giants-bumgarner-worldseries

I feel like I’ve been droning on about Madison Bumgarner in faux poetry for days now, but after racking my brain for all the other fantastic pitching performances I’ve seen in October and otherwise — Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Chris Carpenter — nothing compares to what this guy has pulled off.

What he accomplished in just this World Series is legendary, and just by the numbers. In three games, he threw 21 innings, gave up one run, one walk, struck out 17 and kept his ERA to 0.43 en route to two wins and his incredible five-inning save in Game 7. Factor in his entire World Series career, and the numbers get even more ridiculous: a 0.25 ERA, still only one run, five walks and 31 strikeouts over 36 high-intensity innings.

The numbers are for the historians and analysts, who will take into account the era in which Bumgarner pitched — one of pitch counts and controlled innings and proper rest between appearances — and place him among the greats like Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Sandy Koufax.

But we watched this in real time. We saw Bumgarner carry the Giants through the Wild Card game, control the Cardinals in the NLCS and then dominate the Kansas City Royals with ease in Game 1. He topped himself in front of a home crowd in Game 5, shutting them out and finishing what he started. And then, after a shaky start to his first batter, with just two days of rest after throwing those nine innings, he settled down, firing nails into the championship dreams of every Kansas City Royals player, coach and fan. (more…)

Madison Bumgarner made his mark immediately as a rookie.

Madison Bumgarner made his mark immediately as a rookie.

Why is the World Series such a great event? One reason is that, every year, without fail, someone seizes control of his own destiny and makes the most of the chance. Last night, that was Madison Bumgarner.

Watching Bumgarner meticulously pick apart the Royals for nine innings in his last start of the season was one of those coronation-type moments. The reality and depth of his October career have already been established — he beat the Rangers as a 21-year-old in the 2010 World Series and has just gotten better from there. But this season has cemented him in that higher plane of October warriors, starting with his dismantling of the Pirates in the Wild Card game and right through to last night’s Game 5, pushing the Giants to the brink of another World Series trophy. (more…)

This was Paul Konerko's last summer with the White Sox.

This was Paul Konerko’s last summer with the White Sox.

It’s unseasonably warm today. As September crawls to a close and gets ready to give way to October, it’s 84 degrees in Boston, t-shirt weather that seems more appropriate for at least a month earlier.

It’s been a weird summer that way. After a brutal winter that practically wiped out spring until mid-May, there were fewer brutally hot days than New England is used to, but all the same, the summer seemed to whip by. And what started with so much hope and ramped-up expectations quickly gave way to a different kind of hope, one directed towards the future and peppered with attempts to find the good as the chaos reigned for so long.

A season that started with the Red Sox as World Series champions, with Derek Jeter in New York and Paul Konerko in Chicago and Adam Dunn bashing home runs indiscriminately ends today with none of those things happening. The Sox fell apart and traded away a number of players who were so important to a championship a year ago — Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew among them. Jeter’s bat went into hiding with his already AWOL glove, but he kept his spot near the top of the order all year as the Yankees missed the playoffs again. Konerko went quiet, too, but he gave way to his successor, Jose Abreu. (more…)

Jon Lester, bearing down, as usual.

Jon Lester, bearing down, as usual.

In the midst of a last-place tenure, fans have two things to fall back on: enjoying the game that day in a vacuum, and dreaming about a better future.

The Boston Red Sox in the midst of a doomed season have done their part to drum up at least some excitement to days ahead, playing rookies and letting fans wonder about the talent percolating in Pawtucket and Portlant. While 2014 is doomed, maybe there’s a light in 2015.

That mindset doesn’t mesh well with sentimentality, though, where Jon Lester, the team’s ace, is concerned. It looks increasingly likely that he won’t be in the 2015 team photo. He might not even make it to Friday, which is tough to swallow for those who have watched him develop for the past nine seasons. (more…)

Credit to the immortal Jon Couture for capturing this moment.

Credit to the immortal Jon Couture for capturing this moment.

Just before I started paying attention to baseball and, by default, the Boston Red Sox, the team had undergone a transformation, sliding from a pennant winner to the basement and back.

I missed most of that. When I hopped on the train, Mike Greenwell and Ellis Burks were kings, with Dwight Evans providing the steady guidance of a veteran. A lot of older players had already been cast aside, but Bill Buckner was probably more likeable than A.J. Pierzynski.

Blaming everything that’s gone wrong with the 2014 Red Sox on their former catcher would be lazy and probably inaccurate. Pierzynski was (and is) an aging catcher with a less-than-stellar reputation both on defense and in personality — his career highlight for a lot of fans was being punched in the face by Michael Barrett in 2006.

Instead, Pierzynski has unwittingly served as a marker in the sand, documenting the changing tides of the team. When he arrived, he was a stopgap, a veteran presence with plenty of pop left in his bat to keep the Red Sox in contention while younger players worked their way through the system. (more…)