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Murph: In defense of Madison Bumgarner, whose fire we’ll miss when it’s gone

No doubt, watching Madison Bumgarner trudge off the mound at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night was no fun at all.

The king of the Giants’ fiefdom from 2010-14, the last bastion of championship glory still revving at a high level — sorry, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt — was the victim of a TKO, Dodger Stadium-style.

And it hurt all Giants fans to see it, knowing it was in all likelihood his final start vs. the Dodgers as a Giant.

He saved his worst for last. It was, by the numbers, Bumgarner’s worst start vs. LA in 35 starts. He hasn’t started more against any other team, and frequently delivered the goods: In 225 innings vs. the Dodgers as a Giant, Bumgarner toted a crisp 2.72 ERA, and a wicked 1.087 WHIP. His won-loss record, if you do those kinds of antiquated things, was 15-14. He made sure to win more than he lost against Dem Bums. And that’s a lot of starts when the Dodgers were the five-time-running NL West champs, so it was no joke that Bumgarner dealt his nastiest against the best.

That’s why any hand-wringing over his “behavior” towards Max Muncy seems so prudish. What did he do last week to Muncy, really? He shouted like an angry competitor. So it wasn’t an entry into the Miss Manners contest of sportsmanship. It also opened him up to the jokes the Dodgers fired back at him — “Go get it out of the ocean,” Muncy said, an instant classic quote, made more memorable by his grandiose description of McCovey Cove’s Bay waters.

And then the tee shirts, yes. Muncy and the Dodgers had them made, and they stung Bumgarner. And they re-opened the wound by wearing them during batting practice on Thursday.

Hey, that’s the fun of the rivalry. Bumgarner roared, the Dodgers laughed. That’s part of the deal. Part of the fun. Part of feeling what is, of course, a silly and tribal and childish feeling as a Giants fan — but what’s sports if not feelings that are silly and tribal and childish?

Of COURSE sports are silly and tribal and childish. That’s kind of the point. They’re also a distraction from the pain and suffering of life; also a reason for communities to bond together; also a chance to see human beings perform great athletic feats under pressure; also a chance to see competitive juices laid bare.

Beats doing taxes, or sitting in a traffic jam.

If and when the inevitability of a Bumgarner trade happens in the next month, we will all miss — sorely — Bumgarner vs the Dodgers, and the Dodgers vs Bumgarner. There won’t be anyone left in black and orange who quite lays his emotions bare like Bumgarner. Sure, Posey and Belt and Crawford want to beat the Dodgers. But they won’t do so in as memorable a style, or with such compelling intensity.

The Dodgers got the last laugh on Thursday night. It hurt the Giants, and their fans. And the wheel of sports turns, looking for the next chance. Is it Joey Bart who will lead a decade of revenge? Or Heliot Ramos? Or Hunter Bishop?

It better be somebody. Because without Bumgarner, there ain’t much to rally around. He at least gave you that in this, the final, dying days of the Bochy Empire.


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