KANSAS CITY (AP) — An umpire’s criticism about the pace of games in the latest Red Sox-Yankees series has players and coaches on both sides a little confused.
Umpire crew chief Joe West told The Record in New Jersey on Wednesday that the Yankees and Red Sox were “pathetic and embarrassing” for dragging out games in this week’s season-opening series. He also said the teams didn’t work with the umpires to speed up the game and said it was a disgrace that baseball’s two best teams play the slowest.
“It surprised all of us,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before Friday’s game against Kansas City. “When you have somebody in charge of running the game without bias and you hear those comments coming out pretty strong, it worries you a little bit.”
The Red Sox and Yankees are notorious for playing long games, in part because they play so often on national television, where the commercial breaks are longer. Both teams also are good at working counts, especially when they’re playing each other, dragging out games even longer.
This week’s three-game series was no different, with each of the games lasting at least 3 hours, 20 minutes. West, plate umpire on Sunday and crew chief for the series, made his comments before the finale on Wednesday, calling it “embarrassing, a disgrace to baseball.”
“I don’t see what’s embarrassing about it. Opposed to what? 20 minutes shorter and it’s not embarrassing?” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “At what point is it not embarrassing? You go over what, 3:12, and it’s embarrassing?”
Baseball has tried to speed up games for several years and before this season called out the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers for being the three slowest teams. All three averaged more than 3 hours per game last season and were 10 minutes over the majors’ average.
The Yankees and Red Sox also were criticized during last year’s playoffs for playing too slowly and having too many pitcher-catcher conversations on the mound.
MLB vice president of on-field operations Bob Watson talked to teams during spring training about picking up the pace, and baseball has made it a point of emphasis for its umpires.
In Tuesday’s game, plate umpire Angel Hernandez refused to give at least three players time in the batter’s box. Hernandez is known for not letting players step up, but some thought he was being extra stingy with timeouts during the series.
“In the games I didn’t pitch in, for sure noticed it sitting on the bench,” Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte said. “In the first couple games, some of our guys tried to call time out and they wouldn’t give it to them. I know ‘Papi’ (Boston DH David Ortiz) tried to get a timeout and they wouldn’t give it to him. You’re sitting on the bench going, ‘What in the world is going on here?’ I’ve never not seen them give a hitter a time out before.”
Just don’t expect too many changes from the Yankees and Red Sox. Part of what makes them so good is being able to work counts, to wear out pitchers and get pitches they can hit.
“I don’t think we should apologize for that. We try hard,” Francona said. “When I’m not getting letters from the league, we’re losing because we’re making outs, going too quick. I understand where they’re trying to do things where the walk-up music is quicker and they don’t want dawdling, but at the same time I know how we feel when we play the Yankees: if you don’t make a pitch they’re not going to swing. It’s tough.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed.
“We’re trying to win games, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Girardi said. “We’re really focused on working the count.”
AP freelance writer Mark Didtler in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.