Attack of the Umpires

This is first and foremost a Royals blog, but I have to comment on the blown call Wednesday in the Indians-Tigers game that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland argues with Jim Joyce after the controversial call that prevented a perfect game. (The Associated Press)

Jim Joyce knows that he blew it. All of baseball knows that he blew it. (SEE THE PLAY). What would have been the third perfect game in a month became a 1-hit shutout for a player who had just been called up from the minor leagues when Joyce waved his hands in the air, giving the safe call.

Now, most of the media and some fans are banging the drum for expanded instant replay.

Do we want to go down that road? I say, no.

Royals manager Ned Yost disagrees.

“The umpires should be able to get the call right, ” he told reporters after his game Wednesday night. “If it takes instant replay, that doesn’t bother me.”

Major league baseball currently only reviews select home run calls and a few other instances (DETAILS). The current system does not address plays like the one Joyce missed.

Expanding the system will slow down games. While I love the sport, baseball is a slow game. We don’t need it to get any slower. It will also change how umpires make the calls on the field. You can see that in football’s instant replay system (which also can make football games way too long).

What I would rather see is better umpire training. While it did not happen in the Joyce case, I have seen numerous times where umpires are in the wrong place to make calls or don’t interpret rules correctly. There are also a lot of umpires who are very inconsistent in calling balls and strikes. I would prefer to see a rule-book strike zone, but I would rather get consistency.

Let’s focus on these aspects instead of implementing a time-consuming system that won’t make the umpires better.

Royal starting pitcher Brian Bannister is not in favor of expanding instant replay.

“I think it would slow the game down and take the responsibility out of the umpires’ hands.”

There’s a footnote to the Jim Joyce story. He saw the replay after the game.

“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” he said afterward. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

He knew he messed up and he apologized to Galarraga in person. That was classy. Galarraga also deserves some praise for the way he handled the incident as well.

•••

Now, let’s move from a good umpire who made a bad call to a minor league umpire who was filling in and needs to have  a sit-down meeting with an umpire supervisor about his home-plate manner.

Mike Estabrook called the Royals’ 5-4 loss to the Angels Thursday. He wasn’t making either side very happy with his balls and strikes calls. He had already warned Angels manager Mike Scioscia early in the game for griping about the calls.

Later, when he didn’t call a close pitch from Zack Greinke a strike, catcher Jason Kendall looked back as if he was going to make a comment. Then, Estabrook called time and walked in front of Kendall and started to chew him out. Seriously? (VIDEO)

Royals color commentator Frank White was right when he commented that minor league umpires operate differently than their major league counterparts.

“They tell you to shut-up, stay in the dugout,” White said on the Fox Sports Kansas City telecast. “But when you get to this level, you’ve gotta understand that you have to make some changes when you get here.”

It might be one thing for minor league umps to lay down the law for a group of 18-22 year old players in the minors. But, Jason Kendall is a 14-year major league veteran catcher (He broke in to the bigs when I was in college!!). That was no way to act on the umpire’s part. Then Yost complained about the incident and was ejected. But Yost was right to complain. To quote Royals play-by-play announcer Ryan Lefebvre:

“That was brutal.”

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