Tag Archives: SF Giants

Linceblog: Tim Lincecum says it’s not a make or break year for him

OK, this is no April Fool’s joke.  Our half-Filipino/true Asian American Major League Baseball superstar, a winner of two Cy Young awards, and two World Series rings, takes the mound against the  Los Angeles Dodgers tonight in his season opener. But he’s no longer the San Francisco Giants best player.  Not even the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best player.

What has happened to Tim Lincecum?

Here was the guy they called the “Franchise,” and for a time he was the “Face,” as he adorned everything from soda cups to ducats. And it was all due to being the improbable athlete with the unusual delivery and the unhittable pitches. Those were also the main reasons he was called the “Freak,” though there were likely other recreational activities that could have earned him that moniker.

But now, the freakishness has normalized for Lincecum, and while still a fan favorite–especially among Filipino Americans–he  is neither “Franchise” nor “Face.” He’s gone from high-test to regular, just like his fast-ball.  And now the question is whether he’s lost the chance to get one of those long-term lockups recently awarded teammates Buster Posey, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner  that essentially make them forever Giants in their prime.

And after all he’s done for the Giants?  I mean, we’re not talking Aubrey Huff here.

After following the Giants as a fan all these years, I’m writing this blog more regularly this season (Call it the Linceblog on Amok.com) because of what Lincecum has meant for the Giants and to the Filipino American community. When there’s a dearth of high-profile Filipino Americans in anything, a star baseball player does more than you think to a community’s self-esteem. His troubles on the mound make this a critical year for Lincecum watchers. It’s hard to imagine him not being a Giant for life.

In the clubhouse after his last pre-season start against Oakland at AT&T Park, I got a chance to ask him about the start of the season.

What you notice about Lincecum is that while he’s often referred to as “short” at 5-feet-11 inches, he’s tall for a half-Filipino guy, though still fairly slight. He’s also more pensive and thoughtful in his answers than most jocks.

I didn’t want to ask him if he regrets not taking the big payday when it was in front of him (reportedly a five-year $100 million dollar deal after 2011).  Instead,  he signed a two-year $40.5 million deal (that still puts him in the top ten among all baseball stars), and makes him a free agent at the end of this year.

But he may not be in position to command $15 million, let alone $20 million a year, unless his performance dramatically improves.

So I asked him as the season begins,  if this was a “make or break year” for him:

“Not really, that concern is the last worry, the last emotion on my mind, it’s more excitement and obviously ..ah.. conviction. This year is going to be a big, big year for me, but I don’t look at it as a make or break year, I look at it as an opportunity to make myself better and come out at the end of the season on top.

“You never want to take a negative approach to anything in baseball or anything in this profession, so just to be able to stay positive after coming off a rough year last year is good for me. I’m carrying all the positives I can into this year.”

The positives are the relief performances in the post-season last year. And maybe even the flashes he showed last week against the A’s. Forget about having an ERA that was the highest in the Majors for any active starter. Forget about a Spring training shortened by blister and an ERA over 10. The guy’s  staying optimistic, and he’s certainly not thinking about things like the deal that goat away.

This week in Los Angeles, CSN Bay Area Andrew Baggarly asked him more directly about why he turned down the big deal contract. Once again, Lincecum showed he’s slightly different than your basic capitalistic jock.

“It was a time where I was in my life, I wasn’t exactly ready to commit that kind of time over something that I was still learning about, by that meaning just being in this business of baseball,” Lincecum told Baggarly, then expounded further. “It’s hard for me personally to just commit years of my life ahead of time. What I’m focusing on is what I want to do now. I just don’t want to get ahead of myself.

“I’ve never been a guy who thinks too far ahead with my future. I think I’ve made that clear with my contracts. I’m still that same guy. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a Giant any less or anything like that. I just like to see where I am at the end of the year.”

So Lincecum is positive and he’s motivated.  It’s the kind of thing that helps star performers elevate their game. We’ll see if that happens this year. But if Lincecum performs like he did early on in that game against the A’s last week, the Giants could win the rubber match in this opening series against the Dodger.

Lincecum looked sharp the first three innings of that Bay Bridge Series exhibition game. He started with a nine-pitch first inning that ended with slugger Yoenis Cespedes striking out swinging on three pitches.

It was kind of the ideal Lincecum inning: A flyout, a  single, a great defensive play by Crawford to get a second out, and the big K.  If all his innings this year are like that, it would definitely mark a return to form.

The next two innings were almost as good with a nine- pitch duel against Josh Donaldson that ended with a strikeout in the second. And there was another defensive gem by Crawford.

At one point Lincecum was 20 strikes for his first 24 pitches with his fastball working the best.  He said he was just throwing what catcher Buster Posey was calling for. But then admitted afterwards he was getting a little “change-up happy.”

In the fourth inning , the second time through the line-up, the A’s caught up with Lincecum including Cespedes who homered a 2-1 pitch. Lincecum fought back and struck out the next hitter (BrandonMoss), and got the tough  Donaldson out on a fly. But his elusiveness was gone, and control became an issue. By the time Lincecum was around 70 pitches in the fifth, he was done for the night.

That has been the typical arc of a Lincecum game (with or without a pitch limit). It‘s also the reason why he’s gone from “The Franchise,” to “The Concern.”

We won’t talk yet whether the future for Lincecum is as a middle reliever. That for sure would be a shock to his bank account. 

But if Lincecum wants to remain in people’s eyes as an effective, if not dominating starter, he needs more strong innings like that first one against the A’s.

That will go a long way to end a sense that at the start of this new season he’s one of  the Giants’ biggest question marks in 2013.

 

Matt Cain was great, but my dad and I had our own perfect SF Giants game just before Father’s Day, 1978

I had tickets for Wednesday night, but my cousin and nephew used them. Just my luck to miss history.

I was always planning to go today, Thursday, June 14th. It’s a day game and matched the circumstances of a game  I attended with my dad in 1978.

That day was far from perfect.

But the baseball, and all that baseball can do for a father and son was perfect.

On top of that, the Giants won. What more could I ask for?  

And then life ended. No need for extra innings.

My dad went out a winner.

It is now 9-12. Back to the diversions…the NFL, the dying SF Giants, and coming to the aid of a real charity– “Kate plus 8”

Yesterday was appropriately somber.

Let’s see if we can keep up the memory of 9-11 long enough to let the spirit of unity seep into all the things that polarize us and keep us a part…at least politically.

http://aaldef.org/blog/taking-the-leap-the-horror-and-the-love-of-911.html

Yesterday, the diversions came back. Football was an escape—from baseball. My SF Giants won, but they’re on an egg-timer running out of sand.  Attention turns to the gridiron.  Hey what about that Cam Newton? People doubted his smarts. The guy is the real deal.  The 49ers win, but not because of Alex Smith. Ted Ginn Jr., take a bow. The Jets come to life on a Reavis INT. Hey what about that Cam Newton?

The morning news tries to revive American Jobs Act in the news cycle. I think Obama should have added reality TV stars to the list right after teacher layoffs.

Did you see poor Kate Gosselin on “The Today Show”?  Her shows being cancelled tonight and she’s out of a job. Boo-hoo.

Pathetic.  It may as well be a job interview.

The gal had the gall to dis her ex- who said it’s good that the kids could have a normal life. Instead of seconding the thought, Kate rails on about how John wants a “mediocre” life for his kids, and how going back to “normal” is cruel and unusual for the now reality TV addicted Kate and family.

I felt sad for the hapa kids who now have a media mother who has been sucked into the consumer culture big time. Reality is no longer good enough. Only the fake world  satisfies. 

Maybe we can find her a half-way house, a show on local cable. Or maybe a YOUTUBE channel.

The best idea to avoid John’s idea of “mediocre,” is to pimp herself and the kids out to a “mediocre” reality show. Since interracial forays are her thing, maybe she can hook-up with FlavaFlav and his big clock on BET? Or maybe Erik Estrada or George Lopez would like to do something with her on Telemundo. Or maybe she can have celebrity babysitters. The Kardashians? All of them.

But I think it’s sad for the half-Asian kids.

Their lives could use a different kind of Tiger Mom.

The dominance of Lincecum, the roar of the crowd, the power of baseball

As a young boy, my earliest and lasting memories as a SF Giants fan were the resounding cheers for the heroes of ’62:  Cepada, McCovey, and Mays—but especially Mays.  

He didn’t have to do anything but come to the plate and have his name announced and Candlestick Park would quake.  

I’ve never really experienced anything live at any baseball game that could ever come close to the roar Mays could inspire.

Maybe I just haven’t been to the right games in person.

 But yesterday I was. Game 1 NLDS, Braves and Giants, Tim Lincecum’s first post-season start.

That’s when I heard it again: AT&T Park reached and surpassed the mythic roar of my Candlestick.

Electric crowd?  It was practically nuclear.  When the focus is all on Lincecum, the wunderkind pitcher, it’s not just a sporadic burst of cheers every nine batters for a star like Mays.  It’s pitch by pitch throughout the entire game.  And just as in the days of old, before the baseball gods created the closer, Lincecum pitched the entire game (119 pitches).

Lincecum’s dominance really was quite deceptive. In retrospect, there’s no question that to the Braves, Lincecum was untouchable. But when you’re at the game, the electricity is like an unbroken circuit. You’re living and dying with every pitch, and totally in the moment. Dominance isn’t a reality until the last out is recorded.  And then you look back and realize the Freak has 14 strikeouts, and by golly, the Giants one run has held up.  

The 14 K’s were the most in franchise history since the ’62 Giants, when it was ace Jack Sanford who rung up 10 Yankees.

I was happy to hear the stat, mostly because it brought up the name of an oft forgotten Giant.

Sanford who passed away in 2000 at age 70, was another favorite of mine.  He won 16 consecutive games in 1962 to propel the Giants to the pennant that year.  Normally, Juan Marichal’s name comes up when people remember the arms of ’62.  But to me Sanford was the guy that year, his only really stellar year.

As the Giants surged to win the NL West on the last day of the season, there was lots of talk about 62. But few, if any, ever mentioned Sanford, until Lincecum took the mound tonight.

This was just  Lincecum’s first outing, a harbinger of more greatness to come, as if two Cy Young awards in his first two full years didn’t already indicate that.   Lincecum had a rough August, but his return to form in September continues into  October.

He’s got his Filipino side in him working again.

Next for the Giants comes Matt Cain, then Jonathan Sanchez. And Madison Bumgarner.   And Lincecum again.  And when they tire, Brian Wilson and the bearded and unbearded pen lay in waiting.

With those arms maybe all you do  need is a couple of hits, a walk, and a run scored on a double play.  (The Giants have 159 or so of those this year).

I’m almost as old as the number on Timmy’s back. But I haven’t felt this way about baseball since I was a kid.  

On Thursday, I saw it, and heard it. I’m going back for more.