Letting go of Tim Lincecum, Giants pitcher
The 2013 season had some nice memories considering the Giants finished under .500 for the first time since 2008. Angel Pagan’s walk-off inside the parker is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Yusmeiro Petit appeared out of the fog to nearly throw a perfect game. The Giants walked off on the Dodgers on consecutive nights thanks to home runs by Buster Posey and Guillermo Quiroz, then scored 19 runs against them in Los Angeles a couple months later. These are all objectively good things.
Of course, there’s also Tim Lincecum’s first no hitter. A sweat-soaked, 148 pitch dismantling of the Padres. Probably tied with Pagan for moment of the year.
But there’s another game I think of when I reminisce/cringe about 2013. Not coincidentally, it was started by Tim Lincecum.
I don’t remember him hitting 93 in the first inning, either. Lincecum’s contract was set to end at the end of that season, and it wasn’t guaranteed that he would be back for the 2014 season. It was a bittersweet nine innings, especially when he walked off the field in the seventh. But even if he didn’t re-sign, at least he was able to pitch well one last time at home and exit to maybe the loudest applause of the season. Against the Dodgers, no less. It was almost too perfect.
He did, of course, re-sign, for two years and many millions. Call it the Lincecum tax that only applies to the Giants. The new, mediocre Lincecum was the one that stuck around unfortunately, but he at least he was mediocre in a place where he’s beloved. He threw another no-hitter. He tangentially helped the Giants win another World Series. He wore a doo rag. The highlights were the exception, though, not the rule they once were.
For all the warm fuzzies of that start in 2013, here’s how he ended 2015.
It’s not exactly watching Scott Cousins tackle Buster Posey, but it’s enough to make you wince. Instead of a triumphant swan song in the twilight of September, Tim Lincecum likely ended his Giants career walking off the field with Dave Groeschner, which is bleak at best.
This all brings us to today, about a week and a half from pitchers and catchers reporting. Tim Lincecum’s showcase is scheduled to be sometime in the next few days, with lots of teams reportedly sniffing around to see if he’s worth giving a contract.
The Giants are doing their due diligence, of course. Bobby Evans has said the team plans to keep in touch with Lincecum, which pretty much everyone expected. There certainly isn’t a strained relationship between the team and the player.
When you look at the roster, though, there’s almost nowhere for Lincecum to fit. The Giants committed $220 million to the rotation over the offseason, so you better believe Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija are going to start. Jake Peavy is steady as a number four and Matt Cain is still making too much money to be shafted into the long reliever role. That’s even before you get to the fact that they’re both fan-favorites in their own right. Madison Bumgarner is Madison Bumgarner. The only logical spot on the Giants for Lincecum would be the long relief/spot starter role currently occupied by Chris Heston. Combine the roster factor with the rotation question marks that other teams like the Marlins and Rangers have, and Lincecum’s days as a Giant appear to be over.
Suddenly this all became very real. It wasn’t long ago that seeing Tim Lincecum in another jersey was a farce. He was going to be a bad ass ace for years and wear a beanie and Vans during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. It was meant to be. And yet we’re five years into Tim Lincecum being an enigma at best. That doesn’t necessarily mean it always has to be that way – he could step on the mound at his showcase and fire 94 mph with command consistently – but it’s idealistic to expect anything more than quiet, back o’ the rotation competence from him. It’s a sobering realization that his peak (his glorious, glorious peak) has already passed us by.
No matter who Tim Lincecum suits up for during the 2016 season and beyond, though, he’s always going to be a Giant first. The Giants needed a star in the post-Bonds era and he answered the call. Oh, how he answered the call. He’s the kind of player that fans will always associate with the franchise, like Will Clark or Willie Mays. No one cares about Clark’s time in Texas or Mays playing for the Mets in the twilight of his career because what they did for the Giants was so overwhelmingly great.
The same is true for Lincecum. He helped deliver the first World Series title to the Giants since 1956. He was the first Giant to win a Cy Young since 1967. It simply wouldn’t be possible for him to give any other team what he’s given to the Giants over the years. That’s why this feels so different than someone like Pablo Sandoval signing with another team.
Coming to terms with his departure certainly won’t be easy for most fans, I’d imagine. But should he sign with another team in the coming weeks, his eventual return to AT&T Park is going to be one of the most emotional Giants-centric moments of the last decade, and I hope those in attendance cheer for so long the game is postponed. It’s the least they could do. Duane Kuiper has always said it best. “They love this kid.” We absolutely do. We always will.