I don’t get to watch west coast baseball very often. As a fan of an American League team, I rarely get to watch National League baseball. So the odds of me seeing a west coast National League team play are beyond miniscule.
This limits my exposure to west coast NL stars to whatever I see on “Baseball Tonight,” MLB Network or “Sportscenter.” However, I am currently watching the Florida Marlins host the San Francisco Giants as I await my Rays who are beginning a left coast road trip at 10. This means that I am watching Giants megastar Tim Lincecum pitch for maybe the second or third time.
For the last two seasons, Lincecum has been one of those mysterious wonders to me. I know that he is good because everyone tells me that he is, but is he really THAT great? Or is the element of the seldom experienced treasure causing me to exaggerate his talent?
My reaction: Wow.
Yes, I know that I am beyond late to the party on this one. Obviously anyone with a Cy Young vote has experienced what I am witnessing right now, or else Lincecum wouldn’t have won the award twice in the last two seasons.
I’ll give you a brief explanation of what I have seen so far. I have seen Dan Uggla’s knees turn to goo. I have seen Cody Ross jump backward thinking that a breaking ball was about to smash into his temple only for it to land right over the center of the plate. I have seen 12 strikeouts. Lincecum has pitched six innings.
Disclaimer: As I am writing this, Hanley Ramirez just hit a 3-run homer off of Lincecum to tie the game. The SC jinx is alive and well, but I need material, and I’m going to keep writing.
It is fascinating to see such magic come from someone with the stature of Lincecum. He is listed at 5-feet-11-inches and 170 pounds. Hardly the dominating presence that makes most scouts drool and pile up hefty long-distance cell phone bills. On the mound, Lincecum looks like a punk rock front man given a cap and jersey and told to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Off the mound, he looks like he’s still waiting for the casting call of a “Lords of Dogtown” sequel.
Some of his off-the-field actions might agree with these reactionary judgments. In November 2009, Lincecum was cited for possession of marijuana in Washington. This drew about the same level of surprise as a Ricky Williams marijuana bust. You mean the guy with the long hair and the Chinese symbol tattooed on his upper back enjoys some weed from time to time? No way!
But teammates assured media members that this arrest was a surprise. They said that Lincecum is “a quirky perfectionist” who wouldn’t usually be a candidate to let something like this happen.
It’s funny because watching him pitch, the term “quirky perfectionist” seems like an apt description. He is as cool and nonchalant as any veteran pitcher in the game on the surface. He nods at big strikeouts and shrugs off timely hits, somewhat uncharacteristic of most 25-year-old starting pitchers. However, it seems like his mind is churning faster than a stock car at Daytona sans restrictor plate underneath that tranquil cover.
Maybe the first thing that struck me when I first flipped channels and saw Lincecum on the mound was his chemistry with catcher Bengie Molina. One of the first signs of a lack of comfort in young pitchers is their constant head shaking and lack of trust in the game that the catcher is calling. Sometimes this is necessary, more often it is not.
Molina and Lincecum seem to know each other as well as any duo in baseball. Lincecum barely needed to respond to any of Molina’s calls. After giving up the big home run to Ramirez, there was no need for a pitcher-catcher mound conversation. Lincecum shrugged and struck out Jorge Cantu, the next batter.
I know that this post will have a “well, duh” effect amongst most of the people who are accustomed to watching Lincecum pitch on a regular basis and even some who aren’t. However, there are certain moments when I see something and think “Damn, I need to tell somebody about that.” This was one of those moments, and as loyal SC readers, you are the people that I tell these kinds of things to.
I apologize for my late-arriving American League ways. Enjoy Cinco de Mayo. I know I will.