Joe West, the major leagues' senior umpire, has been suspended for three days without pay for comments he made about Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre.
In a USA Today report published June 20 timed to coincide with the umpire's 5,000th regular-season game, West said "it's got to be Adrian Beltre" when asked who was the biggest complainer in the major leagues.
"Every pitch you call that's a strike, he says, `Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!' I had a game with him recently and the pitch was right down the middle. He tells me, `That ball is outside,"' West was quoted as saying.
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"I told him, `You may be a great ballplayer, but you're the worst umpire in the league. You stink,"' West also was quoted as saying.
West was to have worked the Los Angeles Dodgers-Arizona Diamondbacks series in Phoenix, but the World Umpires Association said Tuesday that West was serving the first game of the suspension. It said Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred told the union in an Aug. 3 letter the discipline created an "appearance of lack of impartiality."
"Joking interactions between umpires and players are a routine part of the game," the union said in a statement. "We disagree strongly with the decision to punish Joe West simply for sharing a humorous exchange with a player."
MLB did not comment.
"I don't think that it was necessary to suspend him," Beltre said after the Rangers' 5-4 loss to the New York Mets. "Obviously, I know that he was kidding and after it happened a couple of weeks ago he came back home and I asked him exactly what happened and he told me he was just kidding with the reporter."
The 64-year-old West made his big league debut in September 1976 and trails only Bill Klemm (5,375) and Bruce Froemming (5,163) among regular-season games worked. West's 123 postseason games are 10 behind Gerry Davis' record.
"I play around with him. He plays around with me. And that was it," Beltre said. "I didn't think it was a big deal. I'm sad that it happened."
Rangers manager Jeff Banister did not fault West.
"There's no part of me that ever would think that any person -- especially Joe West -- would be partial to anything," Banister said.