Remember The Late Shift, the early HBO original movie that chronicled the fight over The Tonight Show chair between Jay Leno and David Letterman? Both men battled for the show upon news of Johnny Carson’s retirement. In one scene, Leno, feeling the show slip away from him and also feeling like he’s the nice guy who always gets kicked around (cough Conan cough), decides to play dirty. While the gods of NBC meet to determine his future, Leno hides in a janitor’s closet, furiously taking notes on everything that’s said about him (and by whom) to use to his strategic advantage later.
A less-intelligent version of Jay Leno hiding in a closet, played by MLB’s arguably worst umpire Angel Hernandez, is the latest “what in the actual fuck?” moment coming out of Major League Baseball. The scene? An MLB conference call to determine what the hell happened when a Red Sox-Rays game was delayed for nearly 15 minutes while the umpires tried to figure out the rules of the game. In July of 2019, the Red Sox played a game under protest after the umpire crew, which Hernandez headed up, was unable to keep a series of 8th-inning Tampa Bay substitutions straight.
Today, Daniel Kaplan at The Athletic reported the following:
According to MLB legal filings Friday in the lawsuit, after the July 24 Rays-Red Sox contest, the league under then-chief baseball officer Joe Torre launched an investigation into the confusion and interviewed the umpires involved in the game. Torre then later claimed Hernandez did not get off the phone when his interview ended and listened to the interview of umpire Ed Hickox. MLB conducted a separate call with Hernandez on Aug. 19 to question him on the alleged eavesdropping.
The allegations of Hernandez’s eavesdropping came out as part of a 2017 discrimination lawsuit filed by the umpire, in which he claimed he wasn’t given top assignments because he is Latino and that Joe Torre, who oversees umpires, intentionally gave him poor performance reviews because of a call Hernandez made once made against the Yankees.
Pretty much everything that comes out of MLB these days is cringeworthy, including their half-assed statement about Black Lives Mattering to them. But even my 17-year-old knows how to assure others aren’t listening in on a conference call.
Torre, who headed up the investigation is nearly 80, so it’s possible he hasn’t become as familiar with platforms like Google Meet and Zoom, especially as this call took place last summer, before we were all banished to the relative safety of our homes. But did no one at MLB have a better idea for a secure conference call than just telling one of the people they were investigating to hang up so they could continue talking about him?
How can we expect Major League Baseball to perfect instant replay and potentially get us to the promised land of robot umps if they can’t even figure out how to secure a conference call? What about the players that are in the midst of negotiating for a return to play? Can they count on an organization that uses the 2020 version of a party line for disciplinary and employment investigations to keep them and their families safe?
As depressing as it is that Angel Hernandez was able to outsmart anyone (am I the only one who pictured a state-of-the-art war room in the legendary “New York” umpires are always throwing close calls to?), at least we didn’t have to hear the owners crying about their money like we did (checks notes) this morning.