Just a few years ago, players were actively discouraged, by both their teammates and management, from engaging with the public via social media. Today, of course, that's been completely flipped, with p.r. people encouraging players to interact with the fans, and firing off the occasional tweet's a lot easier than sitting in a mall for an hour and signing autographs.
Why the quick flip? Because management quickly realized that, allowing for a moderately restrictive policy and the occasional glitch, there was nothing to fear because -- I mean, let's be honest about this -- most players don't really have anything all that contoversial or interesting to say. Or tweet.
And then occasionally, very occasionally, something happens and we're really thrilled that baseball players have twitter accounts ...
Someone give me the definition of a coward please— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) April 28, 2013
Someone please give me the definition of accountability...— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) April 28, 2013
1. I am not a liar 2. I would not make that stuff up 3. My own dad doesn't speak to me that way 4. Again I am not a liar #accountability— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) April 28, 2013
Think our entire dugout would ERUPT cause an ump told me to throw the ball over the plate? No, I'm sorry that wouldnt happen #accountability— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) April 28, 2013
I know where my character stands...honestly that's what makes me the most mad about the situation...it's over now lets move on...#162strong— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) April 29, 2013
Now this is interaction with the fans!
A little background, in case you missed it ...
Sunday, David Price started against the White Sox in Chicago. Umpire Tom Hallion had the plate duties. Price gave up a run in the first inning, and apparently had a short, routine discussion with Hallion afterward. In the seventh inning, with two outs, Price thought he'd struck out Dewayne Wise and took a few steps toward the dugout; Hallion called the pitch a ball. If you believe PITCHf/x, that pitch was comfortably in the strike zone.
Price's next pitch was in roughly the same spot; this time Wise swung, and slapped an easy grounder to Price, who threw to first base to retire price.
As Price walked to the dugout, for real this time, Tom Hallion said something to him. Exactly what Hallion said is now a matter of some dispute. From the official report:
"The 2-2 fastball to Dewayne Wise was a perfect pitch," Price said. "I really don't know why he swung at the next one since it was in the same spot. Then I walked off the mound. I was mad at myself and I didn't say a single word to the umpire, I didn't look at him and he yells at me to 'Throw the ball over the [expletive] plate,' and that's why our dugout went nuts. They heard him say it.
"That's terrible. You don't speak to people that way. I didn't disrespect him. I went to talk with him after the first inning. I was calm. That's terrible."
A pool reporter relayed Price's comments to Hallion, who denied saying it.
"I'll come right out bluntly and say he's a liar," Hallion said to the pool reporter about Price. "I'm denying what he said I said pretty strongly. I said, 'Just throw the ball.' That's all I said to him."
When asked if Price said anything to him, Hallion said: "He might not have said anything, but he certainly gave enough body language to insinuate that he was [ticked] off."
Before the pool reporter went to the umpire's room, Price said that Hallion would be a liar if he denied it. When Hallion's postgame comments made it back to the Rays' clubhouse, the room erupted and several players shouted that the umpire was lying.
Obviously, it's not great when an umpire and a Cy Young Award winner are calling each other liars. Maybe I'm naïve, but I do think it's possible that both men are being sincere; that Price believes Hallion cursed him, and that Hallion believes that he didn't. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, people hear things that weren't actually said, or forget things that were.
Still, what's not in dispute is that Hallion said something to Price, and it's not at all clear that Hallion had any business saying anything at all. Maybe there was a time for umpires to freely engage in adversarial situations, but that time has largely passed.
My guess is that Hallion will draw a modest fine for this incident. And in the absence of an apology or some other sort of rapprochement, Hallion might not be assigned to work one of Price's starts again this season.
Everybody's hoping to find a villain here because they're just so bloody juicy. But I'm not getting my hopes up. This might all just have been one big misunderstanding!