David Price Confrontation Proves It's Time Bud Selig Gets Umpires Under Control

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2013

For years, major league umpires have operated under the misguided belief that they are bigger than the game itself.

After an ugly incident involving home plate umpire Tom Hallion and Tampa Bay ace David Price this past weekend, the time has come for MLB commissioner Bud Selig to bring that practice to an end.

Hallion, calling balls and strikes in the series finale between the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, allegedly swore at Price after the seventh inning had come to an end and then ejected his teammate Jeremy Hellickson.

Price was upset after Hallion didn't call a strike on a 1-2 pitch to batter Dewayne Wise.

I'm not a major league umpire—I've never called balls and strikes for anything other than intramural softball in college—but you don't need years of experience to know that a pitch over the plate must be called a strike.

To his credit, Price never said a word to Hallion after the blown call. Heck, he didn't even look at Hallion as he walked off the field after retiring Wise on a ground ball on the following pitch.

But Hallion had words for him, supposedly cursing at Price, as Price told reporters after the game (via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times):

(Hallion) yells at me to throw the ball over the f-ing plate. ... I didn't say one word to him, I didn't even look at him. (The other Rays) said he stared me down the entire way into the dugout. That's absolutely terrible. You don't speak to people that way. I didn't disrespect him.

Upon being told of Price's comments, Hallion, who allowed his supersized ego to speak on his behalf following the game, didn't mince words:

I said, "Just throw the ball." That's all I said to him. ... I'll come right out bluntly and say he's a liar. I'm denying what he said I said pretty strongly. ... I'm just telling you, he's lying. It's plain and simple.

At that point, Price had heard enough:

Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore took to Twitter to defend their friend and fellow rotation-mate.

If this was merely a case of he-said, she-said, then perhaps I wouldn't be so quick to chastise Hallion for the incident. But with multiple players contending that they heard the same thing, it's difficult to believe Hallion's version of events, something that wasn't lost on Price:

I don't know what he thinks he heard, you can ask anybody that was sitting in the dugout and they all erupted as they should have when you hear an umpire speak to a player that way. Something has to be done about that, and that's why I told you guys (the media).

If all of this wasn't ridiculous enough for you, consider this quote from Hallion as he feebly attempted to defend his actions:

"He might not have said anything, but he certainly gave enough body language to insinuate that he was (angry)."

By Hallion's rules, a player doesn't have to actually engage an umpire in a heated conversation to run the risk of being ejected. Merely looking perturbed as you walk off the field is cause enough for a player to be removed from the game.

It's not as if Price flipped Hallion the bird as he walked toward the dugout.

Perhaps Hallion, a 20-year veteran suspended for three games without pay back in 1999 for bumping a player (and a coach), needs to find another line of work. Clearly, his mind-reading abilities are being sorely under-utilized in his current role as a major league umpire.

What is certain is this: Bud Selig, along with Peter Woodfork, MLB's senior vice president of baseball operations, must take swift, decisive action to nip this in the bud.

If an umpire can toss a player for merely looking angry, what's next?

Umpires tossing players for angrily spitting sunflower seeds in the dugout? CC Sabathia getting tossed from a game because the home plate umpire didn't like the way that he threw the rosin bag down on the mound?

Selig and company must put Hallion and his fellow umpires in their place, making it crystal clear that, while they may play an integral role in the game, umpires are not bigger than the game itself.

Per the Tampa Bay Times, MLB is looking into the incident. The investigation could have far-reaching ramifications not only on the way umpires conduct themselves on the field, but on the way that players utilize social media.

Whatever the fallout, this isn't the first time we've seen umpires act irrationally—but it should be the last.

MLB has plenty of on-field microphones that certainly picked up the exchange, and the truth will come out—although we will likely never hear the recordings.

Someone's lying—and lying, much like crying, has no place in baseball.