Mad about Maddy

Madison Bumgarner is, to borrow Jeff Garlin’s phrase, a bowlful of awesome, and I want to be sure that nothing I write here detracts from that. He’s having a postseason for the ages, and he was all kinds of wonderful during the regular season too, and if every player in this World Series was dispersed into an expansion draft Bumgarner would be my first pick just ahead of Buster Posey. The guy has made four World Series starts and allowed one stinking run, one, and that was when he left a pitch up to Royals catcher Salvador Perez with the Giants up 7-0.

Bumgarner is just breathtakingly good, and nothing the Kansas City Royals could have done on Sunday would have made much difference.

That said: The Royals might have done SOMETHING.

Sunday, Bumgarner pitched one of the greatest games in World Series history. He threw a complete game shutout, gave up four hits, struck out eight, didn’t walk a batter. That was a Game Score of 87 — going back forty years, only Randy Johnson’s three-hit, eleven strikeout masterpiece against the Yankees in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series scored higher. Go back more than forty years, and you are in the realm of Gibson and Drysdale and Koufax.

Why was Bumgarner that good? Well, of course, he was that good because he IS that good, because he’s 6-foot-5, hides the ball well, throws in the low 90s, has a nasty little cutting slider, freaks out runners with his pickoff move and throws from a hard angle so that lefties can’t touch him. He also seems to enjoy pitching in big games. He also hits. You know all those things we said about the awesomeness of the Royals bullpen. They are every bit as true about Maddy Bumgarner.

— Wisconsin named its capital after the guy.

— When a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, it is so the tree can avoid Madison Bumgarner.

— Real Rob Lowe is the “don’t be this me” version of Madison Bumgarner.

But let’s look at Sunday’s game from the other team’s angle.
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I’m Fine

So, you’ve seen “Defending Your Life,” right? Love that movie. Quick plot synopsis: Albert Brooks dies and finds himself in “Judgment City,” where he has to defend his life in front of judges. It’s a little bit more complicated than that, but that’s all you need to know for this World Series reference.

In the middle of the trial, Brooks’ regular lawyer gets pulled away and Brooks finds himself being defended by a guy named Dick Stanley (played by the incomparable Buck Henry).

“Without tooting my own horn,” Stanley tells Brooks, “I’m very good at this.”

Then, every time a moment comes up for for Stanley to make an argument for Brooks’ life, he instead says, “I’m fine.” And that’s it. He does not say anything else. Just: “I’m fine.”

“I hear you had Dick Stanley today,” one of the other lawyers says to Brooks. “He’s excellent. Quiet. But excellent.”

“Very quiet,” Brooks said.
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Bullpens and luck

My latest for SportsWorld is on the Royals remarkable bullpen and how — luck or skill — Kansas City happened upon what might be baseball’s new paradigm.

I’m not sure how far this will go. But the Royals essentially have three closers with the firm: Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Will teams keep going in this direction? Is a sixth-inning closer something teams will consider in the future? How about a starter that goes four innings every four days and then five closers? 

I have little doubt as I talk to people around baseball that teams are watching this Royals team very closely and wondering if there are lessons to be learned.

The Power of Three on SportsWorld.

Blast from past: Dayton Moore

I wrote this in 2006 shortly after Dayton Moore took the job as Royals GM. I was reminded of it by somebody and reread it … I found it fascinating how much Dayton Moore has held true to his core beliefs through many years when it looked like it wouldn’t work. The manager stuff he talks about here just reiterate his feelings about Ned Yost.

The Royals didn’t win the division but I do wonder if he sent that bouquet of flowers to the ESPN guy. I’ll have to ask him when I get to KC.

* * *

Dayton Moore thinks often about the Plaza in the heart of Kansas City. It comforts him. He thinks about the shops and the restaurants and the people who walk around at all hours. He thinks about free parking. He thinks about the fountain with four equestrian figures on the corner of 47th and J.C. Nichols. Those four horses represent four great rivers around the world.
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Analytics Guys and Heart Attacks

I’ve written this before: Bob Ryan is one of my favorite people on earth. Love his energy, his unflagging enthusiasm for sport, his storytelling … few things make me happier than seeing Bob on the road and just talking sports and life with him. Bob’s just fantastic.

Of course, he did tweet this:

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This is NBC’s SportsWorld

Well, I may have mentioned that there are some big things going on over at NBC. Today we launched SportsWorld. I could go into depth about what SportsWorld is, why I think it’s cool, where it’s going, but I hope it is obvious if you go over there.

I wrote in-depth on Ned Yost.

I wrote in-depth on Dale Earnhardt Jr.

I wrote in depth on a remarkable little British soccer town called Burnley.

And so on. SportsWorld is going to be a place for in those depth stories and video documentaries. People will compare it to Grantland and Sports On Earth and SB Nation’s Longform and so on, and that’s good because those are fantastic places with amazing work. I hope we’ll carve out or own little spot that is different.

This is something I’ve been talking about with my friend and boss Rick Cordella for a long time, before I even started at NBC. This is his vision. His feeling is that when you have the storytelling history of NBC, and the storytelling capabilities of NBC Sports and the Golf Channel (check out the Arnie documentary) and NBC Olympics along with really wonderful writers like my pal Ray Ratto (who would never admit to being my pal), you have a chance to build something pretty unique and special. That was the vision that inspired me to come to NBC almost two years ago, so this is a very exciting day.

Anyway, enough marketing. This is SportsWorld. Hope you’ll love it. And if you are my age or older, click on the old YouTube video and listen to the music of the original SportsWorld. It might bring back a few memories.

Going all the way back to 1977

Look at that face. That is the face of experience, right? Those are the eyes of a man who has faced a thousand pitchers. That is the wrinkling face of a man who dived into the dirt countless times, all across the country, in efforts to spear scorching ground balls and line drives. 

Brooks Robinson, man. He was the aging gunfighter by the time I knew of him, my father’s hero, the man whose reflexes had slowed, whose power had sapped, whose legs had grown heavy … but he knew things, secrets, mysteries of the game that the kids couldn’t quite fathom. 

How could anyone be cooler than Brooks Robinson?
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Why do we Yostify ourselves?

The other day, I made mention of something that I would guess is pretty obvious to long-time baseball fans: The regular season has never meant less. As of this moment, teams that finished with the best records in the American and National Leagues are out. Only two division champions are still in, along with teams that finished with the seventh and eighth best records in baseball.

Here is actually what I Tweeted: “Don’t get me wrong, I love all baseball. But why even play a regular season?”
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