No other umpire in the major leagues gets more complaints, or so it seems, than Angel Hernandez. The San Francisco Giants collectively took issue with Hernandez on Tuesday night during a 6-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics. They didn't like how Hernandez called balls and strikes for Madison Bumgarner of the Giants compared to how he called them for Sonny Gray of the A's. Nor did they like the balk call Hernandez made against San Francisco's Jean Machi in the eighth inning.
The events culminated with Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper of KNBR-AM making this direct and pointed comment after the game:
Interesting. It's one thing for a reporter or fan to say something like that on Twitter — and people say that about Hernandez frequently — but Kuiper is in a position to speak for the Giants. It's not exactly like manager Bruce Bochy saying it, or one of the players, but it's likely indicative of how they feel.
As for the balk itself: Hernandez appeared to be right about Machi committing one. He ascended the rubber as if he were going to pitch from the windup, then hastily aborted and got into a stretch position without first stepping off. It looked like a balk.
Bochy came out to argue, apparently trying (and failing) to get thrown out, still mad from earlier perceived transgressions by Hernandez, and probably in a foul mood because of how the Giants are playing overall. As Kuiper noted, it should be easy to get thrown out when arguing a balk, because you're not usually allowed to argue them. But Bochy wasn't tossed. Nobody was thrown out until the end of the inning, when Machi was tossed for continuing to argue.
Another detail of note about the extended balk argument: Catcher Buster Posey, in trying to get between Machi and Hernandez, brushed against Hernandez, who appeared to respond by saying: "Don't push me." But Posey wasn't thrown out. Another umpire, also on an emotional edge, might have tossed him for making contact. It would have been baloney, but other umps have done worse with less.
Was the lack of ejections due to Hernandez not having the courage of his convictions? Not wanting to eject players or coaches who might be right about him being wrong? If we all know what the players and coaches think of Hernandez, he surely does too.
The Giants were unhappy because they're slumping terribly after getting off to a 42-21 start. They've lost 20 of 27 since. They might have a beef with Hernandez's strike zone for Bumgarner. And there's probable cause for him to not be umpiring in the majors.
But he was right about the balk, or appeared to be. Score one for Angel!
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