Angel Hernandez: A Bad Umpire
Mention the name Angel Hernandez around MLB circles and you’ll most likely hear a collective groan, eye-roll or a colourful phrase or three. Even if you ask a baseball fan who he or she would say is a bad umpire, and more than often than not the first name to come up would be Angel Hernandez. Look, we’re not here to criticize a job we don’t know how to do, but there may be nothing that unites every fanbase in baseball like their hatred of Angel Hernandez and the calls he makes. It makes you wonder why the MLB continues to employ Hernandez, not just because of the dozens of players and managers that have spoken out publicly against him, but because of the trouble, he has made for the MLB itself.
Several times now Hernandez has either sued or threatened to sue the MLB over things like racial discrimination or unfair treatment by an employer, stemming from when former Yankees manager Joe Torre was in the executive office. We’re not here calling for anyone to be fired, but when a person’s actions begin to have an effect on the outcome of professional sports games where millions and potentially billions of dollars are on the line, something needs to be addressed. So at the end of the day what do we do with a bad umpire?
Responsibility and Accountability
The fact of the matter is, most people are held responsible for the actions and consequences of their job. If players do not perform up to their standards, they get sent down to the minors or are released. If managers or coaches do not perform well, they could potentially lose their jobs. Sports are a business and yes there are real-life financial revenues but the single most important currency is winning.
For MLB teams, especially in this year’s shortened season, every win and every play is important for the standings and seeding. Especially with rule changes that are already speeding up the gameplay like makeup games being only seven innings long and extra innings starting with a runner already on second base. Every inning, every game, means so much more this year, so how can the MLB continue to deploy Hernandez in games that matter this much and can anything be done about a bad umpire?
Is There a Way Out?
Well, let’s look at it this way. The MLB umpires have a union, and like most professional unions, it is fairly strong. Think about a unionized office where one worker is lazier than the rest but still gets the same pay and job protection. Yeah, that worker is Angel Hernandez. Scan the rest of the professional leagues and it is quite rare to see a referee or linesman being relieved of their duties. Again, we would never ask for somebody to be fired, but plenty of players like Chipper Jones and Pedro Martinez have. There is usually a level of respect between players and officials, but clearly, Hernandez has lost it.
But what can the MLB do? Not much, unfortunately. Sending him down to the minors may be an option, or perhaps taking him off the field and giving him another position internally, although it seems like tensions are quite high at MLB Head Office too. The MLB has already stripped Hernandez of ever being a Crew Chief, but maybe they need to go one step further and limit the games he calls. Playoffs should be out of the question. Maybe the answer is that Hernandez can only call games between two teams with losing records so that he cannot affect seeding. But that seems like a lot of work just to accommodate one bad apple. Perhaps it is time the MLB finally steps up: treat him like a bad cop and stick him behind a desk, far away from the field.
Angel Hernandez is not the only bad umpire out there. Who else do you think should come under that heading? Let me know in the comments below.