During yesterday afternoon's White Sox-Indians game, Chicago starter Mark Buehrle was called for two balks by first base ump Joe West. Manager Ozzie Guillen was ejected for arguing the first balk; Buehrle was ejected after he tossed his glove to the ground out of frustration from the second balk. Balk balk balk! What are we, in a chicken coop?
Via Chris Littman at The Sporting Blog, here's a video of the events:
Granted, nobody really likes Country Joe West as an umpire. He's been around so long and probably violated the nature of the entire spirit of Umpiring when he called out the Yankees and Red Sox for taking their sweet-ass time playing baseball games. The balks he called on Buehrle were indeed questionable. They are not black-and-white, instead they are judgment calls and therefore we can question West's judgment on them until the cows come home but it's not going to get robot umpires on the field anytime soon.
But when Buehrle tossed his glove in frustration he committed an act so heinous that it definitely deserved the heave-ho: he showed up an ump. Yes, it was bloated old Joe West and everyone, from Ozzie Guillen to dumb Hawk Harrelson sides with Buehrle on the matter but the fact remains: YOU CANNOT SHOW UP AN UMPIRE. Just a simple toss of the mitt is enough to do it, too.
Perhaps Buehrle's intentions were pure and honest and was simply just frustrated with his inability to avoid balk calls when attempting pickoff moves, like fellow southpaw Andy Pettitte does so well. But that shouldn't matter to West; the act of tossing a glove, or a helmet, or a bat, or throwing the ball into the stands is improper conduct and deserves ejection.
Now, Buehrle is one of the more beloved folks in the sport and it's almost odd that West tossed a guy who is notable for pitching really fast games. Everyone loves Buehrle! But what if a less beloved player, like Hanley Ramirez, threw his glove in frustration? Would the outcry be the same? Dare I play the race card yet another time? Because what if an African-American player like MILTON BRADLEY had tossed his glove in frustration? Would we have been so quick to defend him?
The answer: probably not. Even people who hate the White Sox (read: me) love Mark Buehrle. And even people who love Milton Bradley (read: me) want him to just play nice when he's out there on the field. Respect needs to be paid in both directions on the field; umpires should not be vocally criticizing ballplayers and ballplayers should never, ever be showing up an umpire by spiking their gear. So perhaps this needn't be a racial thing, instead, it's a tiny tear in the fabric that holds the player-umpire relationship together.
Or maybe Joe West is just an asshole.