A Star Is Born: Madison Bumgarner Makes Surprising but Successful Giants Debut

Bleacher ReportSenior Writer ISeptember 9, 2009

For those of you breathlessly awaiting the story from my long weekend in Los Angeles—notice the optimistic use of the plural—I apologize, but you'll have to keep waiting.

It's a tale I look forward to writing, although there is no sex, murder, or international intrigue—not even drunken escapades. 

Alas, it would appear I'm getting too old, and soft, for the acute agony of belated hangovers. Apparently, I bought them with heavy drinking in high school and college, but the tab is only now coming due.

After only three or four drinks. Weak.

Anyway, the holiday jaunt will have to wait for tomorrow because a new era in San Francisco Giants baseball started Tuesday night: the Madison Bumgarner Era.

Casual San Francisco Giant fans and close observers of Major League Baseball are beginning to truly understand the kind of talent depth in which the organization currently marinates.

Do you know another organization that could absorb a missed start by the reigning National League Cy Young award winner—in the middle of a tight pennant race—and barely blink? Well, that's exactly what the Gents did against the San Diego Padres.

The back spasms/inflammation that precipitated Tim Lincecum's ride on the pine, despite his scheduled start, probably had more than a few Giant faithful excited.

Really, consider what this means.

Every game in September is a must-win for San Francisco because nobody seems to want to try against the Colorado Rockies. I know they're playing losers, but damn, isn't there any pride, Arizona? And you too, Cincinnati? How about one win?

Since the cupcakes are rolling over for the Rox and Los Gigantes have a harder schedule, they can't afford to drop apparent gimmes while Colorado rampages away. 

Nevertheless, the club had arguably the best pitcher in the Show ready to go, and then had to scratch him, and some fans were happy.

I wouldn't say that described my reaction, but even I wasn't devastated.

How can that be, you ask?

It's because the San Francisco Giants were able to pencil in Bumgarner for his major league debut. That and the game was against the San Diego Padres.

Much has been made about the young left-hander, and for good reason.

The kid is less than a month and a half north of his 20th birthday.

He was throwing against high schoolers in 2007. 

Since being drafted, he's been burning through various Minor League levels with scintillating stuff, a funky delivery, and remarkable control.

The franchise's prized prospect actually skipped Triple-A altogether.

Instead, on Sept. 8, 2009, MadBum soared straight from Double-A to The Show and officially began what the City hopes will be a legendary Big League career.

To get a true appreciation of the hype surrounding the southpaw, I'm willing to bet I'm not the only Giant fan wondering whether the monumental upcoming series against the hated Los Angeles Dodgers played any role in the Freak's back spasms.

It won't go unnoticed that the ace was NOT scheduled to face the Bums as the calendar had been breaking. Now if Tiny Tim is healthy, he'd be able to twirl against them over the weekend.

Additionally, the Giants are currently locking horns with one of the few lineups more anemic than their own in the one trotted out by the Fathers.

So it wouldn't have been an outrageous gamble to slide Bumgarner into a challenging atmosphere against a patsy for some excellent experience, while saving their best bullet for their mortal enemy.

Ultimately, though, I'm not a conspiracy theorist—I tend to believe Lincecum really was too sore to take the hill, and the Giants recognized the Franchise is too valuable to expose. 

Baseball players and managers tend to be creatures of habit, as well as too superstitious to go messing with the Baseball Gods.

Few, if any, will risk offending those spiteful deities with the arrogance of counting unhatched chickens. Even fewer will throw the caution of a groove to the wind.

I tend to believe even the Freak is unfreakish in this regard.

Regardless of whether the debut was a calculated risk or not, it was a success.

Bumgarner won't be the pitcher of record because he exited with a lead that the bullpen surrendered, and the Giants ultimately lost the game, but none of that is on the Phenom. He gave the Gents everything they could've asked for and maybe even more—5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR—in an unusually live AT&T Park.

About two full years removed from high school, and chucked directly/unceremoniously into the fray, Madison Bumgarner had the team in position to win the game.

Understand, that's significantly better than even Lincecum's first start.

Granted, Timmy threw against a much better offense in the Philadelphia Phillies, but he was also working with the extra seasoning of a college baseball career and almost three extra years of maturity.

Nor did the Freak's debut feature the harsh glare of a postseason chase.

It's certainly disappointing to see Bumgarner's first taste of Major League Baseball end with the thud of a Giant loss. And it's not a guaranteed barometer of future success.

But his first start certainly gave the impression that louder victories are just around the bend.

Lots of them.



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