NEW YORK — On a night when Luis Severino allowed six runs and recorded nine outs; when manager Aaron Boone was booed by his home crowd; when the Yankees managed no extra-base hits off a starter in seven frames, for the fifth time all season; when by the eighth inning New York fans did not even bother to drown out the "LET’S GO RED SOX" chant; when the Yankees authored their worst postseason defeat—16-1—in franchise history; no one had a more brutal four hours than first-base umpire Ángel Hernández.
Hernández made an unprecedented three calls that were overturned by replay, plus one that was upheld on review. (It’s been a rough series for him; he also missed a call at second base in Game 2.) Five previous umpires have had three calls overturned in a single game—Seth Buckminster and Jerry Meals in 2014, John Libka and Larry Vanover last year and Chris Segal this season. Buckminster, Libka and Segal are not full-time MLB umpires. There had never been three calls overturned in a single postseason game before Monday's Game 3 of the ALDS.
In the bottom of the second, with a man on first, Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius tried to bunt for a hit. Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi slipped as he fielded it, but the throw beat Gregorius to the bag by half a step. Hernández swiped his arms safe. First baseman Steve Pearce motioned to the dugout to appeal, which they did; a minute and a half later, Gregorius was ruled out.
In the third, New York second baseman Gleyber Torres bounced a grounder to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who made an acrobatic play to his left but couldn’t quite get the throw off in time. Hernández called Torres out. That one was overturned, too.
By the time Yankees first baseman Luke Voit legged out an infield single in the fourth, the teams appeared to be challenging calls out of habit.
“This is like a review an inning for Ángel Hernández,” mused TBS broadcaster Ron Darling, mentioning as always the review sponsor, Mitel.
“Having four reviews challenged already is the equivalent of the Yankees being down 10-nothing right now,” said Brian Anderson. “You never want to have your calls go to review this often.”
That one was confirmed. Hernández grinned as he took his place by first base.
Finally, two batters later, Gregorius grounded into the shift. The Red Sox tried to turn two but missed the play by several feet. Hernández saw it differently. So sure was Gregorius that he stayed right at first base and waited. In one of the shortest reviews in history—28 seconds—the crew overturned the call.
“Ángel’s gonna be the umpire in the best shape by the end of this game,” said Darling.
“Mitel’s getting their money’s worth tonight!” said Anderson.
In the end, this cost us nothing but four minutes and five seconds of our lives, plus the time spent reading bad jokes on Twitter. The game was a blowout, and none of the mistakes came in key situations. This was not Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga. And anyway, in the end, the umpires got the calls right. And isn’t that the point?
But the disastrous showing comes a week after his lawsuit against the league for discrimination was moved to New York from Cincinnati. Hernández alleges that MLB in general and chief baseball officer Joe Torre, in particular, have discriminated against him because he is Latino (Hernández was born in Cuba), denying him opportunities to serve as crew chief and to work the playoffs.
It is certainly possible that MLB is taking Hernández’s ethnicity into account when it makes decisions. But he also has a history of conflict with players: A 2010 ESPN survey named him the third-worst umpire in the game, with 22%. (CB Bucknor came in first, with Joe West in second.)
In 2013, former Braves third baseman and eventual Hall of Famer Chipper Jones tweeted that he would no longer watch games Hernández umpired, and that in fact he urged fans to boycott them to send a message to the league. On Monday former All-Star catcher Paul Lo Duca tweeted, “How Angel Hernandez is still umpiring let alone the playoffs is unreal to me. He is far the worst umpire in the league. Every year.” Jones retweeted it, adding, “Can I retweet this 100 times so it gets the point across!!!” Red Sox Hall of Fame pitcher and TBS analyst Pedro Martínez opened the postgame show by saying, “Major League Baseball needs to do something about Ángel Hernández … he’s as bad as there is.”
Last year, current Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler, then a Tiger, feuded with Hernández over balls and strikes.
“I'm surprised at how bad an umpire he is," Kinsler told The Detroit News. “I don't know how, for as many years he's been in the league, that he can be that bad. He needs to re-evaluate his career choice, he really does. Bottom line. … If I get fined for saying the truth, then so be it. He's messing with baseball games, blatantly.” (Kinsler was eventually fined $10,000.)
But on Monday, no one seemed to want to say much about the mess. Hernández declined comment. The league released a statement: “There were several very close calls at first base tonight, and we are glad that instant replay allowed the umpiring crew to achieve the proper result on all of them.”
Even Kinsler, aware that Hernández will oversee the rest of the series, demurred. “First base is probably the hardest position to umpire, besides home plate,” he said. “There are always going to be close plays. They do the best they can.”
The good news for Hernández is that he’ll be at home plate tomorrow, and balls and strikes aren’t reviewable.