It's not often that an umpire becomes a central figure in a playoff series, but Angel Hernandez will be remembered as an important piece of the puzzle as it pertains to the 2018 American League Divisional Series between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Hernandez had himself an embarrassing Game 3, becoming the first umpire in the replay era to have three calls overturned in a postseason game. He was behind the plate for Game 4, and while there was some reason to believe the peace would be kept …
Being serious here: The Yankees and Red Sox both have Ángel Hérnandez rated as an above-average balls-and-strikes umpire. I know there's plenty of consternation about his calls last night, and his history with CC Sabathia isn't sterling, but the hope is for a better Game 4.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 9, 2018
… that hope was extinguished after the game by CC Sabathia, the longtime Yankees southpaw and major-league leader in Saying What He Dang Well Wishes:
CC Sabathia on Angel Hernandez: “He’s absolutely terrible. He was terrible behind the plate today. He was terrible at first base. It’s amazing how he’s getting jobs umpiring in these playoff games.”— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) October 10, 2018
More CC Sabathia on Angel Hernandez: “He shouldn’t be anywhere near these playoff games.”— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) October 10, 2018
“He’s bad. I don’t understand why he’s doing these games.”
“It’s sad that he’s doing these games. It’s crazy.”
“He’s always bad. He’s a bad umpire.”
Sabathia has earned his place as a respected elder statesmen within the game over the course of his 18-year career. As such, his comments shouldn't be taken lightly -- especially given they seem to stem from more than a single call, game or series.
Still, it's perhaps worth noting strike-zone charts provided at Brooks Baseball show that Hernandez's discretion seemed to favor the Yankees on Tuesday night, and that Sabathia's opposite -- Red Sox righty Rick Porcello -- spoke out in Hernandez's defense:
Whatever one thinks about how Hernandez handles his business -- or how he called the game on Tuesday -- this much is clear: Major League Baseball ought to reevaluate or reaffirm how they select umpires for postseason series. Lest Hernandez (or someone held in equal or lower esteem) find themselves in a similarly undesirable spot in the future, under the red-hot October spotlight.