When you go to a Major League Baseball game as a fan, there are certain things you can expect from the experience.
The hot dog will taste better in the stadium than it would if you had the same hot dog anywhere else.
The beer will be overpriced.
And if Angel Hernandez is the umpire, you will bear witness to the worst officiating in any sport this side of the “Fail Mary” NFL game or any NBA game Tim Donaghy had money on.
Baseball’s worst umpire didn’t even wait for Opening Day to get his name in the news for his ineptitude, instead hanging on exactly one pitch before screwing up.
Hernandez ejected Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch after the first pitch of the home half of the first inning Friday night as a split-squad Astros team took on the St. Louis Cardinals.
AJ Hinch had a disagreement with Angel Hernandez early in this one.#astros
— Robert Flores (@RoFlo) March 15, 2019
At issue was Hernandez’s one-man crusade to get robot umpires to call balls and strikes by being so bad at the task that to call him blind as a bat is an insult to bats.
After all, a bat could at least hear where the ball hit the catcher’s mitt and make an educated guess whether it was over the plate and either above the letters or below the knees.
Hinch came right out and cited the robot umpires in his argument with Hernandez as the Astros prepared to take their cuts at the plate for the first time in the game.
“We have technology to help you get better and that these pitches are strikes,” Hinch said he told Hernandez. “He had kind of an arrogant attitude about it and didn’t want to hear it.”
Hernandez allegedly told Hinch outright that he misses “about four ball-strike calls” per game.
When Hernandez called the first pitch to Astros leadoff hitter George Sperger a strike, Hinch, seeing it differently, yelled from the dugout that “you’ve used up your allotment” — implying that Hernandez had screwed up three times in the top of the first when the Cardinals were at the plate.
That got Hinch tossed from the game.
Of course, since the green beer at St. Patrick’s Day hasn’t even been poured yet, that prompted a comment from the Astros skipper.
“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.”
Hernandez was less than amused by the manager’s pointed — and, given Hernandez’s history, indisputably accurate — assessment of his character.
“He said that? Write it,” Hernandez said, according to Sports Illustrated, before adding, “No comment. He got ejected for arguing balls and strikes. That’s it.”
And sure, that’s technically correct, but Hinch got to the heart of the matter with his rebuttal.
“When you argue balls and strikes you get thrown out, I get it,” Hinch said. “As it escalated, he said some condescending things that are inappropriate, unprofessional.
“I’ll leave it at that and we’ll move on to the next game.”
“As it escalated” is the key phrase here, as Hinch stormed out of the dugout to give Hernandez an earful of invective that prompted first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor to try and intervene before realizing such an act was futile and backing off.
— Robert Flores (@RoFlo) March 16, 2019
Hernandez clapped his hands after two minutes of this, trying to regain control, but the move backfired on him as Hinch sarcastically clapped his hands right back in glorious sarcastic mockery.
“I should thank C.B. He was the voice of reason in all of it,” Hinch said. “C.B was super calm about it. He just wanted the game to continue.”
Unfortunately for Hinch, he did apparently bump into both Bucknor and Hernandez, which will undoubtedly bring retribution from the MLB league office, but sometimes you just have to go full Earl Weaver on someone to get a point across.
The whole thing got so ridiculous that Cardinals pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon threw a warmup pitch as Hinch stood in the batter’s box with his back to the plate carrying on his argument.
Hernandez, of course, has a name that will live in infamy after he had three calls overturned by replay in the same game during the American League Championship Series last year between the Red Sox and Yankees, a record perhaps as unbreakable as Cy Young’s 511 career wins or Barry Bonds’ .609 on-base percentage in 2004.
Inexplicably, he’s been on the MLB umpiring roster since 1993 — the 57-year-old Hernandez has had 25 years of poor performance and still managed to get tabbed to call a playoff game.
And if his behavior on Friday is anything to go by, he hasn’t spent the winter learning how to be a competent baseball umpire.
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