Fernandez, Palmer remind us 24 hours is not enough & too much


Fernandez, Palmer remind us 24 hours is not enough & too much

Sunday dawned with miserable news – an exemplary young pitcher named Jose Fernandez crashed his boat and died. That should have been enough. More than enough, to be honest.

And it ended with slightly dissimilar yet equally horrible news – Arnold Palmer, one of the pre-eminent American golfers and sportsmen ever, died after a prolonged illness at age 87.

But the circus never closes, the merry-go-round whirls faster, the calliope only gets louder, and the only constant is the postgame seagull force. Fernandez’ death was a stark reminder that even the ideal life is too short and usually ends too cruelly for us to properly absorb. It was also an excellent signal to give the entire day a pass, just to acknowledge and comprehend the loss.

But it also happened on a football weekend, which meant that Fernandez’ death and Palmer’s passing could so swiftly be pushed aside for other, far less important news, because the beast must be fed, and the beast is always hungry. Their lives deserved lengthening, and if not that, at least a much quieter news day so that we could be less distracted and more inclined to remember and honor them both.

Two college football coaches were fired, Les Miles at LSU and Ron Turner at Florida International, and Notre Dame, which always alleges that it stands for loftier things than mere football, whacked defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder after Saturday’s 38-35 loss to Duke. None of those teams had played more than four games all year, but that was sufficient evidence to send them on their way with malice aforethought.

Fourteen NFL teams won their games, including the Oakland Raiders, who had no defense until they got one, thus saving their still larval seasons. Fourteen lost their games, including the San Francisco 49ers, who are now beneath contempt while being beyond redemption. Much angsting and gnashage of teeth resulted, thus fueling everyone’s fantasies and portents of doom until Week 4 – because the circus never closes.

Oh, and the Rams-Buccaneers game was delayed in the fourth quarter because the earth decided to remind everyone that it is still actually in charge, and makes its wishes known with weather that can kill people and destroy their belongings. A healthy reminder for everyone, I think.

Nine baseball teams ended their regular seasons at home, including the Oakland Athletics, who beat Texas mostly for the greater glory of pitcher Jharel Cotton, the New York Mets, who beat Philadelphia by a smooth 17 runs, and the Minnesota Twins, who lost their 100th game.

Oh, and the Giants lost in San Diego again, falling a game behind the Mets, because that’s what THEY do.

Oh, and might I add oh, the Los Angeles Dodgers played an extra inning in Vin Scully’s last home game ever, which I can assure you was not met with his approval, walk-off homer or no walk-off homer. You might have thought this was some gift from the celestial production booth, but in his head, Scully was more than prepared to just go home as quietly as possible. He just chose the wrong profession to be quiet.

Oakland’s Michael Crabtree chose not to gesture before or speak later on the Great Anthem Debate, which caused many people to savage him as their political foes savaged Colin Kaepernick for starting the whole miss-the-point-he’s-trying-to-make discussion. It is good to know that our version of open discourse still requires an absolute and categorical refusal to consider the opinions of others, and that the First Amendment actually means “freedom to agree, and only to agree.”

And Kaepernick thanked his coach, Chip Kelly, for standing by him at the very same time that everyone else still paying attention to the 49ers was excoriating Kelly for not making the 49ers offense a perfectly polished diamond out of a heap of gravel.

Oh, and Mylan Hicks, a former 49er on the Calgary Stampeders’ practice squad, was shot and killed outside a Calgary nightclub after his team beat Winnipeg only a few hours earlier.

And that brings us back to Fernandez and Palmer, and a day that began and ended horribly. Sometimes 24 hours is simply not enough, and too much, all at the same time, and then you’re left to remember that the days for all of us are too few.

MLB Rumors: Braves may be latest team to take interest in Bryce Harper


MLB Rumors: Braves may be latest team to take interest in Bryce Harper

I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but where will Bryce Harper land? The rumors have been trickling in and an interesting murmur that The Athletic's David O'Brien brought to surface was bringing the six-time All-Star to Atlanta.

So yes, the Hot Stove is still warm.

The team is "highly unlikely" to bring back fire reliever Craig Kimbrel, so why not concentrate on the bats and the outfield situation for now? Well, to start things off, defensively, they're doing alright. Ronald Acuña Jr. more than made a name for himself in 2018 during his NL Rookie of the Year campaign slashing .293/.366/.552 with 26 long balls and 64 RBI -- and was even mentioned in some MVP talks. In center field, Ender Inciarte has just about every inch of that domain covered, and when he comes through at the plate, the guy can be deadly. 

[RELATED: Giants interested in Bryce Harper]

Harper, of course, is a right-fielder by nature and the team is starving for someone to takeover after All-Star Nick Markaski granted free agency in October. Can they depend on Adam Duvall? He had a very abismal season with Atlanta last season (.132/.193/.151 in 33 games). So it may not be a difficult decision to make. 

There's also the ballpark factor.

SunTrust Park literally has a section made for lefty Freddie Freeman with a power alley in right field. Imagine Harper getting ahold of one and sending it into the Chophouse -- interrupting someone's meal. Having him add some pop to a lineup that already possesses Ozzie Albies and a group of guys that are more than ready to continue their momentum would be so much fun to watch. 

The team also freed up some monetary space when they traded Matt Kemp to the Braves in that huge salary-swap, so there aren't many reasons why this couldn't take place.

Plus, we know he looks good in those colors.

Could Giants trade Madison Bumgarner? Here's why Buster Olney believes so

Could Giants trade Madison Bumgarner? Here's why Buster Olney believes so

Madison Bumgarner forever will be a Giants legend for his 2014 playoff heroics. There was no way that former general manager Bobby Evans could emotionally separate Bumgarner from the Giants and trade the team's ace. 

Farhan Zaidi, the Giants' president head of baseball operations, doesn't hold the same history with Bumgarner, though, and that could be a good thing, writes ESPN's Buster Olney, who believes the left-hander's recent production shows the team should entertain a trade now sooner than later.

Bumgarner is 29 years old, and is scheduled to hit the open market after the 2019 season when his eight-year, $58.06 million contract comes to an end. Injuries from a dirt bike accident and a line drive off his hand in his last start of spring training have sidelined Bumgarner the last two years. When healthy and on the field, though, he hasn't been his former dominant self.

[RELATED: Giants Review: Bumgarner beset by injury for second consecutive year]

Over the last two years, Bumgarner has started 38 games, or four less than his dominant 2016 season. In that span, he has gone 10-16 with a 3.29 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 240.2 innings. It might all start with his slight dip in velocity. 

Since 2014, Bumgarner's average fastball, four-seam or two-seam, has slightly been slower, according to numbers from FanGraphs. He sat at 92.1 mph in 2014, was the same in 2015, fell to 90.9 in 2016, bumped up to 91 mph in 2017, and was back down to 90.9 mph this past season. 

Bumgarner also relied much more on his off-speed pitches than his fastball in 2018, according to FanGraphs. The lefty threw his fastball just 34.2 percent of the time last season, the lowest percentage of his MLB career. His fastball was heavily replaced by his curveball, which he threw a career-high 22.8 percent.

The rate of hard contact by opposing batters against Bumgarner also has increased every year since 2014, and reached a career high in 2018. According to FanGraphs, since 2014, Bumgarner's hard contact rate has gone from 26.9 percent, to 27.8 percent, to 31.6 percent, to 35 percent, and finally all the way to 41.6 percent last season. 

Here's the reality of the situation: The Giants have been awful the last two seasons, and while Bumgarner has been far from that, he's simply not his past self. He has to rely more on his off-speed as his fastball is slower and less effective, and batters are hitting him harder and harder. 

A contender will pony up for Bumgarner because of his playoff history, and he still can be at least a No. 2 on a playoff team. Is now the time to take advantage of the market? 

[RELATED: Farhan Zaidi says it's 'not absolutely necessary' for Giants to hire GM]

“Where we are, everything has to be on the table in terms of how we move this team and roster forward,” Zaidi said on a possible Bumgarner trade at his Giants introductory press conference. 

No matter if it's figuratively or literally, Bumgarner will go down as a Forever Giant. How much longer he toes the rubber at AT&T Park could be a different story, though.