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End Of An Error As Ángel Hernández Calls It Quits

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19: Umpire Angel Hernandez looks on during the MLB game between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 19, 2024 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The worst thing an umpire can do is teach fans their name. The best officials are invisible, because the best-officiated game is one where you don't notice the officiating. On the other end of the spectrum are the celebrity umps: The ones who either crave the spotlight, as if fans paid good money to see them rule and not the players play, or the ones who gets calls wrong so frequently or egregiously that ignoring them is not an option. Ángel Hernández was both of these types, and now he's retiring, and the baseball world rejoices.

Hernández, 62, last worked as the home-plate umpire on May 9 in the first game of a Chicago-Cleveland series, and was replaced in the crew the next day. He hasn't worked since: USA Today reports that he and MLB spent two weeks "negotiating a financial settlement" that was finally agreed upon this weekend, clearing the way for him to announce his retirement Monday evening. “He was NOT forced out,” Hernández's lawyer insisted via text to The Athletic, even though MLB had approached him about retiring earlier this season—presumably right around the time he was making headlines for atrocious calls, imperiously delivered. Or, a week after that, when it happened again.

In a statement, Hernández said,

“Starting with my first Major League game in 1991, I have had the very good experience of living out my childhood dream of umpiring in the major leagues. There is nothing better than working at a profession that you enjoy. I treasured the camaraderie of my colleagues and the friendships I have made along the way, including our locker room attendants in all the various cities.I have decided that I want to spend more time with my family. Needless to say, there have been many positive changes in the game of baseball since I first entered the profession. This includes the expansion and promotion of minorities. I am proud that I was able to be an active participant in that goal while being a Major League umpire.”

Ángel Hernández, former Major League umpire

Hernández was an equal-opportunity infuriator, thanks to a strike zone that was as large as it was inconsistent, and a quick trigger finger for tossing anyone who dared complain. But the rub with Hernández was always a little more nuanced than the calls. He was not the least accurate umpire working in most of his three decades in the game. He was in fact about league-average most of the time. But the job is not just about getting the calls right. It's also about being professional toward one's coworkers, and Hernández was a petty, grudge-holding tyrant to coaches and players. The best umpires de-escalate tension; Hernández always seemed to ignite it.

If fans ever wondered if MLB saw the same thing they did, that was put to rest when the league defended itself in Hernández's 2017 discrimination lawsuit, which alleged that MLB withheld prime assignments from Hernández and other minority umpires. (The case was tossed out on summary judgment in 2021, a ruling upheld on appeal in 2023.) As part of that suit, MLB, citing past performance reviews, revealed what it really thought of Hernández. Things like,

"Hernández Was Unable To Successfully Handle Difficult On-Field Situations With A Calm And Professional Demeanor On A Consistent Basis"


"lack of accountability and inability to move past his mistakes"


"persistent failure to communicate with other umpires on his crew, which has resulted in confusion on the field"


"You continue to harp on matters that happened many years ago; this behavior is not healthy and not what we expect from a crew chief or any umpire. You need to learn from the past and then move forward.”

Whew buddy! Hernández never worked a World Series after 2005, which was one of his main gripes in his lawsuit. But MLB's filings in response revealed he had been on track to work the 2018 World Series—until he had three calls at first base overturned on replay in the first four innings of an ALDS game. That was Hernández in a nutshell: not good at his job and eager to blame someone else for it.

Umpiring is a tough job. It's impossible to get every call right, and fans will be convinced you have it out for their team anyway. The least an ump can do is approach their job with humility, and strive for pleasant workplace interactions. Actually, no, I take that back: The actual least an ump can do is everything Ángel Hernández did.

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