Umpire Angel Hernandez Accused by MLB of Eavesdropping on Investigation Call

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2020

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2019, file photo, home plate umpire Angel Hernandez signals during the fifth inning of a baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins in Detroit. A major league official testified he suggested Hernandez be removed from consideration for the 2015 World Series because he did not think Commissioner Rob Manfred would approve the umpire to work baseball’s premier event. Hernandez sued Major League Baseball in 2017, alleging race discrimination and cited his failure to be assigned to the World Series since 2005 and MLB's failure to promote him to crew chief. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Major League Baseball alleged umpire Angel Hernandez eavesdropped on what was supposed to be a private phone call while he and his umpiring crew were under investigation. 

According to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic, the league was investigating why there was a 14-minute delay during a game between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays last July that was umpired by Hernandez's crew.

Then-chief baseball officer Joe Torre interviewed each umpire from the game but claimed Hernandez did not get off the phone following his interview and remained on the line during the interview of umpire Ed Hickox. 

Kaplan noted the league also held a separate phone call with Hernandez in August about the alleged eavesdropping.

Following the phone call, Torre wrote Hernandez a letter about the potential eavesdropping and explained he stripped the umpire of his acting crew chief status and called remaining on the phone "an egregious offense" during an explanation of the league's position:

"You acknowledged that you were aware prior to the calls that they were intended to be separate and did not dispute that you remained on the line. Instead, you offered a number of excuses for why you remained on the line. You claimed to not know whether you were supposed to stay on the line and that you wanted to be available if anything further was asked of you … your purported justification for staying on the line (to address any further questions) strains credulity in light of your claim that you only heard portions of the Hickox call and the fact that you remained silent even when you heard statements by Hickox that you later claimed to be inaccurate. Simply put, we find your asserted justifications for remaining on the line to be implausible, internally inconsistent, premised on facts that are incorrect and not credible. As a result, we have concluded that you remained on the line in an effort to intentionally and deceptively eavesdrop on a confidential conversation in order to hear what Hickox would say about the July 24 incident. This is an egregious offense."

Kevin Murphy, who is a lawyer representing Hernandez, said, "There is an old saying among lawyers if you have nothing to say about your clients attack the victim. Angel Hernandez did not eavesdrop, he was invited onto that call … and MLB told Angel he made the correct decision."

Murphy also alleged the league used the eavesdropping allegation as a way to retaliate against the umpire for his separate discrimination claims.

In July 2017, Hernandez filed a lawsuit against the league and commissioner Rob Manfred alleging minority umpires did not receive fair treatment when it came to promotions and working playoff games.

"The selection of these less qualified, white individuals over Hernandez was motivated by racial, national origin and/or ethnic considerations," the lawsuit said, per James Pilcher of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The lawsuit also said Torre had a personal problem with Hernandez, who has worked as an umpire since 1993, dating back to calls the former did not like when he was the manager of the New York Yankees.

As for the July 24 game in question, Tampa Bay defeated Boston 3-2 but only after the Red Sox finished under protest. Boston ultimately chose not to pursue the protest following the loss.