Francona calls comments 'troubling'
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- While a clearly irked Red Sox manager Terry Francona tempered his reaction to umpire Joe West's criticism of how slowly the Red Sox and Yankees played in their series this week, calling it "troubling," Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia was less restrained.
"To call the Yankees and Red Sox, two of the best teams in baseball, 'pathetic' and 'embarrassing,' that's just ridiculous,'' Pedroia said while sitting in the dugout before Friday night's game against the Royals.
"If he doesn't want to do Red Sox and Yankee games, he should tell the umpires' union. Then when we're in the World Series, he'll be out of that assignment, too.''
If he doesn't want to do Red Sox and Yankee games, he should tell the umpires' union. Then when we're in the World Series, he'll be out of that assignment, too.” -- Dustin Pedroia, reacting to Joe West's criticism of the Sox-Yankees games
Pedroia also said it was "just wrong" for an umpire to publicly criticize teams when he's supposed to be an impartial observer.
"What he doesn't understand is that when we don't do well in these games against the Yankees, we get killed,'' Pedroia said. "So if I'm going to take a deep breath and focus before I get in the box, I'm going to do it.
"There are a lot of good hitters on both teams, a lot of pitches thrown. That's just the way these games are played.''
Pedroia said he was aware Wednesday night that the umpires were trying to speed up play. "Yeah,'' he said. "Remember Angel [plate umpire Angel Hernandez] denied [Derek] Jeter a timeout? Ridiculous.''
West has been a major league umpire for 32 years, working more than 4,000 games. He made his comments to the Bergen Record on Wednesday, when the Sox and Yankees played the shortest of their three games, a 10-inning affair that went 3 hours and 21 minutes. The first two games, both regulation nine-inning contests, went 3:46 and 3:48, respectively.
"They're the two clubs that don't try to pick up the pace," said West, who was the umpiring crew chief and worked the plate Sunday. "They're two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest?
"It's pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play.''
Last season, the Red Sox and Yankees played 18 times. Eleven of the games went longer than Wednesday night's 3:21 game. The longest was 5 hours and 33 minutes and went 15 innings. Two games went 4 hours and 21 minutes, one of 11 innings, the other nine, which was the longest nine-inning game played in the majors in 2009. Only one game was completed in under three hours -- 2:56 -- and that was in the teams' last meeting of the season, when the division race already had been decided.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was just as pointed as Pedroia in his objections to West's remarks.
"If he has places to go, let him do something else,'' Rivera told the New York Post. "What does he want us [the players] to do, swing at balls? ... We don't want to play four-hour games, but that's what it takes. We respect and love the fans and do what we have to do, and that's play our game."
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who last season was fined several times for slow play, including a $5,000 fine in September, essentially chose to stay out of this one.
"It is what it is, man,'' Papelbon said. "Can't please everybody. There's a life lesson for you.''
The average length of Sox-Yankees games in '09 was 3:40. The average in the major leagues was 2:55. The average of the three games played this week between the teams was 3:38.
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Reporters had barely been ushered into Francona's office Friday when he was asked about West's comments.
"Obviously, I think I need to be somewhat careful is the right word, selective,'' Francona said. "I mean, I think it kind of surprised all of us. When you have somebody in charge of running the game without bias, and then you hear those comments coming out pretty strong, it probably worries you a little bit.''
Francona said that the umpires did not complain to him during the series about the pace of the games. He was aware that Hernandez did not grant time on several occasions to players, but said he has "always done that.''
"Looking back at the series, I can't say I sit there in the seventh inning and go, 'Oh, god, let's play quicker.' That's just the way it is. I think there were 411 pitches thrown in one game. That's a lot of baseball.''
Francona does not dispute the games between the teams are long.
"They always have been, and are probably always gonna be,'' he said.
"The one thing I hope never gets lost is we respect the game. It's not an arrogance. Evidently there's some perception out there, [but] that's not how we feel. At the same time, I don't agree with Joe coming out and doing what he did. It was wrong.''
Francona said he has talked to the players about being mindful of what he called "dawdling," but noted that the commercial breaks for nationally televised games are longer than the ads for local telecasts, which contributes to the increased length of Sox-Yankees games.
A spokesman for MLB has said the commissioner's office would look into West's comments. Francona said he did not know if the Sox had made a formal complaint.
There are only so many things that can be done, he said.
"I've had 20 knee surgeries,'' he said. "I'm not jogging to the mound. I can't do it. It hurts.''
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.
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