Umpire Angel Hernandez seeks 'sensitive' documents in MLB discrimination suit

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Umpire Angel Hernandez wants “sensitive” MLB documents as evidence in his discrimination case against Major League Baseball. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Umpire Angel Hernandez wants “sensitive” MLB documents as evidence in his discrimination case against Major League Baseball. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Relations between umpire Angel Hernandez and Major League Baseball won’t be warming up anytime soon. Hernandez is suing MLB for discrimination, alleging that he’s been passed over for numerous promotions to crew chief due to his Latino descent, and his lawyers have requested a number of “sensitive” MLB documents that could possibly help prove his case. And as you may have guessed, MLB isn’t on board.

MLB doesn’t want to divulge “sensitive” documents

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According to the New York Daily News, Hernandez’s lawyers have requested “several categories of highly sensitive documents” from MLB, including evaluations and performance reviews of other umpires, confidential grievance proceedings, umpire training documents and instant replay protocol. 

MLB isn’t keen to give any of that up, though. Requesting documents and other information pertaining to a lawsuit is part of discovery, a pre-trial process that allows both parties to obtain evidence, but MLB’s reticence to furnish these documents appears to be about the privacy of other umpires — at least according to MLB’s lawyer, Neil Abramson. Here’s Abramson’s response, obtained by the Daily News:

“Discovery should not be weaponized where, as here, a case is receiving press attention and (Hernandez) seeks sensitive documents and information that implicate the privacy interests of nonparties and confidential proceedings.”

Abramson is contending that producing those documents would compromise the privacy of umpires and executives who aren’t involved in the case.

Angel Hernandez vs. Joe Torre

Hernandez’s lawsuit alleges that MLB and Joe Torre, who is in charge of umpires as MLB’s chief baseball officer, discriminated against him because he is Latino (Hernandez was born in Cuba). But the racial discrimination is only one part of the complaint. In the filing, Hernandez’s lawyer points to 2011, when Torre was hired and given the responsibility of supervising MLB’s umpires as the point when things began to change for the worse.

Prior to 2011, the complaint states that Hernandez was given numerous ratings of “exceeds standards” in his performance reviews. But after Torre began to supervise the umpires, Hernandez’s reviews were no longer exemplary. Hernandez believes that Torre is harboring animosity against him over a call that went against the New York Yankees in 2001, when Torre was managing the team. In fact, Hernandez alleges that some of Torre’s specific complaints in his performance reviews echo Torre’s comments after that 2001 game: that Hernandez is mostly concerned with putting himself in the spotlight.

Why does Hernandez want these sensitive documents?

Hernandez and his lawyers are trying to prove that MLB discriminated against him, consistently passing him over for crew chief jobs despite a history of excellent evaluations. Some of the documents that Hernandez wants are all related to that: evaluations and reviews of other umpires and umpire training methodology.

The complaint alleges that umpires who were not as qualified as Hernandez were promoted to crew chief and assigned to work a World Series, and seeing the performance reviews of umpires who received those assignments could help Hernandez’s case — or hurt it. It could be valuable to see how other umpires were evaluated both before and after Torre’s arrival in 2011, since Hernandez’s complaint references a “tonal shift” in his evaluations from 2011 forward.

The perception of Hernandez is always going to work against him — he had three calls in one single postseason game overturned on replay — but according to Hernandez’s complaint, public perception was never an issue for him until Torre began supervising the umpires. Fans and players might think Hernandez is a bad umpire, but only MLB’s evaluations matter. There could be other factors at play, of course. Torre could have decided to use a different rubric to evaluate umpires when he was hired. But the only way to know if Torre was applying his standards equally is to actually see the performance reviews.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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