Major League Baseball suspended umpire Mike Winters without pay for the remainder of the regular season Wednesday for the umpire's conduct during a heated Sunday confrontation with San Diego Padres outfielder Milton Bradley that closed with the volatile player suffering a season-ending knee injury.
"The umpire's role is to defuse, not escalate, a situation, and that wasn't done," said a baseball official who requested anonymity because Winters' behavior was investigated internally as a personnel matter.
Mike Port, baseball's vice president of umpires, personally investigated the case, a baseball source said, with interviews conducted with Winters, Bradley, Padres first base coach Bobby Meacham and Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who overheard the heated argument.
A baseball official said Port and other baseball executives concluded that Winters, 48, used derogatory language in the confrontation with Bradley.
On Sunday, Meacham called Winters' comments toward Bradley the "most disconcerting" he had heard from an umpire to a player in his 26 years in the game. Meacham urged Winters to apologize to Bradley.
Sandy Alderson, the Padres' chief executive, who directed umpires in his former post as an MLB vice president, told MLB.com, "We're pleased MLB investigated the matter, but I have no comment on the decision."
Said Padres Manager Bud Black: "I'm glad that this didn't continue on where there had to be further questioning of anybody in uniform or any other staff members or players. It was handled in a way by the commissioner's office that I think was good overall for everybody involved."
The argument was preceded by Bradley's plate appearance in the eighth inning, when he was told by plate umpire Brian Runge that someone in his crew had told Runge that Bradley had flipped his bat toward the umpire after striking out in his previous at-bat.
Bradley then singled and proceeded at first base to ask Winters whether the umpire had indeed told Runge about the bat flip. Winters said he had and then instigated a lengthy argument that stopped the game once. A fan then heckled Winters, Bradley said he affirmed the fan's criticism, and Winters then reportedly called Bradley a profane derogatory phrase that caused the player to call time and charge toward the umpire.
"We know our job is to not make things worse," National Assn. of Sports Officials President Barry Mano said this week, before Winters' discipline was announced. "Pouring gasoline on the fire is not something we can do."
Bradley, 29, who had previously engaged in heated arguments with Cleveland Indians Manager Eric Wedge and Dodgers fans when he played for those teams in 2003 and 2004, respectively, was held back by Meacham and then by Black. As Bradley struggled to free himself from Black's hold, his right knee twisted badly, and an examination found he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
Winters was disciplined, a baseball official said, because "of the way he handled the situation."
Winters has been a major league umpire since 1990 and has worked two World Series.
MLB.com reported that Winters' crew is scheduled to work the season-ending four-game series between the Padres and host Milwaukee Brewers beginning tonight.
Times staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.