Joe West has had an eventful 2021 away from the ballpark, but the notorious MLB umpire was back to his some of his old habits behind the plate of the Phillies’ win over the Mets Friday night.
To set the tone early, West called a strike on a way-outside sinker from Phillies pitcher Kyle Gibson to Mets outfielder Dominic Smith in the top of the first inning. It was quickly noticed on social media.
West stood his ground on his expanded strike zone and called strike three on a similarly placed sinker from Gibson to Brandon Nimmo in the third.
The Mets ultimately lost to the Phillies, 4-2, to drop out of first place for the first time in 90 days, however, it was hardly all West’s fault. In the midst of a lengthy streak of offensive struggles, the Mets failed to capitalize when they loaded the bases with nobody out in the fourth inning and finished the night 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
In May, West broke the record for the most games umpired, surpassing Hall of Famer Bill Klem. The 68-year-old has said he is planning to retire after this season.
Just a month before further cementing himself in MLB history, West was awarded $500,000 in a defamation lawsuit against former Mcatcher Paul Lo Duca. In 2019, West sued Lo Duca after the former Met went on a podcast and said his former New York teammate, reliever Billy Wagner, bribed the longtime umpire into giving him a bigger strike zone by letting him use his 1957 vintage Chevrolet car.
“Joe loves antique cars so every time he comes into town I lend him my ’57 Chevy so he can drive it around so then he opens up the strike zone for me,” Lo Duca said on the Action Network podcast.
It was revealed in MLB records that West was the home plate umpire for a single Mets game during the two seasons Lo Duca and Wagner were teammates in Flushing, but Wagner did not pitch in that particular game.