He’s Been An Umpire For 2 Decades. Now He’s Suing MLB For Racial Discrimination
Even as baseball teams have become more diverse, people filling positions of authority have not.
Image via Tunnelarmr/Flickr Creative Commons
As Major League Baseball opened this year’s season, the players on the field have been as diverse as they’ve ever been , with 42.5% nonwhite players in the league led by 31.9% of all players being Latino. However, MLB’s diversity numbers aren’t very encouraging when you look at who fills the positions of authority in the league. Only three managers are not white, 11% of team vice presidents are minorities, and just 10 of the league’s 92 umpires are people of color. Which is why umpire Angel Hernandez is suing MLB for racial discrimination .
Hernandez’s suit alleges that the discrimination goes even deeper than just those raw numbers. The last 23 people promoted to crew chief (umpires work in teams, with one managing the others) were all white, and only one person of color has umpired in the World Series since 2011, according to the 55-year-old Cuban-born umpire’s court filing.
“The selection of these less qualified, white individuals over Hernandez was motivated by racial, national origin and/or ethnic considerations,” the complaint says.
Being denied a promotion to crew chief or given a prized World Series assignment isn’t just a shot at Hernandez’s pride; it also costs him money. Umps are paid more money in both situations.
In the complaint, Hernandez specifically calls out former New York Yankees manager and MLB’s chief baseball officer Joe Torre. He says minority hiring and promotion for umpires has stalled out since Torre joined the league office in 2011. And Hernandez adds that the beef between the two is personal, dating back to 2001 when Torre still led the Yankees.
After Torre didn’t like some calls Hernandez made, Torre ripped him in the media calling him a “fool” and saying, “I think he just wanted to be noticed over there.” Ever since Torre joined the front office, Hernandez, who has received high marks since he joined the league in 1993, saw his annual performance reviews start to reflect similar language to the criticisms Torre had leveled at him a decade prior, despite not being able to point specific instances from individual games that would back up the assertions. But Hernandez says the bigger picture still matters.
"Though it may seem as if Major League Baseball’s problems with Hernandez begin and end with some personal animus Torre and some other individuals in the Office of the Commissioner may have towards Hernandez, an overview of how Major League Baseball has treated minorities such as Hernandez shows a much deeper and more troubling trend,” the suit states.
Neither Hernandez’s lawyer, nor MLB have issued statements since the suit was filed in Ohio this week. In a twist that could be coincidence, Hernandez was reportedly just assigned to be an umpire during the All-Star Game next week.