Maybe sometime we’ll sift through the ashes one day

It was a beautiful night to be sitting in pavilion seats (so, like this one, most of my photos are of the sky!)

It was a beautiful night to be sitting in pavilion seats (so most of my photos are of the sky!)

Don’t you think avoiding the Internet for the better part of the day because you knew you were going to read stuff that would make you want to punch someone only three games into the season is a bit soon? Me too. BUT that’s exactly what I did today.

The plan was to write something last night or this morning about Wednesday’s game but every time I started I got more angry and annoyed and had to erase anything I wrote.  The words !@%$#%@ and @%#$%@! were used liberally and I chose to delete, take a breath and wait it out.   (I feel I should point out that my expletives were directed not toward the team but the group of writers and fans who are ready to give up the season already.)

Yes, I know losing two out of three to the Yankees sucks.  Losing two out of three to any team sucks, really, but I get that it’s especially sucky when the Yanks beat your team.  Hell, I was there on Wednesday night, you don’t have to tell me how much it sucked (except for Lackey.  Lackey didn’t suck at all.  This pleases me and it should please you as well.).  But here’s the thing – it’s the first three games.  We have 159 more games to watch.  I think folks can ratchet down the whole ‘sky is falling ‘ thing, yes?

If we truly need to find something to be grumpy about, howsabout we get cranky at Joe West?  You remember Joe West.  He was the first base umpire for Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS.  He was the brilliant umpire who called ARod safe after he slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hands – and without ARod ever having touched first base.  He was also the home plate umpire for Clay Buchholz’ no-hitter (a bitter Orioles fan on Wikipedia writes:  “called a knee-high curveball strike three for the final out”).

My issue isn’t how he does his job.  He’s done some good, done some not so good.  Happens to everyone.  My issue is with him complaining in a print interview about SPECIFICALLY the Yankees and Red Sox making the games too long.  His exact wording was that the way the Yanks and Sox play is “a disgrace to baseball” as well as “pathetic and embarrassing”.  It’s funny because these words are exactly what folks would use to describe Angel Hernandez (part of the umpiring crew for the Sox/Yanks series and, quite possibly, the worst umpire ever to work for MLB).

Since the dawn of baseball people have complained about how long the game is.  (I will never get this.  As long as the game is going on, people are buying from the concessions and continuing to make the teams money.  What baseball fan has ever said “I wish every game was only two hours long”?  A person who really isn’t a fan, I’d guess.) So this isn’t anything new.  But what is sticking in my craw is that he specifically called out two teams with such harsh language for doing nothing more than taking pitches, getting a lot of hits, and pitching carefully.  HOW DARE THEY PLAY BASEBALL!  If a player (or manager for that matter) came out this harshly against an umpire, he’d be fined by the league, possibly suspended but umpires don’t have to answer to anyone.

Luckily we have a player not afraid of the league who has decided to speak his mind.  Oddly enough?  That player is Mariano Rivera.  Odd for two reasons:  Mo isn’t exactly known for being outspoken and he’s not really one of the guys you can blame for the game going on too long.  By the time he gets in, well, the length of the game is already in effect.  But Mo is unhappy with Mr. West’s bitchiness and has a suggestion for him:

“He has a job to do. He should do his job,” Rivera said. “We don’t want to play four-hour games but that’s what it takes. We respect and love the fans and do what we have to do and that’s play our game.”

It isn’t often I have an opportunity to say this about a Yankee…but he’s absolutely right.  This game isn’t about placating the cranky minority.  Tell me it’s a business and I will agree but it’s a business that makes its money by trying to make the fans…the people who bankroll the game…happy.  You know what makes fans happy?  Mo seems to.  Teams playing the game as hard and good as they can.  If this means it takes a little longer, guess what, the fans are good with that!

Yes, I know there are aspects of the game that you could tinker with to speed things up.  Not letting batters out of the box so much, making sure the pitcher gets rid of the ball in the amount of time he’s supposed to.  How about limiting the amount of times catchers visit the mound?  The game goes long for many reasons (not the least of which is extended innings caused by bad calls by the umps) and it has all become part of the ebb and flow of it all.  Don’t start getting pissy now because you get bored doing your job.

If you feel like you’re going to side with West, consider this:  Do you remember Wallace Matthews?  He is the genius who once ripped apart Tim Wakefield when he wrote that Wake is, essentially,  a pox on the game of baseball because when he pitches the game goes on too long.  (Tim Wakefield, for those of you unaware, averages quicker games than just about any other pitcher in baseball – at the very least he did when Wally wrote his piece complaining about him.   Mr. Matthews isn’t one to let facts get in the way of a good bitchfest.  Well today he writes on that West should be “praised not punished” for what he said.  He even calls what West said “fan-friendly”.  Someone needs to explain to me how anything West whined about can be construed as “fan-friendly”.  If anything it’s an insult to the fans to complain about the way two of the best teams in baseball play their game.

Matthews (I’m not linking to his bilge.  You can find him at if you want to check it out.) also mentions his disappointment because he believes Joe West will get reprimanded by the league.  I’ll believe that fairy tale when I see it.

For fun, here’s a blurb about Angel Hernandez from Wikipedia:

Hernández has been involved in a number of high-profile incidents with players and even fans. On August 7, 2001, he ejected a guest singer of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at Wrigley Field. The ejectee was former Chicago Bears player Steve McMichael, who had taken a shot at Hernandez’s umpiring after being introduced as the guest singer.

Hernández has had multiple confrontations with Baltimore Orioles infielder Julio Lugo. In April 2007, Lugo attempted to call timeout and stepped out of the batter’s box just as the pitcher went into his windup, and Hernández called the resulting pitch a strike. This began an argument between Lugo and Hernández, but did not result in any ejection. On May 27, 2008, Lugo was among multiple Red Sox who asked for a check swing ruling from Hernández, umpiring at third base. Hernández stared at Lugo, Lugo asked why he was looking at him, and Hernández abruptly ejected Lugo from the game. When Boston manager Terry Francona asked why Lugo was thrown out, Hernández ejected him as well.

In a 1999 survey conducted by the Major League Baseball Players Association, Hernández was ranked 31st out of 36 National League umpires. However, later that year Hernández was asked to return for the 2000 season while 13 of his NL colleagues were let go. Given his low ranking, the Philadelphia Inquirer termed the retention of Hernández one of the “surprises” of the 1999 purge.

A 2006 Sports Illustrated poll of Major League players listed Hernandez as the third worst umpire in MLB.

We can’t focus on the umpires and the problems they have in-house but we can rip the players and the teams apart…as long as we’re umpires. I get it now.

Sox are in Kansas City for the weekend.  We get Wake against Kyle Davies, Josh Beckett against Zack Greinke and Clay Buchholz against Gil Meche.  Could be a great series for pitching!

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