It’s fitting that I’m writing this piece as rumors swirl about Madison Bumgarner.
Rumors that he’s interested in a price point that the San Francisco Giants would likely balk at. Rumors that other teams are, indeed, interested at that price point. Rumors that - gulp - the Los Angeles Dodgers are one of those teams. Rumors that - someone hold my hand, for the love of god - Bumgarner has an interest in the Dodgers.
My heart rate accelerated just writing those sentences.
Madison Bumgarner is a Giants legend. He always will be. He could sign with the Dodgers, win five World Series’ with them, swap out his Carhartt and horse for Gucci pants and a Rolls Royce, and drive down Figueroa with his Dodgers trophies (dear Madison, if you are reading this, please don’t do that, thank you sir, sincerely, Brady) and he’ll still be a Giants legend.
And a lot of that is due to the 2014 National League Wild Card game.
We remember Bumgarner for his 2014 World Series. Understandably. But without his Wild Card performance, there is no World Series. There is no legend.
There’s simply a really good pitcher, who won two rings, appeared in a few All-Star Games, and publicly excreted bodily fluids in a way we somehow found endearing.
Remember: Prior to 2014, Bumgarner wasn’t a postseason legend. He was strong in 2010, sporting a 2.18 ERA in 20.2 innings. He was less impressive in 2012, with an ERA of 6.00 in 15 innings.
By the time the Giants backed their way into the 2014 playoffs, Bumgarner was finally an All-Star - an established pseudo-ace. It was his time to shine.
He took the mound in the Wild Card game, and for nine straight innings mowed down batters. He went the distance, needing just 109 pitches to record his 27 outs. He gave up just four hits, and all of them were singles. He walked only one. He set down the side in order four times. He struck out ten.
Most importantly, he gave up no runs.
The World Series will always be the most memorable, and for good reason. But the stunning 1.03 ERA that he put up over an equally-stunning 52.2 postseason innings in the 2014 postseason started with nine spectacular frames in Pittsburgh, where the feel-good Pirates were quieted and swiftly dispatched by a budding mini-dynasty.
As great as Bumgarner was, he wasn’t the one that truly quieted PNC Park. Give that distinction to Brandon Crawford, who opened up the scoring by bopping a grand slam over the right field wall in the fourth inning, signaling that the even year BS was back once more.
That led to one of the better social media moments in Giants history, courtesy of Crawford’s sister Amy, who was engaged (and now married) to (now extremely rich man) Gerrit Cole, then with the Pirates:
Welp... That's my brother.— Amy Cole (@amy_cole23) October 2, 2014
Sorry not sorry, Amy.
All in all, the Wild Card game - a quick and ruthless 9-0 victory - was the perfect appetizer to the perfect entree.
And if Bumgarner does end up signing with the Dodgers - or anywhere other than the Giants, really - just play this back and remember that the only reason you’re sad is because of how beautiful the thing you lost was in the first place.