The owner of two career grand slams and an affinity for hitting, Madison Bumgarner decidedly would not welcome a rule change that takes the bat out of his hands.
The San Francisco Giants' ace and reigning World Series MVP responded critically to Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, who injured his right thumb while batting Thursday before railing against the National League's long-held tradition of batting pitchers.
"He knew the rules. Whatever much he signed for -- what did he get, again? -- he didn't have a problem signing his name," said Bumgarner, referring to Scherzer's $210 million, seven-year free-agent deal he signed with the Nationals in the offseason. "He didn't have a problem with hitting then. I'm sure he had his pick of anywhere he wanted to go."
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Bumgarner, who has six career home runs as a hitter, took issue with Scherzer's implication that pitchers are not real hitters.
Scherzer had advocated over the weekend for the NL to adopt the designated hitter, saying to CBS Sports, "If you look at it from the macro side, who'd people rather see hit: Big Papi [Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz] or me? Who would people rather see, a real hitter hitting home runs or a pitcher swinging a wet newspaper? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules."
Bumgarner pointed out that pitchers are vulnerable to injury in a variety of ways and that injuries sustained while hitting should not be singled out.
"What if he got hurt pitching? Should we say we can't pitch anymore?" Bumgarner said. "I hate what happened to him. He works his butt off out there. But I don't think it was because he was hitting. What if he gets hurt getting out of his truck? You tell him not to drive anymore?
"That's the way the game has to be played. I appreciate both sides of the argument and I get it. But [ending pitcher plate appearances] isn't the way to go about [addressing] it."
The issue of whether the NL should adopt the DH has received even more attention following the season-ending injury suffered by Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who tore his Achilles injury while running out of the batter's box Saturday.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred indicated, however, that he was not inclined to make any drastic changes to the DH rule.
"I try not to be too swayed by particular events that happen in a given season," Manfred said Tuesday during an interview on ESPN's Mike & Mike. "My view on the DH is that the difference between the two leagues is actually a point of debate among our fans, and that those sorts of debate are good for the game over the long haul."
Bumgarner responded wryly to Scherzer's characterization of a pitcher's bat as a "wet newspaper," saying, "Oh, well, my wet newspaper is 34½ inches, 33½ ounces, and I'm waiting on some new ones right now."
On hand nearby, Giants right-hander Jake Peavy took up his teammate's case.
"I'll tell you something about Madison Bumgarner: Last year, he hit in the eighth inning against [Los Angeles Dodgers starter] Zack Greinke with our season on the line. He already hit a two-run home run on a 1-2 slider in a night game here," Peavy said, according to the Mercury News report. "So don't come out and pop off or make a comment about [pitchers not being legitimate hitters]. We have a distinct advantage because of what he can do at the plate.
"As pitchers, it's about taking pride in batting and baserunning and getting a bunt down or putting it in play," Peavy continued. "If you do that better than the other pitcher, you've got an advantage."
Bumgarner explained he doesn't want to see the league-specific rules changed and that he appreciates the unique challenges the National League presents to players and managers alike.
"It's a beautiful game to me the way it is," he said. "That's obviously the way baseball started and I'm a traditional guy. I'm not much for change. I know people argue both sides, but for me, from what I see, it's a more challenging game. It's more challenging for managers. There's so much more that goes into it in the National League than, 'let 'em pitch until they can't get outs anymore.'"