Barber: Giants' 5-4 win over Cubs win makes a Madison Bumgarner deal tough
SAN FRANCISCO — Is that it? Is that the last we’ll see of Madison Bumgarner in a Giants uniform? Was that his final act, walking slowly off the mound in the middle of the seventh inning, having battled to limit the Chicago Cubs to three runs and six hits on a night when he didn’t have his best stuff?
Who knows? We were asking the same question last Thursday, after Bumgarner had helped beat the Mets. And we may well be asking it again soon, because there’s still more than a week to go until the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
There was quite a media presence at the Giants-Cubs game Tuesday night. Cameras and recorders pinning Bruce Bochy atop the dugout before the game. Very few empty seats in the press box. The stands were buzzing, too, with a lot of “We love you, Bum” signs and one behind home plate that read, “Please don’t do it Mr. Zaidi.” When Bumgarner left the game, the fans rose to honor him — first the people behind the home dugout, then the rest of Oracle Park.
It was all a strange tribute to the accomplished left-hander, a celebration of life for someone who not only isn’t dead, but may occupy his same locker at Oracle for years to come.
In the span of a couple years, Bumgarner has gone from Untouchable to Must Trade. More recently, in the span of just a few weeks, he has gone from Must Trade to Huh, Let’s Just See About This. And very little of it has to do with Bumgarner and his pitching ability. It’s all pinned to the rise and fall and curious rebirth of the Giants as a competitive baseball team.
How was Bochy feeling about the possible finality of this occasion?
“I haven’t even thought about it, just like he’s saying the same thing,” the manager offered before the game. “We’re doing a lot of good things now, and it’s all the team’s thinking about, it’s all that Bum’s thinking about. … I don’t even have anything to say about it, except, as always, I look forward to watching him pitch.”
Hasn’t even thought about it? Sure, Boche. Nudge, nudge.
Everyone has thought about Bumgarner’s destiny by now. But after Tuesday’s game, I don’t feel any closer to reading the future. The Giants won again. In extra innings, again. They are 10-1 in their past 11 games, and 17-3 in their past 20. Their Pixar-esque feel-good story has been a delight to fans and players alike, but it is making things really tricky for Farhan Zaidi, the first-year Giants president of baseball operations.
“I don’t envy Farhan’s position right now,” third baseman Evan Longoria told me before the game.
“I wouldn’t want to be Farhan right now,” former Giants relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said.
Both comments were largely unprompted, and I hadn’t been discussing Bumgarner with either man. It’s just what everyone is talking about right now.
And it’s hard to disagree with Longoria and Affeldt. Three weeks ago, the Giants were drifting along, dead in the water in the midst of another dreadful season, and even the most sentimental of boosters had to admit that it was time to say goodbye, finally, to the World Series legacy. Anyone with trade value had to go.