Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Joe West Testifies for Angel in Hernandez's MLB Suit

Angel Hernandez picked up a few key umpire witnesses in support of his discrimination lawsuit against Major League Baseball, presenting declarations from Joe West and Richie Garcia in the latest filing of Hernandez v MLB. Fieldin Culbreth's deposition from 2019 also made an appearance.

Fieldin Culbreth spoke about pressure from the league to apply for an open crew chief position in 2013 even though Culbreth did not initially want to apply and felt the job should have gone to Wally Bell or Angel Hernandez.

In May 2020, Rich Garcia told the AP he was "sick of it," in reference to Randy Marsh's claim that Garcia was fired in 2010 for watching son-in-law Vic Carapazza work a minor league game. Garcia, who has consistently stated he had zero involvement in Carapazza's hiring, went so far as to speak with then-World Umpires Association President Joe West, who backed Garcia's version of events, recalling that Garcia said, "'I don't want to be in a situation where I have a conflict of interest because he's my son-in-law.'"
Related PostRich Garcia 'Fed Up' Following Marsh Testimony (5/19/20).

Now, in July 2020, Garcia has turned that fed-up attitude into tangible testimony, submitting a written declaration in the Angel Hernandez lawsuit, writing, "Quite simply, Angel Hernandez should have been promoted to crew chief a long time ago. He is an outstanding umpire. I recommended him for the World Series several times."

Joe West also submitted a written declaration in July 2020, slamming MLB for deficient video replay technology in 2013 (Hernandez's "Cleveland Game") and for seemingly punishing Hernandez both for whistleblowing the video problem and for a July 2019 game in which Hernandez presided over a designated hitter/pitcher substitution situation in Tampa Bay: Despite the league telling Hernandez he got the call right and that he acted appropriately, West said that MLB, after a most unusual and unprecedented investigation, inexplicably removed Hernandez from his interim crew chief role.

Rich Garcia told the court of his career and, specifically, his time as an umpire supervisor when he observed games officiated by Angel Hernandez. According to Garcia, Hernandez "has handled [game situations] extremely well, and every bit as good, if not better, than existing crew chiefs. His demeanor is precisely what MLB wants in an umpire—firm, calm and in control, and professional."

Documents previously filed with the court indicate Hernandez was recommended for the World Series at least three times since 2011, but was not selected during any of those postseasons.
Related PostAngel's New Evidence - Supervisors Wanted Hernandez in World Series, But Woodfork Said No (4/26/20).

Garcia posited that, "had Angel exhibited problems as an umpire with game situations, he would not have been placed in an interim crew chief position." Hernandez has been a backup crew chief—or "number two"—since 2002 on Randy Marsh's crew.

Hernandez was formerly Marsh's #2 ump.
Speaking of Marsh, Hernandez's team also attached testimony from Marsh's deposition, in which he specifically answered "no" to the question, "has this Cleveland incident played any role in Major League Baseball's decision not to promote Angel to crew chief?"

Marsh's answer appears to disagree with previously submitted evidence in which Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Peter Woodfork described Hernandez as "the guy in the middle of the largest debacle [the Cleveland game]," in an e-mail to Senior Director of Umpire Operations Matt McKendry over the subject of awarding Hernandez the 2015 World Series, as suggested by former supervisor Steve Palermo.

It also runs afoul of MLB's own court filing from June 2020, in which the league highlighted the very Cleveland incident Marsh testified about as a key example of why Hernandez was not promoted (the same motion in which MLB claimed "no evidence" of a diversity problem in baseball).
Related PostMLB Argues No Evidence of Diversity Problem in Suit (6/8/20).

Culbreth said he didn't plan to apply for -cc.
As for Fieldin Culbreth, he in 2019 testified under oath that on one day over the 2012-13 offseason, Randy Marsh and Joe West called him separately asking Cubby to apply for an open crew chief position. Despite Culbreth's reply that a "number two" umpire with more seniority and experience—namely Wally Bell and Angel Hernandez—should get the job first, he was nonetheless instructed, "put your name in," and accordingly wrote an e-mail that simply said, "Fieldin Culbreth is officially applying for the crew chief position."

West, meanwhile, testified that an unnamed MLB official instructed West to urge a specific white non-minority umpire to apply for the crew chief position.

Culbreth testified that he would not have applied for crew chief had it not been for those phone calls.

By late January, MLB announced Culbreth as a newly promoted crew chief.

West bolsters AH's disparate treatment claim.
Joe West testified via written declaration that Hernandez's comments after the 2013 Cleveland game pertaining to the poor quality of MLB's provided video screens was factually proper: "In Cleveland (and in other MLB ballparks around the United States), the umpires' locker room included a wide screen television with HD. Yet MLB prohibited us from reviewing plays on that HD wide screen and instead insisted that we were to view replays on the small monitor screen that MLB provided."

West mentioned that MLB instructed umpires not to reverse calls without "clear and convincing evidence" and pointed out Hernandez was not the only decision-maker in the room that night: "If Angel Hernandez and John Tumpane could not see by clear and convincing evidence that the call on the field was wrong using the small replay monitor provided by MLB, then the rules and instructions provided by MLB itself required them to uphold the call made on the field."

In short, West claimed that MLB has routinely left Hernandez out to dry: "With limited or no support from MLB for his handling of controversial situations, Angel Hernandez has been metaphorically crucified in the media."

West criticized the old box's quality.
For the record, MLB's sponsorship deal at the time with Sharp Aquos appears to have expired shortly thereafter; by the 2014 season, MLB constructed a Replay Operations Center to standardize expanded replay in one office space, using HD monitors.

West also said that MLB treated Hernandez very differently than other umpires in the wake of a 2019 lineup card substitution incident (which Hernandez's crew ultimately got right): "In my experience, even crew chiefs who had actually made clear errors in key situations were not subjected to an investigation or adverse action like what MLB did to Angel Hernandez—but none of those permanent crew chiefs for at least the last 20 years up through the 2019 season have been minorities."

West wrote that "that investigation and the phone call that MLB arranged to discuss the incident were particularly unusual," noting that MLB denied Boston's protest and upheld Hernandez's on-field ruling as the correct decision.
Related PostRed Sox Protest Rays' Pitcher Substitution, DH Termination (7/24/19).

Referencing MLB's June 2020 claims that Hernandez eavesdropped on a phone call, West said, "I do not recall MLB ever asking Angel Hernandez—or me—to hang up or get off the [2019] call. That telephone call was the first time and only time I have ever seen an umpire investigated when he was told by MLB that he had made the correct call on the field and that he had acted appropriately."
Related PostMLB Argues No Evidence of Diversity Problem in Suit (6/8/20).

West discussed how unusual the investigation was and noted that MLB's lawyers were also on the call: "No one on the telephone call was saying that Angel Hernandez and his crew had gotten the call wrong nor was anyone on the call asserting that Angel Hernandez and his crew violated the written instructions to umpires, which in 2019 included the following: 'it is better to consult the rules and hold up the game ten minutes to decide a knotty problem than have a game thrown out on protest and replayed.' [Official Baseball Rules, Rule 8.00: General Instructions to Umpires]"

Joe Torre praised Hernandez for his conduct.
Added West, "In fact, during that telephone call, Angel Hernandez was praised by Joe Torre for making the correct call, for also gathering his crew together to discuss a rule interpretation, and for taking the time to do so."

Despite MLB's assurance that Hernandez had made the correct call and acted appropriately, West wrote, the league nonetheless removed Hernandez from the interim crew chief role.

West pointed to several incidents involving white non-minority umpires that resulted in similar delays wherein the correct call had been made and how those umpires did not receive the same treatment that Hernandez experienced: no investigation and no adverse punishment.

MLB's senior-most umpire wrote, "Tim McClelland, an excellent white non-minority umpire who is now retired, delayed a game 13 minutes due to a lineup card fiasco that could have been spotted before the game started. There was no investigation by MLB."

The Blue Cowboy even referenced one of the last MLB games to be played with fans in attendance:
"As recently as the 2019 World Series, Sam Holbrook made an interference call that was argued strenuously by the Washington Nationals manager. The game was delayed for over 10 minutes, with Sam Holbrook going to the headsets to speak to officials in MLB's replay center on a judgment call that was protested. Joe Torre was in attendance at that game, and after the game he communicated in substance that it was fine for umpires to double and triple check themselves, but that (in his opinion) the delay should not have lasted that long. Yet to the best of my knowledge there was no resulting investigation of Sam Holbrook, a white non-minority umpire (not to imply that there should have been, in spite of the delay to make sure the umpires got the call right result occurring on a far bigger stage)." 
Related PostWorld Series Interference - Blame the Rule, not the Umpire (10/30/19).

West wrote, "in 2011, I requested that Angel Hernandez be on my crew due to Angel's excellent on-field and off-field performance as an umpire." West also requested Hernandez serve on his crew for the 2020 season.

 Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Joe West Testifies in Angel Hernandez's Lawsuit v MLB (CCS)


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