Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic spoke to everyone’s favorite umpire, Joe West. He reports that even though West is considered high-risk for COVID-19, and even though he has the right to opt-out with full pay because of it, West is not opting out of the 2020 season.
West, who is 67 years-old, has a history of high blood pressure, and who is overweight, tells Rosenthal that Major League Baseball expected him to opt-out and was “taken aback” and “shocked” when he told them that he would not do so.
Partially it’s because he wants to set the all-time record for games worked. He’s 65 games of Bill Klem’s record and, if he works 2020, he can set the record early next year. Partially it’s because he’s not concerned about his health, telling Rosenthal, “If this game hasn’t gotten me by now, no virus is going to get me.” He says that he’s lost some weight and that his doctor says his heart is “as healthy as a horse’s.”
It’s also, it seems, because West is something of a COVID-19 skeptic:
“I said, ‘Look, most of these people that they’re reporting are dying are not healthy to begin with. I’ve lost 25 pounds over the winter. I’m playing golf every day in the heat. I’m fine. I’m not going to back down now.’
“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus. I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths. I said, ‘I’m not going to opt out. I’m going to work. And I’m going to work until you take me off the field or I get hurt, whatever. I’m working.’”
West — whose reputation as a game arbiter is not the greatest — goes on to add that baseball needs his seniority, referring to young umps without senior umps’ guidance as being “in a boat without an oar.”
Joe West is not opting out of the 2020 season. That’s his right and his reasons are his reasons, I suppose.
Good luck, everyone.