Sunday marked the 35th time (34th start) Madison Bumgarner faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in what’s been a successful career with the San Francisco Giants. Over the last handful of years his outings against the Dodgers have been accompanied by some sort of dust-up.
The bulk of those involved Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig; both fiery competitors who couldn’t be any different in how they play the game. In his third start against the Dodgers this season, Bumgarner exchanged words with Max Muncy.
It occurred in the first inning and in response to Muncy hitting a home run into McCovey Cove. Muncy dropped his bat and admired the drive — like he’s routinely done this season — and that prompted Bumgarner to shout in his direction and gesture toward first base.
Bumgarner’s outburst was seemingly just as common as Muncy’s celebration, though he bore the brunt of commentary on social media. Following the Giants’ 1-0 loss, Bumgarner defended his stance, explained what he specifically took umbrage with and noted he wants to be permitted to play his style as other players do, via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports:
“I can’t even say it with a straight face. The more I think about it, I should just let the kids play. That’s what everybody is saying, but I can’t. He just struck a pose and walked further than I liked. That’s fine. If you want to do that, do it, but I’m going to do what I want to do. They want to let everybody be themselves. Let me be myself. That’s me. I’d just as sooner fight than walk or whatever. Just do your thing. I’ll do mine.”
MLB as a whole has faced criticism for their failure to evolve and allow some of the sport’s top athletes to be themselves when on the field. That prompted the “Let the Kids Play” campaign last October, which returned for the start of the 2019 season.
Clayton Kershaw, who has a business-like approach on the field that has some similarities to Bumgarner’s, recently acknowledged a shift in celebrations and what’s permitted and said he would not be offended by bat flips.
Bumgarner, however, has taken a clear stand, which could lead to more confrontations.