Angel Hernandez, an umpire for Major League Baseball, has sued the league along with the commissioner’s office. Hernandez alleges that racial discrimination — along with a long term personal vendetta between Joe Torre and himself — has been hindering his career advancement as a professional baseball umpire.
Hernandez filed his complaint in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, which claimed the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and Major League Baseball Blue Inc. violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio state law. The suit cites criticism by Torre in 2001, where he remarked after a game that Hernandez “seems to see something that nobody else does” and “I think he just wanted to be noticed over there.” The complaint alleges that Torre’s 2001 criticism was significant, as it has “permeated Hernandez’s yearly evaluations.” In 2011, despite a balls and strikes accuracy of 96.88 percent between 2002 and 2010, Hernandez’s midterm evaluation stated that he needed to work on his communication skills as the perception around the league was that he tried to put himself in the “spotlight by seeing things that other umpires do not.”
Hernandez worked the World Series in 2002 and 2005, but not since. The suit says that other than Alfonso Marquez, who worked the World Series in 2011 and 2015, “the other 34 umpires assigned to the World Series during Torre’s time in the office of the commissioner have been white.” The promotion of umpires to the big game is significant, as it comes with the bonus of added compensation for the year. Hernandez worked last year’s NL Championship Series along with Division Series in 2011, 2012 and 2015.
In addition, the suit claims Hernandez has served as a temporary crew chief and applied four times to be a permanent crew chief, and “all 23 umpires promoted to crew chief since 2000 have been white.” According to the complaint, Hernandez and the World Umpires Association asked MLB why he was not promoted to crew chief for this season. Crew chiefs are in charge of their group of umpires, and the job comes with more responsibilities and more pay. The complaint says that Torre sent a letter on March 27 stating Hernandez needed to “continue to improve situation management, and display an ability to refocus and move forward after missing calls or receiving constructive feedback from the office.”
Hernandez is seeking “back pay and unspecified compensatory damages.” A league spokesman stated the league is aware of the lawsuit, but did not offer further comment.
Hernandez has been an umpire since 1993, and he says that he received solid remarks on his performance until 2011, the year that Torre joined the MLB as its chief baseball officer. In addition to Hernandez’s most recent lawsuit, he has also filed two discrimination charges with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.