Of the ways for a baseball season to be wounded, perhaps mortally, having it splayed beneath a toppled and smoking motorcycle would be among the least common.
That said, were one to have taken a stab at the gentleman most likely to be (or have been, temporarily) in the saddle of that motorcycle, hauling this way and that, chewing on the stray insect, aiming for a little harmless trouble, one could’ve done worse than to go with Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants left-hander and badass.
That guess, too, would be accurate. Now Bumgarner, ace, legend and surreptitious dirt-bike jockey, has a sprained pitching shoulder and bruised ribs, injuries that could cost him a large part of his season and the Giants all of theirs. Needless to say, Bumgarner never should have mounted that motorcycle, because motorcycles are inherently wonky and dangerous. They have two wheels. Gravity hates two wheels.
As the Giants tell it, Bumgarner injured himself on Thursday in the Denver area. He crashed a dirt bike he had until that moment been riding. He drove back to the team hotel (presumably in an automobile), contacted the team’s trainer, and the two of them proceeded to a local hospital, where Bumgarner was diagnosed and treated. Giants manager Bruce Bochy, himself just out of a hospital, on Friday told reporters Bumgarner said the motorcycle had skidded and crashed and he was sorry about that and, well, here they are, maybe looking at four or eight or who knows how many weeks of regret and ice bags and sixth starters.
It’s terrible for the Giants and for Bumgarner, and it is his fault, entirely self-inflicted. Probably nobody will stay too mad at Bumgarner for too long, however, because that wouldn’t heal his shoulder any sooner. The greater concern will be for a rotation carrying a 4.04 ERA with Bumgarner in it, and for an offense that’s outslugged only St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and for the 6-11 start Bumgarner will not be helping them out of.
Bochy mused to reporters, “Here’s a young guy, like a lot of them, who think they’re invincible.”
And there we are. That’s Bumgarner. All of him. The guy who, like, carries steer around on his ranch, or herds them across the Rio Grande between starts or something, and shouts at people who don’t conduct themselves precisely to his standards. He’d never before been on the disabled list, 218 starts and 1,400-and-some innings into his career. That doesn’t mean he was healthy for those starts, plus 14 more in the postseason, not including one memorable relief appearance. It means he made them, just kept showing up, pitching through fatigue and whatever aches come with throwing a baseball as hard as one can over and over.
That’s probably a guy whose sense of invincibility spills into everything. So you have a pitcher who snorts boogers and piles up innings and doesn’t scare ever and hunts wild animals with a piece of twine and a butter knife, you probably also get a pitcher who’d unwind on the back of one of them iron horses. Maybe he’s not one without the other. You know, until now, when for a while he’ll be neither.
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