As an insanely devoted San Francisco Giants’ fan, it’s tough for me to give kudos to anything “LA Dodgerish”. I have fellow Giant fan friends who will chastise me for even writing this. However, I’ve got to give some kudos to Clayton Kershaw – the LA Dodger pitcher who (yesterday) became the first National League pitcher (since Bob Gibson in 1968) to win both the NL Cy Young Award and the NL MVP (for the 2014 season). The kudos aren’t for those accomplishments – any on field success achieved by someone wearing Dodger blue is truly nauseating.

No, rather, I give Kershaw kudos for not just having a posse (which I suppose is common at the top of his profession) but for having a posse full of “regular joes” – former high school teammates and friends who he celebrates the CY Young Award with (his 3rd in a row) every year by gathering together and playing ping pong and Super Smash Brothers. It just reeks of “humble” and “normal” somehow – counter-intuitive in all the right ways.


It should be noted (and trust me, I’m noting it!) that Kershaw’s 2o14 season did not end well. He was lit up (that’s baseball lingo for “he got torched with uncommon regularity”) by a light-hitting St. Louis Cardinals team in their National League Division Series. It was somewhat glorious, not so much because Kershaw didn’t pitch well, as because the heavily favored Dodgers (with their Magic Johnson-instigated highest payroll in baseball) managed not to show up. Kershaw represented well on ESPN this week though, reminding us that even individual achievements are best celebrated in community and among friends who love us in spite of how successful we are, or (dare I admit) what uniform we wear.

madison-bumgarner-mlb-nlds-washington-nationals-san-francisco-giants-850x560Ok, so, while Kershaw was wallowing in his early post-season exit, my homie Madison Bumgarner (he’s from Alabama, I live in Georgia, he’s a Giant’s player, I’m a Giant fan, so yeah, we’re tight) was busy throwing down the best post-season performance of any pitcher, well, ever. That’s not me talking, that’s the numbers talking. Bumgarner is somewhat of an anomaly in MLB’s recent power-pitcher dominated era. He’s not a big strikeout guy. That means he has to win by hitting spots with pitches that make it difficult for hitters to “square up” the ball. It means he has to win without a dominant high 90’s MPH fastball in an era in which that’s said to be requisite for postseason success.

Kershaw, on the other hand, is the prototypical big strikeout guy. Yet it was Bumgarner who was standing at the end this year. Why? It’s hard to say. To a man, the experts and pundits are saying that Bumgarner is “clutch”. He has that “intangible” ability to rise to the occasion and make the exact right pitch at the right time. According to the Urban Dictionary, the term “clutch” is “derived from the clutch mechanism in a manual car, where perfect timing can mean the difference between a launch and a stall”. “Perfect timing” indeed – Bumgarner was fantastic – going 2-0 with a save in 3 games, and only giving up one run in the World Series.

When asked about being “clutch”, Bumgarner shrugs it off and says ‘I don’t know, it’s like it’s not me out there, it’s like the right pitch just happens to me. That’s not exactly the kind of “make up” that an MLB scout can find inherent in young talent. It just is, and it tends to show up when scouts aren’t sitting behind a backstop holding a radar gun. Rather, it shows up in the biggest, most crucial moments – just in time.

It’s not unlike the sacramental mystery of God’s timing when we affirm the faith He has given us. When we break the bread and drink the wine – God happens to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:6, NIV)

Couldn’t resist: