Jason Kendall, Mike Estabrook, Umpire Relations

A Bad Week for Umpires Gets Even Worse

Jim Joyce was responsible for a horrific call, but one call does not a bad umpire make.

Mike Estabrook shouldn’t get off that easy.

Estabrook, the umpire behind the plate for the Royals-Angels game yesterday, didn’t react well when Kansas City catcher Jason Kendall questioned his strike zone.

For catchers, the unwritten rule when it comes to dealing with umpires is to avoid showing them up, to which Kendall adhered. After Estabrook called a ball on a good-looking Zack Greinke pitch, the catcher questioned the decision without turning around or indicating in any way that he was even addressing the umpire.

Sometimes when umpires feel the need to go eye-to-eye with a catcher, they’ll walk to the pitcher’s side of the plate and bend over to dust it off, in the process saying whatever it is they feel need be said.

Estabrook, however, moved into the left-handed batter’s box, and, hands on knees, bent down to get into the squatting Kendall’s face, as if he was chewing out a four-year-old. (Watch it here.)

Estabrook is a call-up ump from Triple-A. Kendall, without hyperbole, probably knows more about playing catcher than any of his big-league contemporaries.

It was a disgraceful display.

Royals manager Ned Yost came out to question just what the hell it was Estabrook thought he was doing, and promptly got tossed. (“I’ll never let an umpire show up one of my players, and that’s exactly what he was doing,” he said after the game.)

While it’s valid to question whether Kendall said something to elicit that sort of response, there are several factors to consider:

  • Kendall knows exactly what and what not to say to an umpire when questioning a call.
  • If Kendall did say something to piss of Estabrook that badly, he should have been ejected on the spot, rather than shown up.
  • Kendall followed the Code so closely when addressing Estabrook that even as the umpire continued to talk to him after tossing Yost, Kendall would not turn around to face him.

“He missed a pitch, and I was talking to him about it, and he came out in front, which I’ve never really seen,” Kendall said after the game. “I told him he’d better get out of my face. It was unprofessional what he did.”

Unprofessional is one way to put it. Disrespectful is another. One can only hope that Estabrook picks up the finer points of the Code before his next stint in the major leagues.

– Jason