On a beautiful Wednesday night in Kansas City, Missouri, I was in attendance at a Royals game. Excited to finally be in the ballpark again, I was having the time of my life. Eating delicious food, surrounded by thousands of strangers that for the next three hours would feel like my closest friends as we all cheered for a common goal. My excitement, delight, and jubilation to be back in the stands was quickly crushed into a million little pieces by one man. That one man called one of the worst games I have ever seen, a true abomination. That one man sucked the life out of the stadium and killed the hopes and dreams of thousands for a night. That one man is: Angel Hernandez. Shocker. After the game, the only thing on my mind was: when will Major League Baseball stand up to the Umpire’s Union and demand guys like Hernandez be fired?
To make a bold proclamation that someone be stripped of his job, I should probably have some evidence, and boy do I. Angel Hernandez is widely known in the baseball world, even to the most casual of fans, as being a menace to society. Players, Hall of Famers, and managers alike also frequently call Hernandez out to the media. In 2013, legend Chipper Jones stated: “I will not watch a game, any game, officiated by Anger Hernandez! His incompetence amazes me and I’m tired of [the] MLB doing squat about it!” In 2018, C.C. Sabathia told reporters “I need to say this, I don’t think Angel Hernandez should be umping playoff games. He’s absolutely terrible. He was terrible behind the plate today. He was terrible at first base. It’s amazing how he’s getting a job umpiring in these playoff games.” That is just two of many, many past and present players who openly despise Angel Hernandez.
Hernandez is such a menace in fact, that when he sued the MLB earlier this year alleging they had racially profiled him in deciding he shouldn’t be a World Series crew chief, U.S. District Court Judge Paul J. Oetken disagreed after seeing the evidence. Instead, agreeing with the MLB that he’s just plain bad at his job. In a statement, Oetken said: “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 evidence shows beyond genuine dispute that an umpire’s leadership and situation management carried the day in MLB’s promotion decisions” and it didn’t stop there, as the judge agreed with Joe Torre adding: “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.” Ouch.
But the question still remains, why does everyone hate Hernandez? This question was fully answered in an onslaught of horrible games this past month alone. Somehow, even after 30 years of Major League experience as an umpire, he keeps getting worse.
Exactly one month ago at the time of this writing, the Houston Astros were hosting the Los Angeles Angels on April 6th. After a game full of booing, yelling, and cursing directed at him, Hernandez finished with a horrifying Umpire Scorecard. Only 83% of taken pitches were accurately called in a tightly contested game that finished with the Astros winning 4-2. All in all, Hernandez had called 122/146 correctly. TWENTY-FOUR missed balls, to show how abysmal that is, the league average is 94%.
Tuesday night, May 4th, with runners on second and third Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit a deep fly ball to right-center, that was clearly dropped between two Indians outfielders. With Hernandez positioned next to first base, forever ready to mess games up, he makes the call that only the dumbest of umpires would make: the obviously dropped ball was in fact, caught. And chaos ensued. Andrew Benintendi, who was on second, was tagged and called out throwing up his hands in confusion, Salvador Perez stopped running frustrated his hit was taken away from him, and an angry Royals manager Mike Matheney yelled from the dugout. The umpires gathered around to make a decision, and Angel Hernandez’s face said it all. Pure confusion. Benintendi was awarded third base, even though he likely would’ve scored.
What was the reasoning for the disastrous call? Hernandez “basically guessed.” After the game, Hernandez told the Kansas City Star: “I got basically blinded by the outfield scoreboard…I was trying to make out what happened out there…So I was trying to read the players to see what they did with the ball. And I had to come out with the call. I basically guessed on the wrong call.” The goof by Hernandez was so bad, even opposing Indians manager Terry Francona, who’s team was helped by the call, said “Why’s it always happening when you’re here? We knew it wasn’t a catch, everybody I think knew it but Angel.” Francona, Royals third base coach Vance Wilson, Andrew Benintendi, Salvador Perez, and even home plate umpire Edwin Moscoso were all further away from the play than Hernandez and immediately knew he was wrong.
On the NEXT night, Hernandez was behind home plate. In the top of the sixth inning Royals pitcher Brady Singer unloaded a pitch to Jose Ramirez that was called to have hit Ramirez. Replay showed that it appeared to hit the knob of Ramirez’s bat into Perez’s glove for a strikeout, and even after reviewing the call, Hernandez confirmed it hit Jose Ramirez. It did not. Soon after, Hernandez called a balk on Singer when it was clear there was none. The Royals have had enough by this point as manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred stormed out of the home side dugout to tear into Angel Hernandez, who is also known to flippantly eject any and everyone, and both were thrown out of the game. One at-bat later as Singer was being pulled from the game, he chirped at Hernandez who for some reason had walked out towards first base, leading to Singer’s ejection. This was a very bad inning for Hernandez and the implications of his bad calls likely cost Kansas City the game. Heading into the sixth, the Royals were up 4-0. Following his calls, the two runners Hernandez’s calls had put on base scored along with another to make it 4-3. The Royals would go on to lose 5-4.
How can this be okay? How can the MLB and the Umpire’s Union allow someone who does nothing but anger fans? I witnessed this first hand. I kept count of every time the fans booed Angel Hernandez at the May 6th game just mentioned. When all said and done, there were 24 times that nearly the entire stadium showered Hernandez with their displeasure, and that’s not counting the nearly five minutes after the game that they continued even after Hernandez had walked off the field. Thousands of people showing Hernandez and the MLB that he’d just temporarily crushed their souls. Angel Hernandez is bad for the game of baseball and bad for the business of baseball. As far as the Umpire’s Union is concerned, they should be worried about the movement already trending towards automated ‘robot umps’ being hurried by consistently poor performances from the human umpires. It’s been far too long. The fans don’t like him, the players don’t like him, the managers don’t like him, even the U.S. District Courts don’t like him. So when will the MLB open their eyes and realize they need to take action against Angel Hernandez?