‘I guess he must have had enough’: Baseball bids adieu to its most notorious umpire

On the night umpire Angel Hernandez announced his retirement from baseball, former big-league pitcher C.C. Sabathia posted a memorable farewell on X. It was a GIF from Looney Tunes. That’s all folks

Hernandez, the lightning-rod umpire best known for controversial calls and heated ejections, announced Monday night he is walking away from the game at age 62. MLB approached Hernandez about the idea of retiring earlier in the season, a baseball source said, and he had not umpired a game since May 9 as the two sides worked out a financial agreement. 

Hernandez was MLB’s most notorious umpire, and as frequent a topic in clubhouses and dugouts as he was in comments sections and in social media posts. His worst calls and fiery brand made him ripe for memes. Over the years, plenty of baseball personalities ranging from Sabathia to Ian Kinsler, from Bryce Harper to Ron Washington, have decried Hernandez and his calls.

And now he’s gone.

“He’s been such a topic around the league, players, coaches, managers, fans,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday. “I think on a day like today we should just thank him for his time in the game. … He’s one of the characters in the game that everybody has a story about, whether it’s an interaction on the field, as a manager we argue with him all the time. Players, there’s a bunch of banter that goes back and forth.”

Hinch knows the wrath of Hernandez as well as anyone. In 2019, Hernandez ejected Hinch, then the Astros’ manager, in the first inning of a spring training game. Hinch, typically diplomatic, sounded off afterward: “The fact that he wanted to throw me out in a spring training game is pretty ridiculous,” Hinch said. “He’s known for overreaction a little bit.”

Hinch accused Hernandez of having an “arrogant” attitude and saying, “some condescending things that are inappropriate, unprofessional.”

Even this past April, Hinch had a long, heated discussion with Hernandez over a check-swing call at Citi Field. But the day after Hernandez announced his retirement, the Tigers’ manager took a different tone. 

“I’m on his resume as being ejected by him,” Hinch said. “I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with him, but I think it’s important we realize what he did for the game and the good that he did, despite some of the frustrations.”

Hernandez was by no means one of MLB’s best umpires. Data from public umpire scorecards also indicated Hernandez’s reputation became outsized — he generally ranked in the 60s or 70s out of 85 to 90 umpires, according to Dylan Yep, the founder of Umpire Auditor. 

What’s indisputable is the fact Hernandez became MLB’s most well-known umpire. His 33-year career spanned an era where scrutiny from fans grew thanks to strike-zone boxes on TV, the proliferation of social media and umpire evaluations from people such as Yep.

“I think it’s gotten worse over the years because you can see right away if one’s missed,” Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn said. “It’s hard on them because there’s guys who will be like, ‘Let me know if I missed it.’ Then there are guys who don’t care to go back and look to see if they missed it.”

Lynn and Cardinals manager Oli Marmol share the distinction of being Hernandez’s last ejections. That came March 8 in spring training, when the pair were tossed for arguing balls and strikes. “He was getting into it with the dugout,” Lynn said. “I started chirping with him and he didn’t like it.”

Tuesday in Cincinnati, Marmol was informed of this bit of trivia.

“I am? Oh man,” Marmol said. “I love that.”


Marmol turned to a team PR staffer and said, “I’m going to save you a lot of work.” Marmol did not elaborate on his feelings.

Hernandez invited reactions, some public and many more not, regarding his calls. But umpiring peers and even managers such as Cincinnati’s David Bell spoke highly of Hernandez as a person — “I always had respectful interactions with Angel,” Bell said. It was a common sentiment on Tuesday. 

“I think he’s wrongly been the poster child to be a punching bag for officiating,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “And I think sometimes that’s been unfair and over the top. The reality is, he’s spent a lot of time in this league and cared about his craft. I think it’s a little unfortunate at what I think is over-the-top criticism of him, even going into retirement.”

Hernandez’s place in the game was complicated when he filed a lawsuit against MLB in 2017. Hernandez claimed racial discrimination prevented him from becoming a full-time crew chief and getting coveted postseason assignments. The lawsuit was twice dismissed in federal court, even as the subject became a rare window into relations between MLB and its umpires.  

“If you talk baseball, everyone knows who Angel Hernandez is,” Tigers catcher Jake Rogers said. “Even talking to my brothers, they wouldn’t know any umpires, but they would know who Angel Hernandez is.”

It’s rare for players and managers to openly criticize umpires, particularly by name. A fine is assured. And many have sacrificed their hard-earned dollars for the catharsis of venting. 

Current Angels manager Ron Washington called out Hernandez strongly, in 2011, when he was the skipper of the Texas Rangers. 

“Angel is bad,” Washington said 13 years ago. “That’s all there is to it. … I’m gonna get fined for what I told Angel. And they might add to it because of what I said about Angel. But, hey, the truth is the truth.”

But time heals all. And classiness as Hernandez steps away has been the prevailing sentiment across the sport. 

Hernandez ejecting Bob Melvin in 2013. (AP Photo / Mark Duncan)

Congratulations on a long career,” said Giants manager Bob Melvin. “If you’re being scrutinized that much you’ve been around a long time and you’re doing something right.”

Even Washington, who is never shy about sharing his mind, seems to have forgiven, if not forgotten. 

“I guess he must have had enough,” Washington said. “Being this close into the season, and he decided to retire. 

“I guess he had enough.”

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, C. Trent Rosecrans and Eno Sarris contributed to this report.

(Top photo: Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

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