The hopes of the 2018 San Francisco Giants rested, largely, on the team not reprising their 2017 suckhole of regression and injury. Those hopes were dealt a depressing blow when, mere days before the season began, Madison Bumgarner was put on the disabled list once more.
But while the wound of another Bumgarner-less stint was painful, it was not fatal. The team knew they had to perform the virtuous and courageous act of treading water until their ace returned, and somehow they managed exactly that.
Giants have exactly a .500 record and Madison Bumgarner returns tomorrow night. Mission accomplished, guys.— Carmen Kiew (@carmenkiew) June 5, 2018
Madison Bumgarner returns tonight to make his season debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks. And when he laces up his cleats, adjusts the positioning of his cup repeatedly, and shoots myriad blobs of mucus in his inimitable style, he’ll do so on a team that is 30-30, and, more importantly, a mere 1.5 games out of first place in the uninspiring NL West. That’s a win.
The thought process behind Bumgarner’s return is, arguably, a bit flawed. With the possible exception of Mike Trout, there’s no one baseball player who can turn a decidedly average team into a very good one. Bumgarner is the best or second-best player on the team, but his return alone will not propel the Giants to previously unimagined heights.
On the other hand, Bumgarner’s presence is emblematic of more than just one star returning. The team wasn’t merely without Bumgarner for the first 60 games; Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Joe Panik, Mark Melancon, and Hunter Pence all missed significant time, as well. MadBum returns right after the latter three rejoined the club, with Cueto and Samardzija on the horizon. As the ace and face of the franchise, Bumgarner represents the mass return of important personnel.
The Giants aren’t only adding an elite pitcher to a wildly flailing rotation, but they’re regaining health across the board (while, admittedly, losing some as well thanks to Brandon Belt’s rogue appendix).
So no, we’re not just watching the return of Madison Bumgarner. We’re watching the team finally start to resemble the squad that we were all either dreaming of or dreading in March.
The MLB season is long. It’s exhausting. It’s annoying. It’s frustrating.
But it can be a lot of fun, even for fans of bad teams. Madison Bumgarner is one of those players who makes it fun. His slider-cutter hybrid, nicknamed the slutter by the cool kids, is one of baseball’s most mesmerizing pitches. His snotrockets, toughness, general badassery, epic pitch faces, and unabashed love of Buster Posey make him one of the sport’s most fun characters.
And, of course, his home runs.
I haven’t looked forward to a pitcher at-bat all year. Thankfully, that’s about to change.
Over the previous two seasons, Bumgarner has pitched a mere 17 times. In the last 603 days, there have only been 17 instances of us waking up and thinking, “Hey! Madison Bumgarner is pitching a meaningful baseball game today!”
Those days are good. Those days are happy. We all deserve more of those days.
Welcome back, MadBum. The Giants are a better team with you on the roster; but perhaps more importantly, they’re a team we all want to spend our evenings watching.