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MLB umpire Brian Runge fired for drug violation

Jul 2, 2013, 7:48 PM EDT

brian runge getty Getty Images

Ben Walker of the Associated Press shares this exclusive story behind Major League Baseball’s dismissal of umpire Brian Runge:

MLB announced on June 14 that Brian Runge was no longer on the staff and that a Triple-A umpire had been promoted, but didn’t give a reason. Only once since 2000 had such a change been made in midseason, and that was because of an injury.

The two people said Runge failed at least one drug test, then reached an agreement so he could remain on the umpire roster. When he failed to comply with those terms, he was released.

The Associated Press was unable to determine what drug was showing up on those tests and both MLB and the World Umpires Association have declined comment.

Runge, a 43-year-old native of San Diego, California, began umpiring in the big leagues in 1999. He took a mysterious hiatus from the job between July and September 2009 and hadn’t umpired a game this year.

Runge was behind the plate for Philip Humber’s perfect game on April 21, 2012 at Seattle’s Safeco Field and he was on the umpiring crew for the 2012 All-Star Game last July at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.

  1. thomas844 - Jul 2, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    Ha! I knew Humber’s perfect game was because of PEDs!

  2. MyTeamsAllStink - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Ok now we need to plant drugs on Joe West and Angel Hernandez

    • Caught Looking - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:04 PM

      And C.B. Bucknor

      • tigersfandan - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:08 PM

        People like to jam Bucknor in with all the others, but has he really been involved in any controversies recently?

      • Caught Looking - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:29 PM

        Really? In a 2003 Sports Illustrated survey of 550 active major league players, Bucknor was voted as the worst umpire in MLB, with 20.7% of the vote. In an updated 2006 survey, Bucknor was again voted MLB’s worst umpire, with 21% of the votes. Not sure if there has been an update to the survey recently.

        And, though not a controversy, this gem is from this season when he called Seth Davis out with two strikes:

      • tigersfandan - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:35 PM

        Bucknor isn’t the first umpire to ring someone up with two strikes and those surveys are pretty old. People can change.

      • xmatt0926x - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:05 PM

        Bucknor should be fired immediately. when you see him behind the plate you know it’s going to be one of those games with constant complaints from both dugouts, constant double-takes by stunned batters, and constant look-ins from pitchers wondering why a pitch that was a strike for the last batter is now a ball. It goes on all game. It’s maddening.

    • dondada10 - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:32 PM

      On it.

    • jeffa43 - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      We need to the plant them in a different country.

      Feel sorry for that country.

    • drone501 - Jul 3, 2013 at 8:39 AM


  3. tigersfandan - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Wow! I just figured it was an injury problem because Runge had had multiple absences that I thought were for that reason. This is sad to hear.

  4. Sideline Mob - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    Brian Runge fails a drug test and gets fired. Ryan Braun, Bartolo Colon, Melky Cabrera (and so on) fail drug tests… come on, MLB. How stilted can you get?

    • tigersfandan - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:20 PM

      To be fair, it doesn’t sound like this was a one-time thing.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:20 PM

      He wasn’t fired for failing a drug test, he was fired for failing to meet the terms of the agreement that kept him employed. Similar to how a criminal is sent back to jail after violating their parole. If Braun, Colon, or Cabrera signed an agreement stating they would participate in community service, and failed to do so, they would be in line for termination as well. Also, different crimes, different punishments. Sorry, but using PEDs is a different case from using cocaine. Just like speeding is different from wreckless driving and murder is different from manslaughter.

      • Sideline Mob - Jul 2, 2013 at 10:16 PM

        So we’re comparing Brian Runge to a criminal, and assuming he did cocaine. That’s a bit reckless. I have slightly more compassion for Runge than I do for a guy like Ryan Braun who cheats, gets caught, lies, gets off on a technicality, cheats some more, lies some more, and continues to get paid millions of dollars.

        They’re not the same case, of course. But I bet my lucky left sock that a star player like Ryan Braun will get 4000 more chances from MLB than an umpire like Runge ever will.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:00 PM

        You obviously did not comprehend my argument. I was not saying that he used cocaine and did not say he was a criminal. Cocaine was used as an example of a drug of abuse. I was merely using examples to prove my point that he wasn’t fired for using drugs, he was fired for failing to meet the terms of his agreement after failing a drug test, most likely completion of a drug diversionary or rehab program. Brian in fact, was given a second chance since he wasn’t terminated immediately. But he either would not, or could not follow up with the terms he agreed to after failing the drug test. In addition, you are comparing separate offenses when you bring in names such as Melky Cabrera into the conversation, a person who was suspended for violating a completely separate policy, with completely separate penalties. And please stop trying to insinuate that Ryan Braun or any other player has been given special treatment. MLB attempted and failed to suspend Braun once already, it’s not like they are turning a blind eye towards what he was accused of.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 3, 2013 at 7:03 AM

        Lucky Ryan Braun should get 4000 more chances since he his representatives were able to duplicate the test results in front of an arbitrator who, shockingly, is 10,000 times smarter than you.

        It’s amazing the level of ignorance you shower us with while contending that you’re the smartest guy in the room. Ironically, you’re not the smartest guy in my room, and my room includes a 2 year old Catahoula.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:21 AM

        Weiters: Unless I am missing something, he very well could have been fired for failing a drug test. If he did fail a drug test…that would most certainly result in him failing to meet the terms of the agreement that kept him employed.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jul 3, 2013 at 10:16 AM

        Second paragraph of the statement.

        “The two people said Runge failed at least one drug test, then reached an agreement so he could remain on the umpire roster. When he failed to comply with those terms, he was released.”

        Failed drug test > Reached agreement > Failed to Comply with Agreement > Released.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 3, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        I hear you Man. I just don’t think you understand my point.
        That agreement very likely included “passing random drug tests.”
        If so (and he failed one)…then he failed to comply with those terms.
        Those “terms” most likely included rehab (as you stated) or passing random drug tests (as I stated). Failing to do either (or both) would result in his dismissal.
        I am calling a tie.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jul 3, 2013 at 1:52 PM

        Ah, sorry, misunderstood you there. It’s also a possibility the terms included some sort of community service which he failed to complete. Tough to say without knowing more and at this point, we are really just speculating as to the details. Either way, as I’ve stated below, I really hope for the best for Mr. Runge. This incident has cost him his job, and injured his reputation and hopefully will be the catalyst that encourages him to get the help he needs.

    • pipkin42 - Jul 3, 2013 at 4:52 AM

      Also, and most importantly, the terms of employment for both baseball players and baseball umpires are collectively bargained. The players happen to be more integral to the sport than the umpires (and less replaceable), so their union has become/remained one of the strongest in any industry in the country. And thank God for it.

    • drone501 - Jul 3, 2013 at 8:41 AM

      it is unjust but the players are multi millionaires and no one goes to a ballgame to see an ump. but i guess it is what drug you are on. yer outta here

  5. professor30 - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Watch Bucknor do a game behind the plate and then tell us he doesn’t belong on that list.

  6. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    This is just a guess, but it sounds like his employment was contingent on completing some sort of rehab, and was unable to do so. If so, let’s hope today’s termination is the wake-up call he needs to get the help he needs.

  7. hojo20 - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    Huh? How many times did Steve Howe get second chances? Talk about double standard.

    • rbj1 - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:39 PM

      They’re tightening up.from 30 years ago. Howe died with meth in his system, never able to conquer his demons, in part because he got too many chances. Nip the problem in the bud.

  8. 13arod - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Sideline Mobbraun really didn’t fail a dry test because it got reversed

  9. moogro - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    I ain’t going to rehab for friggin weed!

    • 4d3fect - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:58 PM

      They tried to make me go to rehab but I said, ‘No, no, no.’

      • jwbiii - Jul 3, 2013 at 1:40 AM

        And you wound up on the Janis Joplin career track: Dead a few years later.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:22 AM

        Amy Winehouse?

      • 4d3fect - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:53 AM

        Who else? That’s all I could think of when I saw the reefer comment.

      • louhudson23 - Jul 3, 2013 at 3:57 PM

        Amy Winehouse was sadly unable to control her addiction to alcohol….while she had various adventures with drug use,her repettive demon was alcohol and she died with no drugs in her system …dead is dead,but drugs didn’t kill her….

      • 4d3fect - Jul 3, 2013 at 5:01 PM

        Not to nitpick since I basically agree on the particulars of Amy’s case, but I think alcohol IS a drug,

  10. banger60 - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    well, they might as well start testing the grounds crew, ball boys, bat boys, announcers etc.,

    • 4d3fect - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:29 PM

      In that case, we can look forward to the complete absence of Hawk Harrelson some time soon, no?

      • tigersfandan - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:36 PM

        Y–es! Y–es!

    • paperlions - Jul 2, 2013 at 10:02 PM

      Yes, because the effect a strung out grounds crew member can have on a game is exactly the same as an umpire.

  11. decimusprime - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    Cocaine…”You can put it on the BOOAAARRRRDD!”


  12. decimusprime - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    So you could say this ump got “Runge” up!

  13. dcarroll73 - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    So let me get this, if you’ll excuse the expression, “straight”, becoming absolutely incompetent at your job as an umpire is OK, fine (as what, maybe a half-dozen or more have proven this season by an outright lack of knowledge of the rules or an outright inability to see reality in front of them) but apparently a supposed falure of a drug test or failure to complete a “rehab” program is grounds for dismissal???? And we continue to be obsessed by this charade? Please.

    • pipkin42 - Jul 3, 2013 at 4:54 AM

      Drug addicts are vulnerable to manipulation by gamblers. Incompetents are just incompetent. A Tim Donaghy-type situation would presumably be worse PR for MLB than ongoing umperial incompetence.

  14. pizzano7416 - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    I would bet dollars to doughnuts that it was pain killers without a script.. Comes up same as Heroine on drug test being that all prescription pain killers are, are synthetically made heroine. Being an ump, can be painful, especially working behind the plate, I would bet that a Doc gave him once, liked it a little too much, and just got addicted.. I really can’t see a guy he’s age being addicted to something else that would cause him to not go thru with a program that he knew would cost him his job..

    • gloccamorra - Jul 3, 2013 at 7:42 PM

      Well, he DID have knee surgery last year and was getting “back in shape” in triple-A games this year. I can see a guy getting hooked on painkillers after serious knee surgery, especially with a job that requires you to stand and move around for hours with no sitting. In this case, though, we’re probably going to learn less about the particulars than we did about the chain of custody of Braun’s urine sample.

  15. dowhatifeellike - Jul 3, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    Can we maybe just let this one slide and fire the umps who are actually terrible at their job?

  16. junglerat524 - Jul 3, 2013 at 11:43 AM


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