Here is a link to my column about Game 7 of the World Series. The full text runs below:
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Madison Bumgarner.
That’s all you need to know.
It’s rare when a ballplayer transcends a World Series. We’re thinking Willie Mays in 1954 — superstars like him. Bumgarner just transcended the World Series. He was a giant (pun intended) among ordinary mortals, and he was the most important player on the field and the best player and he won the series for the Giants. Just about did it by himself.
What he did is one of the greatest sports performances we’ve ever seen. It’s certainly one of the greatest I ever saw. It was a prolonged performance, stretching over three games. He won two games as a starter, made the ferocious Kansas City Royals look futile and bad. And then in Game 7, he entered in the fifth inning with a flimsy one-run lead and was asked to go all the way, was asked to close out the game, asked to close out the World Series.
He was pitching on two days’ rest after throwing a complete game shutout. You could argue he had no business pitching in this game. But pitching is his business. Pitching do-or-die games is certainly his business. And shutting down the Royals is his business like nobody’s business.
In the bottom of the ninth, he took the mound for the kill as the home crowd shouted, “Let’s go Royals.” Fans waved white flags which, in the end, were flags of surrender.
After each pitch, Bumgarner turned his back to the plate and climbed slowly up the mound, a man with a responsibility and a sacred trust. And he came through.
When the game ended, when Bumgarner got Salvador Perez out on an inconsequential foul popup to Pablo Sandoval, Bumgarner threw his arms into the air. Buster Posey rushed to him and they hugged, and the entire team ran onto the field and they all hugged because they had done it. They had won the World Series, this group that was a mere wild-card team, the lowest seed in the National League.
Later, in the Giants’ clubhouse — the raucous, champagne-flowing clubhouse — they played “Fire on the Mountain,” the Marshall Tucker Band version. It is Bumgarner’s theme song, what they play at AT&T Park when he takes the mound. And in the loud, celebrating, vibrating room, you heard: “There’s fire on the mountain, lightnin’ in the air/Gold in them hills and it’s waitin’ for me there.”
Bumgarner brought the lightnin’ to the mountain and he mined the gold for everyone.
Pitching coach Dave Righetti, so crucial to the Giants world championships, stood near a row of lockers covered in plastic sheeting, protection from the champagne. “We didn’t want to get him up and set him down,” Righetti said of Bumgarner, the reliever. “He even goes to me, ‘You gotta give me an early routine.’ I said, ‘Just be moving. Don’t sit down too much.’ It was an abnormal situation. He still spun the ball good.”
I asked Righetti why it’s an honor to be Bumgarner’s coach.
“Because he’s very determined, red-assed, to be quite honest. You guys have seen all that. This guy wanted to be great from the beginning. He’s willing to work for it.”
Bumgarner is officially the most famous pitcher in the world. And he is the best.
Now, we get to the crux of the issue. It is a controversial crux. Are the Giants a dynasty? Are the Giants, who won three championships in five years, what you would call a dynasty?
The Giants are the first team to win three world titles in five years since the Yankees won four from 1996 through 2000. They are just the second National League team to win three championships in five years — the other was the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1940s. A different era.
Some may disagree about the Giants being a dynasty. A thought has come forward that these Giants are not a dynasty because only seven men played on all three World Series teams. Here are the seven: Buster Posey, Sandoval, Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt.
Javier Lopez has been on all three World Series rosters, but did not play in 2012. Matt Cain will get three rings as a player, but obviously was not on this year’s roster. The list of constant players, of continuing champs is limited.
The same players didn’t win the three World Series, but the same team did, the same organization did. In fact, what the Giants accomplished is more astonishing than if they had a core of superstars. You expect superstars to win. The Giants now have regenerated themselves twice to win championships. That’s impressive and that’s almost mystifying. And it is almost unprecedented.
The Giants did what other teams only dream about, good teams like the Tigers and Dodgers and, yes, the Yankees. And the Giants did it with just two superstars – Bumgarner and Posey — and a supporting cast.
In the joyful chaos of the postgame clubhouse, the “D Word” floated above the music. Someone asked Gregor Blanco if the Giants qualify as a dynasty.
“I would say I don’t know,” Blanco said, “but to be able to win three championships in five years, that’s pretty amazing to me.”
To say the least.
Someone asked Bruce Bochy the same question. Bochy had a wet head. Bochy was fleeing the clubhouse, but he stopped. This question he wanted to answer.
“I think that’s for people to decide,” he said. “But the fact that we’re even mentioned like that is an honor. And we had a couple of off years in there. You get three in five years, that says a lot about this club.”
And then he fled. As he flees, consider one more Giants’ theme. The Bochy theme. This championship guarantees him entrance into the Hall of Fame when his turn comes. He’s nails. A lock. A cinch.
He brought the Giants to the enchanted castle three times. Is he Hall of Fame material? You need to ask?