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Mike Hazen discusses the end of the Madison Bumgarner era

A tough decision, but one that needed to be made. Mike Hazen explains the rationale behind letting Madison Bumgarner go.

What was the trigger for the move?

The recent performance, the first part of the season, in totality kind of adding up, start after start. We tried to leg through it as long as we could, knowing that we wanted it to turn around. We didn’t see that as of yesterday, and so we made the decision.

Did you guys give any consideration to moving him to the bullpen?

We did, we talked a little bit about it. We didn’t know if that was gonna be the best fit for either of us. I think it would’ve been the easier, safer path to keep from doing this. But in the end, we felt like that that’s what we would be doing it for, in a lot of ways, just because he’s been a starter his whole career. I know guys have transitioned from starting to bullpen late in their careers. We talked about it. We have a lot of lefties. What role he would take if we did that. Whether or not he wanted to do it. Obviously necessarily that isn’t his choice, but there has to be buy-in to what we’re asking somebody to do, to get the best results out of them. We have a number of guys that we wanna take a look at. That’s some small part of what we’re doing right now. The performance aside, there are guys that we feel like need an opportunity up here to help us in that spot, and that’s what it really came down to.

Was there more urgency to make a decision because other than MadBum, the team is playing well?

I’ve thought about that word “urgency” over the last 48 hours. Yes, I think that I ask our players and staff to have urgency around how we’re gonna play and attack, and so I have to do the same thing. I can’t be a hypocrite and ask for that and not do it in my job. So that was part of the reason we made a decision. The team has played its butts off over the first three weeks of the season, frankly. They go out there every night: even yesterday, we hung around that game. I think if that game stretched out a little longer, I think we’re gonna win that game. We seem to score every time they score. I felt like we needed to make this decision.

How do you make sense of Bumgarner going from the pitcher he was in San Francisco?

I don’t know. I don’t know. And frankly, you know, we’ve all lost a lot of sleep over trying to answer that question and I haven’t answered it yet. And we’re here today, so I don’t have the answer for you. It just didn’t work out.

Was this something that you maybe got a little close to last year?


When did you guys let him know?

Last night. I’m not gonna go into that conversation. It was very respectful. There were a few of us in the room and I did most of the talking, which is typical in those situations, but I’m not gonna go into the conversation.

How does having that much dead money impact the payroll?

I don’t know. I mean, it’s gonna be there, so I think the money for this year was already allocated. Whatever we were going into the season operationally, that wasn’t gonna change one way or another. So that’s sort of irrelevant. It’s only next year that it matters. Whatever we are gonna be allowed to spend at the deadline or moving forward, we were going in with that money on the books regardless. I wasn’t gonna be able to move that money somewhere else. Next year’s money, is the dead money, where I theoretically could have done something. But we’ll see. It’s more next year’s impact than it is this year’s impact, frankly. And in the end, I was told to do what needs to be done to win baseball games. So that’s the message I got when we started having these conversations: “you need to do what you need to do to win baseball games.”

When you say, you started to have these conversations, was that the outing before, and then anticipating what might happen in St. Louis, or was it after St. Louis?

As much as sometimes we do react, we don’t snap our fingers and make decisions, I certainly don’t snap my fingers and make decisions. This is something that’s... we’re not blind to what’s been happening. And you know, I don’t think he was either, it was a struggle. He was trying to do everything he could to right the ship and, it just didn’t really work out. So it started a few weeks ago. The balance you have in April is that not having enough starting pitching can be a tremendous obstacle to overcome, because for the next two months, nobody’s making a trade with me. So fixing a problem externally is extremely challenging, until you get to probably the early part of July, and that’s probably early. We talk, have conversations in June, but nobody really does anything. So fixing that rotation spot isn’t something that we’re gonna necessarily be able to do. So trying to gain as much ground into the season with your rotation to me is extremely important. But we got to a point where we had to make this decision.

When you say talking, was the discussion financially told to you by Ken and Derrick, and how did those discussions go?

They asked me for my recommendations. I make my recommendations and they tell me, do what I need to do to win baseball games. So we made those recommendations and they agreed with them.

Do you think the outcome of this move with Bumgarner will impact how you think about free agent signing to the future?

No, not at all. It is what it is. We’re gonna be in the free agent market and hopefully we’re in the free agent market in an important way moving forward. To date, we haven’t been in the free agent market in a certain way because of where our team has sat.

Are there any takeaways?

The takeaways are challenging because I don’t regret signing the human being, from trying to get a starting pitcher where we did to help our rotation, when and where we needed it. It hasn’t worked out for him and it hasn’t worked out for us. I think we need to have a better process around our evaluations, we need to have a better process of where things stand when we’re adding guys to our team. But it’s not gonna stop us. That goes from any decision that I make, that I feel like we need to go back and deconstruct how we got where we got. Nobody would’ve foreseen this outcome, I don’t think. But obviously it happened and we’re responsible for it happening, and I’m just responsible for the decision as to why it happened. So we’ll deconstruct a number of different areas, both on the performance side of things, the coaching side of things, the front office side of things, all of those things.

But in the end, unfortunately, I’ve been doing this for 20 plus years, and have been a part of some of these that haven’t worked out. Sometimes you don’t walk away with clear, “This is exactly what happened,” and I don’t think you can get gun shy and just stop doing it. I don’t think that’s gonna be the path for us. We’re still gonna need to add impact players from outside this organization. As good as our young players have done, they’re gonna need teammates that are gonna come externally.

Where do you think Bumgarner goes from here?

We’ll see. There’s 29 other teams. The starting pitching is definitely never in short demand, from where I sit. So sometimes a change of scenery makes a big difference. It’s happened for us. It could happen, but I don’t know. We didn’t discuss that.

Was there any concerns with the ability to get on the same page with the coaching staff?

I mean, look: he’s been an elite competitor in this league for a long time, and he knows what he needs to do to get himself ready. I felt like he was in the best shape he’s ever been in, coming into spring training this year. He looks fantastic. I don’t think that that was a major piece to what’s happened here. We struggled with commanding the ball and we struggled with some stuff getting swing and miss in the zone, and that’s what we watched.

I realize this is totally hypothetical, but if you go back, do you think there’s any way you would’ve been able to sign him on a four year deal?

I don’t know. I would say no, but I don’t know.

Are you concerned that there’s gonna be a ripple effect in the clubhouse, of players being on edge seeing this happen to Madison?

I don’t think so. I hope not. It’s kind of what we all sign up for here, right? Including Madison and me and everybody else. This is the world of professional sports. I felt like we were respectful to the opportunity to try to turn it around - to some people, maybe a little too long. May have read that a few times. So maybe even beyond where we should have carried this. So no. The one thing I say, about my kid - you can’t lie to your kids. Your kids know. So don’t lie to your kids. You can’t lie to players either cuz they know. It is what it is. You’re all raised in the game in a way. You know that you gotta keep playing well or things change and things happen.

Why is Tommy Henry the replacement?

Logistically is one of them, is the biggest one. But Tommy deserves his opportunity as well. He’s throwing the ball well down there and was up here last year and threw very well for us for eight weeks. We hadn’t made this decision going into yesterday and Brandon [Pfaadt] is starting today in Reno, and if we had pushed Brandon into the rotation somewhere, it wasn’t gonna be today, and pushing Kelly and Gallon and everybody back and jumping into them... And if we had slotted him somewhere into the future, we’re going on nine or ten days’ rest. Don’t think that’s necessarily the best idea for a debut.

We’re gonna need all these guys from now and the rest of the season. You’re gonna see all those guys pitch and more, is my bet. We know they’re both throwing the ball really well. We have two good options down there. Both of those guys are gonna be pitching up here. Who went first and how it went first, and again, whether or not we should have put Drey [Jameson] into the rotation. Like all these decisions we’ve been talking about, I understand, have centered around Brandon. Brandon is gonna pitch up here and he is going to be a very good player for us, and it’s going to come. But it’s not gonna come, right this second.

Did that decision come down to those two guys?


Did having that depth affect the timing?

Yeah, it impacted it. If I didn’t have somebody to take the ball five days from now, we may have continued to go down this road. But part of the calculus was, we felt like there was somebody that needed to come up here and take that spot.

Is there any concern with having three guys in the rotation, with about less than 50 innings in the big leagues?

Yes. But I worry about everything, so put that on the list of things I worry about! I don’t know exactly where I can tier it out for you! But all three of those guys, whoever they may be - we may get to four at some point - have really good stuff. They can all pitch. Some of them are already showing it right now. There’s gonna be some volatility, for sure. We know that. But they all have really good stuff and we’ve seen them, most of them up here pitching. And the guy that you haven’t seen yet probably has the best stuff. We’re gonna trust that we’re gonna be able to surround him with a good defensive club as we’ve played phenomenally defensively so far, which is fantastic for us. We have a good outfield. We have a lot of speed and I think the catchers have done a great job, and we spend a lot of time prepping to put them in a position to have success. We’re searching for ways to put them in positions to have success.

What happens when Davies gets better and comes back?

You are way, way too far down the road. I’m worried about tomorrow. But yes, we’ll have that conversation when, when Zack comes back. I think he’s getting ready to start heating up here, end of this week. So we gotta stretch him out, because I see him coming back as a starter, so it’s gonna take some rehab work to build up the pitch count again. We’re still probably weeks away from seeing him.

Do you guys view Brandon Pfaadt as being ready and it just being having time for him?


Can you be called up too early? Even though the numbers say you are, like, are you worried about kids being mentally not ready?

Yes. But again, much like previous questions on the list of things I worry about, I don’t know exactly where that is. I think we’ve seen young players come up here and thrive, a little bit differently than we used to see 10 to 15 years ago. So I have less of a concern with that than I used to. I think a lot of that is just the stuff that we’re seeing, we have more confirmation objectively on exactly what we’re seeing from a stuff standpoint and how it impacts. Let’s just take it from a pitching standpoint: you know how their stuff will play in and out of the strike-zone. So that gives us, I think, a little bit more confidence when we’re making those decisions.

I asked that because I look at Varsho or a year ago, when I look at Pavin Smith now, who cares if they have a little adversity? They go down, they come back up sometimes and they’re even better. So is it really too early, as long as they’re proven?

Yeah. You know, the old, old adages we used to talk about were, you could ruin their confidence and they go down and... I don’t know. You’re right. You know, we sent Jake [McCarthy] down twice last year. He came back better every single time. Almost every player that comes up struggles for the first a hundred games that they play. And sometimes you send it back down, sometimes you don’t. But yeah, you know that that’s gonna be part of this cycle.

Other than the issue we’re discussing today, what is also at the top of your list of concerns?

How much time do we have? I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding. It’s mostly little stuff, you know. It’s little stuff that we talk about every single day. The biggest takeaway for me has been, our competitiveness has stood out, every single day that I watch us go out there and play. I think that’s been a calling card for the manager ever since he’s been here, and I think the players buy into that. I think there’s an energy around this group that they are motivated to play with each other. The things around our approach at the plate: I would like to see us continue to wear guys down. I think we did a little better job of that in St. Louis, where we’re driving guys outta games a little earlier. We got trapped a little bit in Miami where we were letting guys go pretty deep on us, and the game stayed sort of stagnant.

I think that’s still an area for us to grow and I don’t think it’s something that we should be unrealistic. I mean, we have a younger lineup and getting off into the season, trying to swing our way into a position where things start to stabilize a little bit is normal. But now we have to, as things start expanding on us and they start staying outta the strike zone a little bit more on us, I think we need to counter that, and let them walk us.

What changed between yesterday and Bumgarner’s previous outing in Miami?

I don’t have a great answer for that, other than we were trying to lengthen it out and give him every opportunity we could. I didn’t think he threw the ball that poorly in Miami. I thought that the inning kind of went sideways on us for a number of different reasons. I thought at the end of that game, he was the third reason we lost that, frankly, not the first or the second. So I felt like another opportunity was warranted. Torey [Lovullo] and I talked about it and we just felt like another opportunity was warranted. The hope wasm it was going to rectify itself and work out longer. Frankly, it wasn’t just gonna be yesterday. It was gonna lengthen out longer than that, and it just got to a point where we needed to make the decision we did.

Did you guys see signs in spring training of some optimism for this season?

I’m not gonna change the answer that I give Nick every single day in spring training. Which is, I’m not really watching in spring training to the point where I could answer that question and say that I’m making big predictions on what’s gonna happen, based on what we’re seeing.

If you had got off to a slow start again, does this move still be made?

That’s a great question. I think so, because of the guys that are pushing from underneath. But, where we’re standing right now, for me, requires a sense of urgency, like I said. And it’s gonna go like this at the deadline too. If we’re standing there, there’s gonna be a sense of urgency then too, because these guys are playing really hard and well. They deserve to see us putting in that same degree of urgency that they are.