MANHATTAN (CN) — Unable to overcome the alternative justification that he was just unqualified, Cuban-born umpire Angel Hernandez has no evidence that Major League Baseball discriminated in routinely passing him over for promotions, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken recounts Hernandez's consistently poor performance evaluations in the decision, saying MLB's Joe Torre is above suspicion in crediting them.
“The evidence shows beyond genuine dispute that an umpire’s leadership and situation management carried the day in MLB’s promotion decisions," Oetken said. "Torre testified that the candidates he appointed to crew chief instead of Hernandez ‘have not demonstrated the same pattern of issues and to the same extent that have manifested with Hernandez over the years.'”
As for evidence that race ever factored in Hernandez's career, the Obama-appointed judge saw none.
“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,” he wrote.
Hernandez's attorney Kevin Murphy said in a phone interview Wednesday that he respectfully disagrees with the ruling.
Noting that the one of the purposes of this suit was to shed light on the diversity issues within the MLB, Murphy, with the Murphy Landen Jones law firm, also expressed dissatisfaction with the court's ruling on the “inexorable zero” issue — what Oetken defined as "the notion that courts should set aside statistical analyses in circumstances where Title VII defendants have employed or promoted 'zero or near zero minorities or women.'”
Here the MLB admits to having a low number of minority umpires, saying this dearth of minority umpires on payroll offers a nondiscriminatory explanation for why few minorities get promotions.
“But while the inexorable zero may be compelling in the case of a larger employer who has hired or promoted no minority candidates, it is less compelling in the present context, where both the pool of umpires and the number of available promotions are small,” said Oetken.
Hernandez claimed in his 2017 suit that things went bad for him when Torre was hired in 2011 as a baseball executive. Up until that point, Hernandez said his evaluations were always outstanding, and he even umpired the World Series in 2005.
Torre, who is not actually named in the suit, was promoted to chief baseball officer in 2015, giving him the power to hand out promotions. Hernandez noted that there was only one non-white umpire assigned to the World Series under Torre.
Though he found it unclear just how Torre decided promotions, Oetken said that ultimately there is “nothing suggesting that unlawful discrimination is a factor in those decisions.”
Hernandez also claimed that Torre, famous for having coached the New York Yankees, had it out for him since 2001 when he took to the press insulting Hernandez over a call he thought was incorrect.
Hernandez is widely deemed by baseball fans and players alike as one of the worst umpires. Sportscastings labels him as the most hated umpire in MLB history.
Most recently, Hernandez was trending on Twitter over a call he made during the first game of spring training back in February, where an announcer mentioned Hernandez was in “midseason form.”
In 2017, Hernandez threw the now-retired Detroit Tigers star Ian Kinsler out of the game after they argued over balls and strikes. Speaking to the media after the game, Kinsler said Hernandez needed to find another job.
“No one wants you behind the plate anymore. No one in this game wants you behind the plate any more, none of the players,” Kinsler said.
Hernandez has been an umpire for nearly 30 years in the MLB and became a temporary crew chief last year after many umpires stepped down due to Covid-19 safety concerns.
The MLB is represented by Adam Lupion with the Proskauer Rose law firm. Lupion did not immediately respond to email seeking comment.
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