Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Bum's rush

Conventional wisdom died a pitch at a time, out there on the suddenly lonesome prairie.

Aoki flew out to left, and that was one wound.

Cain went down swinging, and that was another wound.

Someone else grounded to second or flew out to right or tapped one back to the mound, and suddenly conventional wisdom was bleeding in a dozen places, and a stadium painted every shade of blue was blue in fact.

The numbers have already been bronzed, the morning after Madison Bumgarner and the Giants hacked conventional wisdom to death: Five innings, two hits, four strikeouts, zero walks. Sixty-eight pitches. Fifty for strikes.

A mortal simply doesn't do that sort of thing, not on three days' rest. But Bumgarner hasn't been mortal for more than a month, starting that day in Pittsburgh when he silenced the raucous Pirates 8-0 and started the Giants on the road to last night, when they beat the Royals 3-2 in Kansas City in Game 7 to win their third World Series in five years.

Bumgarner was both the clear MVP and the standard bearer for the narrative, which needed Jack Buck to return from the grave and utter again his immortal line: "I can't believe what I just saw!"

Because, really, who could believe it? Five innings of impeccable relief three days after he pitched a nine-inning, four-hit shutout to give the Giants a 3-2 Series lead? The Giants themselves bucking history -- before last night, they were 0-4 in winner-take-all World Series games -- to win yet again?

Conventional wisdom was K.C.'s best bud coming in, given those numbers. Conventional wisdom said if they forced Game 7 you could stick a righteous fork in the Giants, because no way were the Royals gonna lose  the first World Series Game 7 in Kaufmann Stadium in 29 years. No way was Bumgarner gonna have anything close to his best stuff if the Giants had to call on him, because conventional wisdom had seen this movie before -- the ace being called upon on short rest -- and it hardly ever went well.

And then Bumgarner retired the Royals in the fifth. And then he did it in the sixth. And then he did it in the seventh and eighth, and suddenly it was the ninth inning, and he was still out there throwing strikes.

Five innings, two hits, four strikeouts, zero walks. Fifty strikes in 68 pitches.

We are given to hyperbole these days, especially in sports, because 24/7/365 media has killed context. And that's because the people running the 24/7/365 media have no context, believing as they do that nothing that happened more than five minutes ago has any relevance to anything.

Well. I do have that context, being a charter member of the Get-Off-My-Lawn-You-Damn-Kids brigade. And what I say is if Bumgarner's performance last night doesn't go up there on the shelf with the greatest World Series performances of all time, then nothing belongs on that shelf.

He killed conventional wisdom, in the process elevating a generally unremarkable Giants team into what passes for a dynasty in 2014.  Because three titles in five years qualifies you in these days of parity, no matter what anyone says.

Speaking, you know, of conventional wisdom.


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