Timmy the Kid

At some point during this last season, I heard radio host Marty Lurie lambasting a caller for referring to Tim Lincecum as “Timmy”.  Lurie sounded honest to goodness upset as he interrupted the caller, saying that “Timmy” is a name for a grade school child.  As Lurie explained, it’s time for the Bay Area to stop babying this two time Cy Young Award winner and treat him like a professional with responsibilities.   Since then, Lurie has obstinately referred to him as “Lincecum”, almost as if he hoped it would catch on.

But that name never will catch on in the Bay Area.  It’s about as likely to happen as the fans starting to call Buster Posey by his first name: Gerald.

The name “Lincecum” alone does not capture his essence to Giants fans.  His arrival has coincided with the Renaissance of the Giants, and his carefree, boyish looking manner has touched Giants fans’ hearts.

What’s wrong with a nickname for Tim Lincecum anyhow?  The answer to this question sheds light on why the once franchise savior might be moving on.  Because of all his success with the Giants, and with expectations so high, Giants fans don’t seem to be able to appreciate an only above average Tim Lincecum.  Anything less than that phenom superstar is something Giants fans seem to take personally.

While not as dominating as he was a few years ago, he is still a strike out machine who threw a no hitter this summer, and he has potential to transition into a different –but still effective– pitcher.

Over the past seven seasons, the Bay Area has forged an emotional and even complex relationship with this youthful looking, undersized rock star of a pitcher.  He started out looking like a Little Leaguer who could throw 98 with a pitching motion that a gymnast would envy, and it resonated with baseball fans as if their own child or brother were out there.  He soon became a national celebrity.  Giants fans were proud of him, and he was a Bay Area treasure.

The nicknames poured forth: “The Franchise”, “the Freak”, “Timmy the Kid”, and just affectionately, “Timmy”.  These illustrated the adoration people had for him.  His teammates had fun with these nicknames.  During his rookie year, reliever Steve Klein jokingly changed “The Franchise” to “French Fries”.  Well, Lincecum is now a free agent, and it looks like these fries may be ‘to go’.

When asked last week if he wanted to sign with the Giants, he said he wanted to wait and explore free agency.  “I’ll make that decision when the time comes”, he said.

That’s code for “this is a business decision” or “I haven’t gotten an offer yet”.  Or it could even be, “I might, but it’s not because I love it here”.  What happened to that innocent superstar and the love that seemed so reciprocal between fan and ball player?  Why isn’t he dying to be here, and why aren’t the fans dying to sign him?  Why are the Giants celebrating giving 5 years and $90 million to Hunter Pence, a good player, but $90 million to a power hitter who has never even hit 30 home runs in a season, over The Franchise!?

Giants fans have expectations of Timmy the Kid, and their emotions are vulnerable as they follow him.   When Timmy’s fast ball first started showing signs of losing speed, fans on the radio questioned this in disbelief and lamented this loss in velocity as if it was their own hairline in recession.

Lincecum seems to realize that no matter what he does short of turning back the clock, he just can’t satisfy some of these Giants fans.  It’s evident in the questions he is asked in press conferences.  Sometimes he spends more time answering questions after the game about his emotional game plan instead his pitch selection and strategy.  I have heard reporters saying, “Timmy had that confident look and not the vacant detached one, and I knew he would have a great game”.  Or, “I don’t like his body language right now”.  Do you think dealing with this line of questioning might be affecting how much fun he is having?

There has not been much talk lately about signing this good pitcher who has been behind the best years in the history of the San Francisco Giants.  Last week fans celebrated Barry Zito as his days with the Giants appear over, cheering with nostalgia as if Zito had been an integral part of the Giants success all along.  Perhaps all this focus on Zito allowed the fans to repress any thoughts that Lincecum may never put on a Giants uniform again.

The bay area fans love Lincecum, but it could be the kind of love that is not fully appreciated until it’s gone.

Wake up Bay Area! Tim Lincecum could be gone forever!

One thing I find strange is that fans say, “I want him, but not at $18 million”.  Why do they care how much he is paid?  Baseball is the only major sport without a salary cap.  Please don’t worry, the Giants can afford any player they want these days.  Just check your wallet after your next visit to ATT&T Park and note their sell out streak.  Not even counting ticket prices, we all know what the price of beer is and how long the lines are at the Giants Dugout Store to buy the latest Buster Posey shirt for $90.  And over and above this, the real money for baseball teams is from Cable TV.  The Giants can afford Tim Lincecum– in fact they can afford to overpay him.  The Giants are printing money these days.

The key question here is: can Tim Lincecum still be a good pitcher, and does he have the potential and likelihood for success in the next three years?  Based on the second half of this last season, and the way he stepped up in the biggest moments in 2012, I’d say he does have that potential.  He may not have his 98 mile per hour fastball, but he has five specialty pitches.  As he continues to perfect these with varying speed, he can be good even as he gets older.  Just ask Bert Blyleven.

Lincecum’s numbers have dropped off, but he’s still a solid big league pitcher who dominated in the 2012 post season!  That was less than a year ago.  And less than 2 months ago, he threw a no hitter.

Let’s look at some numbers:

  • His accomplishments in 2008-2010 include the back to back Cy Youngs and MVP of the 2010 playoffs.  He pitched the first game of 2010 playoffs with a dominant shutout of the Braves, and then ended the 2010 World Series with a win in Texas.  It can’t get any better than this.
  • In the season of 2011 he had an era of 2.74, he had 220 strike outs to 86 walks, but due to horrible run support his win loss record was 13-14.  He deserved better but he didn’t complain.
  • In 2012 he had a tough year as his velocity declined, a potential transition year but he did come through big time in the 2012 playoffs. Instead of sulking when he was sent to the bullpen, he pitched 17.2 innings throughout the playoffs and had a WHIP of .79!  He had 20 strike outs and 5 walks, and for everybody who remembers how close those games were, you realize how important he was.
  • In 2013, he showed improvement, and his numbers are very similar to Matt Cain’s this year. Putting up 193 strike outs and  throwing 197 innings are impressive.

I am not saying to make him a 10 year offer, but make this Bay Area icon a competitive offer as soon as possible.

Something is wrong when a baseball personality in his 60’s who goes by ‘Marty’ complains that a 29 year old ball player is too old to be called ‘Timmy’.  Is the name on your birth certificate Marty, or Martin?  I just hope that Lurie is still calling a Giants pitcher “Lincecum” next year, and everybody else in the Bay Area is still calling him their own.


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