Madison Bumgarner is 24 years old and coming off the best full year of his steadily ascendant career. Matt Cain is 29 and coming off the worst year of his career since his first full year.
Who’s the ace of the 2014 Giants? Cain, of course.
Here is where we pause to give the good many of you so inclined to click “write new mail” and consider how blue your language should be in pointing out the lunacy in my logic. Address it to [email protected], then actually simmer down, Duke, and hear me out.
Yes, virtually everything we’ve seen, know and profess to know suggests that this is the year MadBum officially claims the crown for which he’s been destined since that dominant four-game, late-season cup of joe back in 2009.
Yes, Cain last season appeared to be starting the inevitable regression that’s reasonably expected to sneak up on a staff workhorse who’s clocked an average of 200 or so innings for eight years.
And again: The former is 24, just entering his prime. The latter is 29, and while that’s an age that doesn’t exactly carry the immediate threat of fossilization, Cain got started a lot younger that most 29-year-old big-leaguers.
All good points in the case for MadBum as ace.
The problem is that they’re all just a little too tangible, too black and white. Pitching at the ace and big-league level, though, is about intangibles and gray.
Specifically, gray matter, as in what fills the space between the Oakley hooks, and how it processes all around it. This is why Cain, when it’s all said and done this season, will have — through his actions, not words — told MadBum and the rest of the baseball world that the crown he took from Tim Lincecum’s head a couple of years back will stay on his own dome until further notice.
Understand, now, that this isn’t to say MadBum doesn’t have off-the-charts intangibles or an extremely capable baseball mind. He does. I did a Giants Magazine piece on him last year that gave me the luxury of spending more one-on-one time with him than I’d ever come close to spending prior, and I was blown away by what he revealed of himself during those candid conversations.
He was reticent early in our time together, to be sure. He’s not the easiest nut to crack — slow to open and trust. That’s why a popular perception of him is as a relatively quiet and perhaps even simple country kid. Once he started to open up, however, he destroyed that perception with a passion, an understated eloquence, a sneakily dry and wicked sense of humor, and a purely and respectfully conveyed confidence that I so wish everyone who cares about the Giants could regularly access.
Cain is that way, too. They’re cut from very similar cloth, which explains why they’re very good friends. Cain, though, has been at the thrust-and-parry game with my type for far longer, so we’ve already seen some of the great qualities in him that remain hidden in the public MadBum.
So what — other than the very real value of experience — will enable Cain to keep his crown? Simple. It’s the same thing that allowed him to take Timmy’s. Whether he’ll ever admit it or not, and he won’t, Cain does not like being seen as No. 2 to anyone — especially when he knows he has the goods to be No. 1. And now that he’s actually been No. 1, he’s not going to easily relinquish that status.
– Mychael Urban, San Francisco Examiner
It had been three days of bliss for the Cal basketball team, a sustained adulation on campus after Saturday’s big win over Arizona, forcing every fan in the country to take notice.
And on the fourth day, fantasy took leave.
There’s nothing like a discouraging home performance to put things in perspective, and Wednesday’s 80-69 loss to Stanford offered a stiff jolt of reality for the crowd at Haas Pavilion. The Bears were outdone by Stanford in terms of defense, court spacing, shot making and, at times, composure.
If it was somewhat shocking on one hand, the result was hardly surprising on the other. With the two teams having split the season series and tied at 6-4 in conference play, Cal is no better than Stanford, and that’s just a fact. “They deserved to win,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “They came in here very aggressive, very physical, and we didn’t handle that very well.”
It was an undeniably big win for Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, who doesn’t exactly have 100 percent support among Cardinal followers. That’s what happens when you drop out of the NCAA Tournament picture for several years running, but it’s hard to imagine anyone complaining about Wednesday night’s performance. After knocking off Arizona State for its fifth win in seven games, Stanford looked determined to prove it was no mirage.
Montgomery spent most of the first half in a controlled rage, looking like a habitually impatient man about three hours into a flight delay. After preaching “we have to build on” the Arizona game, he watched the Bears come out flat and disorganized, falling behind 38-20 at one point.
About the only thing Cal was winning at that stage was the battle of the uniforms, Stanford having taken the court in tacky all-blacks with faded red names and numbers almost impossible to read (one could only surmise they were lifted out of some dusty box in a long-abandoned warehouse). More to the point, the Cardinal came out sharp and cohesive, nearly every possession leading to a sensible shot, and their defense was especially tight.
It seemed that the mood was changing, perhaps irrevocably, just before the half. The Bears were on a roll, Justin Cobbs had the ball in his hand with the clock ticking down, and as he unleashed a three-pointer, it was easy to recall his dramatic game-winner against Arizona. Sure enough, he nailed it at the buzzer, cutting Stanford’s lead to just six points and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The comeback never came to fruition. Stanford built a 60-47 lead with nine minutes left, and all that emotion had been drained from the arena.
“I was really proud of our guys, and I just told ‘em that in the locker room,” Dawkins said after the game. “The way the first half ended, that’s hard to withstand. I was like, ‘Where’s my team?’ I’m gonna find out a lot about us. And I found out that our guys have substance. To weather that storm, come back and regroup, says a lot about their character.”
Dawkins leaned hard on his starting five, giving substantial minutes to just two other players, but the lead was in good hands with Dwight Powell (22 points), Chasson Randle (19) and Anthony Brown (16) joining the smooth-flowing Josh Huestis in the offensive sets. Cal’s bench, on the other hand, was a complete disaster.
– Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle
Adam Silver was barely out of diapers – OK, barely starting law school – when David Stern embarked on his NBA rescue mission in the early 1980s.
Except for Boston and Los Angeles, the NBA wasn’t exactly a destination spot. Sacramento had cowbells but no franchise. The Utah Jazz split time between Salt Lake and Las Vegas. The league’s visionaries were intrigued with Russia, Spain, Italy and Argentina, openly obsessed with global growth, but weren’t even whispering about China or India.
There were drug issues, image issues, bankrupt owner issues, labor issues. And, yes, there were plenty of thorny arena issues that persist today and will continue to prick the league as long as basketball remains an indoor sport.
Toss that arena issue aside, and the NBA, with its soaring franchise values and player salaries, ever-expanding international market and highly anticipated upcoming broadcast negotiations, is a stable, thriving and very different entity. And now, as of last Saturday, it has a different commissioner.
Silver, who begins a whirlwind West Coast trip today with a tour of the Downtown Plaza, site of the proposed sports and entertainment complex, is no Stern, which is among the many reasons he was such an obvious choice to succeed him. Cloning isn’t the answer. Stern’s and Silver’s contrasting personalities led to an effective partnership for the better part of 22 years.
Silver was the good cop, the counter to Stern’s charismatic, but often strident, presence. Images from the most recent collective bargaining negotiations are indelible: Stern, commanding the room and dictating the agenda with his fascinating mix of intellect, acerbic humor and anger always in play; Silver, seated ramrod straight at Stern’s side, speaking calmly and soothingly as he translated legal language and encouraged conversation.
“David was close to the vest, very old school,” Kings minority owner Mark Mastrov said. “He ran the league the way my dad would have run the league. I think Adam’s style will be more democratic, where he’s a guy looking for feedback, who works with the collective, then makes his decision.”
While serving in numerous capacities the past two decades – as deputy commissioner, head of NBA Entertainment, chief of staff, marketing expert – Silver was another in a long line of league employees who would rather have a root canal than sleep eight hours. He is widely credited with revolutionizing NBA Entertainment and developing independent relationships with the owners, and he distinguished himself as the league’s point man on global growth and technology.
– Ailene Voisin, Sacramento Bee