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MLB umpire Angel Hernandez loses racial discrimination suit against league

Jack Baer
·Writer
·3-min read

Angel Hernandez has lost his racial discrimination lawsuit against MLB, according to the Associated Press.

Federal judge J. Paul Oetken reportedly granted MLB's motion for a summary judgement on Wednesday, writing that "no reasonable juror could find that MLB’s stated explanation is a pretext for discriminatory motive.”

Hernandez, who was born in Cuba, filed the lawsuit against MLB in 2017, alleging that his race was a factor when the league passed him over several times to work the World Series or make him a permanent crew chief. The lawsuit also noted that only one non-white umpire, Richie Garcia, had been promoted to crew chief in MLB history at the time, and that Alfonso Marquez was the only non-white umpire to work a World Series since 2011. 

Hernandez, who has been an MLB umpire since 1993, was later promoted to temporary crew chief when several umpires opted out of the 2020 season, while Marquez and Kerwin Danley have both since been promoted to permanent crew chief.

In the four years since the suit has filed, Hernandez has also accused MLB umpiring executive Randy Marsh of making "disturbing" racial comments, while MLB claimed Hernandez once improperly eavesdropped on one of the league's calls.

Judge: Angel Hernandez's performance explains lack of promotion

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 02: Third base umpire Angel Hernandez #55 looks on in the first inning of the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 2, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Angel Hernandez is one of the most well-known umpires in MLB. That's not a good thing. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

In his judgement, Oetken reportedly dismissed Hernandez's claim that MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre had bypassed Hernandez for promotions due to personal animus from his days as a manager. Hernandez pointed to positive Field Evaluation Forms as evidence of his merit.

Oetken said MLB made a compelling case that Torre had reason to believe Hernandez simply isn't good enough at his job to deserve a promotion. From the AP:

“MLB has established beyond genuine dispute seniority and FEF ratings were considered as two of many factors in umpire promotions and were not decisive on their own,” Oetken wrote. “In multiple seasons, Torre rejected white crew chief candidates who had more seniority than the white umpires he promoted.

“Hernández’s handful of cherry-picked examples does not reliably establish any systematic effort on MLB’s part to artificially deflate Hernández’s evaluations, much less an effort to do so in order to cover up discrimination,” the judge added. “The evidence shows beyond genuine dispute that an umpire’s leadership and situation management carried the day in MLB’s promotion decisions.”

Also noting Marquez's promotion as evidence for MLB's lack of discrimination, Oetken wrote that MLB's stated reason for Hernande'z lack of promotion is his leadership and situation-management skills, or lack thereof:

“The explicit reason MLB offers — that according to Torre, Hernández 'has not demonstrated the leadership ability and situation-management skills in critical high-pressure roles on a consistent basis’ — is presented in clear and specific terms,” the judge said.

None of that is news to several MLB players and managers, many of whom have butted heads with Hernandez and questioned the umpire's competence over the years.

Examples of incidents and missteps involving Hernandez are abound. The man once had three different calls overturned by replay review in the span of four innings, has been in an extended feud with the New York Yankees for years and calls a strike zone that is basically a running joke at this point. Possibly the biggest mark against him is that he is simply one of the most famous umpires in the game; it's not a job where you want fans to instantly recognize your name.

However, that's not to say Hernandez didn't deserve to be heard if he really believed he was being discriminated against, nor should he face retaliation for speaking out, as he said he fears.

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