Ratto: Bumgarner's Young Arm Guided by Old Soul


Ratto: Bumgarner's Young Arm Guided by Old Soul


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Madison Bumgarner walked out of the interview room and into the tunnel that would return him to the Giants clubhouse when he faced his only moment of true jitters.

The tunnel was lined with members of the Giants extended traveling party, and they spontaneously applauded him as he ambled through the space theyd left for him. He was like a groom without a bride, the center of all attention, but he knew he had to do something, so he took off his hat and held it over his head in the international sign for Is this what you need me to do?

They did. He intuited it. Another moment in the fast-paced, slow-paced, doesnt-get-better-than-this world of M. K. Bumgarner, Reluctant Hero Du Jour.

He threw eight of the most brilliant, simplest, yet most baffling innings in recent World Series history, muffling the Texas Rangers in Game 4, 4-0. The Giants are one win away from bringing down the house and ending the third-longest streak without a title in baseball, and they couldnt have done it without the guy who wasnt good enough to start the season with the men he defended so well this evening.

Brilliant, because he allowed only three hits, started 19 of the 27 hitters he faced with a strike and in general got enough defense and a bit of luck to complete his best start ever.

At age 21.

Most baffling, at least to the Rangers, because there were so few danger points he faced through the evening. Only one hitter, Josh Hamilton, reached second base, and only two leadoff hitters -- Elvis Andrus in the first and the Michael Young in the fourth -- led off by reaching base, and lasted a total of four pitches before being erased on ground balls. Its hard to gauge a mans brilliance when he is challenged so rarely.

And simplest, because he caused nobody any worries at all, at any point. In a pressure-crushed event, a game which would essentially decide the fate of the World Series, Bumgarner was unmoved, untwitched, un-everything. Nobody had to sweat a moment.

Not Buster Posey, his catcher, who never had to convince him to throw anything and only went out once all night to talk to him, and only because were kind of supposed to. I mean, I didnt need to.

Not Dave Righetti, his pitching coach, who recalled only when he threw the 2-0 fastball to Hamilton (Josh, who grounded sharply to Juan Uribe, who couldnt handle it). I wanted to see what hed do, if hed try to overthrow a fastball or something, but he just got back to what hed been doing all night. Slider, changeup, keeping them off balance, running the ball in when he was supposed to. That (Vladimir) Guerrero at-bat went pretty well.

That was a seven-pitch strikeout.

Not Bruce Bochy, who admitted he asked Posey at the end of the eighth how much Bumgarner had left, heard that he wasnt quite as sharp, and quickly opted for Brian Wilson to close the game.

And his other decisions on this night? I didnt have one.

And not even Bumgarner himself, who has somehow trained himself at age 21 not to act like hes, well, 21.

I just keep telling myself to relax, he said, and Ive told myself so much that its starting to become second nature, and it makes it a lot easier on me and on the other players, I think, to see somebody thats relaxed out there throwing. Thats it, I guess.

Yeah, thats it.

It wasnt a perfect night, in fairness. Posey said, The first couple of innings, he yanked a couple of fastballs, but that was about it. And Bumgarners two-pitch retirement of Ian Kinsler to end the seventh bothered him a bit.

I was trying to get the ball up a little bit because I know he can spin on some balls and pull them down the line, he said. Actually, the pitch I threw him that he popped out on wasnt the one I wanted to make, but it worked out all right. It was a changeup that came back over the plate. I was trying to get it away.

Such sloth.

But in an era in which more men than women are willing to drive lost (and studies show that this is true), Bumgarners few moments of aberrant pitching amid such a masterpiece almost stand out as a relief. It shouldnt be this easy, not for a 21-year-old, not for a kid whose spring training was so baffling that he spent the first month and change in Fresno tidying up his mechanics, and most definitely not for a Giant.

Bumgarner actually demolished the T-shirt-exploitable concept of torture, because clinical dissections arent torture at all. They are science, and Bumgarner was as scientific as all hell Sunday night.

The Giants now send Tim Lincecum out to re-negotiate status questions with Cliff Lee Monday evening, with a World Series 27 outs away. Conventional wisdom likes Lee, but conventional wisdom has laughed at the Giants until this series, and has now been reduced to whistling in admiration at the pitching that has brought baseball to its knees.

And if there is a scene that explains it better than Madison Bumgarner sheepishly waving his hat at family, friends and supporters who just watched him smother the best team in the American League, we havent seen it yet.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

The Super Bowl is today, which means the best day of the year is fast approaching.

Namely, the day after the Super Bowl.

At that point, we as a nation can complete the inventory of gastric damage we did to ourselves on what shall be known to future generations as Fried Festivus.

At that point, the people who bombard us daily with news of the game – the least important part of the week-long trade show, as we have come to learn it – will all be on planes and too tired to re-explain what we already saw 37 times on game day.

At that point, nobody will care that Terrell Owens was apparently one of the first of the 15 Hall of Fame finalists to be rejected for induction because of crimes against the NFL state. The Hall of Fame is one of the sneaky ways in which the NFL never lets us escape its obnoxiously shouty profile, and the fact that Owens is right about the flawed process doesn’t change the fact that he’ll be just fine with the process when it allows him passage.

At that point, we’ll know whether Tom Brady is to be deemed a god, or merely maintain his demigod status. At least we’ll hear more about it, because it is easily the most tiresome debate in the football diaspora, engaged in by idiots with no better idea about how to kill time. A note: If you think Tom Brady is a greater quarterback because his team won a fifth ring, or a lesser one because he didn’t, your head is now officially empty enough to be reclassified a dance hall, and you are of no more value to normal society than a papier-mache goose.

And at that point, we can return to the two things we in these parts care to know – where the Raiders are going, and how the 49ers are going to present their new football brain trust.

We needn’t explain the Raiders again to you, first because you’ve heard it all if you’re paying any attention at all. Mark Davis has been trying to cobble deals at a frantic pace in hopes that one will stick, and his 31 fellow owners still have to decide how much longer they want to endure him, while faced with the painful fact that the East Bay is getting out of the exploitative license-to-be-stolen-from stadium business. They also get to know as they go to the meeting in Houston that will ostensibly decide Davis’ fate that they have ruined California as a market by their excessive greed-laced stupidity and deserve every lousy market the state can give them.

Which brings us to the 49ers, and the latest round of Judge Them By Their Press Conferences.

If there is anything worse than this team’s on-field profile, which is why Jed York hired Kyle Shanahan, it is the way it explains itself to the outside world, which is why Jed York hired John Lynch. Both Shanahan and Lynch will be paraded before a braying mobs, probably Tuesday, and York will be there as well for the cheesy photo array and a few unconvincing words of praise about each of them (as a note, Paraag Marathe will be present but only in hologrammatic form).

They will then promise – well, something or other – and Lynch will be hailed as the face of the glorious future because the man he replaced, Trent Baalke, had the public persona of a meth-tweaked hyena. Hard to find, and not worth it when you did.

Then we’ll all remember that the job Shanalynch (or Lynchahan, depending on what part of Ireland you’re from) are being asked to do is a three-year reclamation at the very least, and that the only useful question either can be asked is “Can you fix this before Jed gets embarrassed and angry and cans you both?”

And on Wednesday, there’s the start of pre-draft prep (in order words, The Eighty-Day Slave Market), and the hamster wheel to hell gears up again toward Super Bowl LII.

Only next year, the chances of relocation hysteria and a front office upheaval are that much less, and we haven’t sufficient distractions to make the year go faster.

But enjoy Fried Festivus. We can always look forward to that, even if we change the name back in December to the more traditional "Christmas."