Redwoods, the Coit Tower and Golden Gate Park are among the few Northern California landmarks that have proved as durable as Madison Bumgarner over the past several years. Now, in a spectacularly inconvenient accident exacerbating a remarkably poor start, scratch the Giants’ ace lefty from that sturdy list.
Today, following an off-day dirt bike accident in Denver, the redwoods stand taller than Bumgarner.
There are several bleak angles to this that we can break down every which way, but the one that rushes immediately to the forefront, the one the Giants will have the most difficult time working around, is Bumgarner’s durability. This is a Cy Young-caliber pitcher who has shouldered more than 200 innings for six consecutive seasons.
That ends here, because with a Grade 1 or 2 left shoulder AC sprain—yes, Bumgarner’s money shoulder—and bruised ribs, the Giants could be without their workhorse for as long as two months, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. And given that it is his shoulder, even that might be conservative.
Hello, Johnny Cueto. And Jeff Samardzija. And Matt Moore. You fellas interested in working some overtime this summer?
This is not the first thing to go wrong for the Giants in this season’s shocking first few weeks. Not even close. Tucked within their sluggish 6-10 start, body-slamming them in the NL West cellar, are these Gi-antics:
- Buster Posey took a Taijuan Walker fastball off his helmet, landed on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion and had not started behind the plate for nearly two weeks until Friday.
- Left fielder Jarrett Parker suffered a broken right clavicle last weekend while crashing into the outfield fence. It required surgery, and he could be sidelined for two months.
- The Giants’ bullpen, their Legion of Doom last year in leading the majors in blown saves, has blown three of six save opportunities.
- Their left fielders ranked dead last in the NL with a .194 on-base percentage heading into Friday night’s series opener in Colorado.
- The Giants as a team were tied for last with Pittsburgh in the NL with 11 home runs entering Friday.
- Manager Bruce Bochy missed this week’s series in Kansas City after undergoing a heart procedure, a minor ablation to alleviate some discomfort he was experiencing because of an atrial flutter.
You’re familiar with the famous unwritten rules of baseball? Here’s another one: When a team issues two news releases within four days explaining its manager has had a heart procedure and its best pitcher has wiped himself out on a dirt bike, maybe this isn’t your year.
Thankfully, Bochy returned to the dugout on Friday night in Coors Field and told reporters he feels great.
As for the rest of the group, stay tuned. Even with a healthy Bumgarner, the Giants haven’t been able to get out of their own way most days this season. In fact, they are 0-4 in Bumgarner’s four starts this season, and they’ve scored a combined two runs for him in his past three outings.
Immediately Friday, as the baseball grapevine buzzed, industry insiders speculated on whether the Giants might try to dock Bumgarner a portion of his salary. Dirt-bike riding clearly qualifies in the basic major league contract as a non-baseball activity that is forbidden. Given his contributions to a franchise that has won three World Series since his arrival, given what he means to the team, given that he's never been on the disabled list and given the fact that he’s essentially done all of this on the cheap, it is difficult to see San Francisco taking such a severe measure against him. Bumgarner has yet to hit his big money years, having signed a five-year, $35 million extension with the Giants in April 2012 that goes through this year with a $12 million club option in each of the next two seasons.
By comparison, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is in the midst of a seven-year, $215 million deal that runs through 2020. While Bumgarner is making $11.5 million this season, Kershaw is earning $33 million.
Just as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox always are in each other’s sights, you can’t get too far from the Giants without thinking of the Dodgers, especially given that Los Angeles has won four consecutive NL West titles. And as Bumgarner and Co. try to shake off this disaster, what’s also worth remembering is this: Because of a herniated disk in his back, Kershaw last summer missed two-and-a-half months, and the Dodgers still managed to win the division.
Following his June 26 start, Kershaw didn’t reappear until Sept. 9. In that span, the Dodgers went 37-25 and gained 11 games in the standings on the Giants, erasing a seven-game deficit to then-first-place San Francisco at the time of Kershaw’s injury and building a four-game lead by the time he returned.
This isn’t the first bike accident that has knocked the wind out of the Giants, either. In spring training of 2002, second baseman Jeff Kent broke his left wrist in a motorcycle accident (after first claiming he did it when he fell from the bed of his pickup truck while washing it). He missed the first four games of the season, but San Francisco recovered and advanced to the World Series that year.
Too much to ask of Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Co. now? The Giants don’t have to be told that nobody is going to feel sorry for them. They know as well as anybody that there’s no time to waste, that regardless of the circumstances, it’s time to get going.
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.