Blog Entry

Brian Runge - take an (unpaid) two week vacation

Posted on: June 25, 2008 9:32 am

Anyone who saw the Mets game last night (11-0 loss to Mariners) saw several things that should raise a few eyebrows.

And I am not talking only about the Mets stinking up the joint, because while the magnitude of the egg they laid yesterday was surprising, the fact that they were much less than impressive was not.

I'm talking about Brian Runge instigating an event that led to both Jerry Manuel and Carlos Beltran getting ejected.  Now I know that the guys calling balls and strikes this year have generally speaking been less than perfect, but shall we cut to the chase and admit that balls and strikes have been called particularly horrendously this year?  Look at any game where they have an over the plate camera and you will see at least a half dozen strikes called on pitches significantly off the plate inside or outside.  Not to mention that other guys have these postage stamp strike zones that a guy needs to be able to hit a gnat's butt at 60 feet 6 inches to be able to get near. 

It's bad enough that these guys can't call balls and strikes to save their lives (not all, but many suffer this disease), but at least most are consistent and have enough of a track record that both hitters and pitchers know what to expect.  But when certain guys get called out on their inconsistency, they act like spolied little children, take the mask off, get in a player's face, and basically lose all dignity whatsoever.  And then they toss whosoever has the gall to point out that they are having a bad night.

I know that arguing balls and strikes will get you tossed, but both hitters and catchers make comments every at bat, and it seems to go by so long as the player's actions cannot be interpreted as showing up the umpire.

So what did we have last night.  Carlos Beltran takes a couple of borderline pitches for strikes, the second of which if you go to any of the "Gamechannel-like" pitching grids shows you that the ball was inside.  BTW: have you ever seen some of the balls and strikes that are called on that pitching grid and how, if they are reasonably accurate, umpires generally miss several calls each and every inning?  I am sure that is why stopped even putting the strike zone on the grid anymore, since it pointed out the massive inconsistency in the strike zone.  But teh umpire's union blew a gasket on that one.

But I digress.  So after the second call, Beltran turns his head and says a couple of things, but does not gesture, or lose his temper, or anything.  And what does this clown Runge do?  All of a sudden, the plate needs to be cleaned (probably explains why his previous call was so poor), and walks around, takes off the mask, and cleans the plate - all the while barking at Beltran.

This brings Jerry Manuel out of the dugout, and they get into it.  Next thing you know, Runge INTENTIONALLY thursts his chest into Manuel and tosses him for making contact.  That is among the most pathetic examples of an umpire losing his professionalism I have ever seen.  In fact, the only one it rivals to me is Mike Winters baiting Milton Bradley last year, which through a series of unfortunate events led to Bradley tearing up his knee.

Last time I checked, no one came to the ballpark to see the umpires (with all apologies to Mrs. Runge, if there is one).  Any time you actually notice the umpires at a game, it's usually because they screw something up.  But that's a part of baseball.  They are human, and it happens.

But what Brian Runge did last night went way beyond the line of acceptable professionalism for umpires, just like Mike Winters last year.  Winters got suspended for the rest of the season, and while it really was about a 2 week penalty (it occurred at the end of the year), Winters missed out on umpiring in the playoffs.  Runge should get at least that much time off, in my opinion.  Even though bumping the umpire usually only leads to a suspension of 1 or a few games, umpires should be held to a higher standard.  There is no way that an umpire should be able tocreate a situation that results in players and/or managers getting booted out of a game.  When they do, they should pay a very heavy price.

It is interesting to note that Winters was the first umpire suspended since 2003.  I think in a way that is a testament to the professionalism of the vast majority of umpires.  But this umpire was an embarrassment last night, and deserves a nice vacation.  How about two weeks, without pay, of course, since he picked up a paycheck he didn't earn last night.


Since: Sep 25, 2007
Posted on: June 29, 2008 10:27 pm

Brian Runge - take an (unpaid) two week vacation


Thanks for the comments and the post.  I agree with you about what a thankless job it is, and also about how when guys have vapor lock moments like Runge, they should be on a short leash for a while afterwards.

That being said, Runge apparently at least manned up enough to apologize to Jerry Manuel the next day.  With that, and the 1 game off he got, I'm pretty satisfied.  I don't know whether or not he has a rep as being a hothead, but everyone is going to be looking at his work a bit more closely now.

Since: Apr 4, 2008
Posted on: June 27, 2008 7:25 pm

Brian Runge - take an (unpaid) two week vacation

I've worked as an umpire for close to 15 years now as a part time summer job, primarily kids from 10-18.  It is a very underappreciated profession and at every level below the major leagues, underpaid as well.  A good day at work is to go unnoticed.  Once in a great while a coach will come to you after the game and say "great job, blue",   That being said, Runge is one of the fortunate 70-75 umpires in America that gets paid handsomely for umpiring games and with hundreds if not thousands of umpires doing minor league games waiting in the wings, his behavior is totally unacceptable and I think umpires who have multiple episodes such as Runge, should get the boot, because there are plenty of good candidates that can take his place.    

Nice blog by the way

Since: Jan 24, 2008
Posted on: June 25, 2008 4:48 pm

Brian Runge - take an (unpaid) two week vacation

I think you're absolutely right on every count. I remember watching the Milton Bradley situation live, and how Mike Winters disgraced himself and his profession by his actions. This wasn't far from it.

Since: Sep 25, 2007
Posted on: June 25, 2008 2:58 pm

Brian Runge - take an (unpaid) two week vacation


I agree with you that it is a thankless job that only seems to get noticed when they make a mistake and never seem to get enough praise when then (generally) do a great job getting the calls right.

But that being said, I just can't explain away Runge's actions last night or Winters' actions last Fall.  The NBA dealt with the same thing last year with Joey Crawford's actions towards Tim Duncan.  MLB cannot just let it slide because much more often than not, it is a player that gets jobbed by an ump rather than the other way around.  Sure, the players are probably forever complaining, and maybe Runge had had enough.  But he clearly escalated the situation AND then took it to a level where 2 ejections were made BY HIM.

No excuse for it.  If you don't like Beltran's yapping, tell him to knock it off without taking your mask off.  That happens all the time.  Don't do what he did.  Why do you think Manuel came storming out of the dugout?  Runge CLEARLY crossed the line and Manuel had to protect his player.  Then Runge intentionally bumped Manuel in order to give him a clear excuse to run him AND presumably to increase Jerry's suspension.  That is mean-spirited, petty, and totally unprofessional.  My opinion, anyway.

Since: Jan 24, 2008
Posted on: June 25, 2008 12:34 pm

Brian Runge - take an (unpaid) two week vacation

Umps are going to continue to be one of those "sad stories" in baseball because it's just one of those positions that is never praised for when a tough, good call, is made, and ridiculed to death when an equally tough call is blown. It's constantly a tightrope, and I can't think of many people who would hold up well on a job like that for 6 months, let alone 30+ years. Think about it.

I would never condone an umpire jumping out of his bounds because of this, but they have to find a better way of dealing with it. And us as fans and contributors to the game need to be more respectful, I'm looking at you Royals fans, I know they blew it on the Mike Aviles AB, but your team still won. What happened was still not necessary.

Since: Sep 25, 2007
Posted on: June 25, 2008 12:05 pm

Brian Runge - take an (unpaid) two week vacation


Great point, and thanks for bringing up that it was on ESPN.  Hopefully this will be enough of an issue that MLB takes a look at it.

I have no qualms with an umpire being a showman, so long as they do it in such a way that it doesn't even potentially impact the outcome of the game.  Make a big out or safe call if you like, but get the call right.

What Runge did last night was an embarrassment, and if a player or manager had done the same thing they'd be taking a break.  The difference, however, is that the Mets lost their manager and their #3 hitter.  You'd like to think that might have made a difference in a game even if it wouldn't have made a difference in yesterday's game unless Beltran went on to drive in a dozen runs (LOL).

Anyway, umpires should be heard and not seen.  Runge broke that cardinal rule, and should have to pay for it.

Since: Jun 4, 2008
Posted on: June 25, 2008 11:19 am

Brian Runge - take an (unpaid) two week vacation

I haven't gotten to see the clip of what happened yet but if ESPN thinks it was bad enough to list among the highlights of the sports day it must have been pretty out of line.  I mentioned this on another blog recently that I think umpires feel they are part of the show now which relates to the inconsistencies we see now.  My complaint was about ties not going to the runner so the umpire can do some over-exaggerated out call to get on Sportscenter.  However, the sporadic and often times small strike zones in recent times has inflated offensive numbers and given a lot of pitchers(outside the Madduxs' et al.) not a lot of room to work against hitters.

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