Angel Hernandez, widely considered to be one of Major League Baseball’s worst umpires, had home plate duties in last night’s Giants-Athletics game. And he was pretty much Angel Hernandez.
Based on the tweets, comments and blog posts of folks who watched the game, Hernandez had his typically inconsistent and wide-to-the-right-side strike zone, causing pitchers and hitters from both teams to shake their heads in frustration. Then Hernandez went to his signature move, turning a merely poorly-umped game into a game with an umpire-player confrontation.
Hernandez called an extremely questionable balk on Jean Machi in the eighth inning. Machi was upset and started yelling at Hernandez. You can watch the overall argument here. One thing you can’t see in that video — but which was relayed by several second accounts such as this one — is that catcher Buster Posey attempted to get between them and calm the situation, only to have Hernandez yell, “Don’t push me” at Posey, as if Posey were actually trying to escalate, rather than defuse the situation. Bruce Bochy argued for a long time, using a lot of colorful language, but did not get tossed. Which, oftentimes, is the sign of an umpire who actually realized he messed up and is letting someone blow off steam.
After the game, Giants announcer Duane Kuiper was unusually frank but 100% honest in his assessment of Hernandez, saying “Angel Hernandez is not a good umpire and, in my opinion, he does not belong in the big leagues. And I think Major League Baseball knows this, they just don’t know how to get rid of him.”
He’s correct about that. Perhaps if more people closer to the game such as broadcasters and influential folks in the media were more willing to say this as frankly as Kuiper did, Major League Baseball would do something about it.
Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that Indians manager Terry Francona has set his starting rotation for the first three games of the World Series against the Cubs. Corey Kluber will start Game One, followed by Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin for Games Two and Three, respectively.
Kluber, the ace of the staff, has had a terrific postseason. He’s made three starts with a 0.98 ERA and a 20/7 K/BB ratio in 18 1/3 innings. The Indians won two of his starts — Game Two of the ALDS and Game 1 of the ALCS.
Bauer was unable to make it out of the first inning of his ALCS Game 3 start against the Blue Jays after the stitches on his pinky opened up and caused blood to pour out. He suffered the injury repairing one of his drones, which he builds as a hobby. Bauer insists he’ll be good to go in Game Two, though he also insisted that the injury wouldn’t be an impediment against the Jays.
Tomlin has made two solid starts for the Indians, allowing a total of three runs over 10 2/3 innings. The Indians won both games he started, Game 3 of the ALDS and Game 2 of the ALCS. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes that if Bauer can’t go in Game Two, Tomlin will be moved up to start in his place.
It isn’t difficult to see the fingerprints left by Cubs’ president Tom Ricketts and general manager Theo Epstein on the club’s remarkable 2016 season. In a piece for FOXSports.com, former Yankee Alex Rodriguez highlighted the duo’s effectiveness in liberating the Cubs from a five-year losing streak and six-year postseason drought, citing both the unrelenting work ethic and passion that Ricketts and Epstein brought to the club as major factors in their success.
Rodriguez’s first brush with sabermetric savant and all-around baseball wizard Theo Epstein came in 2003, when the then- 27-year-old All-Star was eyeing a deal with the Red Sox. The Major League Baseball Players Association eventually nixed the trade, and the Rangers’ young shortstop was sent to the Yankees shortly thereafter, but not before Rodriguez glimpsed the inner workings of Epstein’s mind.
What I remember best about that time was watching Theo furiously scribbling out the Red Sox lineup for the upcoming season on a room-service napkin. That’s when I saw Theo’s baseball mind at work. I saw he had a passion for the game, a depth of knowledge, and a thirst to be great. Theo’s passion was contagious. We were three 20-somethings convinced we were about to turn baseball upside down together. Though I never got a chance to work with Theo, I knew then that he was going to be a force.
A-Rod also referenced Ricketts’ thorough approach to rebuilding the organization. Ricketts, who purchased the franchise for $875 million in 2009, first made it his mission to transform Wrigley Field into a comfortable and enticing playing environment, then targeted top-tier management to run the show behind the scenes. With Ricketts fully backing Epstein’s transformative approaches — including an overhaul of the Cubs’ farm system, investments in international player development, and a comprehensive understanding and practical application of sabermetric advances — the Cubs’ path to a 97-win season in 2015 seemed a natural consequence of the pair’s hard work.
This year, the attention has been even more intensely focused on the Cubs’ elusive third World Series title. Rodriguez, however, believes that winning a championship is secondary to the strides Ricketts and Epstein have taken with the club.
Together, Ricketts and Epstein have built one of the greatest franchises in baseball and transformed 1060 W. Addison St. It’s a task that no one could quite get right for a hundred years. While four more wins would put a giant exclamation point on five years of focused work and determination, I won’t worry if this team doesn’t win the World Series in the next nine days.