Major League Baseball claimed umpire Angel Hernandez eavesdropped on a call last summer while the league was investigating why a 2019 game was delayed for nearly 20 minutes due to a rules issue, The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan reported.
The accusation came to light in an MLB legal filing on Friday. The filing is part of an ongoing 2017 lawsuit in which Hernandez claims the league racially discriminated against him.
What happened in the 2019 delayed game?
Hernandez was the acting crew chief for a July 2019 game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays that was delayed when Rays manager Kevin Cash moved pitcher Adam Kolarek to first base. The Red Sox played under protest, though they declined to pursue it later.
Under MLB rules, when a pitcher moves to a defensive position, that team loses its designated hitter and the DH’s position in the lineup is “locked.”
In the filings, then-chief baseball officer Joe Torre wrote that Hernandez “had to be reminded of this rule by your crew” even though he had been briefed on it before the series, per the Athletic. Torre continued that Hernandez did not follow up with the second rule, which required him to determined the lineup after Cash did not designate the batting order positions for the two subs.
Torre is now a special assistant to the commissioner.
MLB claims Hernandez eavesdropped on call
At issue is not what Hernandez didn’t do in the game, but what he did do afterward.
Torre launched an investigation into the delay and interviewed the umpires involved. First up was Hernandez. Then was umpire Ed Hickox. MLB is claiming that Hernandez stayed on the line to listen to Hickox’s interview even though he reportedly knew the conversations were meant to be conducted individually.
Torre wrote Hernandez in an Aug. 23 letter, per the Athletic:
“You acknowledged that you were aware prior to the calls that they were intended to be separate and did not dispute that you remained on the line. Instead, you offered a number of excuses for why you remained on the line. You claimed to not know whether you were supposed to stay on the line and that you wanted to be available if anything further was asked of you … your purported justification for staying on the line (to address any further questions) strains credulity in light of your claim that you only heard portions of the Hickox call and the fact that you remained silent even when you heard statements by Hickox that you later claimed to be inaccurate. Simply put, we find your asserted justifications for remaining on the line to be implausible, internally inconsistent, premised on facts that are incorrect and not credible.
Torre called it an attempt to “intentionally and deceptively eavesdrop on a confidential conversation” and an “egregious offense.” Hernandez was stripped of his acting crew chief status at the time of the letter.
Hernandez lawyer says claim is retaliation
Kevin Murphy, Hernandez’s lawyer, asserted that MLB was attacking the victim since it had nothing to say about its own clients.
“Angel Hernandez did not eavesdrop, he was invited onto that call … and MLB told Angel he made the correct decision,” Murphy said, via The Athletic.
How did this all come out now?
The filings are part of a separate issue. Hernandez filed a lawsuit in 2017 alleging MLB and Torre discriminated against him because he is Latino. He said that’s why he wasn’t given promotions and missed out on World Series assignments.
He also claimed that when Torre was given responsibility over umpires in 2011, things took a turn and Hernandez’s reviews were no longer “exceeds standards.” He claims Torre never forgave him for a call that went against the New York Yankees, whom he formally managed, in 2001.
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