Joe West wasted no time making his way into headlines across the country. Veteran outfielder Torii Hunter shared words with the media post-game after a 4-0 loss to the Tigers, expressing his disappointment in everyone’s least favorite umpire and accepting all punishment that Major League Baseball might send his way.
“I think he had dinner reservations or a concert to play in,” Hunter told reporters. “That was terrible. All I ask, everybody asks, we come out and do our job every day. That’s what I do, I come ready to play, do my job, I battle at the plate. We ask you to do your job as well. And Joe West needs to do his job. And he didn’t do it well.”
West rang Hunter up with a game ending strike three call that left two on base and ended the contest. The controversy? West check swung the outfielder, who appeared to check his own swing on an outside Joe Nathan pitch, without asking help from the first base umpire.
“That’s a big situation for us and I hate (that) he did it,” Hunter said. “I don’t know why he didn’t check. He just walked off. So obviously he knew he was wrong. If I’m going to get fined for saying this: Joe West was wrong.”
For those who may not know: a check or checked swing is when a batter begins to swing at a pitch but stops in the middle of his gesture, noticing that the pitch is outside of the strike zone. The call is usually determined by whether or not the bat crossed plate. Home plate umpires don’t have the best view of this type of play, so they ask for assistance from colleagues at first or third to make the call. The batter or catcher can ask the umpire to get assistance with the call, but the umpire can decline to do so.
Rarely does the umpire decline and why Joe West went on to make such a call without checking with his colleagues isn’t quite clear. Maybe the 2 1/2 hour game time proved to be too strenuous for the blue behind the dish.
Above is a screenshot taken from MLB.com’s highlight video of the controversial call. Hunter tried to have words with West after the call. He was simply ignored. West has calmed his normally extravagant ejections after serving a suspension last season for grabbing Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon by the jersey in a heated argument. The umpire ejected Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski during a Grapefruit League contest this spring ever so subtly.
West followed up with the media about his call on Hunter this afternoon.“I thought he swung, so I said he swung,” the veteran umpire said. “They’re all great players, and any time you get called out at the end of the game on something like that, they’re going to be upset, so I understand that.”
Buckle up, folks. It’s only opening day and this isn’t the first pit stop we’ll make in the wild wild West. Bad calls are bound to happen in baseball, but only one cowboy always makes sure to be the king of them. If you ask him nicely, he might even write you a song about it.