I enjoyed most of the San Francisco Giants victory over the Colorado Rockies like I enjoyed most games in my youth. Rather than watching Tim Lincecum strike out ten Rockies in 7 2/3 inning on television, I listened to Jon Miller and Dave Fleming, much like I used to listen to Hank Greenwald. Back in the mid-to-late 80s, only the away games were on TV. Giants fans couldn’t watch home games until much later when they tried and failed to sell Giants Vision on cable.
Even when they were on TV, I’d find myself listening to the game in my room while playing RBI Baseball on my NES. Tonight, I was outside playing catch with my ten year old (JJ) who wanted to get his arm ready to pitch in his little league game tomorrow. I rolled down the window in my car, turned on the car radio, and we started to play catch. About a minute later, Lincecum lost his no-hitter, so maybe we should’ve turned on the TV for old good luck’s sake.
But really, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Baseball is a better radio sport than a TV sport. There’s too much downtime in between pitches for TV to do the game justice. How often can you show the field or the crowd in between pitches? It’s why the analysts have to make things up to say during dead time. Baseball is a conversational game. You’re always talking to anyone within ear shot about what just happened or what’s going to happen. That’s why Twitter chatter is strong during baseball games. Even if you have no one to talk to, you have lots of people to talk to.
When Lincecum gave up his no-hitter on a 3-1 pitch to Carlos Gonzalez, JJ said his day was ruined. But he was just being dramatic and like nothing, he was back throwing me what he called his 2-seamer. He has crazy long Pedro Martinez-like fingers, so I stuck the ball in his hand in circle change grip and had him throw that too. It was falling off the table nicely. He’s my shortstop as well so I was working with him on rounding the ball. He seemed to get the idea near the end even if he was thinking about his feet too much. But you can do that while listening to baseball. As Linecum was throwing, JJ was throwing.
Lincecum has become the guy that young Giants fans mimic, much like I used to mimic Dwight Gooden when there wasn’t a Giants starter with a winning record, and later Mike Krukow when he won twenty games in 1986. JJ is built like Lincecum. He’s not tall, but he’s super thin and springy. When he looks at athletes who look like him, he sees Lincecum.
What kids will start to see as their baseball wisdom increases is that what makes Lincecum tick is his desire to compete. God gifted him with the ability to create tremendous velocity out of his wiry frame and the creativity to learn new pitches nearly on the fly. But what pushes him over the top, even beyond his ability should allow, is an insane love for winning baseball games. He hates to lose more than most. In a day and age where we try and measure everything, that desire is immeasurable.
The critics have been trying to dissect Lincecum from the start. He’s too small. His motion isn’t classic. His body won’t hold up. His breaking ball isn’t good enough. He’ll never last. Baseball critics and scouts, mostly smart people, have been predicting his demise for a while now. When writers talk about the top pitchers in the game, Linecum is put somewhere after Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez and near Cliff Lee and Clayton Kershaw. None of those pitchers have clinched a World Series championship except for Lincecum. And when it mattered most, Lincecum beat Halladay and Lee both in the postseason.
So why doesn’t he get the acclaim after winning two Cy Young Awards and being the best player on a world championship team? It’s because he’s not three inches taller and twenty five pounds heavier. If he looked like Matt Cain, people would call him the best starting pitcher in game without fail.
Tonight, Lincecum did what your number one starter is supposed to do. He stepped on the mound in Colorado and shut down the team who had the best record in baseball. I heard on ESPN Radio over the weekend that Colorado was good enough to clinch the NL West so early that the Giants can forget about the division. People are saying that Troy Tulowitski has the NL MVP wrapped up just sixteen games into the season. Lincecum fanned him twice in three at bats. The Rockies are good, but tonight, they were no match for Lincecum.
When Lincecum’s on the mound, the team plays loose. They don’t feel like they can win with him on the mound. They simply know they’re going to win. They staked him out to a 5-0 and then 8-0 lead and he did the rest. His job was to pitch in the most difficult place to pitch for a visiting pitcher and shut down the so-called best team in baseball.
Even though Lincecum’s probably closer to 5’9 than his listed 6’0, he is a giant on the mound. Maybe that’s why JJ likes him so much. When he mimics Tim, he feels like a giant. Tomorrow, he’s going to find his Tulowitski and try and strike him out two times. Whether you call him The Freak, The Franchise, or Lincy, as my kids and me call him, just know that the Giants win games when he’s on the mound. The Rockies had no shot tonight.