It’s not yet wholly definable, but it’s there. I think anybody who has followed the Giants for the last several years can sense it, too:
This feels a little bit like the end of something for the Giants, Madison Bumgarner and this era of often repeated advanced achievement.
This golden period started in October 2010, it wasn’t going to last forever, and maybe it has ended now, in April 2017, though we shall see what the Giants can do to change the course of this in the next few months.
This feels like the cut-off point for one important idea–that the Giants’ main guys are pure, proven winners, that they might not win every year, but they won’t screw it up, not ever, that’s not who they are.
This feels like the deletion of the presumption that if Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Bruce Bochy were given a chance to match up evenly with any opponent in any major situation, the Giants’ top-line guys would win, because they had won.
Nope, not any more–when your ace crashes a dirt-bike mid-season and sprains his pitching shoulder, sending him to the disabled list indefinitely–and probably at least for a couple months, right as the Giants are falling to the bottom of the standings–that’s the finish line of something.
Maybe of a lot of things.
By the way, I’m not saying Bumgarner’s accident on Thursday necessarily signals the end of the Giants’ 2017 hopes, because we have seen teams come back from the absence of an ace before (but it’s not easy)…
I’m not saying that the Posey/Bumgarner Giants will never win another championship, because after 2010, 2012 and 2014, all of us know it’s silly to make large presumptions about what’s possible for this team (but the tide is not rising here)…
And I’m certainly not saying that Bumgarner’s career or his relationship with the Giants will inevitably sour from this point, because he has meant so much for so long, because he’s still only 27, and because if anybody can make it back from a dangerous mid-season crash, it’s Bumgarner.
Heck, he might be better than ever after he returns from this…
By all accounts, Bumgarner is feeling remorseful for this, and he should. And maybe he will speak honestly and openly about it when he meets reporters, probably early next week when the Giants return home for a series against the Dodgers–it was supposed to be Bumgarner vs. Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday, and now it’ll be Ty Blach getting that assignment.
Maybe Bumgarner will be a great pitcher for the Giants very soon again and maybe it will seem like he hardly missed a beat.
I do believe this will be the demarcation line in Bumgarner’s career:
He will have his pre-accident career, when he seemed like somebody walking or galloping out of a tall tale, riding horses in banner-raising ceremonies and hitting home runs whenever he wanted to, just because he could…
Then his post-accident career, which will be much more human and maybe fragile…
And those two sections will be viewed very differently.
Bumgarner always seemed above it all, larger than his teammates and opponents, not concerned with mortal baseball things, laughing at the idea that he was limited in any way.
And now he is just another player who exercised bad judgment at a terrible time and is costing his team dearly because of it and maybe will be less of a pitcher for a while even when he comes back.
That’s why this is the line, the Bumgarner career in two parts.
-The Invincible Mad Bum: 218 starts, 100 regular-season victories, career 2.99 ERA, and three World Series titles before April 20, 2017…
-Bumgarner After the Accident: Whatever comes next, maybe some great things, but it won’t be the same thing.
Bumgarner is younger and has accomplished more than Jeff Kent was when Kent’s motorcycle accident in the spring of 2002 caused so much anxiety…
But Kent was just a year removed from winning the MVP, had a good 2002, and that accident probably was the start of his departure.
Bumgarner is a much more valuable and iconic figure than Monta Ellis ever was for the Warriors…
But Ellis’s scooter crash in 2008 (when Ellis was only 22) was the fault line for his once-promising Warriors career… and maybe even his NBA career.
So we don’t know how this will turn out for Bumgarner and the Giants in this season, and in the coming seasons, and how it might affect future contract talks and his career as a whole.
This incident has similar overtones to Posey’s devastating home-plate injury in 2011, which ruined the Giants’ chances of defending their 2010 title… and the Giants still rallied back and won the title in 2012 and 2014.
But Posey was 24 in 2011, Bumgarner was 21, and there was so much possible left for them both, even after Posey’s leg and ankle were torn up.
Back then, Bochy also hadn’t experienced the heart issues he has had recently, including earlier this week.
This is different.
I’m not saying the Giants’ championship window has closed, because they still have many good players, lots of revenue, and the will to compete every year.
And you can’t quite comfortably predict the closing of a window that nobody ever predicted would open the way it did in October 2010.
The Giants will never have another pitcher like Madison Bumgarner, another player they could count on like they counted on Bumgarner.
That was special. That was an amazing era, and he was an amazing player, Paul Bunyan pitching for the Giants every fifth day.
And it feels like that is over now, wiped out by a slippery patch, a dirt bike, and everything scrambled and bruised that will happen from there.