"Cowboy" Joe West made news this week by blasting the Red Sox and Yankees for playing too slowly.
Now, first of all, I've never liked the Cowboy, but I assume that had something to do with a couple of bad calls against the Giants years ago, so that's neither here nor there. And second of all, I didn't watch any of the series; I remember reading somewhere recently, perhaps over at baseball prospectus, that the length of Yankees/Red Sox games was explained (mostly? entirely?) by the high number of pitches per game, but on the other hand the Cowboy saw the games, and I didn't. Perhaps they were taking their time.
But here's the thing: it's not the umpire's place to complain about it, publicly. No way. Fans should never, never, never, have the idea that the umpire has a preference of finishing the game quickly. The umpire should appear to be totally neutral about everything, including time of game. Now, umps are supposed to enforce certain rules designed to move things along, and they certainly can (and perhaps should) do so. They are also within their rights, as part of that enforcement, to go to the team(s) before the game and issue a warning that they intend to enforce rules that perhaps are not normally enforced. But that's it. They absolutely should not make public comments about...well, really, about the players in any way. It's fine for the ump to comment (and explain) his own actions, but it's not his place to talk about the players. If the Cowboy is annoyed with the Red Sox or the Yankees, or with any player or manager, he has to keep that to himself.
You know...I think the most controversial thing I've ever said here, measured by the number of critical comments, was months ago when I included Diana Ross in a list without making it absolutely clear that she's terrific and wonderful and all...turns out that there's a very protective group of Diana Ross fans out there, and they didn't appreciate my comments (which, again, were not intended to cast Diana Ross in any negative light at all). This could top that, however: I'm firmly against the umpires in the long-running umpire wars. I appreciate that they have a difficult job to do, but I have found umpire defenders (nearly all of whom, I believe, have umped at some level) to be arrogant, intolerant, and possessed of a massively inflated sense of self-importance. I don't really want to get into any of the usual arguments here, but for example I would be very happy to someday see balls and strikes called by machine, not by person. This position is not exactly welcomed by the umpire defenders.
Joe West is more than lucky to have a major league job. He should respect the game by keeping his mouth shut.