Former White Sox owner and colorful chapter in baseball history all his own, Bill Veeck, once said the single most accurate anecdote about baseball umpires that will ever be said: “[Umpires] should be reminded every payday that they’ve been placed on the field, like the bases, only to keep the game going.”
I think most of them get that. I’d feel better, at least, if most of them did, anyway.
But a certain number of them don’t. Angel Hernandez, as illustrated in last night’s bizarre refusal to acknowledge video evidence while watching it, doesn’t get it. John Hirschbeck, ever willing to point out that he’s in charge, certainly doesn’t get it. C.B. Bucknor might be too awful an umpire to ever get it. And Joe West, Joe West, Joe West…
It would be one thing if any or all of them were singularly terrible, stuck in their positions by seniority and used as little as possible. But they call World Series games. They call national broadcast games. Sometimes they record country music albums. They’re the stars of the show in their own minds, and it’s infuriating in a way that is nearly unique to baseball (the NBA has their share of diva referees, to be sure).
So, what can be done? Fans and writers can’t suspend or fire umpires. Major League Baseball seems content with all of them. Maybe it’s just time to bend to their reality, one in which the four of them have banded together, aiming to take baseball by storm and bend it to their sick, selfish vision. Maybe he’s not Country Joe West, but Hollywood Joe West. Maybe, these four umpires are, in fact, baseball’s New World Order.
God help us all.