LINK: Angel Hernandez, Lousy Minor League Umpire in 1991

You’ve probably heard that MLB umpire Angel Hernandez is in the news again, because he’s awful at his job and does embarrassing things to the sport on a too regular basis. You may also know that Hernandez has something of a reputation for drawing attention to himself, and is annually rated as one of the worst umpires by Major League players.

What you might not know, and what I didn’t know until I saw Joe Posnanski retweet something from Buffalo News writer Mike Harrington, is that Hernandez’s reputation for brutal calls and a total lack of professionalism goes back over 20 years. Harrington linked to this article written in 1991 by Bob DiCesare, covering Hernandez’s performance in a Triple-A game between the Buffalo Bisons and Iowa Cubs. The piece is brutal in its honesty, and rings true even today.

Hernandez is reputed around the league to be an umpire who yearns for the spotlight. He attracted notice in Saturday’s series opener by calling a phantom balk on 13-year big-league veteran Rick Sutcliffe. Hernandez attracted more attention Sunday with a call at home plate that replays proved blatantly incorrect…

“I thought we got cheated on that play at home plate,” Kelleher said. “It showed on the replay that he was out. We had a legitimate beef, and he’s got to know about it.”

Read the whole piece. That a guy could develop that kind of reputation in the minor leagues, then go on to have a long career as a Major League umpire, is embarrassing to the sport.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

40 Responses to “LINK: Angel Hernandez, Lousy Minor League Umpire in 1991”

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  1. Muskie7 says:

    This just in. Angel Hernadez? Still bad at umpiring.

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  2. Texas Rangers says:

    It’s cool, when has one game ever mattered in a playoff race at the end of the season?

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    • Klatz says:

      I see what you did there

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    • Blofkin says:

      Giving you back the one you gave us last year…heh

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    • 2011 Atlanta Braves/Red Sox says:

      Exactly, 1 game in May doesn’t matter

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    • Trader says:

      Just for the fun of it…

      2011 playoff game between Cards and Phills. Oswalt is on the mound and in the middle of a windup when a squirrel begins its long run from the dugout to cross the plate.

      …Angel Hernandez was behind the dish…

      Oswalt had this to say after the game:
      “I was wondering what size animal it needed to be to not have a pitch,” Oswalt said after the game. “If it ran up the guy’s leg, would he have called the pitch for a strike?”

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  3. OtherSideoftheCoin says:

    I’d be curious to know if he (or other umpires in general) have public statements out there regarding the use of replay. For instance, if he were to be extremely against its use, the call yesterday may make some more sense.

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    • chuckb says:

      His call yesterday made sense if it was part of some political statement against the use of replay?

      I couldn’t care less what his view of replay is (partly because, knowing his reputation, he’d get the call wrong and then toss anyone who disagreed with him). His job is to enforce the rules of baseball and judge out/safe, ball/strike. It’s not to interject his own personal viewpoint into baseball’s rules and it’s not to make up the rules as he goes along according to his own personal opinion.

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      • steex says:


        He didn’t say his call yesterday would be correct or acceptable if Hernandez is against replay, he said it would make sense. Those are different things here.

        If someone has been arrested for robbing five banks, it’s no surprised when he/she robs is eventually released from prison and robs another bank. It makes sense that it happened, but it’s still wrong.

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  4. Richard says:

    What kind of turnover is there for MLB umpires? What does it take for guys like this to be removed? I’m not a big proponent of instant replay, but I hate that MLB doesn’t seem to care about getting the best umpires out there.

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    • J. B. Rainsberger says:

      I’m not sure that we can put this all on Hernandez. Four umpires saw that replay. Perhaps all four valued solidarity over getting the call right. I think that makes them all embarrassments to the game.

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      • Proudhon says:

        The four umpires don’t take a vote – only the crew chief can reverse a call. It’s on Hernandez.

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      • Brett says:

        Well no we cannot but if a tenured crew chief goes into that replay booth and says, “I don’t know about you but that looks pretty inconclusive,” it is gonna start looking that way to the others too. It might be a little bit of fear or respect or whatever but assuming Hernandez spoke first and/or loudest (not a huge assumption considering he is crew chief, but an assumption nonetheless) it is easy to see how his opinion could have caused any of the other umps to go from home run to inconclusive. It is also pretty safe to assume that his vote in those huddles holds a bit more weight in case of say a 2-2 split.

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  5. LK says:

    I’ve always thought Hernandez was perhaps the worst umpire at calling balls and strikes in addition to being a massive attention whore.

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    • Frank says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this were true. I remember seeing a few series between the Tigers and whomever with the umpire crew of Hernandez and Joe West… Talk about some brutally inconsistent umpiring.

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  6. TheGrandslamwich says:

    I want to see the mysterious video feed where it wasn’t clearly a home run. On both the Indians and A’s feeds it was very clear just by zooming in and slowing the video down.

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  7. Tom B says:

    Is rating umpires strike zone accuracy (or keeping track of blown calls) something fangraphs could implement in the future?

    The umpire behind the dish could be another factor to consider when making streaming SP choices.

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  8. Tom B says:

    Angel Hernandez is such an attention whore that he got himself linked to a player page.

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  9. attgig says:

    along with his wikipedia page…
    “In a 1999 survey conducted by the Major League Baseball Players Association, Hernández was ranked 31st out of 36 National League umpires.[2] However, later that year Hernández was asked to return for the 2000 season while 13 of his NL colleagues were let go. Given his low ranking, the Philadelphia Inquirer termed the retention of Hernández one of the “surprises” of the 1999 purge.[3]”

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  10. chuckb says:

    The problem here isn’t that an umpire, 22 years ago, made a bad call and then a fool of himself. Small sample size applies to umpiring as well as everything else. The problem is that he still turns every call into an umpshow. He’s still making the same mistakes he made 22 years ago in the minors.

    He must have secret dirty pictures of someone in Selig’s family.

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  11. Fenam says:

    Wow first sentence in that article is incredible when considering the circumstances:

    “No one can ever accuse umpire Angel Hernandez of making a dubious call to hasten the conclusion of a baseball game.”

    If only the author knew how wrong he’d be in ~22 years. Terrible ump. Terrible for baseball, terrible for the players, and terrible for the fans.

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  12. Blofkin says:

    At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I feel so helpless as an A’s fan right now. Hernandez even refused to allow himself to be recorded by reporters last night, how’s that for accountability?

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  13. Steve Perry says:

    Buck Belue of 680 The Fan in Atlanta (yes, the Buck Belue who handed the ball off to Herschel Walker all the way to a UGA national title in 1980) routinely tells stories of his encounters with Hernandez in 1983 in the Florida State League. He never misses an opportunity to point out his penchant for drawing attention to himself.

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  14. playingwithfire says:

    Everybody should be like Jim Joyce, invisible for the most part but very positive when visible.

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  15. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Not trying to defend Hernandez, but even the “bad” umps get 99% of the calls correct. When you are down on the field the game moves pretty fast at the MLB level, these guys are all very good at what they do. Is being the worst of the best reason to get a guy fired?

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    • Steve Perry says:

      Getting calls wrong is part of the game, and understood. But getting calls wrong, despite being given the tools and time necessary to get them right (or correct a wrong call) reeks of incompetence. And, Hernandez has a long history of inserting himself into games and instigating or escalating confrontations with players and managers (even when the underlying call was correct).

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    • Nickname Damur says:

      It’s not precisely a call issue, it’s a competence issue. Being one of the worst teams in English soccer over the course of a year is enough to get that team demoted from major league soccer to minor league soccer. All personality issues aside, that might be the appropriate action for the worst major league umpires too.

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    • Rick says:

      There’s a lot of faulty presumptions you make in your comment.
      “but even the “bad” umps get 99% of the calls correct.” – Statement made, no proof given.
      “these guys are all very good at what they do.” – Statement given, no anecdotes included.
      “Is being the worst of the best” – Anything to back this up????

      Truth is, MLB promotes without their first concern being competence and ability. I know people in the refereeing/umpiring world (mostly basketball, which promotes far worse than baseball – but some baseball too), and the jobs at the elite levels are so rare and exclusive; to get promoted requires knowing the right people. It’s a good ol’ boys club, and they don’t have to be accountable about it. Only good thing I could say about MLB umpires; their ol’ boys club is not as bad as the NBA’s.

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      • Hurtlockertwo says:

        Rick, these guys are paid to do this job. That implies professional, competancy and the ability to be better than other people that also might want that job. These guys didn’t fall off the street into this job, they were screened. Your “proof” argument is pointless.

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        • Rick says:

          Hurt, being paid may imply “professional, competancy and the ability to be better than other people that also might want that job” – but is false. Do you want proof: Angel Hernandez. Simply put, he’s not competent, but he keeps his job.
          I’ve known many of the officials (for both basketball and baseball) that have gone to the camps for training, and worked at the lower levels trying to get a chance for advancement. I see all the time that the best are never chosen for the promotions. Why is this? There are only a few jobs available, and a few people making the decisions for who gets these jobs. Simply, this is how an ol’ boys club works, especially when their is no one to hold them accountable.

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        • Trader says:


          So your argument is that anyone who gets paid to do a job is automatically “professional, competent and able to perform better then others who want the job”? Seriously???

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    • Archangel Hernandez says:

      “Not trying to defend Hernandez”…..than DON’T. Getting “99%” right is one point, but consistently being the ump that acts the ass clown and not “missing” calls but making bad calls..that is the part that is bad for the game. Umpires only need to concern themselves with the integrity of their calls.

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  16. marlins12 says:

    Angel Hernandez had a solid walk rate in rookie ball. I think he’s undervalued.

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  17. yeah says:

    My experience with Angel Hernandez is limited to the time he called something like three balks on Tim Hudson in one game and no one could figure out what Hudson was doing wrong.

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  18. Phrozen says:

    I read a proposal (either here or at SBNation) to have the managers vote up or down on the umpires at the end of the year. The bottom ten or so are demoted to AAA, the top 10 or so are paid more.

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  19. adohaj says:

    Am I the only person who thinks getting the call “right” 100% of the time isn’t necessary? Just curious

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    • Synovia says:

      Getting controversial calls wrong isn’t a problem. Getting a clear call wrong, and then refusing to admit you were wrong when the replay clearly shows it, is.

      Its not that he made the call wrong, its that he refuses to admit that there’s even a chance his original call was wrong.

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    • Rick says:

      It’s not necessary, being that it’s impossible. But it should necessarily be the goal to strive for. I.e. each and every bad call makes the game worse.

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  20. Rob in CT says:

    It’s really amazing. The guy is terrible at his job in every way. The umps are supposed to get the calls right (#1 thing), maintain order (#2) and to be unobtrusive (#3), wouldn’t you say? He fails across the board.

    This is something I’ve always wondered about unions. At what point should they self-police? Hernandez is an embarrassment to MLB, and MLB umpiring in particular. Surely at least some of the other umps find this frustrating too.

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  21. KCDaveInLA says:

    There should be someone on the umpiring crew watching the game from a booth above who does not have to deal with the emotions of the 2 teams’ managers or other umpires, then maybe he could make an unbiased, unaffected call. But then, “who watches the watchmen?”

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