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Angel Hernandez Claims MLB Manipulated Reviews to Disadvantage Minority Umpires

Umpire Ángel Hernández claims Major League Baseball discriminated against minority umpires by altering its internal evaluations to not give them opportunities to be crew chiefs, The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan reports.

The claim stems from Hernández’s suit against MLB, which has reached the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He first filed the suit in 2017—which was then dismissed in 2021—where he accused the league of discrimination by not promoting him to crew chief.

Hernández argued that, at the time of the suit, there was only one minority crew chief in MLB's 150-year history. MLB has 19 total umpiring crews per year, and the number of minority crew chiefs has increased since the suit was filed. The league promoted its first African-American and second Latino crew chief in 2020.

“The District Court also failed to give appropriate weight to evidence of MLB’s disparate treatment of Mr. Hernández, including evidence that MLB was manipulating the performance of Mr. Hernández and other minority umpires to make their performances look worse,” Hernández said in the most recent court filing, via The Athletic.

Hernández also argued that his umpire evaluation reports from 2011 to ’16 were consistently better than his year-end reviews, which held him from getting promoted. Additionally, Hernández’s lawyer Kevin Murphy claims Hernández has missed one call in two months based on these evaluations.

However, the reports are sealed under a protective order by the lower court, so they can’t be used in the case.

In response, MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre said Hernández “has not demonstrated the leadership ability and situation management skills in critical, high-pressure roles on a consistent basis.”

Judge Paul Oetken, who wrote the opinion on the case, said that MLB acknowledged a lack of diversity among the umpires, but that was also why Hernández’s argument doesn’t have standing.

“MLB recognized internally, during the period at issue in this case it employed an unfortunately low proportion of minority umpires,” Oetken wrote. “The case for the ‘inexorable zero’ in this non-promotion case might be stronger if MLB employed a greater number of minority umpires, or if the promotion pool were large enough to lend the ‘inexorable zero’ theory more weight.”

The next steps of this appeal will include MLB filing a response before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals either rules or schedules an oral argument.

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