Angel Hernandez, Racial Discrimination And The Flaws In MLB’s Culture

While MLB gets high praise for its diversity initiatives at the player level, a major lawsuit has been filed against the league with implications of racial discrimination in its treatment of umpires. 

MLB umpire Angel Hernandez filed a lawsuit against the league on Monday alleging racial discrimination, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cuban-born umpire claims in the suit that hes been unfairly passed over several times to work a World Series despite high evaluation marks and hes never been promoted to permanent crew chief, only receiving the honor on a temporary basis. 

According to the Daily News, The Enquirer reports that the suit alleges MLB has only promoted one minority as a permanent crew chief ever and that only one non-white umpire has worked a World Series since 2011.

There are nearly 100 umpires employed by MLB, yet only about 10 are African-American or Hispanic, according to research by the Enquirer. 

SB Nation notes, “Thats a significantly different breakdown from the player demographics, which show that 31.9 percent of players are Latino and 42.5 percent are non-white, according to the 2017 Racial and Gender Report Card.”

Hernandez, 55, has been diamond-mining and making calls between the lines since 1993 and has worked in just two World Series, in 2002 and 2005. He says in the suit that he applied for a permanent crew chief position four times and never got the gig. 

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The selection of these less qualified, white individuals over Hernandez was motivated by racial, national origin and/or ethnic considerations, the lawsuit, per the Enquirer, says. 

Those are some strong and inflammatory accusations by Hernandez, but looking at the way baseball is racially structured from the playing field on up to the highest positions in the front office, Hernandezs accusations are not far-fetched. And the discrimination, to a degree,  is more institutional than personal. 

When Dr. Richard Lapchick released MLB’s 2017 Racial and Gender Report Card back in April, he had this to say about MLB in a piece that he wrote for ESPN: 

The lack of racial diversity is alarmingly among MLB managers and general managers. Currently, there are only three managers of color: Dave Roberts of the Dodgers, Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals and Rick Renteria of the Chicago White Sox. That is seven below the high of 10 managers of color in both 2002 and 2009.

There were no people of color who served as CEO or team president. Among the presidents of baseball operations/general managers, there were four people of color. Al Avila of the Detroit Tigers is the only Latino GM in MLB. He also is the first Cuban-born GM in MLB history. Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi is one of two Muslim executives in MLB and the first Muslim to be a GM of any U.S. pro sport franchise. 

Michael Hill, president of baseball operations for the Miami Marlins, is the son of a Cuban mother and African-American father. Kenny Williams, who is African-American, is executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox.

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Hernandez has served baseball faithfully for many years and if he feels that hes being discriminated against then MLB with have to answer to that. In any case, the hiring process for MLB umpires should be rich with diverse candidates and a conscious effort to integrate the ranks, same as MLB has done with its initiatives focused on cultivating and finding minority talent to play on the field. 

Bringing light to a potentially discriminatory situation is better than letting it fester below the radar. If there is a flaw in baseball’s umpire culture, then commissioner Robert Manfred and MLB will undoubtedly address it going forward. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.