It has hardly been one week since Adrian Beltre was anointed membership in the 3,000 hit club. Now is not the time for an outspoken MLB personality, never mind an umpire, to be on the record defaming a future Hall of Famer’s character.
Joe West has tenure as an MLB umpire. A staple in the league since 1978, he’s one of the more easily identifiable officiators in the game. However, he’s simply that — an umpire. He calls balls. He calls strikes. What he does not do, is get paid to give his opinion outside the rules of the game.
Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is many things. Most recently, he is only the 31st player in close to 150 years of MLB history to have collected 3,000 base hits in a professional career. Such a feat as that typically carves as clear a path as any to Cooperstown.
By today’s measure, only six of the 31 players to have swatted 3,000+ hits in their careers are not in the Hall of Fame. Two are active, in Beltre and Ichiro Suzuki. Two are reported steroid users, Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro. One is Derek Jeter, a shoo-in who has only been retired since the 2015 season. And lastly is a man with more career hits than anyone else in MLB history, the infamous Pete Rose.
As far as most fans are considered, someone like Joe West probably has no place commenting on any of these ball player’s careers. Never mind, an active one such as Beltre, who is also a four-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner, a five-time Gold Glover and with 45 more home runs, can become the 28th player to have went yard 500 times in their illustrious time as a big leaguer.
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Despite more career milestones in sight for Beltre, Joe West took it upon himself before his 5,000th game in blue to name the Rangers third baseman as the “biggest complainer in the league.” Now granted, these comments were made back on June 20, even though news just broke that West would be suspended three games for answering USA Today’s question without a filter.
Aside from being a great talent, things like this make Adrian Beltre a fan favorite. Meanwhile, moments like this make Joe West (and most other umpires in MLB) the target of disdain amongst fans and coaching personnel.
Even more so when technology and modern day pitch trackers point out the deficiencies of human beings calling balls and strikes behind home plate, leading some to think personalities and biases do play a factor in the inner workings of umpiring a game. And the game should never be partisan from an umpire’s perspective.
West gave, in his mind at the time, an honest answer to the “complainer” question that was posed. However, umpires are supposed to exercise good judgement. It’s the basis for their career progression. Given where West’s career has taken him, maybe it would have been in his best interest to give the name of a player not set to reach 3,000 hits in 2017 and be on the short list for future enshrinement.
Or better yet, maybe West could have said something along the lines of: “Baseball is a gentleman’s game. It wouldn’t be very credible of me to single out any one player in MLB for being the biggest complainer. Next question.”
Then again, Joe West comes across as rather classless and has no shame. Adrian Beltre, on the other hand, is in a class all his own. To date, he is the only Dominican-born MLB player to have surpassed 3,000 career hits, and counting.