Umpires are urged to walk away from arguments. Sometimes, that’s easier said that done. Just ask Tom Hallion and David Price.
If you’re scoring at home, plate umpire Tom Hallion seemed to be more in the wrong than David Price. On the other hand, this situation was similar to the Zack Greinke-Carlos Quentin incident. In the heat of the moment, competitive people occasionally do and say things they might regret upon reflection. And that’s how things got out of hand.
Hallion lost his cool. Then Price lost his.
Or maybe Price lost his first when he reacted from the mound to what he saw as an inconsistent strike zone.
And then Hallion responded.
After the game, it continued. Hallion ripped Price to a pool reporter. Price responded on twitter.
When the various layers are unwrapped, Hallion should not have said anything to Price as he walked off the mound.
If Price had been yapping at him from the mound, Hallion could have tossed him. But if, as Hallion said, he didn’t like Price’s body language, that’s not good enough.
Umpires are encouraged to walk away from arguments and not to be the aggressors. Regardless of whether Hallion used a profanity, he was out of line for lecturing Price in that situation.
Again, though, it’s how competitive people sometimes react. If I’m Tom Hallion, I’m reviewing video of his strike zone in that game and seeing what kind of day he had. If he did indeed have a wandering strike zone, it would not be the worst thing in the world if he telephoned Price and said as much.
After all, their paths will cross many times in the years ahead.
If Hallion felt like he had a good day behind the plate, then he ought to call Price and tell him that, too. He could say that, having had a night to sleep on it, he should have kept his mouth shut after the inning.
Likewise, Price may regret calling Hallion a “coward” even if he had just been called a liar.
It’s important to remember this stuff has been going on in Major League Baseball since the beginning. The difference is that social media has given players an unfiltered voice they never had before and that television replays pretty much let the whole world know what kind of day a plate umpire is having.
I was watching a game the other night, and on a close call on the bases, it took about three replays to see that the umpire had missed the call.
Rather than point out that it was a nearly impossible call to make, the announce yapped, “He blew the call!”
Yeah, he blew it, and it only took three high-def replays to determine that.
As a longtime student of The Earl of Baltimore, I’ve seen umpire-player/manager arguments from just about every angle. I saw Frank Robinson get tossed about 10 seconds after handing the lineup card to an umpire.
And one day, I saw Roger Clemens have the best conversation a player could have with an ump. On a day when he thought the strike zone was unreasonable, he summoned the ump for a chat.
“I’m working out here!” Clemens screamed.
“I’m working, too!” the umpire yelled back.
“Well, you’re going to have to work a little harder, or it’s going to be a short day,” Clemens answered.
“I’m giving you all I got, Roger,” the umpire answered.
It was an interesting talk. Both men had their say, and then they went about their business.
Clemens simply wasn’t going to give in. Not to the hitter. Not to the umpire.
There was a portion of the plate that belonged to him, and he was letting the umpire know he had to have those pitches.
Clemens ended up, as usual, pitching six or seven innings that day and allowing, as usual, two runs or less. His day almost ended early. In a heat of the moment, both men declined to cross a line. There’s something to be learned from them.