A few months into my first season as a Giants beat writer, I learned a valuable lesson.
I took the night off on a random summer Thursday, eager to attend a concert with some friends. As I waited for them at a downtown bar, I couldn't help but notice that Madison Bumgarner was ticking off one hitless inning after the next.
There was a big part of me that wanted to hop in a cab -- kids, this was pre-Uber -- and speed over to the ballpark, but just as my friends arrived, Bumgarner finally allowed a single. He would end up with a one-hitter and I would end up making a rule that I followed for eight seasons.
DON'T EVER SKIP A MADISON BUMGARNER START
Bumgarner was must-see TV for Giants fans over the last decade, but as a reporter, you had to keep your eyes on him even on the days he wasn't starting. I can't tell you how many times I sat next to Bruce Bochy for one of his pre-game media sessions while subtly keeping an eye on Bumgarner as he took BP and launched baseballs into the upper deck.
Bumgarner moved quickly before games, checking off the boxes of a meticulous routine that prepared him for each start. He's one of the rare players you would never, ever see just sitting at his locker playing with his phone, or hanging out in the dugout just to pass the time. Everything Bumgarner did had a purpose, and a lot of it was entertaining. He's an Arizona Diamondback now, and he'll be missed, not just by the fans but by those of us who were lucky enough to cover him.
There are too many clutch performances, homers, staredowns with umpires, GIFs, funny quotes and stories to count, but here are some lighter moments that stand out from eight years of always keeping one eye on MadBum ...
--- Before Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, I was standing near the dugout at Wrigley Field when I saw Bumgarner emerge with a bat. He looked around for a few seconds, scanning the crowd, and then he found me standing there with my phone. He told me he hoped I brought some earplugs because his BP session was about to be loud.
Madison Bumgarner is handing out souvenirs to the fans on Waveland Street: pic.twitter.com/xQYmM4fuin— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) October 8, 2016
Bumgarner hit about a half-dozen balls onto the street that night. He never missed an opportunity to take aim at landmarks in visiting ballparks, and if there's one silver lining to all this, it's that fans at Oracle Park will finally get to watch. The visiting team takes BP after the gates have opened.
(By the way, MLB has screwed up a lot of things over the last few years. Not letting Bumgarner take part in the Home Run Derby is high on that list.)
--- I appreciate the players who won't humor bad questions. Ryan Vogelsong always kept you on your toes, and Bumgarner wasn't about to fill your notebook if you hit him with a "talk about this ..." or even a statement:
Bumgarner's interviews are the greatest. Phoenix reporter: "You and Cahill had quite a battle." Bumgarner: "Yeah."— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 1, 2013
--- Remember after the 2014 title run when Bumgarner was everywhere? That was an interesting time, and his teammates certainly had some fun with it:
I believe Bumgarner just wrapped up the 2015 Sportsman of the Year award, too. pic.twitter.com/8AN6deu6Xi— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) February 23, 2015
--- Reminder that Bumgarner rode a horse on the field during a banner ceremony but also randomly did it during a parade. The Phoenix area is actually a great fit for him from a lifestyle perspective.
--- When you make Bumgarner an offer that's around $70 million but someone else offers $85 million ...
You are not allowed to dump Gatorade on Madison Bumgarner. pic.twitter.com/DY3ofdfHSY— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 26, 2018
Also, that was after a walk-off by a starting pitcher. With a 26-man roster and Gabe Kapler managing instead of Bruce Bochy, we wouldn't have seen nearly as many pinch-hit at-bats. But those were always a good time.
Bumgarner would sit next to Bochy in the late innings a lot and go over strategy. A lot of times, when Bochy asked him who should pinch-hit, the answer was simple: "You know I'm your best option, right?"
Bumgarner sprinting to get ready to pinch-hit in the ninth inning is the highlight of the season so far. pic.twitter.com/ZU0iF6P75J— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) March 30, 2019
--- Spring training can be monotonous unless Bumgarner is leading PFP drills ...
DO NOT try to score from third on a wild pitch by Madison Bumgarner. pic.twitter.com/OyuSZot9CC— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) February 15, 2019
--- There were a lot of good Bumgarner quotes over the years, particularly whenever he would tangle with Yasiel Puig. He always had a few good lines prepared when the media was let into the clubhouse after those games and would practically wink as he delivered them. But I'm partial to this one, because it's the kind of honesty you rarely get in professional sports these days:
Madison Bumgarner on trade rumors: pic.twitter.com/YxSqGTLpkZ— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 19, 2019
--- We'll end with this, because it illustrates just how rare yesterday was. We'll see what happens with Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt and Buster Posey, but yesterday was something Giants fans just haven't dealt with.
Tim Lincecum ended up elsewhere, but he had gone through a lot of rough times on the field by the time he wore another jersey. Pablo Sandoval is a close comparison because he also left as a free agent, but he also had a lot more low points as a player back then than Bumgarner currently does.
Bumgarner was a teenager when this all started and he watched it slowly come to an end. He'll watch the rest of the rebuild from afar.
Madison Bumgarner was waiting for Matt Cain at the end of the dugout: pic.twitter.com/W3EN77zSPx— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 30, 2017