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Image credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

It is just a function of the internet at this point that it will 1) create something incredible or lovable and then 2) immediately destroy it. It’s most prominently described as “milkshake ducking.” It is also just a function of the internet that if you make a post detailing a thing you like or enjoy, there is a reward that becomes available to the person who most forcefully disabuses you of that notion, and will tell you that actually, as a matter of fact, it is a dumb as hell thing to like. There is also a corollary where if you say that you do not in fact want to know or hear about something or even just see a certain phrase, a minimum of 18 people will instantly tweet that exact thing at you in the largest font possible.

This isn’t a complaint, it’s just how the world works now. Or at least how it works for me, as a denizen of the internet. So I knew in my heart that as soon as I saw the best thing in baseball this week, it would be ruined within an hour.

There are a few things at play here that build the narrative as to why this is such a great thing.

First, Muncy’s story is well-known at this point but his going from “Remember Some Guy” territory to “legitimate powerhouse hitter” makes any success he has all the sweeter. Second, Madison Bumgarner is known as an ornery sumbitch who doesn’t like seeing a hitter celebrate at his expense. This isn’t a judgement on bat flips (they’re good, idc idc idc) or pitchers who celebrate with fistpumps (also good), or really any of that. It is to establish that this is a thing we know about Bumgarner and adds to the context of a division rival taking his time exiting the batter’s box after depositing a Bumgarner pitch into the water. Third, it’s the Dodgers and Giants and if there’s any way one can piss the other off, it’s just part of the fun of a rivalry. Getting under one another’s skin is the name of the game — though it is worth noting that making Bumgarner mad didn’t do much but spur him to silence the Dodgers’ bats the rest of the game.

So, Muncy admires his swing and Bumgarner yells at him and Muncy jaws back as he goes around the bases. Rarely do we get to hear on the record exactly what was said between two players having it out, but in this case we did. And it was good! It was a solid zinger that added insult to the injury of the home run. It twisted the knife on a guy who hates to acknowledge even the slightest cut. But then, as many of us exclaimed how much we liked this solid line, the reward became available and an army of people looking to claim it emerged.

  • “It doesn’t make sense.”
  • “It’s not funny, even for an athlete.”
  • “He should have said ‘don’t let me hit it in the ocean.’”
  • “It’s not the ocean it is a bay, duh.”

First of all: Literally no one likes any of you. You don’t even like each other. I know because I’ve been an internet pedant before and it sucks for all involved. BUT, since we’re here and talking about it, I’m going to address these complaints about Muncy’s zinger in reverse order:

  • No one cares and that’s hardly the freaking point. I took oceanography in college, I can opine on this.
  • Yeah, sure, that would have stopped a few people from being pedants even though they completely understood what was said.
  • It’s not a joke, it’s a comeback. How’s that for pedantry? I have never been funny so I get to opine on this.
  • Let me explain something to all of you, since apparently you don’t get it: It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to carry the moment. That perfectly crafted comeback you think of in the car on the way home? Useless. The slightly nonsensical thing that you said to a guy who yelled at you after you demolished his pitch? That’s good.

The last one is the most crucial. Verbal, in-person spats aren’t won based on legitimacy and logic, but rather on the emotion of the moment, as illustrated by a scene from Thank You For Smoking:

Muncy wasn’t really talking about Bumgarner getting a ball out of the ocean, he was talking about Bumgarner shoving it where the sun don’t shine, and I’d say given that he had already hit a ball into a body of water, the point was made. So while the people who feel the need to deconstruct the sentence to decide if it even made sense or misinterpret a comeback as a joke are the worst, Max Muncy’s retort to Madison Bumgarner being red and nude and mad in-person was the best thing in baseball this week.

More Good Stuff

  • Former pro basketball player Nick Van Exel, at a tender 47 years old, discovered the joys of iced coffee. Revel in the purity:

  • Going back to the main subject of this week’s column, Madison Bumgarner was forthcoming in his post-game interviews. Talking to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic, Bumgarner said “My god, I can’t even say it with a straight face, I was going to say the more I think about it, you’ve got to just let the kids play, that’s what everybody is saying. They want to let everybody be themselves. Let me be myself — that’s me, you know? I’d just as soon fight than walk or whatever. You just do your thing, I’ll do mine. Everybody is different. I can’t speak for everybody else, but that’s just how I want to play. And that’s how I’m going to.” It’s a fair point that a major plank in the platform to “letting the kids play” is letting everyone be themselves. And it is an obvious point that this is who Madison Bumgarner is, too. And I can appreciate Bumgarner’s candor and self-awareness — it certainly makes him more accessible and likable. That said, there’s a non-minor degree of false equivalency between celebrating or admiring a home run and yelling in anger at someone, so let’s just keep that in mind too.
  • Danny Farquhar is pitching again. If you haven’t yet, read Lindsey Adler’s piece in The Athletic on Farquhar and his work to come back from a life-threatening injury.
  • Until this year, it was easy to choose my favorite player in baseball. I said so at the BP Mets event last year. With Adrian Beltre’s retirement, it’s become more difficult but for at least one night, he was back in the spotlight and on the diamond. I honestly though he might be the central theme for this week’s article because one day I’ll write about what his 2004 season meant to me as a baseball fan, but today won’t be that day. Still, Beltre Forever.

Thank you for reading

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Anthony Worrall
6/14
Perhaps a better retort from Muncy would have been, " I wont be able to watch soon 'cos it's on it's way to Japan, better get it a passport.
Sharky
6/15
I missed the Bumgarner / Muncy spat. Glad you wrote about it. Pretty funny imo.