CHICAGO — Sunday should have been a day of relief and celebration for Rays ace David Price, as he got his first win of the season after the Rays made an inspired comeback and finally got a few breaks in an 8-3 victory over the White Sox.
But instead it ended in controversy and a he-said/he-said exchange of accusations of lying, Price claiming umpire Tom Hallion cursed him and Hallion denying it, and with Price later continuing his diatribe on his Twitter account:
"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"
According to Price, he was walking off the field after the seventh inning of what was then a 3-3 game when Hallion — with no provocation — "yells at me to throw the ball over the f-ing plate."
Hallion, informed by a pool reporter of Price's accusation, denied adamantly that he used a curse word.
"I'll come right out bluntly and say he's a liar," Hallion said, voice raised. "I'm denying what he said I said, pretty strongly. … I'm just telling you, he's lying. It's plain and simple."
And Price responded to that denial by maintaining that Hallion was the one lying, and pointed to the reaction of his teammates — including the unlikely ejection of normally mild-mannered Jeremy Hellickson — as proof.
"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," Price said. "Something has to be done about that, and that's why I told you guys (the media).
"That's terrible. If my own dad doesn't speak to me that way, some frickin' umpire's not going to speak to me that way."
The incident took place one pitch after Price threw what he said was a "perfect" 1-and-2 pitch to Dewayne Wise that Hallion called a ball. Wise grounded out on the next pitch.
Price walked off the field with head down, seemingly keeping any frustration to himself, and was surprised when he said Hallion approached and then yelled, and cursed, at him.
"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," Price said. "That's absolutely terrible. You don't speak to people that way. I didn't disrespect him."
Hallion, the crew chief with 20-plus years of umpiring experience, in 1999 was suspended three games for bumping a player.
He confirmed that Price didn't address him, which raises the significant question why he said anything — curse words or otherwise — to Price.
"He might not have said anything but he certainly gave enough body language to insinuate that he was" angry, Hallion explained.
And what did he say?
"I said, 'Just throw the ball.' That's all I said to him," Hallion said.
Several Rays who were in the dugout confirmed Price's version of the events, though they wouldn't do so with their names attached, likely out of concern of retribution from other umpires. Manager Joe Maddon, who joked about Hellickson getting ejected, didn't mention the controversy in his postgame comments.
Hellickson came the closest.
"I saw David walk off the mound and I think the umpire cussed at him first. I don't think anybody in the dugout agreed with that and let him know that," Hellickson said.
"I heard an F-bomb, I think."
MLB officials were already aware of the incident by Sunday night and will look into it, though discipline against umpires is often — but not always — handled internally.
For what it's worth, Price — who is an intense competitor but also one of the game's most gregarious stars — said he wasn't aware of any history with Hallion: "I don't even know his name."
Hellickson admitted he may have taken the fall for the team in being ejected since so many players, including Matt Moore and the other starters, were upset, that the coaches told him to head up to the clubhouse. Also, that Alex Cobb said he'd pick up any fine.
"It could have been any one of us," Hellickson said.
Hallion's explanation of the ejection:
"He was told to knock it off," he said. "Him and Morse (Moore) were at the dugout rail and I told them to knock it off, and he thought it was okay for him to have his final comment, at which time he was ejected."