Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Texas-Boston Prompts Factless Angel Bashing

When Angel Hernandez ejected Rangers Manager Chris Woodward for arguing a situation Woodward himself admitted not to have known on the heels of Vic Carapazza's ejections of Red Sox CF Andrew Benintendi and Alex Cora, the MLB umpire hate-train rolled through the station without regard to facts, an occurrence with greater regularity in a sport at an ever-present social crossroads.

Angel Season is Open
When Red Sox broadcaster Dave O'Brien stated "the most controversial umpire in baseball today is Angel Hernandez," he was correct in the sense that Hernandez has become a lightning-rod for frustration. A majority of fans who have a problem with some part of the game will invoke and impugn the name of Angel Hernandez if for no other reason than it has become the popular thing to do. After all, it's not technically cyberbullying if the victim deserves it...right?
Related PostMLB Ejections 081-83 - Carapazza, Hernandez (TEX-BOS) (6/11/19).

Since fandom sorely lacks objectivity, here's a factual account of what happened Tuesday night:
> Benintendi took a correctly called first strike over the edge of home plate.
> After grounding out, Benintendi turned and yelled in Hernandez's direction, "You f*ing suck."
> Carapazza ejected Benintendi. Cora argued and Carapazza ejected him, too.
> Later in the game, Texas' Asdrubal Cabrera was called out at second base.
> Woodward attempted to file a Manager's Challenge after the 30-second time limit had expired.
> Hernandez denied Woodward's request to file the untimely challenge.
> Woodward argued and Hernandez ejected Woodward.

There's little question here as to the calls' accuracies—the strike call on Benintendi was correct and the decision to deny Woodward's challenge was correct, as was 2B Umpire Jordan Baker's ultimate out call at second base (why? See Related Post, above). MLB adopted a 30-second time limit for challenges prior to the 2017 season, placed clocks in all stadiums, and instructed umpires to deny untimely Replay Review requests.

Tuesday's ejections were effected pursuant to the MLB Umpire Manual's Standards for Removal from the Game, specifically profanity/vulgar personal insults directed at an umpire and refusing to stop arguing after a reasonable amount of time.
Related PostEjections - What and Wherefore? Standards for Removal (3/29/17).

43 seconds is objectively greater than 30.
Part of this is standard managerial ignorance. After the game, Woodward stated, "I didn't know that I had to know there was 30 seconds. That's why I was so frustrated, because of what happened in Oakland [when the Rangers were also denied a Manager's Challenge due to exceeding the 30-second time limit]. This is the second time now."

Joe West's crew had denied Woodward a challenge request against the Athletics on April 24, 2019, after Woodward similarly exceeded the 30-second time limit, and Woodward, having encountered his second rejection, blamed Hernandez for failing to warn him that his time was up, opting to single out Hernandez with the statement, "every other umpire does that [gives a warning regarding the expiration of time], why wouldn't he do that?" (Hernandez stated Woodward's back was turned when he attempted to ask for a final answer and by the time Woodward turned around, time had already expired.)

Since we do fact-check here, first-year Manager Woodward's Rangers have seen 23 reviews in 2019 while there are over 90 umpires working Major League games. Accordingly, Woodward has not seen approximately 75% of the MLB and MiLB call-up staff in Replay Review situations.

"You don't want the truth."
A Few Good Umpires
In sports, fans as a whole tend to hold a tenuous relationship with officials. On the one hand, teams and fans hope that an official will serve the purposes of the team—in name, hoping that officials are impartial, but more often than not team affiliates and stakeholders simultaneously relish the idea of receiving that 50-50 call, perhaps even the beneficiary of a missed call or two.

And when things don't go the team's way, as is often the case in sports, the official enjoys a dose of notoriety; as we observed with Hernandez Tuesday night, that notoriety is independent of whether the associated calls are correct or not. Scapegoating officials has been en vogue for a long time.
Related PostGil's Call: The Blame Game (Umpire Scapegoating) (8/8/14).

As Jack Nicholson cryptically stated in A Few Good Men, "You need me on that wall," and in sport, we need officials to manage the game and represent the governing body or sport.

Where's Waldo? Fenway Park Clock Edition.
Talking About Social Issues is Offensive
Yet more is shrouded in a larger structural problem, similar to the structural problem that doesn't place a 30-second clock in an easily visible and league-wide standard location (Fenway's is a relatively minuscule clock in center field, when compared to the size of the scoreboard it sits beneath), or the slight issue with the statement, as beat writer Levi Weaver put it, in paraphrasing Hernandez, "Stadium ops is responsible for the 30-second clock," when stadium ops is the home team's staff and not a league-independent person (e.g., a hockey off-ice official). That statement, or that procedure, can be improved.

Unlike Replay Review, however, the structural problem referred to here that plagues the Angel Hernandez situation isn't procedural or logistical in nature.

It's back to Hernandez's lawsuit again.
It's institutional and systemic.

And it has everything to do with Angel Hernandez's lawsuit against the league—a league whose published video of the Hernandez-Woodward ejection conveniently enough edited out the full length of Woodward's delay in considering whether to challenge the play such that Texas Rangers beat writers cited the MLB-edited video as evidence that supposedly indicated that Woodward had not exceeded the time limit.

Sidebar: Given MLBAM's video editing...talent...over the past few seasons, I'd surmise this was not an intentional act, just a byproduct of how MLBAM edits its videos. Nonetheless, when consumers are allergic to fact-checking, these irresponsible conclusions are a plausible byproduct of doctored material.

Yes, the league likely relishes any and every occasion upon which Angel Hernandez's name surfaces because the beast of popular opinion makes sure that the anti-Hernandez echo chamber persists, regardless of facts and circumstances. And if the winds get severe enough, perhaps they can predispose the civil-requested jury.

Just as Dylan Yep in our last podcast stated he doesn't care that his numbers are wrong because he wants robot umpires "at any cost," the baseball community-at-large doesn't care about facts when it comes to Angel Hernandez. They just want him gone, "at any cost," possibly with greater passion than with which some people want the factually-deficient, yet hypothetically-utopian electronic strike zone. Facts? Who has time for facts?
Related PostPodcast - Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone (6/5/19).

Hernandez's calls are all viewed thru a lens.
And why?

Simple. The institutional problem referenced above is one and the same as what Hernandez alleges in his lawsuit: institutional racism.

Quite frankly, the very topic is so uncomfortable and thus controversial that the reactions are rather polar: For most, the very phrase "institutional racism" ends the conversation before it begins. Some might deny the issue so fundamentally, while superficially acknowledging its possibility, that they dismiss it because "Hernandez is a bad umpire." For others, it's a reluctant tolerance while simultaneously rolling eyes at "here we go again..." And for a few, it's the gateway to a more fruitful discussion that relatively few want to have about baseball, the supposed escape from these unpleasant topics.
Related PostAngel Hernandez Petitions Court for Permission to Speak Publicly About MLB's Alleged Discrimination (3/21/19).
Related PostBallad of Angel Hernandez - An Umpire's Controversy (10/9/18).

But for that majority of the fans and teams of this sport, Hernandez has quickly become associated with an unpleasant discussion very few want to have, and people tend to shun that which is unpleasant.

A sign hangs at Fenway in 2017.
Sociologist Robin DiAngelo wrote that issues such as those raised by Hernandez tend to evoke and conflate "a challenge to our racial world views as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people."

Gil's Call: Accordingly, to subconsciously interpret Hernandez's suit as a challenge to one's own identity is downright offensive to those who see themselves as "good, moral people." From there, it's a quick association to answer the question, "Who got me all worked up about this?" with "Angel Hernandez."

Hernandez thus stands out, and, as an umpire, that generally isn't a good thing.

In the public eye, the worst call Hernandez made was calling out baseball as a whole. Whether one is a fan of the Yankees or Red Sox, Giants or Dodgers, Cubs or Cardinals, baseball fans can unite in their blanket denial—from simple balls and strikes to more complex matters such as the subject of lawsuits against the league. It's not just Hernandez, and it never was.

A protest sign against the Cleveland Indians.
For instance, here is a video collection of Cleveland Indians fans slinging a series of racially-motivated taunts against a group of Native Americans protesting the franchise's use of the Chief Wahoo logo.

This intrinsic feeling of offense tends to get in the way of facts—more than usual due to its emotional connection—and as I stated at the end of Episode 15 of The Plate Meeting, in regard to the future, "I see more outcry."

The situation won't get better any time soon, and people will continue to use hyperbole, defamation, impugnment and degradation of character, and, naturally, make statements that aren't based in reality and aren't supported by facts.

So when events in baseball, and beyond, happen in the future, "be careful about what you see out there. Question everything, don't take anything on face value, even our stuff." Look through the facts and draw your own, educated and knowledge-based, conclusions.


Post a Comment