Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner — he of the greatest postseason run known to mankind, who wore blue jeans and brought a pocketknife to his wedding, and who, before he got together with his wife, Ali, once dated a girl named Madison Bumgarner — has set his sights on accomplishing something that would further cement his status as one of baseball’s most fascinating figures: He wants to compete in the 2016 Home Run Derby.
For those who haven’t followed the news closely, this might seem like a funny development: Bumgarner is a pitcher! Surely he wouldn’t stand a chance! But here’s the thing: MadBum can hit bombs. He’s smacked 11 homers in his past 190 plate appearances, a clip that places him in the elite company of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, and they haven’t been cheapies, either. Consider his blast against the Dodgers on April 9, when Bumgarner connected with a pitch from Clayton Kershaw (his second career homer off the three-time NL Cy Young winner) and promptly launched it into the sun:
Now Bumgarner, who has 13 career home runs, is campaigning to take part in the derby, where he could prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is every bit the masher as the most prolific power hitters in the game. He expressed this desire to ESPN’s Buster Olney before last Sunday night’s game against the Cardinals, and he reiterated it to a group of reporters this week.
From a fan’s perspective, this is a no-brainer. Of course this should happen. The same guy who once rescued a baby jackrabbit from inside a rattlesnake wants to prove he is awesome at something else; who says no?
His bosses, apparently, and that’s the problem. The Giants, in all of their insufferable practicality, are reluctant to allow Bumgarner to enter out of fear he could get hurt. “Your initial feelings are to keep him out of it because I know how competitive he is and how hard he’ll swing,” manager Bruce Bochy said, “but at the same time I think it’ll create interest with fans getting to watch one of the best pitchers in the game swing the bat.”
At the same time? Might there still be hope? In case Bochy and vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean are still mulling it over, consider this a formal plea: Dear Giants, please (please!) let MadBum rake.
Before we go further, it’s important to note that this stance is completely understandable. It’s the type of smart, prudent, level-headed choice a franchise that wins the World Series every even-numbered year makes. It’s the Right Thing To Do; it values the long-term interests of the franchise over the wants of any one player, and that’s how efficient organizations operate.
On the flip side: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Bumgarner wants to show that he can out-slug Giancarlo Stanton or Nelson Cruz or Yoenis Céspedes (or potentially all of those players) and he might not be allowed to do it? If San Francisco ultimately keeps MadBum from competing, I wish every important decision-maker on its staff a lifetime of pop-up ads and crowded elevators and getting stuck behind indecisive people in the Starbucks line.
Major League Baseball has screwed up every All-Star-related move since the game ended in a 7–7 tie in 2002, after both sides ran out of available pitchers. Now there could be a genuine cause for excitement, and it might get shot down? Come on.
Do the right thing, Giants. Don’t let pragmatism get in the way. Make Baseball Fun Again, and let this guy hit dingers.
An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that Madison Bumgarner has hit 11 home runs in his previous 190 at-bats; in fact, he has hit 11 homers in his previous 190 plate appearances.