Here is a link to my Wednesday column about Tim Lincecum. The full text runs below:
Time to write about Tim Lincecum in the past tense. He always has been a present-tense person. This is a sad column.
He has trouble with his hips. He’s not getting better. He probably won’t pitch for the Giants anymore this season. Or ever. His career may be over and he’s only 31. So we go to the past tense.
No one ever had seen anyone like him. Think 2008 when he won 18 games and got the first of his two Cy Young Awards. He had a little sports body, a normal person’s body, and he threw pure heat and, miraculously, blew big men away. He was a miracle. He was not a muscleman like Roger Clemens. He was like you and me. He was one of us. He was to baseball what Stephen Curry is to basketball, a regular person, the ambassador of the regular into the not-at-all-regular world of pro sports. Except he was a superstar.
He put everything into his fastball, slung the ball, reminded you of a young David with his slingshot — see you later, Goliath. He led the National League three years running in strikeouts, 2008-2010. Amazing. Unexplainable. In 2008 and 2009 when the Giants were no big deal, he was a big deal. The reason people came to AT&T Park.
He was part of the previous generation of Giants. His greatness coincided with the Giants’ greatness in 2010 and you thought his greatness never would end. But he slowly began his decline after 2010, and the Giants won three championships starting that year. There was a sadness about his story.
We all expected him to be The Freak year after year and to make the Hall of Fame — he won’t — but he broke down his body, paid a price for trying so hard. His power was only on loan to him, as he was on loan to us.
It is so important to pay tribute to him now, today, not to wait until he retires or until the Giants stage a Tim Lincecum Day. He was important then and he is important now. And we pay tribute.
CSN Bay Area asked me to name my top three Tim Lincecum moments. I could name 100. I came up with these.
In 2010, he won the fifth game of the World Series, ended the World Series. Beat Cliff Lee. Pitched eight innings, gave up three hits, struck out 10 Texas Rangers. It was The Freak at his Freakiest.
In the postseason 2012, he was a relief pitcher. His downfall had begun. In the National League Division Series against the Reds in Cincinnati, he pitched 41/3 innings of relief, struck out six, got the win. Forced Game 5, which the Giants won. They moved on in the playoffs. Of course, they won the World Series that year. Lincecum, even in his diminished state, made it possible.
In 2014, after he had become an ordinary pitcher, he threw a no-hitter against the Padres. He had seized the magic. Briefly. Another miracle. Even when Lincecum no longer was Lincecum, he still could be Lincecum on occasion.
In his downfall he was attractive because of his courage and humility. His vulnerability was attractive because he openly shared it.
I don’t know what he’s like. Not really. Sports writers don’t know athletes. We know only what athletes show us. We know what Lincecum showed us. He was shy. His attitude was, “Why would you find me interesting?” If you wanted to interview him in the clubhouse, he might look away, look down, avoid eye contact. He did not like interviews.
But after he pitched, he talked. Was required to talk. Then everything was different. He stood at his locker as long as reporters wanted — a painfully long time after the decline started. The questions, asked so many different ways, amounted to one thing: “What’s wrong with you?”
Imagine people asking you, day after day, what’s wrong with you. You might pop your cork. Or run out of the room. Not Lincecum. He stood there. Took it. Said he was sorry for letting down the team. Said he wasn’t throwing like he wanted.
And all the time he looked so sad. Or was it guilty? This torture with the writers was his penance. Maybe it was a form of psychotherapy. And all the writers were kind to him, polite. How could it be otherwise? He gave the best of himself and he deserved the best of us.
I remember him in spring training a few years ago. The Giants open their clubhouse very early in the morning. Players and writers look aggrieved and tired and grumpy. One morning, I wanted Lincecum but every time I approached, he looked away, a don’t-bother-me look on his face. Furtive. Finally, I said to him, “May I ask you a question or should I just go (screw) myself?”
He looked surprised. Or maybe it was aghast. “I’d never say that,” he said, surprised. And then to prove he was a good guy, he engaged me in conversation and gave me a column, and I thought, “Yes, this is a lovely person.”
We come back to now. We come back to the present tense. We want to say, “Whatever you’re suffering, Tim, we understand. It’s all right. Go easy on yourself. You gave everything you had for your team and for us, and you were special and you still are special. And we won’t forget. Not a chance.”
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.