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Shepkowski: Time To Go, Country Joe

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Joe West

Joe West (Photo Credit: Getty Images, By: Greg Fiume)

Nick Shepkowski Nick Shepkowski
Nick Shepkowski is the associate producer of McNeil and Spiegel on 670...
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By Nick Shepkowski–

(WSCR) Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay and a healthy Joe Mauer are all baseball players I’d willingly pay to see play regardless of where their teams were in the standings. There are others as well, but these are the best of the best at what they do and easy to admire.

One key component to any baseball game that I would never spend a dollar on specifically to see, though?

Any umpire.

In what was a great pitchers duel between two of baseball’s very best, in Dan Haren and Justin Verlander, Tuesday night in Anaheim, “Country” Joe West and his crew, yet again, found a way to steal the spotlight.

It began in the bottom of the first inning when Angels DH Bobby Abreu was thrown out by home plate umpire Angel Campos after questioning a very debatable called third strike. After watching the replay multiple times, it wasn’t only a bad call, but Abreu’s questioning hardly appeared to merit an ejection.

Joe West was positioned at first base and wasted no time getting the attention of all viewers. After missing a close call that led to the only run of the game, West twice confronted Tigers manager Jim Leyland in the first base dugout, eventually throwing him out the game following the sixth inning.

The ejection came after third base umpire Angel Hernandez made Tigers ace Justin Verlander change baseballs after rubbing a ball behind the mound, something that is rarely ever done.

Eventually Verlander joined Leyland and Abreu as casualties to this crew after being pulled from the game in the eighth inning, as he had words for both West and Hernandez while exiting the field.

It takes a special kind of umpire to feel the need to eject a pitcher who is already headed to the locker room. The only reason to do that is try to get people to talk about you, which I have sadly taken the bait on.

The fact of the matter is Joe West’s crew continues to put themselves ahead of the game and use their authority to a disruptive degree.

White Sox fans remember West specifically for the incident last year in Cleveland which resulted in both Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buehrle being ejected after two balk calls. You may recall the normally cool and collected Buehrle was tossed after lightly tossing his glove in the air after his second balk call of the afternoon affair.

While White Sox fans remember that episode in Cleveland, Cubs fans remember Angel Hernandez acting bigger than the game in August of 2001 when he threw Steve “Mongo” McMichael out of Wrigley Field after saying he was “Going to have to have a talk with that umpire down there.”

“Satrap” to the nth degree.

A 2006 Sports Illustrated poll of MLB players ranked Hernandez and West to be the third and fourth worst umpires in the big leagues, respectively. A poll conducted by ESPN Magazine last summer ranked West and Hernandez behind only C.B. Bucknor as the worst in the game.

Umpires have a thankless job that usually goes unrecognized until there is a blown call. It makes you appreciate those like Jim Joyce, Tim McClelland, and Jim Wolf, who are only ever in the news for missing a call, not for overreacting to little things.

I have no problem with players and managers being ejected when they carry on too far by saying the wrong couple of words or slamming their bats or caps.

It’s just unfortunate when a great pitcher’s duel like Tuesday night or even an everyday game gets upstaged by an umpire or crew of umps trying to prove a point.

Joe West’s act is tired and Major League Baseball will be a better place when he’s no longer a part of it.

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