On Monday night, San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner once again showed the baseball world that he is the league’s ultimate badass, playing a twisted game of hide-and-seek with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig that apparently was created by him. “Don’t look at me,” yelled Bumgarner after wildly celebrating a routine play, which lead to an altercation that brought both the Dodgers and Giants benches onto the field. The whole situation was strange, but it actually falls in line with the sort of confusing, misplaced anger that Bumgarner displays on a regular basis. So let’s try and figure this out: what exactly is Madison Bumgarner’s problem?
Let me first say, Bumgarner is one of the most accomplished players in baseball. “MadBum” is the owner of three World Series titles, one World Series MVP, and four All-Star selections. He is best known for his incredible work in the postseason, which has all but cemented his plaque in Cooperstown at some point in the future. But in the present, Bumgarner is annoying and I think everyone is tired of seeing him make wild, unnecessary attempts to police the game in whatever fashion he chooses. He yells when a batter gets mad for missing a hittable pitch, then also yells when a batter shows him up, as pitchers like to say. Some people will chalk it up to being competitive, but that word is used to describe someone who will do anything to win, not someone who yells at a batter while their catcher stands in the middle. In fact, if anyone should have a problem with Bumgarner’s antics, it should probably be Buster Posey. At some point the Giants catcher has to get sick of diffusing pointless altercations because of his pitcher’s inability to cope with defeat (or success, apparently).
The confusing thing about Bumgarner is that most people see him as a slow-talking, easy-going guy. He gets the benefit of the doubt, while someone like Puig gets blasted for not acting in an “acceptable manner” after making a great play or hitting a home run. Bumgarner acts like the warden of baseball, then pumps his fist and yells as he rounds the bases after hitting a home run or stares down a batter after a strikeout, rendering useless everything he has ever said about not showing up the opposition. There is no doubt about Bumgarner’s talent, and his hitting ability makes for interesting debate with regards to the designated hitter, but he has become one of the most hypocritical players in baseball. He expects opposing batters to treat baseball like the back-nine at Augusta National, yet he pumps his fist and yells against the very team that he polices more closely than any other. In addition, you will notice that the Dodgers did nothing in retaliation to Bumgarner’s celebration, which is most likely because they can cope with the incredible despair of allowing a regular season home run.
Given all of Bumgarner’s brave pursuits of controlled, emotionless reactions in his presence, the most amazing aspect of Monday’s dust-up between the Giants and Dodgers is that Puig still has the audacity to look at him after the Carhartt model made it a point to call attention to himself after throwing to first base. I can’t imagine the terror that Puig was feeling in that moment, as I’m sure Bumgarner is much more imposing than the men in Cuba who threatened to kill the outfielder before his defection to the United States. “Don’t look at me” is exactly what an entitled first-round pick would say to someone who risked his life to be able to play baseball in a country that allows players, like Bumgarner, to make millions of dollars for their talents.
In the end, Madison Bumgarner has simply become the poster child for pitchers who are overly sensitive about their craft and resort to a brawl or hit by pitch to resolve the issue. Opposing players are held to such a high standard by some pitchers with regards to behavior that it seems impossible for a batter to have an acceptable reaction to success. Pitchers like Bumgarner, who play one day per week, have no business policing the game and certainly should not resort to inciting altercations just because their feelings are hurt. Endangering other players (including his own teammates) makes the pitcher look weak and lacking in perspective. To answer the question stated in the first paragraph, I have no idea what’s wrong with Madison Bumgarner, but I do know that it’s getting really old watching him act the way he did on Monday night.