As per court filings, MLB umpire Angel Hernandez is suing Major League Baseball on the grounds of racial discrimination. His suit specifically focuses on the league passing him over for promotion to crew chief and not being selected for World Series assignments.
MLB evaluates their umpires in a number of different ways, including “calling balls and strikes behind the plate” as well as “hustle, fraternization, four-umpire mechanics, demeanor, style and form of calls, reactions to developments of plays, situation management, official baseball rules-and-interpretations, and focus.”
Umpires receive any one of three basic ratings in all of these areas: “exceeds standard”, “meets standard”, or “does not meet standard”. The lawsuit claims that “from 2002 to 2010, Mr. Hernandez received multiple ‘exceeds standard’ ratings” and “did not receive a single ‘does not meet standard’ rating during that same time frame.
According to his performance reviews, “Hernandez’ accuracy calling balls and strikes behind the plate increased from 92.19 [percent] in 2002 to 96.88 [percent] in 2016”, adding that “Hernandez’ accuracy was frequently praised by the Office of the Commissioner”.
The 24-year veteran umpire claims that despite these consistently glowing reviews from his superiors, things changed considerably when former manager Joe Torre became executive vice president of baseball operations for MLB.
Before Torre arrived, Hernandez worked two World Series (2002, 2005), and six League Championship Series. Since Torre’s arrival, the Cuban native has not received one World Series assignment and has received a multitude of not-just-performance based criticism’s from Torre, personally.
According to the suit, Torre’s issue with Hernandez stemmed from a “perceived incorrect call” that took place in May 2001 when Torre was managing the Yankees. After the game, Torre lashed out, “taking to the media to insult” Hernandez.
“Torre was quoted by the media as saying that Hernandez ‘seems to see something nobody else does,’ quipping that ‘you’d like to have him sit down and watch the video, something I’m sure he doesn’t do […]’,” adding that if he did, “he would look like a fool”.
Torre’s 2011 evaluation of Hernandez included the following statements, considerably mirroring his quotes from 2001.
“You need to work on your communication skills with on-field personnel, particularly because your approach has fostered a Club perception that you try to put yourself in the spotlight by seeing things that other umpires do not.”
As per the lawsuit, Hernandez was never cited or demerited for “allegedly attempting to put himself in the spotlight”. These types of reviews did not cease over the next half-dozen seasons, which is what likely brought upon these charges.
In a March 2017 letter from Torre addressing these concerns, the Hall of Fame manager and MLB executive said that “Hernandez needed to gain a greater mastery of the Official Playing Rules and Replay regulations, continue to improve [his] situation management, and display an ability to refocus and move forward after missing calls or receiving constructive feedback […]”.
Since MLB unified the former American League and National League umpiring associations, “there have been at least 23 umpires promoted to crew chief”, adding that all have been white.
It’s also noted that there have been 34 umpires assigned to the World Series since Torre joined the Commissioners Office, all of whom were white.
The suit alleges that these slights towards Hernandez are due to racial discrimination. Hernandez’ Latino descent allows him to sue MLB on the grounds of discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination in violation of Section 1981 of MLB code, as well as discrimination in violation of Ohio Revised Code 4112.02.
Hernandez is seeking the ability to speak freely about his experiences, full back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and “all employment benefits he would have enjoyed had he not been discriminated against”.
The suit was moved to New York City, home to MLB’s offices, from Cincinnati, OH earlier this month, as per the Cincinnati Enquirer.
We’ll keep you posted as more information becomes available.