May 30, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; MLB home plate umpire umpire Angel Hernandez (5) looks on during the fifth inning between the Miami Marlins against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been no shortage of montages across social media as Ángel Hernández’s retirement has taken the Major League Baseball world by storm.

Fans and players are no longer subjected to his unique take on the strike zone, and there have been celebrations left and right as the disgraced umpire has officially been run out of town.

But we’ve also seen people like Rich Eisen begin to feel remorseful for piling on Hernández in the wake of his retirement.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan chimed in on Tuesday’s The Rich Eisen Show, disagreeing with the criticism directed at Eisen for expressing remorse. Passan argued that both Eisen’s right to critique and Hernández’s right to feel the consequences of his performance are valid. He even acknowledged his own role, stating that media coverage, including his own, might have contributed to the pressure that led to Hernández’s retirement.

“It makes me wonder, like, what’s my responsibility and what’s my part in this?” asked Passan. “Because I think sometimes we take for granted what social media actually does and how it brings out the absolute worst in a lot of us. And I think the easiest way to do this, and the easiest standard by which any of us, frankly, should live, is ‘Would I say it to the man’s face?’ Any of the stuff we say on social media about Ángel Hernández; if you were confronted by Ángel Hernández, would you say it to his face? Would you call him the names that you call him online? Would you tell him how terrible he is?

“A lot of that stuff, frankly, led to him going away. He got tired of it. He got tired of the social media firestorm that exists. Frankly, I will acknowledge this is understandable because there are parts of his job where he was genuinely bad. And it was magnified by the ubiquity of baseball on social media now. And how every time he would do something wrong, it would get put out there. And then it would almost just compound upon itself…You just had this echo chamber of Ángel Hernández awfulness that, I think, in the end, wound up being part of his undoing.”

Passan further argued that even if Hernández expressed a willingness to improve by admitting mistakes and seeking help from colleagues, it wouldn’t erase his past errors. Umpires rarely overturn calls on the field, and relying on others to point out his mistakes wouldn’t have been a solution.

“I think it was just that we expect a certain level of competence from our officials,” says Passan. “And when that level of competence is not reached, and when that compact between the league and its fans that we’re going to give you competent enough umpiring, refereeing, whatever it is. When that compact is breached — as frequently as it seemed to be with Ángel Hernández — that’s where the league, frankly, needed to step in and do something.

“And in this case it was say, ‘Hey, we’re going to offer you a handsome retirement package, so you stop being one of the main characters in our daily program.’ Because that’s what he was. He had become like the villain who comes back every so often when you least expect it. It’s like, ‘Oh boy, Ángel’s trending again. We got an Ángel day today. What’d he do this time?’ As opposed to, ‘Oh boy, we’ve got a big home run from Shohei Ohtani.’ Or, ‘Oh boy, the Cleveland Guardians are playing amazing baseball this year.’

“No, it always went back to Ángel. And it’s like we had fallen as baseball-viewing fans into this almost habit of waiting for an Ángel day to happen because it was inevitable.”

Passan suggested that Hernández’s retirement might reflect an unspoken agreement with MLB. Hernández missed most of last season due to injury but wanted another shot this year. Passan acknowledges that Hernández was generally competent, performing well on balls, strikes, and basepath calls most of the time (around 90%).

“But good as an umpire is not good enough,” Passan says. “You have to be great. You have to be spectacular. You have to be the best in the world at what you do, especially when you have a reputation like he did. Especially when you sue your employer like he has. I mean, there was just so much baggage there with Ángel Hernández that I think everyone involved recognized in the end; this ultimately will be a better thing for him and the league, too.”

[The Rich Eisen Show]

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.