Before the anger, shock, frustration, sadness, and disappointment, let me make a plea for a sense of relief. It could have been worse. Buster Posey said as much after a team meeting, and Molly Knight, baseball writer and semi-professional Giants needler, messaged me to say that she found out through a text that read ...
Did you hear about Madison Bumgarner’s dirt bike accident?
And while that text would send shivers up my spine in any year, this is a particularly sensitive year for news about young pitchers and moving vehicles.
Righetti and Bum exchanged texts. "It sounded like it darn well could have been (worse)."— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) April 21, 2017
Bumgarner was riding a dirt bike and something went wrong. Baseball games might be lost because of it, and that’s fine. I’ve seen the Giants lose baseball games before. There are a lot of ways where that “something went wrong” sentence would have been followed by choking sobs.
It’s not like there’s an easy way to turn the other emotions off, though. Now that he’s (mostly) fine, there comes the anger. A dirt bike? C’mon, man. MXGP 2 for the PS4 is, like, $20 on Amazon. Stay indoors. Preferably in a house encased in bubble wrap. With armed guards outside. If that’s not possible, fine, go outside, but don’t screw around on dirt bikes.
The anger passes quickly, of course, because Bumgarner has given more to the Giants in seven years than almost any player who has ever lived gave the teams they played for. There aren’t a lot of scenarios that end with me cursing out Bumgarner and yelling, “This freakin’ guy again.” He likes to ride dirt bikes, and I’m assuming he was being at least a little responsible. I reserve the right to take that back, but I’ll guess that he wasn’t popping wheelies. Maybe he hit a pothole or a gopher hole or whatever the 1-in-a-thousand slightly common/still rare hazard there is when riding a dirt bike.
That brings us to disappointment, and, yeah, that’s real and legitimate. The Giants were lucky enough to have co-aces, and the homegrown one was made out of vibranium and marble, mostly indestructible. A guy built like that can’t get hurt by pitching, ha ha, he’s too strong. Except physics will always win, and mostly indestructible is a synonym for “still destructible.” Even though the Giants hadn’t won a game that Bumgarner had started this season, they were going to start winning them. Probably a lot of them. Now they won’t win as many.
Realistically, a starting pitcher like Bumgarner might be worth two wins above replacement over two months, maybe three. So that means the Giants don’t have to be as hosed as you think ... if they can get some better-than-replacement pitching out of Ty Blach. And while I’d like to give that scenario the McCovey Chronicles Guarantee, it is absolutely possible that Blach will pitch like a AAAA pitcher who doesn’t miss a lot of bats.
It’s also possible that Matt Cain will struggle, and instead of the easy switch to Blach, the Giants will have to make a different, more drastic move because he’s already in the rotation. And what if Blach and Cain struggle at the same time?
Basically what I’m saying is that losing Bumgarner for two months hurts the Giants in a baseball sense. I know some of you aren’t into the newfangled analysis, but I feel okay letting those opinions fly. This probably isn’t good for the Giants, imo.
The last emotion that keeps coming up, the one I can’t shake, is fear. The shoulder is such a delicate component of a pitcher’s body, and it’s so enigmatic and terrifying. Elbows pop off, and most of the time you can pop them back on with a store-bought elbow off the rack. All it takes is a lot of hard work and time, usually, with some notable exceptions. Shoulders, though, are far more nebulous. While it’s great that Bumgarner might be out just six weeks, I’m worried about what this means for 30-year-old Bumgarner, much less the 35-year-old version. When ligaments are torn, even in a mild case, they don’t have to come back as strong as they were before.
This season started with Bumgarner hitting a pair of beefy-as-heck home runs and him pitching about as well as he could possibly pitch. Then he lost, and lost again, and lost again, and lost again, and then the Giants lost him in a dirt bike accident. This season isn’t over yet, and there are still a lot of ways the team could rally. The easiest one, though, had to do with Bumgarner pitching well.
It could have been worse, though. I keep coming back to that, and if you’re going to get splashed with ice water when you weren’t expecting it, there’s some value in appreciating how it wasn’t hydrochloric acid.
Before the fourth week of the 2017 baseball season started, the Giants put both Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner on the disabled list because of freak accidents. Both of them could have been worse. But if this isn’t a reminder that continued success for your favorite baseball squadron is never guaranteed, I’m not sure what would be. The season can change in seconds. You know that already, because the Giants’ season just did.