Brian Sabean said something in the postgame reception – “This team is our Camelot.” These players – there aren’t many left from the heyday of 2010, and only not much more from the utter dominance of 2012, but the core is still present: Pablo Sandoval, the third baseman who seemingly can’t make an out in October and who now holds the record for the most hits in the postseason; Buster Posey, the embattled catcher who nonetheless now has three rings to his credit as the backstop and leader of his team; Jeremy Affeldt, who now has a ring for each one of his kids, who pitched one of his longest outings of the season tonight, and who gave an interview for the ages (seriously, if you didn’t see it, go watch); Tim Lincecum, the one-time ace relegated to bullpen mop-up duties, but who accepts his role, if grudgingly, then willingly.
And Madison Bumgarner stands above them all.
Let’s forestall the talk of the greatest postseason pitching performance ever. There’s been over a hundred years of World Series, of championships and wild cards, and we’ve seen some fantastic pitching legends doing their best in the cold winds of October. Mathewson, Ruth (yes, that Ruth), Ford, Larsen, Gibson, Hershieser, Koufax, Morris, Maddux, Clemens, Johnson, Schilling, Beckett…the list could go on. Every team has their ace.
Bumgarner, though, invites that discussion. He now holds the record for most innings pitched in one postseason, and that’s without having to go twice in the NLCS.His World Series ERA is the lowest of all-time (ALL TIME), and he is now 5-0 in the World Series, all before turning 26 years old. Yes, the win has become a devalued stat in recent years, but in a short postseason series, I personally feel that it’s a rather telling indicator of excellence, especially when accumulated over time. In the Giants’ postseasons (2010, 2012, and 2014), he is 8-3, with 5 of those victories coming in meaningful performances in the final round. That’s special.
He has transitioned from a third to fourth option behind Lincecum, Cain, and (for a time) Zito into the dominant rotation starter that he is today. He is a home grown pitcher under contract with the Giants for three more years, with two team options at remarkably reasonable prices under $15 million. He’s not going anywhere.
And neither are the Giants, for that matter. Hunter Pence has a contract. Posey has a megadeal of his own and will only get better. Remember, he and Bumgarner are the rookie faces of that 2010 team. Pablo Sandoval may have very well played his last game as a member of the Giants, but players like the Brandons – Belt and Crawford – continually emerge – rookie Joe Panik, looks like the latest keeper who’ll be around for years to come. The Giants are going to be players as long as future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy sits at the helm. In the meantime, their legacy as the first real dynasty of the century is cemented.
Let us not take away from what the Royals did this year. They defied the odds at every turn. They are also a team that won’t be going anywhere, though their heights might not be as high as the Giants. They’ll have to deal with the likely loss of James Shields. Sustaining such momentum is nigh impossible from year to year – look at what happened to the Colorado Rockies in 2008. It’s a challenge, for sure, but one that this core might/should be able to handle.
Nevertheless, this is Madison Bumgarner’s hour. This is the hour of San Francisco, a time when Giants walk the earth once more. Coming out of relief in Game Seven, no one knew what to expect from MadBum, coming off of his Game Five shutout. To say that he could go two innings of 1 hit ball would have been charitable. To go five innings of scoreless ball? It boggles the mind. It’s no secret that I was pulling for the Royals – I’ve been counting down their wins to go all postseason long. I think that my covering the postseason all the more closely this year for the Recorder has only served to bolster that investment this year. Consequently, Game Seven hit hard – at one point, I might have put the fear of god into my poor roommate by ripping a book in half. (To be fair, it was one of Ian Fleming’s lesser James Bond works, so nothing was lost to the world.)
Bumgarner was just untouchable. Just – nothing worked. Nothing at all. When he was at his weakest, serving up a lead-off hit to Omar Infante, the Royals bunted themselves into failure, giving up their hottest hitter in favor of a batter, Nori Aoki, who was just 1-16 against MadBum lifetime. Now, he’s 1-18. History repeats itself.
There’s no key moment where this game turned. Just the slowly inevitable tide that was Madison Bumgarner, walking out of the bullpen and into legend. A Giant walking the earth.
Congrats to the winners, condolences to the losers, yada yada yada, the real winner here is Bumgarner. And those of us who bore witness.
Long live baseball.