Yankees nemesis Hernandez’s appeal against Joe Torre falls flat

Ex-Yankees manager Joe Torre and umpire Angel Hernandez

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Once more, Angel Hernandez’s actions have thrust him into an unfavorable spotlight. The federal appeals court has ruled against his appeal in the lawsuit involving allegations of racial discrimination that he had filed against former Yankees manager Joe Torre.

MLB umpire Angel Hernandez had blamed Joe Torre, who held significant authority over umpires during his tenure as an MLB executive from 2011 to 2020, for harboring bias toward him, stemming from his lengthy 12-year stint with the Yankees. This assertion was one of the contentions made in Hernandez’s racial discrimination lawsuit against MLB, which was ultimately dismissed on Tuesday, as reported by the Associated Press.

The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has affirmed the 2021 ruling by a District Court, which had awarded MLB a summary judgment and dismissed the lawsuit against Joe Torre.

The federal appeals court rejected his appeal to revive the case due to his inability to substantiate his allegations, including those directed at Torre.

According to the judgment, Hernandez did not present evidence demonstrating that the standards employed by Joe Torre in determining promotions for crew chiefs were responsible for the observed disparity between white and minority crew chiefs. Also, according to the Associated Press, the umpire failed to back his claim that Joe Torre held prejudiced views against racial minorities.

The 11-page ruling by the 2nd Circuit court articulated that Hernandez had not been able to establish a significant statistical contrast in the rates of promotion between white and minority umpires. They further noted that MLB had presented compelling expert testimony that indicated the lack of statistical significance in the divergence of crew chief promotion rates between these groups during the relevant years. The court pointed out that Hernandez had not provided any reasoning for deeming MLB’s statistical evidence as unreliable.

“Hernandez has failed to establish a statistically significant disparity between the promotion rates of white and minority umpires,” reads the decision. “MLB has provided persuasive expert evidence demonstrating that, during the years at issue, the difference in crew chief promotion rates between white and minority umpires was not statistically significant. Hernandez offers no explanation as to why MLB’s statistical evidence is unreliable.”

In the event that Hernandez wishes to proceed, he has the option to request a reconsideration of the case by the entire 2nd Circuit based in New York, or alternatively, he could seek a review of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The original lawsuit filed by Hernandez

Hernandez, a Cuban-origin umpire, was brought on board as an umpire in 1993. He initiated the legal action in 2017, filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. The case was subsequently relocated to New York. His contention was that he had faced discrimination due to his omission from umpiring the World Series since 2005 and his failure to secure a promotion to the position of full-time crew chief. The lawsuit particularly alleged that MLB executive Joe Torre had held longstanding animosity toward Hernandez because of Torre’s tenure as the manager of the Yankees.

MLB umpire Angel Hernandez officiated the Yankees vs. Marlins game on August 12, 2023.

In July 2020, amidst the commencement of the pandemic-affected shortened season, Hernandez was appointed as an interim crew chief, stepping into the role as twelve umpires opted to sit out.

Nevertheless, the lawsuit faced a setback in March 2021 when a U.S. District Court ruled against Hernandez. In his decision, U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken stated that it was his conclusion that no reasonable juror would be able to perceive MLB’s provided explanation as a guise for a discriminatory intention. This ruling came as part of the court’s approval of MLB’s request for a summary judgment.

Oetken affirmed that MLB had effectively demonstrated that the consideration of seniority and FEF ratings in umpire promotions was just one among several factors, and not determinative in isolation. He added that in various instances, Torre had declined to promote white crew chief candidates despite their greater seniority compared to the white umpires who were eventually selected for promotion.

The judge further commented that the examples provided by Hernández, which were selective in nature, did not offer a consistent basis for confirming any deliberate endeavor by MLB to manipulate Hernández’s evaluations, let alone to mask discriminatory practices. The judge emphasized that the presented evidence indisputably indicated that the pivotal factor in MLB’s promotion decisions revolved around an umpire’s proficiency in leadership and adeptness in handling various game situations.

Oetken stated that Torre had genuinely refuted the allegations raised by Hernández.

The judge noted that MLB’s explicit explanation, as conveyed by Torre, centered around Hernández’s perceived inconsistency in displaying leadership skills and effective management of crucial high-pressure situations.

Oetken observed that MLB’s selection of Alfonso Marquez for the World Series in both 2011 and 2015 appeared to be a promotion that wouldn’t have been likely if MLB were engaging in discriminatory practices based on race or national identity.

Viral blunders by Hernandez

Having been an MLB umpire since 1993, Hernandez is approaching his 62nd birthday next week. Hernandez’s name is familiar to both baseball enthusiasts and players due to his frequent and widely shared mistakes. Regarded as one of the less proficient umpires in MLB, his regular inaccuracies in judging balls and strikes have resulted in significant criticism. While the data available is limited, as he has officiated games for only a short period, Umpscorecards.com indicates that Hernandez ranks second lowest among all MLB umpires this season in terms of accurate call percentage, standing at 91.4 percent.

Umpire Angel Hernandez is seen during the Yankees vs. Astros game at Yankee Stadium on August 06, 2023.

After a significant portion of the 2023 season was spent on the sidelines due to a back injury, Hernandez recently made his return to umpiring duties in late July.

Since resuming his role, Hernandez has quickly become a focal point of scrutiny for his actions behind the plate. In his first game back officiating balls and strikes in a major league ballpark, during the Nationals-Brewers matchup on August 2, Hernandez faced criticism for a particular decision. This decision, involving a pitch at the lower part of the strike zone as Washington’s MacKenzie Gore pitched to Milwaukee’s Tyrone Taylor, had an immediate impact on the game and provoked commentary from the announcers.

Just four days later, Hernandez was positioned as the home plate umpire at Yankee Stadium for the final game of a four-game series between the Yankees and Astros.

During the top of the sixth inning, Hernandez made a controversial call by halting play to declare a balk on Yankees pitcher Wandy Peralta. This decision garnered disapproval, notably from YES play-by-play announcer Michael Kay. The outcome of the game saw Peralta and the Yankees succumb to a 9-7 defeat.

“Of course. Angel Hernandez is involved; he’s going to impact himself on the game,” Kay remarked expressing his frustration at the home plate umpire’s involvement in the decision.

Notably, there exists a history of contentious interactions between the umpire and the Yankees.

Hernandez’s involvement in the 2018 World Series was cut short due to a subpar performance during the Yankees-Red Sox ALDS Game 3. In that game, he had failed to make three straightforward calls at first base, all of which were eventually overturned upon video review.

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