Apr 9, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; MLB umpire Angel Hernandez (5) calls out during the game between the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This past weekend was another example of Ángel Hernández being the worst umpire that Major League Baseball has to offer. He only continues to get worse calling balls and strikes, and it’s left those in the media, like Rich Eisen, wondering how this is enabled and allowed to worsen.

And during a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, ESPN’s MLB insider Jeff Passan faced questions about Hernández’s continued issues being a blemish on umpiring across the league. Eisen pressed Passan for an explanation on how umpire mistakes continue to plague Major League Baseball. Eisen particularly spotlighted` Hernández’s struggles with calling balls and strikes,

“I think there’s a very simple explanation. (Houston Astros pitcher) JP France’s cutter is absolutely magical,” joked Passan. “I mean, how otherwise are you going to see a ball that’s six inches outside the zone getting called a strike?”

Eisen brought up a scenario recently broken down by Jomboy Media. In it, New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil asked Hernández if he had a timeout, only for Hernández to say that McNeil was calling time. It showed in real time that Hernández just refused to acknowledge the blunder.

“It seems like a witches’ brew of incompetence and arrogance that continues to get worse every year,” Eisen said.

“Well, when you put it like that…I mean, of course, there’s a way to address and rectify it, especially when it comes to the balls and strikes element of it,” added Passan. “And that’s what’s going on in Triple-A right now. It’s interesting; somebody in the game reached out to me earlier this week and said, ‘Why is it that balls and strikes are better at Triple-A than they are in the Major Leagues?’ And I had never thought of it that way, but if you think about it, right now, the system at Triple-A includes automated balls and strikes, and especially the challenge system that’s in place.”

“It’s easy. It engages fans at the ballpark,” Passan continued. “The challenge system, it’s really good. And when it comes to the big leagues…I do think it’s probably going to be in challenge form rather than every single pitch being called by the automated system. And if that’s the case and they can right wrongs, then great. And beyond that, you know what this will do? This will hold umpires accountable publicly. In a harsher way, frankly, that they’re held accountable privately right now.

“But they’re protected by the MLB Umpire’s Association. And, if Major League Baseball wanted to get rid of Ángel Hernández, who, by the way, sued them for racial discrimination and was embroiled in a long time in a federal lawsuit, well, that’s the sort of thing I think that if you had the evidence of how many different times someone has screwed up, it would be a lot easier, presumably, to oust that person from the spot.”

While Passan acknowledged these issues could persist until 2025 or 2026, he highlighted a positive change in the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). MLB now has the authority to implement new rules within 60 days, compared to the previous one-year timeframe. If MLB chooses to adopt the Automatic Balls and Strikes (ABS) system, it can be implemented for next season.

“Let’s say there’s a challenge system in place, and that first cutter for JP France that was called a ball…and it was overturned,” said Passan. “Ángel Hernández doesn’t call those next two pitches that are even further out for strikes. And so, it’s in the moment, changing the way that guy’s umpiring, which is exactly what you want. It’s a lot better than a postgame report that says this is where he screwed up.”

[The Rich Eisen Show on YouTube]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.