Umpires and referees are doing the best possible job when you don’t notice that they’re there. By that metric, Angel Hernandez had one of the worst possible games an umpire can have Sunday night, in one of the worst possible settings.

Had Hernandez trotted out this absurd performance on a Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, it’s possible that no one notices or cares. Instead, Hernandez did this on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball:

Hernandez being a terrible umpire is not news. He lost a lawsuit against Major League Baseball two short years ago largely because MLB had the data to show that Hernandez was impermissibly inept. That timing is important. The sports world in the United States was vastly different in March of 2021.

Online wagering on sports continues to become legal throughout the United States on a gradual basis. In the past two years, a number of prominent states have allowed sports betting to be done with your phone, your tablet, your laptop, whatever. Every Major League Baseball game is offered by online books. The types of bets you can place are way too numerous to list, but last night, if you had Eric Lauer’s strikeout over or Aaron Nola’s strikeout over, you almost certainly cashed.

And that’s the problem. Sports betting relies, perhaps too heavily, on the premise that everything you see is on the level. Serious players know that there is leakage in the form of umpires having “an off night” or a player having an undisclosed injury. Those are the elements bettors cannot control which they nonetheless accept as part of the game.

But having an umpire who is demonstrably, objectively, and persistently terrible at calling balls and strikes working dozens of MLB games behind the plate annually means that, basically, those games are really dangerous to put a play on. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll take their word for it:

To say nothing of the thing that MLB must be marginally terrified of, which is the potential for an umpire to place wagers on his own games through a proxy and directly control the outcome of the wagers he is making. Specifically, the starting pitcher strikeout prop is offered in almost every game.

Hernandez is probably above suspicion for Sunday night because he was so poor that no competent bad actor would make the grift so obvious. He is, however, a glaring example of why MLB has to do something about terrible umpiring. Hernandez isn’t the only bad umpire in the game today, and given what is at stake, they all have to go.

And there’s a way to do it fairly. MLB is already tracking umpire performance. We know this because they use that data to make playoff and World Series assignments, you know, like the ones Hernandez didn’t get. That data doesn’t play favorites. If you can use that data to reward good umpires, you can certainly use it to demote or outright dismiss the worst of them.

Incompetent umpiring almost surely cost plenty of bettors untold sums before sports betting was legalized online. Most of those bets were illegal, so it was hard to feel much sympathy for the losers. With sports gambling now being not only legal but prevalent, MLB cannot jeopardize its relationship with sports books and bettors by keeping the likes of Angel Hernandez on its payroll.

Uncertainty is part of the fun of sports gambling. When uncertainty devolves into sheer randomness, as it did last night, fun is no longer part of the equation.