Umpire Angel Hernandez alleges MLB manipulated reviews to make minorities look bad

Angel Hernandez alleged in a legal filing with the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that Major League Baseball manipulated its internal umpiring parameters to disadvantage minorities, thereby excluding them from becoming team leaders.

The filing is the latest salvo in Hernandez’s 2017 discrimination lawsuit against MLB, which a lower court dismissed in March 2021, but not without first acknowledging that baseball has a “diversity problem.”

Hernandez claimed that MLB has a history of discriminating against minority umpires, pointing out that at the time of his lawsuit, there had been only one minority team manager in the 150 years. of the league (Richie Garcia) — although that number has grown in the years since . There are 19 referee teams, each with four referees, one of whom is a team leader. In the appeal brief filed this week, seeking an overturn of the lower court judge’s removal, he also raised the argument that MLB not only turned a blind eye to its lack of diversity, but changed the end-of-season refereeing reports to justify this behavior. .

“The District Court also failed to give proper weight to evidence of MLB’s disparate treatment of Mr. Hernandez, including evidence that MLB manipulated the performance of Mr. Hernandez and other minority umpires to aggravate their performance,” the arbitrator said in the court filing.

During the period covered by the complaint, from 2011 to 2016, MLB conducted mid-season reviews of umpires called Umpire Evaluation Reports (UERs), followed by year-end reviews. Hernandez said his UERs were brilliant, but at the time of his year-end review, the results did not reflect previous positive reviews.

“[A] Examination of Mr. Hernandez and his EBU’s year-end evaluations for the years 2011 through 2016 reveals that MLB manipulated Mr. Hernandez’s year-end evaluations to make his job performance appear worse than it really was,” he said. “Mr. Hernandez’s year-end ratings for the 2011-2016 seasons fall far short of an accurate summary of Mr. Hernandez’s actual performance during those seasons.

MLB did not respond when asked to comment. But while the case was active in the lower court, the league still denied it was discriminatory and said Hernandez’s failure to become crew chief or secure a World Series assignment was due to his lack of leadership.

“Hernandez has not consistently demonstrated his leadership abilities and situational management skills in critical, high-pressure roles,” Joe Torre said in a deposition, excerpts of which have been included in court filings. At the time, Torre was MLB’s chief baseball officer, overseeing and reviewing umpires.

Herandez is a controversial referee, sometimes known for his missed calls and confrontations with players and managers. His lawyer, Kevin Murphy, said he would like to refute those allegations with the referees’ evaluation forms, but they are covered by a protective order issued by the lower court.

“I wish I wasn’t under an order of protection because baseball has the statistical analysis of balls, hits and replays,” he said. “Take this year for example. Angel missed his first call the other day in two months. … The guy has a lot of courage. Do not say anything. He does not complain. It takes a lot of unnecessary unwarranted abuse. And I just hope the second circuit gives us a chance to air it in the courtroom.

The crux of the appeal is the argument that the judge erred in deciding that due to the small sample size – both of the panel of arbitrators and the number of minorities – the statistics do not are not meaningful, and without them, claims of discrimination fall away.

Judge Paul Oetken wrote in his opinion, “MLB internally acknowledged, during the time period at issue in this case, that it employed an woefully small proportion of minority umpires.” Then referring to Hernandez’s legal argument of inexorable zero, or an employer’s failure to promote or hire minority employees who “[i]Ironically, the case for the “inevitable zero” in this non-promotion case might be stronger if MLB employed a greater number of minority umpires, or if the promotion pool was large enough to give greater weight to the “inexorable zero” theory.

Murphy calls it a loophole for small employers.

MLB now has 30 to 45 days to file its response, and then the Second Circuit will schedule oral argument or rule based on the briefs.

Hernandez, through his filing, acknowledged that MLB has recently made progress in hiring minority team leaders. MLB, for the first time, promoted an African-American umpire to team manager, Kerwin Danley; and in 2020, MLB promoted, for only the second time in its history, a Latino umpire to team manager, Alfonso Marquez.

(Picture: Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

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