Arlington, Texas – If Ian Kinsler didn’t get his money’s worth out of his ejection in the fifth inning Monday night, he more than made up for it before the game Tuesday.
Kinsler unloaded his grievances against umpire Angel Hernandez, grievances that have been shared by players across the league off the record for years.
He was asked if he was surprised at how quickly Hernandez gave him the boot Monday.
“No, I’m surprised at how bad an umpire he is,” Kinsler said. “I don’t know how, for as many years he’s been in the league, that he can be that bad. He needs to reevaluate his career choice, he really does. Bottom line.”
Kinsler was asked if he was speaking on the record.
“Sure,” he said. “If I get fined for saying the truth, then so be it. He’s messing with baseball games, blatantly.”
Hernandez called strike one on Kinsler on a pitch that replays showed to be well below the strike zone. Kinsler questioned that pitch and said Hernandez told him that was a strike.
Kinsler said he told Hernandez that it was only a strike because he called it a strike, and then got back into the box.
On the second pitch, a pitch way outside that Hernandez called a ball, Kinsler turned and said, “What about that one?”
Hernandez tossed him at that point. Kinsler got in his face immediately, pointing at him with his bat at close range. Manager Brad Ausmus interceded at that point and he too got tossed.
“This has to do with changing the game,” Kinsler said. “He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job. He really does.”
Kinsler was asked if he felt Hernandez was just biased against him.
"No," he said. "He's just that bad."
He was asked again the issue was personal between him and Hernandez.
“I’m not mad at him,” Kinsler said. “He just needs to go away.”
Speaking through a pool reporter after the Tigers’ 10-4 loss Tuesday, Hernandez said he wasn’t aware of Kinsler’s comments. He was briefed on the comments.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I have nothing to say, as a matter of fact. I’m not at liberty.
I’m just an umpire. You know what we do, we go out there every day. We’re out there every day, whether it’s a day game, whether it’s a night game, just like the players, and we have a job to do — and that’s what we do.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss tit-for-tat what’s going on. As a matter of fact, I don’t even care what he said. What I care about is going out there and doing my job, to the best I can do.”
Kinsler had his first run-in with Hernandez during his rookie year. He said it was the first on-field scuffle he ever got into with an umpire in the big leagues.
“I fielded a ground ball to my left in Chicago,” he said. “It was a slow-roller. I caught it, flipped it to the first baseman and kept running because it was the last out of the inning. He was out by three steps and Angel called him out.”
When Kinsler came back out to his position the next inning, Hernandez began yelling at him.
“He started screaming at me,” Kinsler said. “For, in my recollection, no reason. For no reason he is belittling me, telling me, ‘Rookie this,’ and ‘Rookie that.’ Because he said I got in his way of making a call at first base. When I flipped the ball to first base, I ran into his line of vision.
“I’m the one playing the game. It’s your job to figure out where to go to get a view of that play. I’m not going to worry about flipping the ball and getting out of the umpire’s way. I had no idea what was going on. I was just like, ‘OK. OK. OK!”
Hernandez, 55, has been a full-time Major League Baseball umpire since 1993. He has worked two World Series (2002 and 2005) but has been denied crew chief status. He has a lawsuit pending against Major League Baseball and commissioner Rob Manfred alleging the league discriminates against minority umpires.
Hernandez cited his positive evaluations, though annual player surveys rank him at or near the bottom in terms of competency. In 2010, an ESPN survey revealed that 22 percent of the players asked called Hernandez the worst umpire in the league.
“Every umpire gets graded out well,” Kinsler said. “Every umpire will tell you the next day, ‘The system had that one a strike.’ Every umpire gets a high rating with their system.”
Kinsler said he counted at least eight obvious missed calls by Hernandez Monday, missing them against both teams.
“Not just borderline calls here and there,” Kinsler said. “There’s arguments on those every game. There are pitches every game where if you call it a strike, the hitter’s going to be mad; and if you call that same pitch a ball, the pitcher’s going to be mad. Umpires have to deal with that every game.
“But when it becomes blatant like this, there is a problem … What is he doing on the field? What is he doing out there? It’s pretty obvious he needs to stop ruining baseball games.”
Major League Baseball does not make umpires available to the media before games, so Hernandez was unavailable for comment.
Hernandez will umpire second base in the finale on Wednesday. He was asked if it might awkward standing next to Kinsler the entire game.
“No sir,” he said. “This is my 26th year in the big leagues, and anybody that knows me knows I’m a professional.”