MLB official thought Rob Manfred would nix Angel Hernandez for World Series

A major league official testified he suggested Angel Hernandez be removed from consideration for the 2015 World Series because he did not think Commissioner Rob Manfred would approve the umpire to work baseball’s premier event.

Hernandez sued Major League Baseball in 2017, alleging race discrimination and cited his failure to be assigned to the World Series since 2005 and MLB’s failure to promote him to crew chief.

Documents and depositions from pretrial discovery were filed late Friday night and early Saturday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan as part of Hernandez’s motion for a partial summary judgment.

A member of the big league staff since 1993, the Cuba-born Hernandez worked the World Series in 2002 and 2005. He was not picked after Joe Torre was hired in 2011 to head baseball operations.

Steve Palermo, an umpire supervisor, sent an email on Oct. 16, 2015, to Randy Marsh, the director of umpiring, recommending Hernandez for the World Series along with Phil Cuzzi, Gerry Davis, Marvin Hudson, Dale Scott, Bill Welke and Jim Wolf. Palermo copied Torre and Peter Woodfork, the senior vice-president of baseball operations.

Woodfork forwarded the email to Matt McKendry, senior director of umpire operations, and wrote on top: “Four new umpires and the guy in the middle of the largest debacle.”

Woodfork sent a text message to Torre, the chief baseball officer, on the afternoon of Oct. 16 that read: “Angel is going to be a no for Rob.”

Rich Rieker, director of umpire development, sent an email to Woodfork later that day, stating: “I do not know the totals. They are just suggestions. Put who you and Joe want in from the suggestions. Take Angel out if you want. Any supervisor or director that told any umpires about any lists should be disciplined.”

Cuzzi, Hudson, Welke and Wolf had not worked a World Series. Hernandez was involved in a controversy in 2013 when Oakland’s Adam Rosales was awarded a double after a video review rather than a home run. The replay system in use at the time did not provide sufficiently clear images to the New York control room.

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Welke and Wolf were picked for the 2015 Series between Kansas City and the New York Mets, along with fellow Series newcomer Mark Carlson. They were joined by Gary Cederstom, Mike Everitt, Alfonso Marquez and Mike Winters.

During a deposition last June 21, Woodfork testified he did not recall Manfred telling him he did not want Hernandez in the World Series. Woodfork testified “I took a presumption on the situation.”

Ed Montague, another umpire supervisor, recommended Hernandez for the 2012 World Series.

An MLB document referenced in the case stated just 7% of umpires were minorities. Woodfork testified Torre, who retired in February, “focuses on leadership” in crew chief decisions rather than evaluations.

MLB has used computer evaluations of umpires’ balls and strikes calls for two decades. Manfred testified that in-person evaluations of umpires were requested by the World Umpires Association during bargaining.

“We went along with it in order to get a deal on the evaluation system, but frankly, I don’t think anybody places a lot of weight on what they turn in,” he said.

‘Angel has earned the opportunity to run that crew’

Hernandez has been an interim crew chief but hasn’t been picked as a permanent head. Kerwin Danley became the first African-American umpire crew chief in February, and Marquez was elevated to the first Hispanic crew chief born outside the United States. Marquez is the second overall after Richie Garcia, who was born in Florida. Marquez was the first Mexican-born umpire to work in the majors.

“Angel has earned the opportunity to run that crew,” Woodfork said. “There are times when Angel successfully performs in that, and there are other times where he seems to struggle.”

Hernandez’s suit alleges violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, New York and Ohio state law and the New York City administrative code. MLB has declined comment.

He was announced to work the 2017 All-Star Game shortly after he sued. He worked the League Championship Series in 2016 and Division Series in 2018 and 2019. During the 2018 playoffs, he was reversed in three of four video reviews when he worked first base in Game 3 between Boston and the New York Yankees.

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Depositions revealed Hernandez was fined for trying to get a baseball for a colleague who called Homer Bailey’s no-hitter. Marsh, a former crew chief, testified he was suspended for three days for a similar offence.

Marsh also testified that Richie Garcia was fired as an umpire supervisor in March 2010 following an issue connected with Vic Carapazza, who umped his first big league game a month later.

“His son-in-law was umpiring in the minor leagues, was in strong consideration for promotion to the major leagues, and he was told not to go watch him work, because of being related to him,” Marsh testified. “He continued to do so. He had been told not to do it, and he continued to do.”

Many of the documents were filed under seal accompanied by highly redacted public versions.