Here’s the thing about Madison Bumgarner: He is a delight.
I’m biased, sure. He throws and grumbles and snot-rockets and — oh, yes — hits in the colors of the team I root for; I want him to help the Giants win so that I have something to do in October. But this much, I think, is indisputable, no matter your allegiance: The San Francisco pitcher, who took a perfect game into the sixth inning of his Opening Day start against the Diamondbacks while also belting two home runs — as in one home run, and then later another one — is an absolute joy to watch.
His first homer topped out at 112.5 miles per hour, making it the hardest-hit home run by a pitcher in the Statcast era, a list on which he now holds the top four entries. This is a cartoonishly absurd feat: Since 2008, only one other pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, has hit two home runs in the same game. Imagine being this good at humiliating your colleagues.
When he repeated the feat two innings after hitting his first homer, it prompted such hooting and hollering in the ESPN booth that Dallas Braden paused and asked, “We can be fans in the booth, can’t we?”
Yes, we can be: You do not have to root for the Giants to root for their ace in all of his strange, occasionally terrifying glory. So let’s consider Madison Bumgarner, who is at this moment the league leader in both home runs and strikeouts, after fanning 11 Diamondbacks.
Madison Bumgarner, who before the 2014 World Series parade reportedly responded to an offer by the San Francisco Police Department to tell them if there was anything he needed by saying, “Anything? How ’bout you letting me ride one of them horses in the parade?”
Madison Bumgarner, who days before that parade had said he was willing to throw “maybe 200” pitches before coming out in relief in Game 7 of the World Series and nailing the whole thing down.
Madison Bumgarner, who in the Giants’ 2015 home opener finally did get to ride a horse around AT&T Park.
Madison Bumgarner, who noticed a camera straining to get a look at him after home run no. 2 on Sunday and winked at it:
Madison Bumgarner, whose idea of a brand endorsement is leveling a tree, who complains about coaching decisions when they mean he might have to come out of a game he feels he’s not quite done with, who had to be told he couldn’t compete in the 2016 Home Run Derby.
Maybe he should have been allowed to, based on the unparalleled feat he managed on Sunday, becoming the first pitcher in Major League history to hit two home runs on Opening Day. Even though the Giants lost 6–5, Bumgarner’s day was unlikely and beautiful and maybe just a little bit cruel to his fellow pitchers, who have been treated to a warning shot, a reminder that they are staring down the barrel of 30-odd MadBum starts over the next six months. But most of all, it was just plain old delightful.