Ian Kinsler is 35 years old and has been playing Major League Baseball since the start of the 2006 season. Perhaps that makes him as qualified as anyone when assessing an umpire.
After being ejected Monday night by Angel Hernandez in the middle of an at-bat, Kinsler went on the record before Tuesday’s game between his Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers, who he broke in with 11 years ago.
Hernandez called a strike on the first pitch to Kinsler in an at-bat where the pitch was well below the strike zone. When quickly questioning the pitch, Hernandez confirmed it was a strike. Kinsler stepped back into the batters box, saying that it was only a strike because he called it a strike.
The second pitch was way outside and before Hernandez called it a ball, Kinsler turned back and said “What about that one?”
He was immediately ejected. See all MLB recaps here.
Kinsler got right in Hernandez’s face and was pointing at him, bat in close range.
“This has to do with changing the game,” Kinsler said. “He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job. He really does.”
He went onto say that he doesn’t think Hernandez is biased against him.
“He's just that bad. I’m not mad at him,” Kinsler said. “He just needs to go away.”
It was similar to this when asking about the future of baseball umpires. The 55-year old Hernandez has been around as a full-time umpire since 1993, and actually has worked in two World Series. Yet, a 2010 survey by ESPN showed that 22 percent of players rated him as the worst umpire in baseball.
To make matters more interesting, Hernandez has a lawsuit pending against the league and commissioner Rob Manfred that alleges MLB discriminates against minority umpires. It’s awfully tough for the league to do anything to him with the ongoing litigation, despite Kinsler’s pleas.
Baseball does not make its umpires available for interviews before games. Hernandez relayed a statement through a pool reporter after the 10-4 Texas win on Tuesday.
“It doesn’t matter,” Hernandez said. “I have nothing to say. I’m just an umpire … 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.
“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.”
One thing to watch for down the stretch, if Kinsler is not traded, is if Hernandez is given any more assignments to the Tigers this season. If he’s behind the plate, it will certainly be must-see TV. Kinsler is almost certain to draw a fine and suspension for his remarks; players simply can’t berate umpires to the media and expect no repercussions. That doesn’t mean these quotes aren’t entertaining, however.
“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, 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.”