Madison Bumgarner wants to be in the 2016 Home Run Derby. He's not entertaining the idea or musing about the possibility. He's actively lobbying to be in the danged thing.
And right now, the guy most capable of generating interest and viewer eyes is volunteering -- flat-out lobbying -- to be in the Home Run Derby, soliciting votes like a presidential candidate. Before Bumgarner’s round, he walked over, pointed at me and said, "I need you to get me into the Derby."
"I need you to get me into the Derby." It's like he's making pruno and negotiating for sugar cubes. Well, the heart wants what it wants, and Bumgarner has the dinger bug bad. Good for him.
The odds are still against him, though. From Bovada:
Will Madison Bumgarner be in the 2016 Home Run Derby?
Yes +1000 (10/1)
No -2500 (1/25)
I would probably take those odds at this point, but it's never wise to pretend you can outsmart the bookmakers. There's still a limited chance that Bumgarner actually gets in.
The argument for Madison Bumgarner in the 2016 Home Run Derby:
But what's the argument against? Is there a valid reason to deny America, nay, the world this kind of majesty?
Maybe. We'll check.
He's not a hitter, he's a novelty
Translation: "OUR BRANDON INGE DERBY MEMORIES ARE PRECIOUS." There were eight hitters in last year's Home Run Derby. Can you name any of them other than Todd Frazier? Heck, we'll Sporcle it. Name all of the Derby participants from the last decade:
If you don't want to take the quiz, just click finish. Hello, there, random names from the past. You don't remember Rickie Weeks in the Home Run Derby. Rickie Weeks just took this quiz and called his brother to ask him if it was correct.
Everyone would remember Madison Bumgarner, though. Everyone. Forever and ever and ever. So while I don't think Bumgarner would out-hit Mark Reynolds over a full season in the field, I'm pretty sure he's a mighty fine peer against batting practice fastballs. Sometimes novelties are rad.
He can get hurt
If you believe this, that the risk isn't worth the reward, you're arguing against batting practice in general. If there's any kind of substantial risk that comes with batting practice, any at all, the Giants would be nuts to let Bumgarner take it every day. They need his arm desperately, and they'd be utterly hosed without it. Why risk that for the reward of improved offense every fifth day for three or four at-bats?
Because ... it's batting practice?
I went to the batting cages the other day. I'm a lumpy man who is almost 40, and I've pulled a muscle making a martini. I took 18 mighty rips at 55-mph fastballs for the first time in nearly two decades, and I didn't break anything. And you know what would happen if I went every day for the next year? I probably wouldn't break anything.
Batting practice is fairly mellow, as far as sports-related events go. That's exponentially more relevant when you're a world-class professional athlete in great shape. You know how Bumgarner could get hurt? By pitching in the freaking All-Star Game. It's much more likely that he'll get screwed up there instead of during glorified batting practice.
He'll mess up his swing
Not sure if the statistics bear this out, but some hitters swear that they suffer after adjusting their swing and trying to launch nothing but home runs. Fair enough.
Except that's the only swing Bumgarner knows. He will never go with a pitch to right field on purpose. He will never shorten up with two strikes. His life is a Home Run Derby, and he's mad the entire time until he gets to hit dingers again.
Considering the lack of nuance in his approach, I'll argue that this would help his swing. Heck, if you're going to swing for the fences with every swing, get some practice in.
He's not one of the eight-best home run hitters in baseball
Ah, this isn't a bad point. He's been out-slugged by Yovani Gallardo in his career, you know. So while this might be true ...
Most HR per 600 AB, Giants, since 2014 (minimum 10 HR):— High Heat Stats MLB (@HighHeatStats) June 2, 2016
MADISON BUMGARNER 37.7
Brandon Belt 24.5
Buster Posey 22.5
Mike Morse 21.9
... I'm not sure if Bumgarner truly is one of the eight best home run hitters in baseball, which means that someone more deserving would get shafted.
Valid. But allow me to retort. It's the Hommmmme Runnnnnnn Derrrrrrrrrrrby. Like, you know how baseball games don't mean anything? They don't help you make rent. They aren't going to hold your hand when your'e dying. They're games where men in pajamas run around and spit a lot, right? Well, the Home Run Derby means approximately .000000001 percent as much as those games do. There should be no fists in the air for the players left off. It will never be a miscarriage of justice when a player is left off the Derby roster.
Except for Hunter Pence every year, but that's an argument for another time.
This is entertainment. Even by sports standards, it's wholly frivolous entertainment. We'll miss out on some John Jaha memories, metaphorically speaking, but that shouldn't be a concern.
He won't hit a homer, and he'll ruin this for every pitcher who wants to do it in the future
Oh. Yeah, that would stink. It would feel worse than the tradition of Giants pitchers screwing up in the All-Star Game, that's for sure.
Still, that's the realistic worst-case scenario, where all the DH-lubbers say, "SEE? SEE? PITCHER NO GOOD HITTING." And I don't think you can look at your potential entertainment through the prism of hypothetical failures. Dream big. Take chances. Go for the rewards when they eclipse the risks.
In conclusion, here is Madison Bumgarner hitting a home run off Clayton Kershaw:
Are you not entertained?