Let's start with this: Umpire Joe West is funny and personable, and a really good storyteller. A lot of players and managers will tell you privately they have liked chatting with him between pitches, and so have I in the small handful of situations that we've interacted.
But this year marks my 24th year of hearing complaints from players and managers about West's actions and demeanor on the field, the most recent being his game-stopping stare-down with Giants ace Madison Bumgarner on Thursday night, timed by ESPN at around 17 seconds.
In case you didn't hear about what happened, or don't want to see an umpire dominate the field -- Twitter explodes every time West is involved in some on-field confrontation or exchange -- here's the synopsis. Bumgarner and West were having issues about West's interpretation of the strike zone, a disagreement that started early in Thursday's game and continued through one of Bumgarner's at-bats. Then, when Bumgarner threw a borderline pitch and West called it a ball -- by the way, according to PITCHf/x, the pitch was out of the strike zone -- Bumgarner barked out a one-syllable profanity before turning away.
West took his mask off, stepped forward to the right-handed hitter's side of home plate and stared. Bumgarner stared back. And West stared. And Bumgarner stared back. Buster Posey, the Giants' catcher, looked at Bumgarner, glanced at West, then looked at his pitcher again, like someone following a tennis match. You can see it all here.
It actually reminded me of some of my confrontations with my own children, and it ended in a similar way, too. Bumgarner, like my kids, finally looked away. And with the pecking order having been established, West went back to work. There is exhilaration in a moment like this, I know, having worn down six-year-olds with withering stubbornness.
How West handles situations with players and managers cannot be classified as anything close to the norm within the work of officiating at the highest professional level.