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Angel Hernandez, Controversial M.L.B. Umpire, to Retire

SportAngel Hernandez, Controversial M.L.B. Umpire, to Retire

Baseball’s most controversial umpire is calling it a career. Angel Hernandez, who has been criticized by many in the game for decades, will retire.

MLB first approached Hernandez about the possibility of retiring earlier this season, according a baseball source. The criticism had gotten louder, and Hernandez was amenable to moving on. He hasn’t umped a game since May 9, as the two sides worked out a financial agreement.

“He was NOT forced out,” Hernandez’s lawyer, Kevin Murphy, told The Athletic via text message. His departure is expected to happen immediately.

Hernandez umped his first MLB game in 1991. Over the last decade, he’s been a constant source of controversy. From his large and inconsistent strike zone, to his quick ejections, to unsuccessfully suing MLB for discrimination in 2017, he’s created headlines in a profession where most prefer to not be noticed.

USA Today first reported his retirement. Shortly after the news broke Monday night, MLB released a statement from Hernandez confirming his retirement.

“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,” the statement read. “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.”

Beyond what Hernandez referenced in his statement, it is unclear what led Hernandez’s decision, though it’s possible the vitriol directed his way played a role.

“What hurts him the most,” Murphy told The Athletic in a recent profile, “is the pain that his two daughters and his wife go through when they know (the criticism) is so unbelievably undeserved.”

Part of the reason the league approached Hernandez was the consistent distraction he caused. Players around the game have long called for Hernandez to leave the industry.

“Every year. It’s the same story,” Bryce Harper said last season. “Same thing.”

“He needs to find another job,” Ian Kinsler said in 2017.

“I don’t understand why he’s doing these games,” C.C. Sabathia said in 2018.

Even MLB was critical of Hernandez, though that criticism largely came through court filings. They stated that his decision making and handling of conflicts prevented him from getting promoted to a full-time crew chief position.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred alluded to the retirement process for umpires while speaking to reporters at MLB’s owners meetings last week, though he didn’t directly mention Hernandez.

“The management of umpires is … a physically demanding job,” Manfred said. “It goes beyond just the evaluation, training and discipline. It also goes to things like thinking about their career path, how long should they be out there? And that implicates things like your retirement program.”

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(Photo: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

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