The San Francisco Giants opened their series with San Diego on Tuesday by winning their sixth straight game. Madison Bumgarner pitched masterfully, just as the rotation’s other four starters have done during the streak. So there isn’t much to critique about Giants pitching at the moment.
But there is something. Though it’s not about pitching performance. Rather, a pitcher’s decorum.
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Bumgarner had another verbal spat with a batter, after striking out Padres first baseman Wil Myers to end the third inning. It didn’t lead to any fisticuffs, a la Rougned Odor and Jose Bautista, but the benches did clear while Bumgarner and Myers jawed at each other.
It wasn’t exactly the most egregious offense that set off Bumgarner: after Myers went down swinging and appeared to verbalize some frustration (he also wasn’t too happy with the umpire’s call on a previous pitch), Bumgarner stared down Myers and muttered some words toward him as they were heading back to their dugouts. Myers responded with bewilderment, and tempers proceeded to flare.
Like Giants television announcer Mike Krukow said during the broadcast about the incident, “just too much testosterone.”
That, and a lack of sensible self-control on Bumgarner’s part.
Bumgarner doesn’t much care for bat flips, home run admiring, or any kind of verbalization emanating from the batter’s box. This has been well established through his frequent blows up at those who do these things.
During this past Spring Training, Bumgarner had a tense moment with Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward. After Heyward struck out looking, he tried to communicate with his teammate who was at second base. Bumgarner took offense, words were exchanged, and the benches cleared. Last year he jawed at Dodgers third baseman Alex Guerrero after Guerrero expressed frustration for popping up. In a repeat of the Guerrero scenario, Bumgarner piped off at Texas Rangers outfielder Delino Deshields for flinging his bat in frustration after popping up. Benches cleared.
Bumgarner previously yelled at another Dodger, Yasiel Puig, for spending an extended moment sitting on the ground after being hit by a pitch. Tempers proceeded to flare. Benches cleared.
There is clearly a pattern here. Either Bumgarner has faced a lot of etiquette offenders, or Bumgarner runs a bit hot. Or maybe it’s a combination of both. Regardless, Bumgarner is at the middle of too many of these dust-ups; usually when someone is the common link in multiple episodes, that person could benefit to reflect on the reason behind the repetition.
This isn’t to say that Bumgarner is bad for the game, or that he’s not playing the right way, or even that he needs to turn down the intensity. It would just be advisable for him to not take offense every time a batter expresses himself—especially when none of these incidents involved affronts directed at Bumgarner—in the event that someone takes exception to his barking and decides to escalate matters.
There haven’t been any severe repercussions for Bumgarner’s outbursts, at least not yet. But an injury, such as the separated shoulder Zack Greinke suffered in 2014 when Carlos Quentin charged the mound, or a lengthy suspension would not serve the Giants well—especially during a season in which they have a realistic shot of reaching the World Series. (Bumgarner is a gigantic person and can certainly protect himself in most cases, but is it really worth the risk?)
Myers and Bumgarner talked it out later after Bumgarner reached first base and the two were forced to share the infield corner. So, the two players at the center of Tuesday night’s fracas came to an understanding and made peace. Hopefully Bumgarner can come to understand he would be better served not to react hostilely toward every player who does something that irritates him.