, I suppose. He once ejected A.J. Pierzynski with some pretty suave style. And he grabbed Jonathan Papelbon by the jersey once to get him off the field, and who among us hasn’t wanted to do that?