August 4, 2019

MLB: No Accountability For Incompetent Umpires Who "Change The Landscape Of The Game"

Major league baseball has more a few problems. Just ask anyone...

The games take too long, there are too many strikeouts, there are too many home runs, there is too much time between pitches, managers are allowed to make endless pitching changes, infield shifts are ruining everything, the two leagues play by different rules, too many teams are "tanking", replay reviews often still don't get the call right (and take too much time), many umpires seem hungry to start confrontations, announcers fixate on statistics that were outdated 130 years ago, parks are so loud between innings you can barely hear to the person sitting next to you, etc.

MLB finally agreed several years ago to use replay review for some things, but not for the most important thing. Umpires are still allowed to miscall balls and strikes or to make incorrect calls behind the plate in retaliation against certain players or in certain circumstances.

In the first game of Saturday's Red Sox/Yankees doubleheader, plate umpire Mike Estabrook's incompetence was on full display. In the first three-plus innings, Estabrook blew four easy calls, all in favour of the Yankees, which sent Boston manager Alex Cora and pitcher Chris Sale into paroxysms of obscenities.

When Cora walked out to the mound in the fourth inning, he had no intention of talking "about mechanics or anything. 'Just let me know when [Estabrook] is coming, and I'm going to let him know how I feel.'" When the umpire reached the mound, Cora said a few words over his right shoulder, and Estabrook immediately tossed him.

Cora made the mistake of questioning the supreme judgment of the home plate umpire:
I didn't agree with the call. I think it was the Urshela one, the 0-2 pitch, it was on top of the zone and it was called a ball, and then after that, it kind of snowballed. ... We didn't agree with the strike zone and I let him know. There was one pitch to Xander, the 3-1, we thought it was down. To J.D., the strikeout, we thought it was down. I let him know.
After the game, Sale vented to the press, noting that umpires act as though they are above the law and the Commissioner's office doesn't care:
Nothing is going to happen to him, I'm sure. ... I'm sure I'll get fined. I'm sure AC will get fined, all for things I think we were justified about. I don't want to get too caught up in the politics of this, but there's got to be something. ... I felt like he changed the landscape of the game. ... We're held accountable as players, as coaches. ... I'm sure there's nothing major league baseball is going to do.
Cora said the blown call on Urshela "change[d] the whole complexion of the game".

"You can't argue balls and strikes."

Well, why the fuck not?

It's the most important part of the game and it's where the umpire can exert the most influence on the game's outcome (or settle some petty grievance, if he so chooses). Umpires can do whatever they feel like behind the plate and everyone else ─ players, managers, coaches, media, fans ─ has to accept it as reality even though we all see that it is not reality.

And the amazing and wonderful (and maddening) thing is ... MLB could fix this very serious problem right now. We don't have to wait 15 years or 10 years or five years or even two years for a solution. If Rob Manfred wants to show fans that MLB is dedicated to making sure the players on the field are the only ones who dictate the outcome of games, he can do so at any time.

Estabrook is no stranger to fucking things up. In 2018, he was tied for the lowest percentage of correctly called pitches behind home plate (86%). ... (Data from 2010-16 showed that Tim Tschida had a correctly-called strike percentage of only 71.6%. (Jose Offerman is not surprised by this info.))

Mike Estabrook: "In 2018, there was only one umpire worse than me!"

About three months ago, near the end of May, Estabrook made a series of wrong calls against the Brewers and proceeded to bully and bait the players who dared to confront him. He ejected three Brewers, including Lorenzo Cain who said: "It'll do me no good [to complain] about umpires because nothing's going to happen".

Estabrook also appeared to bump his forehead against Milwaukee manager's Craig Counsell's cap, attempting (perhaps) to make it look like Counsell had bumped the umpire (and thus opened himself up to a hefty fine).

After that series, Elisha Twerski tweeted that Estabrook "is a perfect example of why baseball needs an electronic strike zone and accountability for its umpires." ... Her tweet thread included several of his horrible calls from last season, including April 24, August 8, August 17, August 27 and two calls from September 30.

Estabrook's stream of blown calls against the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon started quite early ─ with the first pitch of the day. Domingo German threw pitch #1 low to Mookie Betts. Estabrook was certain it was a strike.

Later in the first inning, Rafael Devers was on second base with two outs, when Estabrook ended the inning by calling J.D. Martinez out on strikes (pitch #7).

In the fourth inning of a 1-1 game, Xander Bogaerts took a 3-1 pitch out of the zone for what should have been a leadoff walk. But Estabrook ruled pitch #5 was a strike. Bogaerts grounded out on the next pitch.

Sale threw pitch #3 to Gio Urshela on an 0-2 count. Estabrook should have called it strike 3, leaving the Yankees with a man on first and two outs. Instead, he said the pitch was a ball. Urshela later singled and scored as New York broke the game open.

After ejecting Cora and Sale, Estabrook didn't think he was done screwing with the Red Sox. As if putting an exclamation point on the fact that he is the Big Boss on the field, he rung up Betts on strikes, blowing two calls (pitches #1 and #4), as Dennis Eckersley might say, 'just to stay in shape'.

A look at Estabrook's calls to right-handed hitters for the entire game shows that he is not someone who belongs in the major leagues.

How do I know (as this post's title claims) that MLB does not waste its time holding its umpires accountable for all the bad calls they make? Because these umpires are still employed by MLB. Indeed, some of the worst arbiters are rewarded each year with plum postseason assignments.

A proper organization that took even a little bit of pride in its product (and its public reputation) would have dismissed such incompetent employees ages ago. But Angel Hernandez, Laz Diaz, Phil Cuzzi, C.B. Bucknor, Fieldin Culbreth, Joe West, Ron Kulpa, and many others, including Mike Estabrook, are still comfortably employed, allowed to impetuously ruin games every single day.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Great post. Not to pile on or anything, but don't forget about Angel Hernandez wasting about 25 minutes because he didn't know the substitution rule in that Sox/Rays game a few weeks ago. Even called head office to get them to figure it out when the rule book is quite clear. That stunt alone should have got at least a suspension. Brutal.