Even before Bobby Evans crashed and burned the franchise by failing to innovate, Madison Bumgarner probably wanted to leave. Sure, there has been talk of how the team was prepared to offer him an extension in 2017 before the dirt bike accident, and maybe he would’ve signed it, but ultimately, he seems very happy to be where he wound up.
"I am thrilled to be a Diamondback." pic.twitter.com/GN16XW0neh— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) December 17, 2019
The Diamondbacks announced their big free agent acquisition of the offseason (so far) with a simple press conference this afternoon. Meet Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondback.
Now, obviously — OBVIOUSLY — a free agent who just signed a contract that will secure his family legacy for a couple of generations will be very happy to be whatever he’s become upon the guarantee of said contract, but he gave a laugh when asked if he was happy to be wearing the uniform, and that’s what stuck out to me.
(UPDATE: It wasn’t totally in my head.)
Look, the Giants are bad, they’re not going anywhere, and they didn’t offer him the most money. Why would he want to go back? Evaluating it through the lens of a Giants fan, even I don’t want him to take less than what’s offered just to return to a team that’s bad and not going anywhere, and my selfishness for wanting to see the best Giants be Giants for the entirety of their careers does not exceed my preference for these same Giants to find happiness in their personal lives (with some exceptions).
Bumgarner doesn’t owe us any sort of reaction or statement that reflects on his time with the Giants. He doesn’t need to be jumped out of the gang. This was a straightforward transaction. We don’t even need to read much into it, but at the same time, if the Giants wanted him back, they probably would’ve beat Arizona’s offer. He probably would’ve accepted it, too, because — hey — more money.
But in the end that didn’t happen, the Giants are worse for it, but he sounds genuinely happy to be a Diamondback. I mentioned on the Twitter feed right after that chuckle he gave — with a look back to Arizona’s GM, Mike Hazen — that he might be hinting at some reservoir of joy beneath the surface to have escaped the Giants — and maybe that’s really there — but he didn’t present a front of bitterness or relief. It was just that one moment. And everything he said afterward about the team and the fans felt genuine, too.
Madison Bumgarner: "The fans in that city mean so much to me. It's been 10 years there, won three world championships and we've been through a lot together. They've always been as good as they could possibly be to me and I'll never forget that."— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) December 17, 2019
Before the press conference, the Giants did a mini social media blitz of their own, releasing this statement —
— about an hour after this video:
(If you’re wondering why the Giants waited so long to say goodbye and why it all felt so manufactured so quickly, it’s because the Diamondbacks didn’t officially announce the transaction until today, and league rules prohibit teams from commenting on deals that haven’t been officially announced.)
It felt incongruous, saying goodbye to the guy they let leave. The Giants made an offer (reportedly four years at $17 million per year), but one that seemed designed to be rejected or easily beat by a team that wanted him just a little bit more. Arizona wanted him a little bit more, and Madison Bumgarner sounds like he prefers the state of Arizona just a little bit more, and that’s totally fine.
The Giants have lost their ace and their on-field toughness and next year will be more than a little weird without him on the team. We’ve known for a long time that it’s exceptionally rare for a team to play his entire career for one team, and we’ve known for far shorter a time but just as certain that the new front office views the 2020 Giants as an expansion franchise, with no attention span for fan faves or roster space to harbor above average players on their way to a glorious tank job that hurt for years to come.
But that’s not Madison Bumgarner’s problem now. In that way, the team honored their legend by freeing him of any obligation to suffer in a Giants uniform anymore. He’s happy, the team’s happy, and if we aren’t already, maybe we will be soon enough.