Here is a link to my Monday column on Tim Lincecum’s win over the Mets. The full text runs below:
SAN FRANCISCO – I admit to a weakness for Tim Lincecum. When he pitches, I root for him although I’m not a Giants fan or a fan of any team. I’m a Timmy fan.
I don’t understand why. I don’t really know the guy.
I covered his start against the Mets on Sunday, a 6-4 Giants’ win, a Timmy win. I went into the game with a weird fascination. It was possible Lincecum would get murdered. That possibility always exists with him. His previous start was a pure murder job. He gave up eight runs in fewer than five innings in Cincinnati. Murder.
He’s either on or he’s off. As the Giants’ pregame notes pointed out, “Is one of just eight qualifying pitchers in the Majors with an ERA above 5.00 this season.”
The notes also noted this tidbit, “Has allowed 30 walks in his last eight starts. His 4.31 walks per 9.0 innings is the fourth-highest figure in the NL.
Translated into common English, all that means he’s been pretty stinko some of the time.
So, I don’t expect greatness from Lincecum. I believe, sadly, the greatness phase of his career is over considering he turns 30 in a week. I’m just rooting for goodness, for respectability. I’m rooting for no murders, for no human sacrifice (him) on the mound at AT&T Park.
Is that too much to ask?
In the top of the first against the very bad, entirely regrettable Mets, he gave up a two-run dinger to Curtis Granderson. A big fly to straightaway center field.
Later — much later — I asked Lincecum if, when that ball went out, he said to himself, “Oh beans, here we go again.” Except, I didn’t use the word beans.
He laughed a rueful laugh — he’s not a knee-slapping guy. “I guess I could have,” he said. “I would be lying to you if I said that didn’t go through my mind a little bit. You’ve got to bounce back and not let that bury you in a hole. You’ve got a lot more game to go and it’s your job to keep your team in the game.”
Which he did. He got out of the first with just those two runs and gave up another in the sixth — another Granderson home run. And he ended up winning his fifth game against four losses. Respectable.
His fastball ran as high as 92 mph. He struck out Mets with slow breaking stuff, some as slow as 72. And he looked like a craftsman, something he didn’t look like in his best years when he simply was a freak of nature. When he was Timmy Unleashed!
After the game, Bruce Bochy, in a very good mood considering he has the best record in baseball, met the media. “Where is Lincecum at?” I asked, throwing grammar to the winds.
Bochy: “It’s fair to say he’s had his ups and downs. But I like to look at the wins and losses when he starts. It’s pretty good. He’s been very good at times. Occasionally, he has his hiccup (“hiccup” is a big Bochy word), but today he had a nice focus the first inning. It could have gotten away from him, but he regrouped. I think there’s times when he has shown really good command and that’s the key for him, control and command of the fastball. When he has that, he usually has a nice game. Stuff is good. You saw. He came out throwing 92 and he had good secondary pitches. It’s not easy coming off a start where you had your struggles and lose a little confidence.”
Me: Would you call him confident?
Bochy: I would. It didn’t go well the first inning. It could have got away from him, but he made good pitches especially with men on base. Made the pitches he had to. Couple of times he was in a pretty good jam, but he found a way to get out of it.”
Let’s pause a moment to understand what Bochy was saying. Lincecum is a survivor when he survives, when his world on the mound does not turn to chaos, when he avoids getting murdered.
I keep asking myself why I root for him. Maybe it’s this. Lincecum is so vulnerable. No Giant is as vulnerable. I worry for him. I know he’s incredibly wealthy but I know for sure he judges himself by how he pitches. He should. And I know he suffers. When things go badly as they did in the first inning, he works so slowly. Takes an eon between pitches. Grim. Painstaking. Laborious. He is suffering in front of us. To me, he is “pitcher as martyr.” Maybe that’s overstating it. I don’t know.
After the game, he spoke at his locker. He was wearing jeans, a checkered shirt and sneakers. He looked like a kid who delivers Domino Pizzas. You wanted to give him a good tip. His voice was soft, devoid of joy. He seemed subdued, humble.
“After my last outing, I needed to show a little bit more out there,” he said.
Taking the blame. Needing to take the blame.
He grooved the 3-0 pitch for Granderson’s first home run, he said, never thinking Granderson would swing.
“That’s my fault,” Timmy Martyr said.
Taking the blame.
Then he went deep into his mind. It’s where he lives most of the time. “Regardless of what happened that first inning,” he said, “I was trying to erase that and not get into my head too much. That can be my enemy at times.”
He thinks too much.
Is he self-analytical?
“It can be my downfall at times,” he said, “just being too critical.”
Being the martyr. Embracing the role.
I have a thing for martyrs. The world has a thing for martyrs. It’s an old story.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.