It has to end sometime, doesn’t it, this Tim Lincecum agony? There have been pitchers who mysteriously lost their accuracy or their speed, Steve Blass back in the ’70s, Rick Ankiel not so long ago, but they didn’t win two Cy Young Awards. Then again ...
A 2-8 record for Lincecum? That reads like a typographical error. It has to be 8-2, right? He reached 93 mph on the radar gun. He struck out six in Seattle. In five innings. Which is the problem.
Not the six strikeouts, the five innings.
He goes along, then he goes bad. In the fifth or the sixth. Or once in a while the seventh. The problem, whatever it may be and everyone has weighed in, just leaps back and smacks him hard.
Fourteen starts in 2012, and the Giants are 2-12 in those games. If they were only 7-7, they’d be in first, not chasing the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Lincecum turned 28 a week ago, returned to his home town, Seattle, received an ovation from fans who had wanted the Mariners to draft him, all but apologized what has befallen him and then collapsed once more, in the sixth.
“He’s taking it hard,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “At the same time, he hasn’t lost any fight in him.”
Lincecum is scheduled to start Friday night against the A’s in Oakland. He couldn’t beat them last month at AT&T Park, but he didn’t beat anyone in May. That Tim Lincecum, “The Franchise,” has not recorded a pitching victory in almost eight weeks borders on the surreal. Or on the terrifying.
Pitchers have slumps, the way batters have slumps. Is what Lincecum is undergoing a slump? He’s confused, as is understood.
“Self-doubt creeps in,” said Bochy, “in that [he thinks] something’s going to happen rather than you controlling the situation.”
It happens to the best. Tiger Woods is battling himself as well as the top players. The same with Lincecum. It is axiomatic an athlete find it more difficult to retain success than achieve it. What appeared so easy becomes impossible.
“It’s easy to point fingers at things and say it’s just unlucky,” Lincecum said from Anaheim in the New York Times.
“But the way I can word it best without alleviating any responsibility off myself — which is what it is; it’s me, when it comes back to it — is everything that can go wrong is going wrong.”
Six months ago, January, Lincecum received a new two-year, $40.5 million contract that runs through the 2013 season, a per year average of $20.25 million, higher than the $18 million Barry Bonds and Barry Zito averaged.
If anyone deserved it, Lincecum, with those two Cys, with the win in the World Series clincher, deserved it. But has the money affected his pitching? History is full of ballplayers who tried to prove they were worthy of the big contracts and then forgot the principle that was responsible for their success: Just play ball.
Nothing seemed to bother Bonds, the most recognized athlete in the Bay Area, who appeared oblivious to pressure and criticism. Lincecum has replaced Bonds as The Man in San Francisco. Those No. 55 jerseys are seen everywhere.
The dollars are large. The expectations are high. Tim has to stop worrying and once more start pitching.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.