For quite a while now it’s been a pastime for baseball fans to dunk on Joe West. Everything about the way the man carries himself makes dunking on him one of the easiest things in baseball. West is too serious, full of himself, and one of the umpires most known for turning Major League Baseball games into an ump show. It was easy to declare West a terrible umpire or even a silly man and have some fun with how bad he is at his job. That all changed this week when it became clear that West does not care if he kills anyone at his job.
The Tampa Bay resident made headlines a week ago when he gave an interview decrying the legitimacy of COVID-19. It made all the sense in the world that West would be a Coronavirus truther. At first, the reaction of most was to pile on West for continuing to be a silly man. This reaction made sense given how we previously treated the umpire who likes to be called Cowboy. The truth is that West’s conspiracy-laden views on the current pandemic aren’t something to be laughed at, not when West plans to umpire games sans a cloth or surgical mask.
That was the scene on Monday when West made his first Summer Camp appearance to umpire a Tampa Bay Rays intrasquad game. He had medical gloves on, but his face remained uncovered beneath his umpire mask. Striking images soon surfaced of West very close to players without a mask. It was obvious from the moment West gave his USA Today interview that he was not going to take MLB’s safety protocols seriously. However, seeing him out in the open flaunting just how little he cares about the safety of those around him was still somewhat startling.
To be clear, there is no actual rule that says West has to wear a cloth mask. MLB’s safety protocols simply encourage on-field personnel to wear face coverings of some sort. We’ve heard from players who have stated they intend to wear masks during games. We’ve seen images of catchers wearing a cloth mask under their catching gear. Other umpires have donned cloth masks, both on the basepaths and behind the plate. While it’s unsure how effective those masks will be in stopping a COVID-19 outbreak at any point during this MLB season it’s still a sign of people trying their best to protect the people around them.
Joe West doesn’t care, that much has made certain we know. Through his USA Today interview and the images released of him defiantly not wearing a cloth mask West let the world know that he thinks the Coronavirus is a giant hoax. That sort of thinking is something that permeates society these days, but it’s not something we have to tolerate. It’s also not something that MLB should tolerate. By not wearing a mask and presenting the viewpoints he has West is putting every umpire, groundskeeper, trainer, player, coach, and manager he comes into contact with at risk. He could mitigate that risk by wearing a mask, but Cowboy isn’t about to do that and that’s why he shouldn’t be allowed to umpire this season.
In the end, we all have to look out for one another. In order to stem the tide of Coronavirus cases, we need to do our part to keep those around us safe by trying to stop any spread that may come from us. It’s a simple thing to do and it would be just as simple for MLB to tell West that his services aren’t needed this season. The Major League Baseball Umpires Association could fight this, or, in a move that recognizing the great risk umpires are taking by doing their jobs they could stand with their other members and support West sitting out the season.
The need to remove West becomes more concrete with each new day of record-high Coronavirus cases. If there is a person who, through their actions, has told everyone that they will put others at risk and would not care if people died because of their actions then that person needs to be removed from any reopening scenario. MLB and the MLBUA need to do the right thing and tell Cowboy that it’s time to hop on his high horse and head back home.