Sunday, July 30, 2006

Joe West
Joe West used to need pencil and paper
to remember his grudges.

Four umpires were suspended on Saturday, July 29, 2006 for the use of drugs that treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), including Ritalin and Adderall. The fifth umpire, Joe West, was suspended for the use of anabolic steroids.

Commissioner Bud Selig was not available for comment. Months earlier, Selig launched an investigation into West trying to incriminate him for possession and distribution of steroids. The suspicion started after West's antagonization of players and managers became commonplace. Nick Leyva, manager of the 1990 Phillies recalled when West slammed pitcher Dennis Cook to the ground at Veterans Stadium. "I knew it was 'roid rage. Normal people just don't do that. Funny -- his head seemed a little bigger, too."

The other umpires suspended were Jerry Crawford, Bruce Froemming, Dana DeMuth, and John Hirschbeck for the use of Ritalin, Adderall, some substances with caffeine, as well as energy beverages such as Red Bull. The impetus on those substances is that they enhance the umpires' attention spans unnaturally, thus changing the outcome of the game. Batters have complained that the enhanced attention spans have yielded a higher percentage of strikes.

Albert Pujols has gone on record saying that one of his homeruns, which hooked around the left field foul pole, would have been called fair by an umpire not under the influence.

Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols may have been slighted
by a cheating umpire.

Closer Billy Wagner said in an epithet-laden rant that the strike zone is the same in the ninth inning that it was in the first inning. "The strike zone is usually bigger when I come in," he said. "Umpires get tired, hungry, queasy, bored, overheated, you name it. It just doesn't happen anymore. These guys are so focused."

A growing concern with the manifestation of the drug usage is an umpire's bias against a player or manager. Former Mariners and Devil Rays manager and current FOX broadcaster Lou Piniella said, "You spit in a guy's face and drop the f-bomb now, he'll remember it in September even if it happened in April. He's not going to send any borderline calls your way."

The penalty for a first-time offense for umpires is only a ten-game suspension. For second-timers, a fifty-game suspension is in order, and third-time offenders are hooked for one hundred games. Critics of Commissioner Selig are calling for stricter penalties but Selig has balked at taking any action.

"The smaller strike zones of these natural umpires are the cause for the increase in power. If Babe Ruth had an umpire behind him under the effects of Adderall, there's no way he hits 714 homeruns," Selig barked.

All five of the suspended umpires were unavailable for comment.