NEW YORK (AP) — Umpire Angel Hernández, who has sued Major League Baseball over a lack of top assignments, will serve as an interim crew chief this season after a dozen umps decided to sit out amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Eight crew chiefs and four other umpires have opted out. The virus-delayed season is scheduled to begin Thursday night when the New York Yankees visit Washington and the Los Angeles Dodgers host San Francisco.
The crew chiefs opting out are: Gerry Davis, Jerry Layne, Mike Winters, Brian Gorman, Tom Hallion, Kerwin Danley, Fieldin Culbreth and Sam Holbrook. Brian O’Nora, Phil Cuzzi, Bruce Dreckman and Scott Barry also will miss this year.
Hernández, a 27-year umpire vet, will be one of the interim chiefs. He sued MLB in 2017, alleging race discrimination and cited that he hadn’t be assigned to the World Series since 2005 and hadn’t been promoted to head a crew. The case is pending in federal court in Manhattan.
Hernández has had his share of highly publicized run-ins on the field over the years. During a Red Sox-Yankees playoff game in 2018, he had three calls at first base reversed after replay reviews.
Also made interim chiefs this season: Mark Carlson, Bill Welke, Laz Diaz, Marvin Hudson, Ron Kulpa and Paul Nauert.
Longtime umpires Greg Gibson and Paul Emmel will begin the season on the injured list.
Six Triple-A umpires will supplement the crews. There are normally 19 full-time crews, but that’s been squeezed to 17 this year.
There are 76 full-time MLB umpires and more than 20 of them are age 55 or over. Joe West and Davis are the oldest umps at 67. West starts the season with 5,312 regular-season games but with the shortened season cannot this year overtake Bill Klem’s record of 5,375.
Umpires who are deemed at risk — either for their age, health situation or other issues — and opted out will continue to get paid.
A deal between MLB and its umpires reached during the virus shutdown ensured that if even one regular-season game was played this season, the umps were guaranteed 37.5% of their salaries.