When baseball announced that it would be implementing instant replay, there was an argument between the purists, who hated the idea “we need the human element! This will lead to a sterile and personality-free game!” and the progressives “We need to get the calls right! And the game will be faster because there won’t be any lengthy arguments from the managers!”
Everyone was wrong on all counts, of course, because everyone forgot one awful and inevitable truth: Joe West.
It's a well-known fact that West, uncomfortable and exhausted from the rigors of pretending to be human for 162 games per season, hibernates in the offseason, subsisting solely on the anger of players, managers, and fans. With no fights to pick and no games in which to showboat, he spends much of the summer storing up this rage in his ample jowls, to be used as he horks and snorts through a long winter of fitful sleep in a cave in the Himalayan foothills.
He has tried alternate winter month plans; after racking up considerable court fees and a few stints in jail, he tried nursing online anime message boards, or engaging in political debates on Facebook. But alas, the second-hand rage provided insufficient nutrients for West; he requires his vitriol fresh from the source.
And so, in the top of the second inning today, West acquired his early January sustenance.
With the count 2-1 on Mariners’ shortstop Tyler Smith, Yu Darvish threw a 94mph fastball that sailed a little inside. Smith checked his swing, and it was initially ruled–according to home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt–to be a foul ball off the handle of his bat. Robinson Chirinos reached back for another ball, Wendelstedt handed it to him, and the TV crew changed the count to 2-2.
Meanwhile, Smith–after dropping his left hand to his side–raised it a beat later, and shook it as he looked back at Wendelstedt. There was a short conversation and something Smith said convinced the umpire to point to first base.
Replays were inconclusive, and this is a reviewable call. But it was the principle of the thing, really. Banister didn't feel that he should have had to use a challenge to overturn a play when Smith had gotten his challenge just by saying "OWWWWWW". Players aren’t really supposed to just change an umpire’s mind by shaking a hand.
“From our vantage point, it was a foul ball," Jeff Banister said after the game. "That seemed to be the call on the field, and then somehow it turned into a batter taking his base. My question was ‘Where did it change at?’, and it was just a situation where I didn’t feel that should have been my challenge because it seemed like it was (called) a foul ball on the field.”
The conversation between Banister and Wendelstedt was animated, but not ablaze just yet. With a smirk on his face, bench coach Steve Buechele held up a bat in the dugout and banged the handle a couple of times to indicate "HANDLE HAS AN 'LE' AT THE END THATS HOW YOU KNOW THEY'RE DIFFERENT THINGS". Perhaps that snark was like blood in the water to the ever-consuming jowls, because ho boy, here came Cowboy Joe into the fray.
Banister is an intelligent man. He knows the hunger of the wattle, and does not wish to feed it. We don’t know what was said, but we do know that Banister’s pose was such: palms down, so as not to agitate the jowls.
Then he turned to walk back to the dugout. West was like a toad about to lose a fly. He had to do something. This was his January! He nodded twice, as if to agree with Banister, and allowed the manager to get three full steps towards the dugout, head completely turned.
Now was the time!
West opened his corpulent maw and summoned the dark fuel, straining his arm until it was raised above his head and motioning with a point that Banister had been ejected from the game.
It worked. Banister stopped dead in his tracks, and then let West have it for another minute or two. The jowls sighed a deep and satisfied sigh. Their work here was done. They simply gathered all of the furious manna as it sprung forth, packing it deeper and deeper into the gunny sacks of Joe West’s throat, gobbling on a word here and there as a special little treat for a job well done: January would be a feast.
Soon, Banister remembered that the heat index on the field was 106°, and his office was 34° cooler. West's February is still yet to be budgeted for, but West has a long rest of the season ahead, and he is a seasoned and talented rage-hunter.
The Rangers lost 7-3, dropping the final game of a three-game series against the Mariners. They had won each of the first two games by identical 10-4 scores. Yu Darvish was bad in the first inning, allowing 4 runs, and the whole game was really just one big joke played on dads everywhere. There were three replay reviews, a balk, some errors, a triple that was ruled to be a double because it got stuck under a wall, Robinson Chirinos completely missed a 95mph pitch from Darvish that hit him in the left arm, causing a short injury delay (he was fine) and Carlos Ruiz tried to stretch a single into a double (he was out). (Yes, that Carlos Ruiz.)
Hunter Wendelstedt had a terrible game at the plate, guessing balls and strikes with about the same amount of accuracy that you might expect from… well, Joe West (who was fine behind the plate yesterday, ironically enough). in the Rangers’ 7th inning, they scored on a sequence that went as follows:
Groundout, strikeout, hit by pitch (Chirinos, he was fine, again), walk, balk, wild pitch (run scored), pitching change, walk, pitching change, walk (bases loaded). Then Nomar Mazara hit a pop-up that landed foul, and you have never seen a crowd cheer so loud for a foul ball. Some people even stood up! Also (and I know I made up weird things all the time, but this is true) the Six Shooters–the girls with the Texas flags who run across Greene’s Hill when the Rangers score–ran across Greene’s Hill. For a foul ball.
Mazara popped out.
Also, Carlos Gomez hit a home run (not weird) after a Rougned Odor walk (not *that* weird) and Ernesto Frieri made his Rangers debut (still feels weird).
Alright, go enjoy the rest of your Father’s Day, and if you see Joe West, just remember: remain calm, look him squarely in the eye, and make him leave first, or you too will be ejected.