Kinsler, Ausmus not moved by umps' MLB gripe

Some umpires across Major League Baseball wore white wristbands Saturday as a show of solidarity after Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler was fined — but not suspended — for harsh criticism of Angel Hernandez earlier this week.

“This week, a player publicly and harshly impugned the character and integrity of Angel Hernandez — a veteran umpire who has dedicated his career to baseball and the community,” the World Umpires Association (WUA) said in a statement. “The verbal attack on Angel denigrated the entire MLB umpiring staff and is unacceptable.”

Kinsler, speaking after the Tigers’ 3-0 loss to the Dodgers in Detroit on Saturday, said he didn’t care much at all about the umpires’ protest.

“I really don’t think too deeply into it. I hope they wear the white wristbands for the rest of their careers. I don’t care. I said what I felt and what I thought. If they take offense to that, that’s their problem.”

The back-and-forth started Monday, when Kinsler was ejected for questioning Hernandez’s balls and strikes calls. A day later, he called Hernandez a bad umpire who is “messing with baseball games, blatantly,” adding: “He needs to find another job, he really does.” Speaking again Friday, Kinsler said he was fined for the comments, but that he had no regrets about what he said.

While Kinsler did not disclose the amount of the fine, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus called it the biggest he’s seen during his career.

“To act like Ian Kinsler just got fined. It’s the biggest fine I’ve ever seen Major League Baseball give a player,” Ausmus said Saturday. “So I don’t want to hear — I don’t want them to minimize — that he’s not being punished. I’m not going to put a number on it. It’s the biggest I’ve ever seen.”

The umpires, though, evidently didn’t think it was enough.

“The Office of the Commissioner has failed to address this and other escalating attacks on umpires,” the WUA said Saturday. “The player who denigrated Hernandez publicly said he thought he would be suspended. Instead [he] got far more lenient treatment — a fine. He shrugged that off and told reporters he has ‘no regrets’ about his offensive statements calling for an end to Hernandez’s career.

“The Office of the Commissioner’s lenient treatment to abusive player behavior sends the wrong message to players and managers. It’s ‘open season’ on umpires, and that’s bad for the game.”

Some umpires wore the white wristbands in support of Hernandez on Saturday. In the Dodgers-Tigers game in Detroit, for example, second-base umpire Bill Miller and third-base umpire Todd Tichenor wore the wristbands on their left arms. Home plate umpire Adam Hamari and first-base umpire Chris Segal did not appear to wear any. Kinsler played second base in that game.

Some umpires wore dark wristbands, but it was unclear if those were part of the protest. Other umpires did not wear wristbands at all.

“Major league umpires hold themselves to high standards,” the WUA said. “We are held accountable for our performance at every game. Our most important duty is to protect the integrity of the game, and we will continue to do that job every day. But the Office of the Commissioner must protect our integrity when we are unfairly attacked simply for doing our jobs.

“Enough is enough. Umpires will wear the wristbands until our concerns are taken seriously by [the] Office of the Commissioner.”

MLB said it had no comment on the union’s statement. Ausmus believes Kinsler has been singled out.

“To single out one player is completely wrong and goes against what the sport is. It’s a team sport,” he said. “There [are] often arguments between players and umpires, managers and umpires, coaches and umpires, and it’s part of the game. To single out one player as a union is completely uncalled for.”

Hernandez has been a big league umpire for nearly a quarter-century. He worked the World Series in 2002 and 2005 but has not since. He worked last year’s National League Championship Series and the Division Series in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Last month, he sued MLB, alleging race discrimination. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, the 55-year-old Hernandez, who was born in Cuba and lives in Florida, cited as evidence of alleged discrimination his lack of World Series assignments in the past decade and MLB not promoting him to crew chief.

This isn’t the first umpire-player incident this month in the majors.

Joe West, MLB’s senior umpire, was suspended for three days without pay on Aug. 8 for comments he made about Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. In a USA Today report published June 20 timed to coincide with the umpire’s 5,000th regular-season game, West said “it’s got to be Adrian Beltre” when asked who was the biggest complainer in the major leagues.

The WUA said commissioner Rob Manfred told the union in an Aug. 3 letter the discipline created an “appearance of lack of impartiality.” The umpires, in response, called “joking interactions between umpires and players a routine part of the game,” adding they “strongly disagreed” with the league’s decision.

On Thursday, at the owners meetings in Chicago, Manfred drew a distinction on remarks by players and umpires.

“It is not unusual after a very competitive event for a player to say something that we don’t think is helpful over the long term. We have always dealt with those by player discipline, fines. That’s the ordinary course,” Manfred said.

“I see the umpire thing differently. Umpires have to be beyond reproach on the topic of impartiality. That’s why there are really specific rules in the umpire basic agreement about public comment,” he said.

Information from ESPN’s Brad Doolittle and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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