The San Francisco Giants had a three-point plan for how to turn a 64-98 team into contenders in a single year.
Step One: Acquire a few better players.
Step Two: Hope the players they have return to form.
Step Three: Hope the players they have can be healthy this year.
Step One was a success, as they added Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, Austin Jackson, and Tony Watson. Could they have allocated resources a little more admirably? Yes. Did they give up too much when other options were available? Certainly. But they unequivocally acquired better players.
Step Two has mostly been a success. The bulk of the roster has either stayed in place, or made improvements. The bench is notably better, and Brandon Belt has been upgraded from “All-Star Mode” to “Demigod Mode”.
Step Three got left behind in the drawing room, swept up by the janitor, thrown in the trash can, emptied into the trash dumpster, scooped up by the garbage truck, and driven to the local landfill. And now Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean are at the dump, searching endlessly for Step Three like these boops.
Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, and Mark Melancon started the season on the Disabled List. Johnny Cueto quickly joined them there for a 60-day stint. Joe Panik hit the DL, and then after Alen Hanson excelled in his place, he too went to the DL. Hunter Pence and Mac Williamson thought that looked like such fun that they would imitate the bizarre routine.
Slowly, but surely, the health is returning. Samardzija and Williamson are back in the lineup. Panik will be there momentarily, and, for better or for worse, Pence should be back soon as well.
But all eyes are on Bumgarner, who is not only the staff ace, but a leader in the clubhouse.
And thankfully, he’s almost back.
Bumgarner is set to make his first rehab stint on Saturday with the Sacramento River Cats. There, he can not only work his way into game shape, but hang out with Pence, and perhaps call the Giants to let them know they are being inexcusably silly by not calling up Austin Slater.
The Giants are taking things a little slowly with Bumgarner, after their approach with Samardzija backfired. The Shark made only one rehab appearance - a mere 2.2 innings in A+ - before the Giants worked him into the fold. It hasn’t been pretty. He’s been rusty and flat out bad, and has averaged fewer than five innings in his seven starts.
San Francisco openly flirted with a similar approach for Bumgarner, and who can blame them? If there’s one player you can expect to jump back into things without warming up, it’s Bumgarner.
Then again, the idea is also really stupid, and thankfully the Giants came to their senses. That said, if he’s great in his first two rehab starts and gets his pitch count up, that may be it. With the Giants’ current lineup resembling an Olympic curling team trying their hand at a funky new sport, San Francisco will jump at the opportunity to add one Madison Bumgarner.
And better yet, for those of you wanting to check Bumgarner out in person, there’s a special ticket package just for you.
I dunno. “Bum’s Package” is a bit oxy-moronical, is it not? I don’t really want to know how that works.