Madison Bumgarner doesn’t like the idea of the Giants potentially using an ‘opener’ in games, and he has every right to feel that way.
If you ask Madison Bumgarner how he feels about Major League Baseball teams using an “opener” on the mound to start games, he’ll probably be pretty honest with you. He doesn’t like it at all.
According to Maria I. Guardado of MLB.com, Bumgarner sent a text to San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy during this year’s winter meetings and told him “if you use an opener in my game, I’m walking out of the ballpark.”
How’s that for brutal honesty?
But hey, Bumgarner has a point. If Bochy decided to use an opening pitcher in a game that was technically supposed to be Bumgarner’s to start, wouldn’t it be fair for him to feel like it was somewhat of a slap in the face? Bochy would be basically be telling him that he thinks there is a better way for the Giants to win the game than to have Bumgarner mow down the opposing team’s lineup multiple times.
Going beyond that, using an opener in games essentially defeats the purpose of having starting pitchers and relief pitchers. It’s not the way baseball is traditionally played, and for a prideful starting pitcher like Bumgarner — a four-time All-Star, a three-time World Series champion, a former World Series MVP and one of the all-around best hurlers in the game — the concept just doesn’t sit right.
The use of openers, or a “bullpen game,” isn’t something that is fairly common in baseball. However, it was a trend started in 2018 by the Tampa Bay Rays, who used it occasionally throughout the season to some success. As the year went on, a few other teams started picking up on the idea as well.
Still, a bullpen game will never be nearly as effective as a starting pitcher going deep into a ballgame, and then stepping aside for the bullpen to close the game out. That’s the way baseball is supposed to be played, and hopefully the trend of an “opener” dies out before it becomes a regular thing.
If the Giants do end up using the strategy in future games, I would like to see Bumgarner stay true to his word and walk out the door.