ALCS Game 1 between the Red Sox and the Astros wasn’t every entertaining baseball. There were a few home runs, and a stretch of trouble for Justin Verlander that comes along once a decade or so and allowed some Boston runs to score. But as a whole, at this point in the postseason, it was fine.
The series isn’t DOA or anything but in the first face off between these two teams there were only a few true bright spots. One of those was much-maligned umpire Joe West getting pegged by a Christian Vasquez throw down to second that was wildly off target. Here’s a gif if you missed it.
Absolutely magnificent. Even Andrew McCutchen thought so because he is a treasure.
Joe— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) October 14, 2018
There’s a lot going on in that brief look at this play though, so let’s break down the best parts.
1. Joe. MOVE!
Joe West has been an umpire in this league for approximately 100 years, give or take. He’s officiated literally thousands of games. He’s seen some stuff. Yet he didn’t react in time to avoid a throw coming from 95 feet across the diamond, which never changed course, and which he had in his direct eye line the entire time it was in the air.
Come on, Joe. Even for a 65-year old guy with some meat on his bones this wasn’t the hardest projectile to sidestep. It hit him near the edge of his frame too, so he could have reasonably just moved a little to the left or ducked and been fine. Instead he just stood there and let it happen.
Which makes it okay to laugh, I think. That and the fact he wasn’t hurt. Just a little laughter. A chuckle!
2. The throw was good for Boston, actually
After it happened, the Red Sox faithful in Fenway Park started booing. Which was not one of their most well-informed groupthink decisions they’ve ever had. The throw was way off target and if it hadn’t met the immovable object of Joe West it would have sailed into the outfield and allowed Jake Marisnick to advance to third base in what was at that point still a very close game.
Yet the fans were ... upset about it? Listen, in the moment it looked like just another defensive mistake by the Sox on Saturday night. They’ve been hurt by Eduardo Nuñez’s “defense” at third too many times. Sure, it wasn’t the caught stealing they wanted, but the result ended up somewhere in the middle of the desirability scale — not as good as a caught stealing but not as bad as letting a runner advance at will. And again, it hit Joe West so booing is definitely not the correct reaction.
3. It was an accident ... or was it?
Joe West is not liked among MLB players. This might be the understatement of the year. Joe West has been an MLB umpire forever and I’m pretty sure if you wanted to call and chat with all the guys who liked him during their playing days you could do it on a lunch break.
So while this was most likely just an awful through by Vasquez which wasn’t even in the same zip code, it could have also been an ... inside job. Check his deleted texts to see if he communicated with other players about whether or not he should go through with the idea. Whether he could accurately hit West without injuring him. If anyone would suspect How he should do it during Game 1, before West switched off the second base position in another game.
That’s almost certainly not what happened, but there’s a good chance Vasquez is getting a few messages from players about it postgame. Maybe a thumbs up gif or two.
4. Marisnick’s glorious hair
There’s an illusion in this gif where Jake Marisnick’s helmet appears to vanish when he passes behind Joe West. You might miss it the first time you watch the gif because West draws your attention, but if you’ve watched it as many times as I have (currently around 472 times) you appreciate the other things happening here.
The helmet actually just moves forward on Marisnick’s head as it falls, it hasn’t fallen off completely in this glimpse of the moment. When it falls off though, it releases Marisnicks’ fabulous locks from their temporary prison and they fall free, bouncing as he slides. In a moment where the Astros player was the third or fourth most important part, his hair is a standout. Jake, please let me know your conditioning habits. Your hair has never looked so good.
5. Joe didn’t flinch an inch
Okay, credit to Joe. MLB players don’t exactly throw lobs to each other, especially catchers. This wasn’t a soft bounce off his body while playing in the backyard with his kids. This was a hard baseball, thrown as hard as Vasquez could while still reacting quickly, and which nailed him straight on.
He didn’t even flinch! Didn’t even flinch. I have to give props to that. If I got hit with that ball I’d have gone down like a brick dropped into a quarry. Immediately and probably way more dramatically than strictly necessary. Full theatrics. Joe did none of that, and some respect is due. Just a little. This bullet point will self destruct so no one knows I gave Joe West credit.