Tim Lincecum was the face of the Giants franchise. He defined the Giants in the post-Barry Bonds era. He was young, talented, fiery, and he was a winner. Was. Now, Tim Lincecum has pitched himself out of the starting rotation and into the bullpen.
We love Timmy. He's probably my third favorite Giant of all-time, behind only Barry Bonds and Will Clark. Sometimes I love Kevin Mitchell or Rod Beck more, I guess. Timmy is definitely top five, anyway. (Willies Mays and McCovey were before my time and are in a special "Legends" category). We loved that skinny kid with a silly smile who would stare down the biggest, baddest batters and send them back to their seats to suck on their sunflower seeds. We felt protective over him when he went to face the filth they call fans in Philly in the 2010 NLCS, but he didn't need our warm, fuzzy thoughts — he won a game he was supposed to lose and shut them up. Two weeks later, he helped to bring home the City's first World Series Championship. Our boy.
But if you rewind the tape from October 2010 to August 2010, you'll see the first signs that things were not right. He started five games in August 2010 and lost every single one of them. It was like looking out your window to find every tree and every rooftop covered by a murder of crows. You dropped your coffee mug, slowly stepped away from the window, and screamed an endless scream.
Timmy's September and October and a World Series parade made it easy to forget that terrible, terrible August, but for some of us, it lingered. 2011 was a pretty good year for Timmy, though it was a terrible one for the team. That was reversed in 2012. The Giants won the World Series again that year, but for Timmy, it was bittersweet. Instead of leading the charge as he did in 2010, Timmy, who had pitched terribly all year, was taken out of the starting rotation and placed in the bullpen. That was a strange sight. But man, when he came walking out of the bullpen toward the mound, Giants fans went wild. Our boy to save the day. He was fantastic in relief.
But since then, people began to wonder: Was Timmy done? Would it just be a matter of time before a move to the bullpen is permanent? No way, we thought. It was only a post-season, emergent situation thing only. Timmy was a starter. Had to be.
And then in 2013, during the regular season, he was sent back to the bullpen. Temporarily, sure, and he wasn't ultimately needed or used in relief, but that was beside the point — Tim Lincecum, two-time Cy Young winner, three-time NL strikeout leader, four-time All-Star, with two World Series rings, was on the cusp of becoming a relief pitcher.
Of course, in typical Timmy fashion, a few weeks after his brief stint in the pen, Timmy pitched his first career no-hitter. He shut us all up and made us remember who he was and why we loved him. And this year, in June, he did it again. He still has it, he was telling us.
But the thing is, he doesn't have it. Not like he used to. We now have several dozen games to look back on and see that his drop in performance is not a fluke and it is not temporary. It has been a steady and sustained decline, interrupted, yes, by occasional spurts of pure brilliance, but the line on the graph is headed in a downward direction. Of all my baseball buddies, I'm the last one to finally admit that Timmy is done. Believe it or not, he's 30 years old. I've been in my 30s for five years and physically, the only thing I'm better at from this side of 30 is throwing out my back. It doesn't get better, Timmy.
I don't know if I'll hope against hope one more time and wait for the day that Timmy triumphantly returns to his Cy Young winning ways. I'll probably always keep that flame going, no matter how small it gets. But the more realistic me is almost excited to see what he can do from the pen. For now, it's a temporary move, but if it becomes permanent and he can do what he did in the 2012 post-season, Timmy's second act may prove to be as worthy as his first. Here's to hoping.
Season-to-date: 68-62 (.523); 2nd place in the NL West; 2nd in Wild Card race.
Tue: at Chicago Cubs (lost)
Wed: at Chicago Cubs (WON)
Thu: at Chicago Cubs (WON)
Fri: at Washington (WON)
Sat: at Washington (lost)
Sun: at Washington (lost)
Mon: vs. Rockies (lost)
Tue: vs. Rockies
Wed: vs. Rockies
Thu: vs. Rockies
Fri: vs. Brewers
Sat: vs. Brewers
Sun: vs. Brewers