Umpire Angel Hernandez Loses Racial Discrimination Suit Against MLB

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2021

MLB umpire Angel Hernandez (5) signals during a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. The Cubs won 10-1. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Aaron Doster/Associated Press

A U.S. District Court rejected Angel Hernandez's lawsuit against Major League Baseball that said the league racially discriminated against the longtime umpire, according to the Associated Press' Ronald Blum.

Hernandez had argued that he hadn't been given a World Series assignment since 2005 and had been bypassed for crew chief on discriminatory grounds. Major League Baseball sought and won a motion for a summary judgment in the case.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken wrote Wednesday in that summary judgement that "no reasonable juror could find that MLB's stated explanation is a pretext for discriminatory motive."

Major League Baseball assigned Alfonso Marquez to the World Series in both 2011 and 2015, which Oetken called "a promotion that seemingly would not have been made were MLB discriminating on the basis of race or national identity."

Hernandez in particular argued that Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre was biased against him despite him receiving solid Field Evaluation Forms. Torre had countered that Hernandez had not "demonstrated the leadership ability and situation-management skills in critical high-pressure roles on a consistent basis."

"MLB has established beyond genuine dispute seniority and FEF ratings were considered as two of many factors in umpire promotions and were not decisive on their own," Oetken wrote. "In multiple seasons, Torre rejected white crew chief candidates who had more seniority than the white umpires he promoted."

He added:

"Hernandez's handful of cherry-picked examples does not reliably establish any systematic effort on MLB's part to artificially deflate Hernandez's evaluations, much less an effort to do so in order to cover up discrimination. The evidence shows beyond genuine dispute that an umpire's leadership and situation management carried the day in MLB's promotion decisions."

Hernandez, 59, has served as an MLB umpire since 1993. He's worked two World Series (2002, 2005), three All-Star Games (1999, 2009, 2017) and has had multiple playoff assignments. He was made a crew chief in last year's COVID-19-shortened campaign when a number of umpires chose to sit out the season.