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Like It Or Not, Umpire Villain Angel Hernández Does Have a Point

Look past his balls and strikes and it's clear that Ángel Hernández's latest legal battle with MLB points to a larger issue.

Ugh. It really had to be Ángel Hernández, didn’t it?

Nobody likes the bearer of bad news. But it’s doubly depressing when the bearer is the guy nobody invites to parties.

In this case, it’s MLB umpire and a man who launched a million blogs, Ángel Hernández. He is taking his grievances with the league another step and issued a legal filing that argues MLB is purposefully manipulating metrics to disadvantage minority umpires.

The filing is now with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and is just the latest legal chapter from the 60-year-old umpire from Havana, Cuba, against MLB.

An initial lawsuit claimed that there were serious issues with the very fact that the longtime umpire had not reached the level of crew chief, this initial complaint was dismissed by a federal court.

“The District Court also failed to give appropriate weight to evidence of MLB’s disparate treatment of Mr. Hernández, including evidence that MLB was manipulating the performance of Mr. Hernández and other minority umpires to make their performances look worse,” a section of the new filing states, via The Athletic.

Hernandez argues that his mid-year review was exceptional. However, his end of the year summation by the league ran counter to that initial review. The umpire argues that the league was manipulating metrics that would otherwise allow him a promotion to crew chief.

The Athletic was unable to receive comment from MLB but did point to comments made in a deposition by then chief baseball office, Joe Torre: “Hernández has not demonstrated the leadership ability and situation management skills in critical, high-pressure roles on a consistent basis.”

It’s here that many would stop reading and move on. Hernandez is hardly the most revered official. His antics and missed calls are the stuff of legend.

But it would do the league and its fans a tremendous disservice to simply move on when there is a larger issue at play here.

A 2021 report found that about 90% of MLB umpires were white. It also purported that such a disparity is all the more problematic when over the course of a season it seemed that non-white players were not getting the same percentage of calls, via Yahoo Sports.

According to Newsweek, nearly 40% of MLB players on Opening Day 2022 were players of color, and 28.5% of the players are Latino. Now to have just about 10% of the umpires be non-white is a glaring problem. 

It’s clear that MLB has a diversity issue. It’s detrimental from a representation perspective, with young fans looking out onto the field and not seeing themselves on the base paths nor as one of the officials calling the game.

As the previous Yahoo Sports report suggests, the ramifications can also play out in the very balls and strikes that are being called.

Hernández’s grievances may be specific to his case. And his face isn’t the one fans will rally around to enact meaningful change across the sport.

It seems discrepancies in diversity make strange bedfellows. While the courts have dismissed Hernández’s previous assertions, we simply cannot do the same.

The numbers don’t lie, and it’s clear that MLB needs to do better to make the sport and the officials calling the games more reflective of the very people taking the field.