The baseball season hasn’t even started yet, and Angel Hernandez is already trending for the wrong reasons.
Hernandez, the home plate umpire during a spring training game on Friday between the Astros and Cardinals, tossed Astros manager A.J. Hinch one pitch into the bottom of the first inning.
Hinch grew irritated after a 1-2 pitch by Astros starter Forrest Whitley to the Cardinals’ Harrison Bader in the top of the first was called a ball. Bader later reached on an error.
After the first pitch from Cardinals’ starter Daniel Ponce de Leon to the Astros’ George Springer in the bottom of the first was called a strike, Hinch had more words for Hernandez, who tossed the Astros manager from the dugout.
Hinch then emerged from the dugout to confront Hernandez, and had to be restrained by hitting coach Alex Cintron.
He was not finished, though, making a point to walk down the left field line to make his exit, stopping along the way to chat with third base umpire Mike Estabrook.
A.J. Hinch was ejected one pitch into tonight’s game. Unclear why (no TV feed in here). He barked in the face of the HP umpire, spent minutes arguing, had to be restrained by a coach and George Springer, got tossed, then slowly walked to the left field exit to make a spectacle
— Hunter Atkins (@HunterAtkins35) March 15, 2019
After the game, Hinch told MLB.com’s Alyson Footer that the incident stemmed from a conversation he had with Hernandez last week, in which Hernandez admitted that he gets four calls regarding balls and strikes per game.
“In between innings, I brought him over and had a calm conversation with him and said, ‘We have technology to help you get better that these pitches are strikes,’” Hinch said. “He had an arrogant attitude about it, didn’t want to hear it.”
Hinch continued that he thought Hernandez called the first pitch to Springer a strike to spite him. When he walked out to confront Hernandez, the umpire “said some condescending things that are inappropriate, unprofessional.”
“The fact that he wanted to throw me out in a spring training game is pretty ridiculous,” Hinch said. “He’s known for overreaction a little bit.”
This is far from Hernandez’s first foray into controversy. He ignited a firestorm during the ALDS last postseason when three of his calls were overturned after video replay. He also filed a lawsuit against MLB last December, alleging racial discrimination for the reason he has been passed up for numerous promotions to crew chief.
There is no television broadcast from Friday’s game, so, for now, we’re unable to tell exactly how bad the calls were that set Hinch off. But, based on Hernandez’s reputation for having a … well, erratic strike zone, let’s assume it was more of the same.
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