MLB

Angel Hernandez career timeline: Breaking down controversial retired umpire’s worst calls

After 33 years of battling the sun behind home plate, Angel Hernandez is hanging up his mask.

The much-maligned umpire is retiring immediately, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, ending a three-decade run at baseball’s top level.

Hernandez hadn’t overseen a game since May 9. He had recently been usurped on Lance Barksdale’s crew by Jacob Metz and had rankled feathers within the MLB’s commissioner’s office after filing a claim against the league alleging racial discrimination. The lawsuit was eventually thrown out by a district court judge, a decision then upheld by an appeals court judge last year.

The Cuban-born umpire reportedly reached a settlement to leave the big leagues. He’ll fade off into the sunset after calling thousands of games since his 1991 debut.

Hernandez released the following statement following the announcement of his impending departure from the major leagues:

Starting with my first Major League game in 1991, I have had the very good experience of living out my childhood dream of umpiring in the major leagues.

There is nothing better than working at a profession that you enjoy. I treasured the camaraderie of my colleagues and the friendships I have made along the way, including our locker room attendants in all the various cities.

I have decided that I want to spend more time with my family.

Needless to say, there have been many positive changes in the game of baseball since I first entered the profession.  This includes the expansion and promotion of minorities. I am proud that I was able to be an active participant in that goal while being a Major League umpire.

Hernandez was a lightning rod for reprobation during his time behind the plate. He garnered rancor on account of his inconsistent strike zone, his willingness to confront players face-to-face, and a notoriously quick temper that saw him once eject Chicago Bears great Steve McMichael from a game at Wrigley Field after McMichael’s criticism of Hernandez spilled from the stadium’s loudspeaker during the seventh-inning stretch.

By the end of his career, Hernandez was rarely involved in postseason competition. He didn’t receive a single World Series assignment since 2005 and last umpired a league championship series in 2016. It was his lack of playoff experience that led him to file a lawsuit against the league, as postseason appearances come with a bonus for participating umpires.

Suffice it to say, Hernandez’s place in MLB mythology is secure. That might not necessarily be a good thing, however.

With that, here’s a look at Hernandez’s most mind-boggling calls over the course of his infamous big-league career.

Angel Hernandez’s worst calls

Angel costs the White Sox a win

Hernandez earned veteran broadcaster Hawk Harrelson’s enmity after calling Alex Rios out in an extra-innings clash with the Marlins. The Rios’ call wouldn’t have meant much in a vacuum. However, the circumstances of Rios’ departure from the field of play made it a contentious one. If Rios was ruled to have touched the bag in time, the White Sox would have claimed a walk-off extra-inning win. Hernandez’s hubris didn’t let that happen, however. And for that, we have this legendary Harrelson-ism. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose…

Angel Hernandez vs. Bryce Harper

Hernandez and Bryce Harper engaged in an epic war of words after Hernandez deemed that Harper brought his bat across the plane against the Padres last September. Harper has some of baseball’s most trained eyes, posting a career 14.9-percent walk rate. That didn’t matter when it came to Hernandez, who opted to wreak havoc on Harper and his Phillies teammates — this time, from third base.

Kyle Schwarber attempts to teach Angel Hernandez geometry following unjust punch-out

Harper’s ring-up has the intensity. Schwarber’s, on the other hand, simply made for great television.

Embroiled in a competitive contest with the Brewers last year, Schwarber stepped to the plate in the ninth inning hoping to make some magic happen.

What occurred instead was pure theatrics. Hernandez brought the fireworks, sending Schwarber packing despite Josh Hader’s pitch tailing inches off the plate.

Schwarber, one of a cadre of batters from both sides who had been wronged by Hernandez, opted to reveal his frustrations with a series of emotive gestures, each of which he employed to reveal just how atrocious Hernandez’s plate vision truly was. Unsurprisingly, he was bounced from the contest. It made for quite the moment, however.

Ian Kinsler gets tossed…for a glance?

Looking at Hernandez the wrong way could get you in hot water. Case in point? Look no further than Ian Kinsler, the longtime Tigers second baseman who was sent to the showers after giving the contentious figure behind the plate a sardonic glance.

It set off a torrent of insults from the former All-Star. A great many watching could understand why. 

Wyatt Langford

Hernandez’s legacy as a shadowy figure loomed before him long before this season began. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have a little more time for foolishness, however. Rangers youngster Wyatt Langford was one of the more recent batters to face Hernandez’s wrath, falling behind earlier in the campaign after Hernandez ruled three pitches that landed in El Paso as strikes.

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