Bumgarner gives Giants a performance for the ages

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Bumgarner gives Giants a performance for the ages

LOS ANGELES Dave Righetti slipped on his loafers as hedrifted into memories.

You dont see it very often, said the Giants pitchingcoach, after watching Madison Bumgarner outduel Clayton Kershaw in a 2-1victory Monday night.

Sabathia comes to mind from the last 10 years, and you haveyour Guidrys and Carltons, your Vida Blue.

Lefties always admire lefties, especially the rare powerguys. Those pitchers arent trying to trick you or nip at the corners or dowhat keeps left-handers in the game into their 40s. No, these pitchers come atyou straight on, tanks in a demolition derby, sawing off bats, throwingexplosive stuff, daring you to hit it if you can.

Thats what Kershaw did. Thats what Bumgarner did just abit better.

Watching both those guys on the mound was a treat, Giantsleft-hander Javier Lopez said. Of course, I dont think the hitters will tellyou that.

Actually

Special? Oh yeah, that was special, said Giants centerfielder Angel Pagan, who had two of the six hits off Kershaw and scored bothruns. Bumgarner threw an unbelievable game. And Kershaw, man, he threw amazingtoo. It was fun to watch.

It was a late-August game in a pennant race, and the winnerwould be guaranteed to end the day in first place.

But it was even more than that.

Know what that was? Righetti said. That was like one ofthose old NL matchups. Until they go out and perform, its just anotherGiants-Dodgers. Then they start pitching and it feels like something else.

Theyre the ones that made us remember. It was cool, realcool.

And Im glad we won.

The Giants have to keep winning this way. Sure, Melky Cabrera is still being spilled all over the tabloids and the offense will have to find a way around thatpsychological morass. Theyll have to score enough runs on a consistent basisto support their pitching staff.

But they must pitch to win. They might be capable of winning6-5, or even 8-3. But its more likely theyll have to win many more 2-1 gamesover the next six weeks. And when they come upon a Kershaw, the Giants willneed a performance to match.

Even though Tim Lincecum hasnt been Tim Lincecum, thebullpen is a committee and the pitching overall has lacked the dominance ofyears past, the Giants do seem to find the big performance when they need it.

Want proof? Kershaw is 1-3 against them this season.

Bumgarner had only faced Kershaw once before in his career.It was April 11 of last season, and the Dodgers bum-rushed him for five runs infive innings. Rod Barajas hit a two-run home run in a four-run fifth.

It was one loss amid an 0-6 beginning hes never forgotten.

This kid weve talked so much about him, Giants managerBruce Bochy said. Hes got such great poise, such great focus. His makeup isoff the charts. One of the moreimpressive years was when he got off to a rough start. A young guy can lose hisconfidence. But it never wavered with him.

Now Bumgarner is more focused than ever about finishing batters.With two strikes, hes got a killer instinct that wasnt always there in thepast. He bounces a slider where he used to try to paint a perfect one. Thatshow hes struck out the most batters in the NL (61) since the All-Star break.Thats how he put away Matt Kemp in the seventh to strand a runner at thirdbase.

That was a big strikeout for me just a big point of thatgame, said Bumgarner, who flexed like a pro wrestler as he walked off themound. I guess I had a little adrenaline.

Said Bochy: It gets back to the focus Im talking about.Hes really concentrating on making a good pitch and not dropping his guardwith two strikes.

All great power pitchers do more than burn out bulbs on the radar gun. They also are able to maintain their stuff tothe last pitch. Bumgarner did that, too. Bochy pushed him into the eighth andlet him throw 123 pitches the second most by a Giant this season (after MattCains 125 pitches in his perfect game June 13).

Bumgarner struck out his final two hitters.

Yeah, his stuff was great, Bochy said. He wasntlaboring. I checked on him. Hes a big, strong boy. Its probably tougher ifyou take him out, to be honest.

It's always a good idea to ask others about Bumgarner because he wontspare many words about himself. He spoke of making sure hes on his game withevery pitch, having a plan and not giving into guys. But his ultimate summaryof Monday's game came out like a bit of country wisdom:

You better pitch better if you want to win.

The last time against Kershaw, perhaps Bumgarner wasntequipped to match up against him. Hes a year older now. And since that 0-6 beginningin 2011, he is 27-14 with a 2.88 ERA in 50 starts.

Oh, and he is allowing 0.82 baserunners per inning since thebreak, too.

Last year I had a little bad luck, Bumgarner said. But Ibelieve you create your own luck, and I created bad luck by throwing pitchesthat were over the plate for guys to hit.

Its just making better pitches and learning how to pitchto different guys. Its knowing what to do with who Im facing. Its justpitching smarter.

Bumgarner has plenty of curve ahead in his learning. Hesonly 23, as of Aug. 1. Kershaw is 24.

There will be plenty more confrontations, plenty more tanksin the derby, plenty more opportunities to transform a pennant-race game into Instagram-coloredmemories.

Does Bumgarner look forward to that?

Well, he said, definitely.

President Obama pardons Giants legend Willie McCovey

President Obama pardons Giants legend Willie McCovey

Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey was pardoned by President Barack Obama on Tuesday. 

McCovey, along with Dodgers Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider, pleaded guilty to tax fraud in July of 1995. The crime came from not reporting income McCovey earned from signing autographs and appearing at sports memorabilia shows. 

McCovey previously pleaded guilty to not listing $70,000 he made from 1988-90, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The 79-year-old McCovey was one of 64 people who received pardons from President Obama Tuesday as his final days in office wind down.

Hall of Fame voters' biggest issue: Do they work for the job or the sport?

Hall of Fame voters' biggest issue: Do they work for the job or the sport?

With Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, and maybe even Trevor Hoffman about to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, we have re-entered the hellish debates about who should vote, and why they should vote, and whether needles are good or bad and whether both are trumped by cashing the checks those needles made possible and why being transparent about their votes is good and why being transparent about their votes is actually bad.
 
In other words, the Hall of Fame isn’t actually about players any more. It’s about the voters.
 
The Danes call this “rampant narcissism.”
 
We have danced around this central fact for years now, hiding behind debates about performance enhancing drugs and the profiting thereof, voting limits and their degree of strangling artificiality, and the new writers vs. the old veterans, and who should be vilified, justifiably or otherwise, by whom.
 
Yay hatred by proxy!
 
But the process arguments ultimately aren’t the central point here. The argument is really about something more basic.
 
Are voter/journalists supposed to help enhance the mythology of the sport, or dispassionately tell its story? Who are they working for when they vote?

To that end, every vote tells a story well beyond the names checked off or the blank ballots submitted. One man, Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs, to you), has been invaluable in delving into the voting minutiae from the growing number of voters who release their opinions early. But, and he’ll admit this if you strike him often enough, that’s still a process discussion, and the core of the debate is found elsewhere.
 
Baseball writers are like football writers and basketball writers and hockey writers and curling writers and blah-blah-blah-de-blah-blah, in that they are prone to love the sports they cover beyond their journalistic mandate. That’s probably true of most journalists in most fields, but baseball has the Hall of Fame outlet to allow this internal debate to play itself out before our faces.
 
So the question becomes whether their votes are the representation of dispassionate analysis, or a defense of the mythos of the sport and the concept of the Hall itself. Boiled down to its essence, who are the voters defending here, the sanctity of the myth, or the ugliness of the reality?
 
The answer, as it usually is, is, “Depends on who you talk to.”
 
Hall of Fame debates usually lump all voters into one amorphous blob, a level of lazy and stupid thinking that should in a more perfect world be punishable by death. Okay, we kid. Life on a Louisiana prison farm, with parole after 25 years.
 
In fact, voters cover a fairly wide swath of opinion, and for whatever perceived shortcomings they might have, there are enough of them (about 450) to be a fairly accurate measure of the diaspora of baseball opinion across social, cultural, sporting and chronological lines.
 
But the argument about whether an individual voter feels more responsible to the job he or she is paid to do or to the game he or she covers as part of that job remains largely unconsidered, or at the very least masked by other considerations.
 
This manifests itself all the way down to the hot-pocket word “cheating.” Baseball is about cheating, and about honor. It’s about racism, and trying to overcome it. It’s about greed, and selflessness. It’s a sport, and it’s a business. It’s America, in all its glorious and hideous manifestations. To employ “cheating” as a word is in itself dishonest, and given that everyone got rich off the PED era and kept all the money they made makes PED use a de facto workplace condition approved by management and labor.
 
That may be unsavory, and it certainly is illegal without a proper doctor’s prescription, but because by their inaction the owners decided not to punish it (and in fact chose to reward it with contracts and extensions for users even after testing was instituted), it isn’t “cheating.”
 
And even if that argument doesn’t heat your rec room, it isn’t the role of the writer to punish it. It is the role of the writer to reveal it by journalism means, but that’s where the journalist’s role ends. The people who ran baseball took the journalism, acknowledged it, and did nothing until it ramped up detection and did little other than blame the union for a failing that both sides share equally.
 
So in the end, Raines’ votes or Barry Bonds’ votes or Curt Schilling’s votes or Edgar Martinez’ votes are fun to debate, but they aren’t the issue. It’s whether the voters think when they sit down and confront their ballot every year who exactly they’re working for – the job, or the sport.
 
And yes, I vote. Voted for the maximum 10. You’ll find out tomorrow the contents of my ballot. Then you can make that a process story, too.