How The West Was Joe


Two years ago, I was sitting in left field at a Phillies-Cubs game in Citizens Bank Park.  The Cubs were up and somebody spanked a fly ball down the left field line, sending it close to the foul pole, but nowhere near fair territory.  It was such an easy call that no one in the stadium even reacted to it; there didn’t really seem to be a call to make.

But the third base umpire called it a dinger for some reason, the place exploded, my phone was flooded with text messages telling me from people watching at home that the ball was not only foul, but “WAY foul,” “Totally foul,” or “Help, I’m too drunk and the cat tricked me into getting locked in the basement again.”

At the end of the game, unable to let it go, I made sure to look up who that special umpire was.  Guess who.  That’s right, it was Adrian Johnson.

Who is Adrian Johnson, you might ask?  I have no clue.  Because even if I did mount a dedicated, days-long, bordering-on-deranged internet search for information on where he lived, where he would be for the next few days, and whether his children had any weirdly specific phobias, I wouldn’t have been able to find it.

This is due to the fact that, like an umpire, who for all intents and purposes is supposed to be considered part of the damn field, Adrian Johnson knows better than to include personal information in a public forum, if only so that semi-psychotic and possibly rabid fans he may have jaded in the past can’t fill his hotel room with poisonous snakes.

Johnson’s fellow umpire, Joe West, however, has taken this concept and broken it into a million pieces.  Probably by sitting on it.

"“The “Diamond Dreams” are what generations of us have shared in our love for the Great National Pastime. The four sided baseball “Diamond” is simply the whole level playing field. Joe and I strived to shape our project that way: an honest narrative on a canvas of music with the spirit and love for the game of baseball.”"

That’s West’s co-producer for his country music album, “Diamond Dreams.”  Can someone explain to me why that second sentence is even in there?  What does that mean?  And should Joe West, a man infamously regarded as a grudge-holding, attention-lathering, unprofessional fat-ass really be OK-ing the use of the phrase “level playing field” on his web site?

At least the album’s cover art doesn’t look like somebody climbed through a sleeping child’s window in the middle of the night.

We baseball fans have had our share of controversies and news stories over the past decade; hell, even over the past two months.  We’ve got people puking on each other, two perfect games, a no-hitter, a guy with an ERA under 1.00 going into June, a lesson on the unwritten rules of the game, and now… this?

Who even are you, Joe West?  And why are you going to make it so easy to find out?

Well, let’s mosey on down to and give him a look-see.  I’m sure the old boy’s got some explanations as to just what in tarnation he was thinking when he called Mark Buerhle for two balks in one game, or when he bodyslammed Dennis Cook, or wrote a song called “Take This Bike To Timmy,” or allowed his image to be used in this couple-decades-and-cholesterol-count-checks-too-late yearbook photo montage.

Nope.  He doesn’t.  In fact, it’s mainly just shameless self appraisal and delusion.

"“Joe’s peers in baseball regard him as one of the finest umpires in Major League Baseball, and now his singing and songwriting, are making him a successful artist, songwriter, and entertainer in the Country Music Industry.”"

And just in case you couldn’t draw your own conclusions from that ridiculous statement, Joe has gone ahead and drawn one for you:

"“Joe  West has become a star in two fields of entertainment, Country Music and Major League Baseball.”"

Truly, Joe West is one of the biggest stars of the game today.  He’s appeared on countless baseball magazine covers.  He’s on every list of hot upcoming prospects.  He’s played in All-Star games, World Series’, and has a mantel of Golden Gloves and Silver Sluggers.  He can hit a baseball 500 feet and has thrown multiple perfect games.

Ever heard of Joe Mauer?  Chase Utley?   Derek Jeter?  Albert Pujols?  Tim Lincecum?  Yeah, they suck.  Not worth your time.  Sure, they’re the ones actually playing the game, but Joe West, he calls them out or safe.  He’s the one that decides, ultimately, how good they are.  So in a way… he’s god.  Joe West is the “God of Baseball.”  How truly amazing is that?

"“Out or safe, one thing is certain about Joe West,  he’s a hit!”"

What further proof do you need?  I mean, if Joe West’s own website can write that about him, I don’t see how it could be fabricated or exaggerated or stupid.

Ha, ha, what?!

Come on.  Who’s writing this stuff?  A guy who’s only experience is penning the captions for pictures in a coloring book? How could Joe West be “out or safe,” he’s not playing the game of baseball. He has to stand there and look at it. Sometimes, he may have to get out of the way of a baseball, but with the mass movement required for such an action, I’d fear for the Earth staying on its axis.  Half the time, he can’t even do that correctly.

Did I mention his nickname is “Joe East and West”?  WHY.  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN.  TELL ME.

The best thing you can say about Joe West is that maybe not everyone hates him–but you can be certain that nobody sees him name on the Umpiring Crew and has a party in their head.

Joe West is merely a man who’s childhood delusions just never let him.  He wanted to be a cowboy, which, honestly, isn’t an uncommon fantasy.  Kids love to pretend they’re pirates or cowboys or ninjas or the Terminator.  It’s just that when you reach a certain age, life becomes more about goals and sports and girls than playing dress up.  And Joe, for whatever reason, can’t accept that.

In his mind, he’s not an umpire.  He’s a sheriff.  And he’s not ejecting players and coaches, he’s shooting them down at high noon.  And he’s not warbling unceremoniously into a microphone to record an album that no one will ever hear, he’s serenading the governor’s daughter on a hot August night.

In a way, I’d almost like to thank Adrian Johnson.  If there was even a slice of the bullshit the world now knows about Joe West in regards to Johnson, I would never have been able to loosen the grip on my rage.  Johnson may be a shitty umpire–he is–but at least he knows what he is.

He’s part of the field.  Not the king of it.