Over the offseason, you had to wonder if Madison Bumgarner was getting a little too much hype. Sure, he'd done a lot of amazing things before he turned 25, but were we expecting too much? Then he goes out and throws for 412 yards and three touchdo…
Wait. Hold on.
Sorry, sorry. No, this game was more above Angel Pagan, the heart and soul of the Giants, even if you didn't realize it at the time. Now that he's back from injury and at full strength, he gives the Giants an added dimension. Even though he didn't get to Rodgers today, he still plugged the middle and made it hard for …
Okay, I'll fess up. I watched two professional sporting events at the same time, and only one of them had playoff implications. That makes it hard to wax rhapsodic about the other one.
But I'm going to ask you to do some work with your imagination. You might go into a dark spot with this one, but I'll take you out on the other side, I promise.
The first thing I'm going to ask you to do is pretend the Giants have been continually awful since 2008. No transcendent pitching in 2009. No championship runs in 2010 and 2012. Just pretend that the over 500 combined at-bats from Eugenio Velez and Emmanuel Burriss in '08 was more of a rule than the exception. Pretend this year was more of the same instead of a disappointing step back.
What would you look at in a meaningless September game? What would make you excited for 2014 as if it were going to be different?
A 24-year-old pitching prospect proving he belongs, for one. That would be the highlight of your season. And Madison Bumgarner just turned 24, so it's absolutely appropriate to take a second every month or so and think of him as if he were a prospect. Then take another second to just lauuuuugh and lauuuuugh. Because he's not a prospect. He's a fully formed pitcher with an already impressive career, yet he a) still has room for improvement, and b) will be on the Giants for a very, very long time.
I'll flesh this idea out more in the offseason, but who would you rather have if you're the Giants: Bumgarner or Clayton Kershaw? The latter is the best pitcher in baseball, and he's close to the same age as Bumgarner, so he's clearly the better option if all things are equal. But he's a free agent after the 2014 season. So if he's still with the Dodgers beyond then, he'll have a scary contract. Not that they care, but pretend they do. He'll have the kind of contract that's hard to hate because the player is so good, but hard to love because it's for so much, for so long. Buster Posey has the same kind of deal.
Bumgarner, on the other hand, is guaranteed just over $32 million over the next four years. Then there are two options after that. And you like him more than Kershaw. Just look at the big lug.
So as much as you want to bemoan the fate of the 2013 Giants -- and, please, bemoan away -- don't forget that we don't have to wishcast on some hot new prospects to get our pipe-dream kicks. We already have a guy. And he's pretty special.
The second thing that I'll ask you to pretend is that Buster Posey doesn't exist. Now this one ... wait, put the cat down ... close the window ... put the cat ... good god, man, this is a hypothetical scenario ...
In this horrible, unfortunate scenario, I'd be pretty excited about Hector Sanchez right now. The defense is rough, yes. And that's charitable. But he's been calling a good game, and since coming back from his shoulder injury, he's been hot. He's a 24-year-old catcher hitting .281/.346/.396 while playing half his game in an extreme pitcher's park. Small samples, yes, but he was also walking in his limited time at Fresno. Maybe he's not a known quantity just yet. Maybe there's room for growth in the areas we figured were lost causes, like his defense and plate discipline.
If the Giants were a perennially bad team without Buster Posey, we'd be looking at a game like Sunday's and thinking, okay, yeah, here's a glimmer of hope.
Except the Giants also have Buster Posey. And Madison Bumgarner. Once you return from the hypothetical abyss, you realize that everything might not be as miserable as we've been pretending. There are still some things right with this team in a season that's gone completely wrong. And I'm thinking the pass rush is just going to get better and better and ...
Sorry. But it was an encouraging win. Everytime Bumgarner pitches this well, it's encouraging. Because he's going to be a Giant for a long, long time. Even in a bummer of a season, that's going to warm the cockles of your heart.