Monday, December 16, 2019
So Much For Sentiment
It was reported this morning that Giants' pitcher Madison Bumgarner has signed a 5-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, which keeps him in the same division with his former team. He's reported to have been offered a 4-year deal by the Giants, for equivalent annual salary, but he chose to take an extra year.
As early as way back in 2009, comparing Bum to Tim Lincecum, I predicted that long after Lincecum's career was history, the Lefty would still be pumping out 200 innings a year, and winning games at a Hall-of-Fame clip.
The Giants' decline since 2014 has been the result of the inevitable aging of key players. I probably wouldn't have expected this to happen to Posey, but catching is a grind, and Buster didn't posses the big, sturdy body the classic squat position requires for durability. Bumgarner, on the other hand, despite some recent injuries, had the kind of durability that almost guaranteed a long career.
MadBum's unexpected injuries in 2017 and 2018 certainly changed the picture significantly--lost years in which his typical season number (16-8, say) would have continued. Undoubtedly, the decline of the team's fortunes boded ill for veterans still hanging on five years after their last title. I'd expect Belt, Crawford and Pablo all will leave before long, though Posey might be gone too. Baseball is a business, and there are no guarantees in professional sport.
Baseball has increasingly become hard-hearted. Free-agency has played a part, and the new theoretical bases for moving players based on the exquisite statistical analyses such as those employed by the Oakland A's, together with the high-roller payrolls some of the big urban teams now carry, has meant a further erosion of the fan identification with key home-team favorites. After winning three championships in five years, the Giants knew the dream wouldn't continue: Dynasties can't be sustained as they once could be, no matter how much money there is to acquire the big-name players year after year.
I suspect that Bumgarner will have a respectable career when it's all said and done. Rather than the 300 wins he might have gotten, he'll probably end up with about 215, a good number, but not in my opinion what he ought to have done. But inside that career, will always be those three World Series rings. General Manager Farhan Zaidi--I'll never get used to a name like that--seems to want to build a team out of younger talent, working through the farm system, and filling in with ho-hum journeymen while that talent matures. This would work if the farm system showed promise, but the team's rookies over the last five years have been anything but stellar. Lincecum, Sandoval, Bumgarner, Posey and Crawford were all developed from within, but that was a decade or more ago.
Giving up a proven talent, popular with fans, over a one-year contract difference, for a pitcher still in the prime of his career, seems to me a stupid move. Bumgarner is the type of pitcher every team needs and wants, sturdy, competitive, committed, with a proven track record. He's a once-in-a-generation player for any team. And MadBum was ours, a kid who came up and immediately showed all the best qualities.
Without strong young arms coming up, standing pat looks like stalling. Re-building is an inevitable trend in every pro-team's evolution over time. But turning squads over just for the sake of doing so, to show that hard realities are smarter than sentiment, looks like bad strategy. Zaidi won't be able to replace Bumgarner, and that will mean the team's fortunes will suffer.
The Giants will regret having let their Ace go. You heard it first here.