- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In 1955, Johnny Podres, a 23-year-old left-hander with a sub-.500 record, threw two complete-game shutouts, striking out 10 over 18 innings, in leading the Brooklyn Dodgers to a World Series win over the New York Yankees.

For that, he was named World Series Most Valuable Player — the first one, presented then by Sport Magazine.

Since then, 27 pitchers have won the award, the latest being San Francisco Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, who officially won two of the Giants‘ four games in their seven-game series win over the Kansas City Royals but really won three of them, after his five-inning, two-hit shutout relief performance in San Francisco’s 3-2 clincher Wednesday night.

Funny, we debate about whether or not pitchers should win the regular season MVP award, since they are not everyday players. But there is no such debate about the World Series honor, an award they dominate, because they often have the leading role in every drama — every pitch — that unfolds in the World Series.

Bumgarner threw 21 innings, struck out 17, allowed nine hits and just one run. But you didn’t really need to know the statistics to know that Bumgarner was the 2014 World Series MVP. He was the star on baseball’s biggest stage, and that was obvious to anyone.

Now he joins the long list of pitchers who have also starred on this biggest stage, who have joined the lore of World Series legends — some Hall of Famers, others not so much, but all with a place in baseball history.

Bumgarner, at the age of 25, looks like he will have a career that this World Series MVP will not necessarily define. He’s 67-49, coming off an 18-10 season, and may have a Hall of Fame career ahead of him. But this World Series performance — and the MVP honor that came with it — will assure that he will never be forgotten.

If he never does anything else, Madison Bumgarner will be remembered for this — every time another pitcher dominates the World Series.

He will be remembered like Ralph Terry is remembered. The New York Yankees starter was the 1962 World Series MVP, going 2-1 in three games, with those two wins complete-game victories over these San Francisco Giants.

They will remember Bumgarner when the next pitcher becomes the stuff of World Series lore, like they do Lew Burdette, who went 3-0 — all complete-game victories, two of them shutouts — against the Yankees, leading the Milwaukee Braves in the 1957 World Series.

It is called the World Series MVP, but it is really baseball’s version of the Best Actor honor for the Academy Awards, with the winner becoming a character as much as a baseball player.

Bumgarner is the big, country left-hander, country-strong, with the slow drawl — a simple man with a simple purpose: to pitch. He is right out of central casting

When asked by reporters in the postgame press conference what he was thinking coming into the game from the bullpen, Bumgarner simply said he wasn’t thinking.

“It don’t matter which way you come from, when you get out there, it’s the same thing,” he said. “Just trying to make pitches. There is nothing different about that. So I wasn’t really thinking about it. I was just thinking about getting on the mound and trying to get some innings for our team and get some outs and make some pitches, and fortunately we were able to do that.”

Just like Bob Turley did before him. Just like Sandy Koufax did before him. Like Mickey Lolich did, and Bob Gibson and Orel Hershiser.

His manager, Bruce Bochy, embraced him on the field as the Giants celebrated their third World Series title in five years. He was asked what he said to Bumgarner.

“I really can’t remember too much about what I said except I love him and what a warrior he is, and truly incredible what he did throughout the postseason,” Bochy said. “I just told him I just can’t believe what he accomplished through all this. He’s such a humble guy, and we rode him pretty good.”

Madison Bumgarner didn’t just win a truck won he was named World Series MVP. He won immortality.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com

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