MLB’s Most Controversial Umpire Reportedly To Retire Immediately

Ángel Hernández, the controversial umpire who unsuccessfully sued Major League Baseball for racial discrimination, will reportedly retire effective Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

Hernández, 62, had been negotiating a financial settlement with MLB since he last umpired a game May 9; the two sides reached an agreement over the weekend, according to USA Today.

The news comes three days after a lengthy profile in The Athletic laid bare Hernández’s many mistakes — and the sharp reactions they’ve invited over the years from some of the game’s most respected voices.

It is within the nature of professional sports that any referees, officials or umpires who are known by name to fans tend to have a negative reputation. Hernández’s name is disproportionately recognizable among MLB umpires, likely because of a number of lightning-rod incidents over a number of years rather than general incompetence.

Umpire Angel Hernandez
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 06: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Home plate umpire Ángel Hernández works a game between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium on August 06, 2023…

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

According to the website, Hernández’s 93.2 percent accuracy rate calling balls and strikes ranked 63rd among 85 MLB umpires this season.

According to Retrosheet, Hernandez began his professional umpiring career in the Gulf Coast League in 1981. He was appointed a full-time National League umpire in 1993, making him among the longest-tenured umpires in the game’s history. Sam Blum of The Athletic reported late Monday that Hernandez is going out on his own terms:

On May 8, 2013, Hernandez’s reputation was sullied when he ruled a fly ball hit by Adam Rosales of the Oakland A’s was a double. In fact, Rosales’ home run hit off the first row of bleacher seats and bounced back onto the field. A video review confirmed the call was wrong, but Hernandez allowed the call to stand. He ejected A’s manager Bob Melvin for arguing, and Oakland lost the game as a direct result of the blown call.

In 2019, MLB alleged that Hernandez improperly eavesdropped on a call between Joe Torre, a league official, and another umpire.

Other incidents involving Hernández have drawn public criticism from some of the game’s more popular figures — manager Ron Washington, Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, retired pitcher-turned-broadcaster Ron Darling, former MVP Bryce Harper — each of which was repeated in The Athletic profile.

However, none of those incidents raised Hernández’s profile more than the lawsuit, brought in 2017, which was dismissed twice in court for a lack of evidence. Hernández alleged that the league promoted non-white umpires at a rate disproportionately lower than their white peers. MLB contended the reason it did not promote Hernández was his failure to exhibit leadership.

Ironically, not long after the lawsuit was filed, Hernández was chosen as part of the umpiring crew for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game.

Hernández’s retirement is a double loss for the sport. While MLB will be losing one of its senior arbiters, fans will be losing one of their most popular punching bags.