While the regular season started, some MLB News transpired outside of the ballpark and instead in a Manhattan courtroom when District Judge J. Paul Oetken ruled against maligned MLB umpire Ángel Hernandez. Hernandez had contested that Joe Torre, and Major League Baseball, had discriminated against him based on race.
MLB News: The Lawsuit
In July of 2017, Hernandez, who was born and raised in Cuba, made some MLB news when he announced his lawsuit against Major League Baseball. Hernandez, who umpired his first MLB game in 1991, claimed that he was passed over for a crew chief promotion and skipped for World Series and Playoff games due to racial discrimination.
In the United States, Article VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees of protected classes from racial discrimination. This discrimination can either be from a hostile work environment or treated differently due to their race.
Hernandez claimed that his prior interactions with Joe Torre, while he was the manager of the Yankees and Dodgers, led to his diminished status. Furthermore, he stated that his on-field evaluations were significantly more positive before Joe Torre took over as head of MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer.
On Wednesday, Judge J. Paul Oetken made his ruling, stating that “no reasonable juror could find that MLB’s stated explanation is a pretext for a discriminatory motive.” Judge Oetken referenced the fact that fellow Hispanic umpire, Alfonso Marquez, was selected for both the 2011 and 2015 World Series.
Judge Oetken also noted that under Torre’s leadership, MLB umpires were frequently selected for on-field performance over seniority and that multiple white umpires were passed over for similar reasons.
Finally, Judge Oetken supported Joe Torre and MLB’s reasoning for not selecting Hernandez. MLB argued that Hernandez had not shown “he leadership ability and situation-management skills in critical high-pressure roles consistently.”
Basically, Judge Oetken ruled that Ángel Hernandez did not face discrimination and instead of that Joe Torre and MLB were right in not rewarding Hernandez with a promotion or premier games. Instead, he supported MLB’s claim that Hernandez is just not that good of an umpire.
Ángel Hernandez the Umpire
While discrimination lawsuits should always be taken seriously, many fans across baseball questioned the validity of Hernandez’s claims. Hernandez frequently finds himself in controversial situations, and multiple players have taken shots at the veteran umpire.
Ian Kinsler was fined $10,000 in 2017 for saying that Hernandez “needs to find another job.” Meanwhile, CC Sabathia said in 2018 that Hernandez is “always bad” and that “he doesn’t know what he is doing.”
Hernandez also found himself making MLB news with another controversial situation in 2019, when he stayed on the phone and eavesdropped on a call between Joe Torre and another umpire. At the time, MLB stated that Hernandez had intentionally listened to a private phone call and called his actions an “egregious offense.”
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