Angel Hernandez was on track to umpire in the 2018 World Series before getting overturned three times at first base on video reviews during Game 3 of that year’s American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, MLB wrote in response to his latest legal filing.
The Cuba-born Hernandez was hired as a big league umpire in 1993 and sued in 2017, alleging he was discriminated against because he had not been assigned to the World Series since 2005 and had been passed over for crew chief.
U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken granted a summary judgment to MLB in March 2021, and Hernandez asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February to throw out Oetken’s decision.
Hernandez served as an interim crew chief from 2011 to 2016, at the start of the pandemic-delayed 2020 season and for part of the 2021 season, but he hasn’t been made a permanent crew chief.
“Hernandez has not presented, and the record does not contain, a scintilla of evidence that MLB’s actions were based on his race or national origin,” MLB wrote in a 58-page filing on Wednesday.
MLB said Hernandez doesn’t have a legal basis to claim that he need not show discrimination statistically because of the relatively small sample sizes involved in his case.
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Kevin Murphy, Hernandez’s lawyer, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
In its reply brief on Wednesday, MLB wrote that Joe Torre, then chief baseball officer, selected Hernandez for the AL Division Series in 2018 “with the intention of providing him an opportunity to umpire in the World Series that year.”
“Hernandez did not capitalize on that opportunity and did not rise to the occasion,” MLB wrote. “This was the first time since the advent of expanded instant replay in 2014 that an umpire had three calls overturned in a postseason game. Based on his performance during that Division Series playoff game, Torre was not confident in Hernandez’s ability to perform effectively on an even more intense stage, and for this reason did not select him for the World Series that season.”
MLB also cited Hernandez’s failure to reverse a call that the Oakland Athletics’ Adam Rosales had doubled and failed to clear the wall with what would have been a tying home run in the ninth inning at Cleveland on May 8, 2013.
“For years, Hernandez has refused to admit that the call he made was incorrect and instead has attempted to blame the quality of the replay equipment,” MLB said. “Hernandez’s inability to put the Cleveland incident behind him — and his continued insistence that others were at fault for his wrong decision — was emblematic of why Torre considered him to be unsuitable for World Series assignments and a permanent crew chief role. The issue was not the bad call itself, but Hernandez’s reaction to his mistake.”
Citing the 2011 to 2016 seasons, Hernandez’s attorneys told the appellate court in a June filing that “MLB manipulated Mr. Hernandez’s year-end evaluations in order to make his job performance appear worse than it actually was. Mr. Hernandez’s year-end evaluations for the 2011-2016 seasons do not even come close to accurately summarizing Mr. Hernandez’s actual performance in those seasons.”
MLB wrote Wednesday that “Hernandez has been quick to eject managers, which enflames on-field tensions, rather than issue warnings that potentially could defuse those situations. Hernandez also has failed to communicate with other umpires on his crew, which has resulted in confusion on the field and unnecessary game delays.”
MLB also claimed Torre observed Hernandez throwing his headset after a video review overturned one of his calls in 2014 and misapplied a substitution rule, leading to a 14-minute delay and a protest during a game between Boston and the Tampa Bay Rays on July 24, 2019.
“During that investigation, MLB concluded that Hernandez intentionally and deceptively eavesdropped on a confidential conversation with another umpire on his crew in order to hear what that umpire would say concerning the incident; and when MLB asked Hernandez about it, he lied about his conduct,” MLB wrote.
MLB also repeated an allegation it made earlier in the lawsuit that Hernandez asked Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey to autograph 11 baseballs following a game in which Bailey pitched a no-hitter in 2012.
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