John Bartus

There have been a lot of stories that define this Major League Baseball season (including a postseason appearance by our own Miami Marlins). Yankees pitcher Domingo German threw baseball’s 24th perfect game in June. The Braves’ Matt Olson sent 54 balls over the fence and knocked in 137 RBIs as well. Braves pitcher Spencer Strider had a 20-win season and led the league with 281 strikeouts. And the Braves’ Roland Acuña Jr. topped the league with 217 hits, and became baseball’s only 40-70 club member ever — 41 home runs and 73 stolen bases (also a league leader). 

Perhaps, however, the biggest story in baseball this year has been the quality — or lack thereof — of MLB umpire calls. Rarely this season could a sports fan browse stories without coming across another botched-call story. And the umpire who’s been at the center of more of these bad-call stories for years? None other than perhaps the worst MLB umpire ever — Angel Hernandez.

Angel Hernandez has been a Major League umpire for 32 years. One would think by now he would have learned a thing or two about calling balls and strikes, safes and outs. It seems Hernandez actually strives to keep his missed-call percentage among the highest in league history.

With every MLB game televised with the strike zone digitally overlaid on the screen for each at-bat, it’s easy to keep track of missed calls. In a Yankees-Orioles game this summer, Hernandez missed 23 calls. He missed 22 in a Braves-Giants game. He missed 21 in a Blue Jays-Rockies game. He also missed 18 calls in a Dodgers-Marlins game. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg from one season.

One of the most egregious called strikes from Hernandez came just last week. Hernandez wasn’t even behind the plate as he was stationed at third base. Phillies hitter Bryce Harper checked his swing on a low inside slider on a 3-2 count in the bottom of the third inning. Hernandez — from third base — indicated that Harper had gone around on his swing and called strike three. An understandably infuriated Harper began walking toward Hernandez, infuriated at his blatant incompetence, and was promptly ejected by Hernandez.

This is nothing new for Angel Hernandez. Make a bad call, and eject those who dare to complain. After the game, Bryce Harper called the incident “just bad,” and continued, “Just Angel in the middle of something again. It’s just every year, it’s the same story, same thing. I’m probably going to get a letter from (MLB’s senior vice president of on-field operations) Michael Hill, and I’m going to get fined for being right, again.”

He’s-No-Angel currently sits as the lowest-rated umpire of this season, and has the lowest single-game accuracy rate for calling balls and strikes of any MLB umpire in the last five years. He hovers around 87% called strike accuracy (he actually dropped to 67% in a Sept. 14 Nationals-Pirates game). Most other umpires rate consistently in the upper 90% accuracy. 

What’s driving baseball fans nuts is the serious lack of accountability from Major League Baseball. Even when evidence proves an umpire makes an incorrect call, there are no reprimands, nor any efforts on the part of MLB to make it right or even apologize. Sadly, nothing is likely to happen any time soon — the umpires’ union contract with MLB isn’t up for consideration until 2026.

Hernandez actually had the (base)balls to sue MLB, claiming that they were racist for not allowing him to umpire the playoffs or World Series. I’m not making this up. The case was thrown out because it had nothing to do with race, and likely everything to do with how absolutely horrible an umpire he is.

After 32 years, it’s time for Major League Baseball to fix this mistake. Clip Angel’s wings, and demote him from Major to Little League. … On second thought, don’t send him there. The kids don’t deserve that level of incompetence either.

– Catch John live Wednesdays at Brutus Seafood, this Friday at Lorelei, and Sunday at the Steven Miller Benefit at the Caribbean Club in Key Largo. Find his music anywhere you download or stream your music. •

Very few towns or cities could ever claim that their Mayor was a smokin' hot guitar player. The island city of Marathon in the Florida Keys is one of those towns. While politics is a temporary call to service, music is a life sentence. John Bartus, a more-than-four-decade full-time professional musician, singer, and songwriter, continues to raise the bar with his groundbreaking solo acoustic show. It’s easy to catch John on one of his more than 200 shows a year throughout the Keys on his Perpetual Island Tour. His CD releases include After The Storm, Keys Disease 10th Anniversary Remaster, and Live From the Florida Keys Vol. 2. John’s music is available wherever you download or stream your music.