Here's a twist: An umpire has been suspended for bumping a player.
Tom Hallion was suspended for three games without pay by NL president Len Coleman on Friday for his actions during an argument with Colorado catcher Jeff Reed and pitching coach Milt May last weekend.
While penalties against players are common, baseball officials couldn't recall another suspension of an umpire for an on-field dispute. But they also could not rule out that it happened before.
In 1990, NL president Bill White was prepared to suspend umpire Joe West for slamming Philadelphia pitcher Dennis Cook to the field, but commissioner Fay Vincent intervened and no discipline was imposed.
The dispute Saturday began when Rockies pitcher Mike DeJean, while walking to his dugout after an inning, complained to third base umpire Terry Tata about a check-swing call. Hallion, who was working at home plate during the game in San Diego, told DeJean to get in the dugout.
DeJean said he told Hallion he was going to the dugout. At that point, DeJean and manager Jim Leyland were ejected. During the ensuing argument, it appeared Hallion made contact with Reed and May, a charge Tata denied after the game on Hallion's behalf.
No Rockies were penalized. Hallion, in his 14th NL season, stands to lose about $2,500 of his salary, which is $140,000 according to the salary scale in the umpires' labor agreement. The suspension is scheduled to start July 9.
Hallion declined comment Friday as he walked into the ballpark at Cincinnati before a game between the Houston Astros and the Reds.
"Tom did nothing on the field that day which would warrant the imposition of a sanction of any kind," umpires union head Richie Phillips said in a statement.
"If any discipline was warranted, it should have been levied against the pitcher, catcher and manager who incited the situation, physically and verbally threatened the umpire and flaunted the umpire's authority."
Umpires contended the penalty resulted from internal politics in baseball. Commissioner Bud Selig wants to switch authority over umpires next year from the leagues to Sandy Alderson, an executive vice president in the commissioner's office.
"There's been some concern that umpires are out of control, which were sentiments by Bud Selig and Sandy Alderson, and I think Len is falling into that trap," umpires president Jerry Crawford said.
Phillips took a similar view, saying the suspension was "nothing more than an act of expediency designed to pander to the people in baseball calling for the centralization of control of umpires."
Hallion is appealing the penalty, but a hearing before Coleman has not been scheduled. When players are suspended for on-field disputes, league presidents also hear the appeals.
"We probably will be wasting our time," Crawford said.
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