Dan's Dugout: Quake Hits San Francisco Again • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Quake Hits San Francisco Again


Survival of the Fittest, the law of the jungle, also applies to the world of baseball.

Just four weeks into the 2017 season, the pennant races have been altered by a series of devastating events.

Consider the San Francisco Giants, widely considered a pre-season contender to win the National League West.

The team not only got off to a poor start, dropping 10 of its first 16, but then suffered a jolt almost as bad as the 1906 earthquake.

Madison Bumgarner is out for two months

Madison Bumgarner is out for two months

Madison Bumgarner, arguably the best lefthander not named Clayton Kershaw, suffered a shoulder injury so severe that he could be lost for two months. He suffered a bruised rib and strained left shoulder in a dirt bike accident.

Yes, Virginia, any major-league player with a modicum of intelligence knows not to horse around on motorcycles or dirt bikes – especially during the season. Besides, there’s a clause in every contract that expressly forbids such activity.

San Francisco could void the pitcher’s contract but that would be hurting the whole club. Instead, it will probably escape the two $12 million options it holds on his contract beyond this season. That would make Bumgarner a free agent this fall.

The loss of his stud starter – both immediately and after the season – only made bad things worse for manager Bruce Bochy. He missed a two-game series in Kansas City because of a procedure to fix heart rhythm problems. The 62-year-old pilot had a previous heart issue, in February 2015, that required insertion of two stents. He also missed a game in Miami last year with an ailment that was never detailed by the team.

Bumgarner, always a candidate to win the Cy Young Award, had made headlines earlier this season by hitting two Opening Day home runs – the first time a pitcher had ever done that.

The 6’4″ southpaw had not won a game this season but that was more the fault of his team’s puny offense than his pitching prowess.

Madison Bumgarner's loss may keep San Francisco out of this year's playoff picture

Madison Bumgarner’s loss may keep San Francisco out of this year’s playoff picture

A four-time All-Star, Bumgarner was Most Valuable Player of both the National League Championship Series and the World Series in 2014. He’s perfect in the Fall Classic with a 4-0 record and 0.25 earned run average. In the playoffs, he’s 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA – bolstered as recently as last fall when he blanked the Mets in the wild-card game at CitiField.

The Giants will decide Monday whether their pitching ace needs surgery but early returns indicate that won’t be necessary. Rest and rehab should do the trick, club sources say.

In the meantime, the Giants will slowly sink into the west like the setting sun.

The arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers, now be heavily favored, may face a new challenge from the rejuvenated Colorado Rockies but neither the Arizona Diamondbacks nor San Diego Padres figure to mount much of a threat.

Bumgarner could be back in time for the All-Star Game, set for mid-July in Miami, but how good will he be? He may need spring training all over again to rebuild the strength in his now-injured arm. And whether NL manager Joe Maddon even picks him is another consideration.

NL All-Star manager Joe Maddon could be without Madison Bumgarner

NL All-Star manager Joe Maddon could be without Madison Bumgarner

For the Giants, Bumgarner is the one guy they can’t afford to lose. He’s the durable anchor of the pitching staff – until now, at least.

Every contender has a guy it can’t afford to lose. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 80-game steroids suspension of star centerfielder Starling Marte is roughly equivalent to the loss of Bumgarner. But Marte is one of eight position players, while Bumgarner is one of the best pitchers in the game.

Should Pittsburgh reach the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, Marte won’t be eligible to play. He will also miss the All-Star Game.

Some guys just can’t be replaced. For the Mets, that guy is Yoenis Cespedes. For the Braves, it’s Freddie Freeman. For the Cubs, Kris Bryant.

That’s why pre-season predictions are so preposterous. Nobody knows who will get hot, who will get hurt, or who will get suspended.

As Joaquin Andujar said in his one-word description of baseball, “Youneverknow.”

Elsewhere in baseball:

Houston is cheering the apparent return to form of erstwhile ace lefthander Dallas Keuchel . . .

Kudos to 32-year-old Cesar Valdez, a tenacious Oakland pitcher who just made his first major-league appearance since 2010 . . .

The Texas Rangers released former AL MVP Josh Hamilton, who needs more knee surgery . . .

Mookie Betts has been a Red Sox surprise

Mookie Betts has been a Red Sox surprise

Boston’s Mookie Betts has become the ultimate contact hitter, going more than 128 plate appearances without a strikeout . . .

Look for Khris Davis (A’s) and Chris Davis (Orioles) to stage a season-long run for the American League home run crown . . .

A Seattle rookie named Mitch Haniger is stealing headlines in the Pacific Northwest . . .
Injuries to Lucas Duda (elbow), Wilmer Flores (infection), Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring), and Travis d’Arnaud (wrist) forced the Mets to play short-handed against Washington this weekend.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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