22 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #35: Madison Bumgarner, SP

I sing the song of Madison Bumgarner, and there's really not much else to say. The dude is epic. From a wingspan of Amazonian proportions to the badger-imitating snarl of his windup to his eternal cool under the brightest of lights on the game's biggest stage, this kid exemplifies a professional demeanor that is so very rare among the very very young. The results in 2010 were pure brilliance.

Madison (or #MadBum to the Twitter faithful) was drafted out of high school in the first round of the 2007 First Year Player Draft, alongside Tim Alderson — who came to pro ball from college, a bit more polished, but without the natural talents of his younger contemporary. Both of them began a steady rise through the ranks, reminiscent of a Cain or a Lincecum, but as the Giants seemed poised to add a pair of stellar arms to their rotation, Alderson's numbers began to wax and wane, and he was traded to the Pirates as part of the deal that netted Freddy Sanchez.

Suddenly, Bumgarner's success was sacrosanct to Brian Sabean's ability to measure and evaluate talent. If he'd been an absolute flop, it could've been the final nail in the coffin for current club leadership — at least with the fans. And yes, there were growing pains, particularly due to an unhealthy obsession with velocity during Madison's first cup of coffee in September of 2009. The fact that the kid was at the end of the longest season of his life didn't seem to register in the rumor mill. The common (mis)perception was, "He's a bust."

So when #MadBum didn't crack the rotation out of camp, it surprised only the very hopeful, and it was likely the best thing that ever could have happened to him. Along with Buster Posey, Bumgarner formed a tandem that came to the big league club like the spoils of a blockbuster trade in which the Giants didn't give up a single thing, tried and tested and ready to lead the team down the stretch to their eventual destiny. And when he returned to the bump at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, he brought the heat, wrapped in a little orange bow.

I could go on, but there are still so many stories to tell... Suffice it to say that we can't hide #MadBum from the world any longer. After that World Series performance, he's probably the best known fifth starter in Major League Baseball. Don't worry, we'll get into the Zito Affair later in the countdown. For now, just let me say...

Thanks, Madison

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