In a long but controlled rant Tuesday — one day after he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes — Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler ripped umpire Angel Hernandez in the coldest way imaginable.
Kinsler didn’t just object to the call that led to the argument that led to the ejection. He didn’t even say he was particularly mad at Hernandez. He did say this, per the Detroit Free Press:
“I’m just saying it’s pretty obvious that he needs to stop ruining baseball games.. … Candidly, leave the game. No one wants you behind the plate anymore. No one in this game wants you behind the plate any more, none of the players.”
“They’re not perfect and we all know that. And if they’re trying hard to do well, then they at least have the respect of the players. But when an umpire is blatantly missing calls — blatantly, not like, ‘Oh, that could have been a strike,’ or the guy caught it well or visually it looks like a strike and he just missed it — when it’s blatant, like a number of calls yesterday, probably eight pitches that were thrown that were not and some right down the middle that were called balls.”
At the heart of the matter are two things, really:
1) It is easier than ever to see when a home plate umpire is subpar thanks to the Pitch f/x tool in every stadium that tracks the flight of a pitch and accurately measures balls and strikes. That technology has led to a movement suggesting balls and strikes should be called solely using that data instead of by humans, but so far tradition is winning.
2) There exists the idea that it is hard to discipline bad umpires — or at least that such discipline is not made public. Indeed, Kinsler spoke of that particular frustration the other day — suggesting he would likely be suspended for speaking out against an umpire while Hernandez — who has been poorly regarded by those around baseball for years — continues to work. We see that in other sports, too, where coaches and players are penalized for criticizing officials.
“I don’t know how to do it or if the players association or MLB has thought of ways to accomplish that, to try to figure out a system where umpires are graded properly and there’s some sort of accountability,” Kinsler said. “If I didn’t get thrown out last night, nobody would have said a word about Angel Hernandez.”
It is worth noting that Kinsler and Hernandez have a decade-old history that’s detailed in the Free Press story. Kinsler insisted that had nothing to do with what happened this week, but anyone who watched a Twins game involving manager Ron Gardenhire and umpire Hunter Wendelstedt knew that a baseline for agitation was already set at the start.
Regardless of all the circumstances, Kinsler’s takedown of Hernandez was icy. There is no colder rebuke of someone as a professional than to say calmly and unequivocally that they are bad at their job and need to try a new line of work.