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MLB umpire under fire after latest series in Milwaukee

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Mike Estabrook blew a few, but escalated things beyond what was necessary

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee Brewers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

To say that the umpiring by Mike Estabrook this weekend cost Milwaukee in terms of wins and losses is an overstatement. What is not an overstatement is that his “bad day” behind the plate cost the Brewers opportunity to get back into a game that was in reach at the time. Remember, Christian Yelich was to follow Lorenzo Cain who should have been walked in his at bat.

What is also not an overstatement is that Mr. Estabrook handled situations with Craig Counsell and Mike Moustakas the next day poorly. Actually that might be an understatement. He handled those situations so poorly that one might think him a bully.

Umpires do have a difficult job, and an umpire gets questioned constantly. Obviously they are apt to become frustrated from time to time. But an umpire likely knows when they have blown a call. Estabrook had to know he was blowing it in the Cain at bat, and had blown a couple of other calls as well. To think he would not get questioned on that at bat or those other at bats is naive at best. Throwing Craig Counsell and Ryan Braun out for arguing balls and strikes is fine, but the way Estabrook engaged Counsell is another. To my eyes, Estabrook comes off as a bully on the field, and that is the most egregious aspect of all of this.

In fact, Estabrook not only inflamed the Brewers’ bench, but the Milwaukee fanbase and local media too. Tom Hardricourt went so far as to try to locate Estabrook to question him only to be thwarted by the crew chief in his attempt.

Haudricourt went further to write an entire article about it.

Others followed suit with interesting takes. Elisha Twerski found powerful examples of Estabrooks antics that demonstrate inaccuracy. Larry Brown found an interesting tidbit that Estabrook was tied in 2018 for the lowest percentage of correctly called pitches behind home plate at 86% according to Bloomberg’s stats.

The inaccuracy and inappropriate handling of situations by umpires like Estabrook, Angel Hernandez, and Joe West, beg the question why don’t we have robo-umps behind the plate? The actions on the field by some of these umpires suggest that there is very little accountability from MLB concerning umpire effectiveness much less umpire behavior. Accuracy, especially behind home plate, should be what umpires are held accountable too. The way they engage players and coaching staff is another. They can inflame conflict, but they can also diffuse it. Some decide to do the former.

Let’s take a closer look at umpire accuracy behind home plate to illustrate effectiveness. According to Bloomberg, umpire accuracy behind home plate is between 85-92% so far for 2019. In 2018 accuracy was between 86-93%. In 2017 it was between 85-90%. Getting something right 84-93% seems pretty good on the surface, maybe, but would you be okay with your food order at a restaurant having a 10-15% chance of coming out wrong? Would you be willing to engage a contractor to build your house who measured dimensions of the house with 90% accuracy? Would you want someone doing surgery on you that boasted of a 90% survival rate post surgery? Why should we settle for 84-93% accuracy on something that might very well get to 100% if artificial intelligence were utilized? That is probably a question for another day, but one that this weekend certainly brings to the forefront.

Even if we are willing to forgive moments of inaccuracy or even blatant mistakes, responses that are thin-skinned and baiting in nature have no business being on a baseball field, at least there needs to be repercussion for such behavior. Not all umpires have issues with bullying, but some do. To illustrate see below, beginning with our pal, Mike Estabrook and continuing to Ron Kulpa. Seemingly this bullying might be something deemed acceptable throughout the history of the game as can be seen in the Gary Darling/Tom Glavine incident depicted below.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a dust up between a player/manager and an umpire as much as anyone, but what Estabrook did in Milwaukee should be deemed misconduct and MLB should take punitive measures. What he and other umpires have done inflames situations, and Estabrook decided to bully his way out of being questioned for his ineffectiveness. He is not the first one, and he will not be the last, especially since MLB seems to condone it. MLB should hold umpires accountable in such situations. Players and coaches are held accountable to their behavior with fines and suspensions. Craig Counsell would have certainly paid a price if he had bumped Estabrook. There is no such transparency for umpires regarding penalty for misconduct and/or ineffectiveness. To end, how can we forget this one from just last year from someone notorious for ineffectiveness and being a bully on the field.