Umpire Angel Hernandez calls it like he sees it — and now he’s ready to speak about racism within Major League Baseball.
After nearly two years keeping silent about his allegations of racial and ethnic discrimination in the Big Leagues, the controversial ump hopes to air his grievances as the 2019 season gets underway.
A document filed late Wednesday by Hernandez’s attorney in Manhattan Federal Court lists 27 points the oft-criticized umpire would like to address in a public forum. Fearing retaliation, he asks a judge to rule that MLB cannot fine or fire him for raising issues that are fair game, the papers show.
“MLB treats African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos and other people of color as competent to play the game based on their athletic ability, but MLB does not do nearly enough to promote African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos and other people of color to positions of leadership. MLB pays only lip service to preventing discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos and other people of color," Hernandez attorney Kevin Murphy writes in the list.
“Many players, former players and other umpires who share Angel’s views keep silent or limit their comments because they fear retaliation from MLB.”
Hernandez’s lawsuit alleges he’s been blocked from a promotion to crew chief or officiating the World Series due to his Cuban heritage. He says Joe Torre, the former Yankees skipper and current baseball exec who oversees MLB’s 76 umpires, has unfairly labeled him a showboat.
He claims Torre has had it out for him since a game in Mat 2001. Nonetheless, Hernandez insists it isn’t personal.
“Since Torre assumed his current role, MLB has made professional life even harder for minorities in baseball," the document says. “Media accounts have sometimes portrayed Angel’s complaint in the lawsuit as reflecting something personal against Joe Torre: that is not accurate; the complaint simply points out Torre’s role as one of the leaders of baseball who is not doing enough to eliminate racial, ethnic and gender discrimination in the game.”
MLB attorney Neil Abramson scoffed at Hernandez’s fear of retaliation, saying it was completely unfounded.
“MLB states, as clearly and unequivocally as possible, that it has never taken adverse action against Hernandez or threatened to take adverse action against him based on any conduct protected under any applicable law, including pursuing his claims of discrimination (which are wholly without merit),” Abramson wrote.
An MLB spokesman declined comment.
The ump plans to criticize the league through speaking engagements, press interviews and op-eds, according to papers.
Hernandez’s case is complicated by the fact that baseball players have been unusually outspoken in their criticism of his officiating. Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia has called him “absolutely terrible.” San Diego Padres second baseman Ian Kinsler didn’t hold back in 2017.
“I’m surprised at how bad an umpire he is,” said Kinsler, who at the time played for the Detroit Tigers. “I don’t know how, for as many years as he’s been in the league, that he can be that bad. He needs to reevaluate his career choice, he really does. Bottom line.”
The ump insists he has the game’s best interests at heart.