It’s what we’ve come
to expect from the late model Tim Lincecum and San Francisco Giants. A rocky start, spotting the opponent (in this case the Los Angeles Dodgers) a run in the first, another in the 4th. Then Lincecum settles in, strikes out six, and controls the game; The Giants scratch out enough offense to comeback and tie, then miraculously
go ahead on a late-inning, seeing-eye home-run (this time Angel Pagan);
Lincecum gets to 103 pitches, the bullpen closes(Casilla, Romo) and the Giants
win. Or as the operatic script had it in 2013, they lose.
It’s been the archetypical SF Giant game for a long, long time.
Except Thursday night it may have been the last time the drama includes Lincecum as a star at AT&T Park in a San Francisco Giants uniform.
That fact wasn’t lost on Lincecum, or his teammates as they exited the field victoriously, in a receiving line of hugs.
Lincecum didn’t seem ready to say if he was really ready to close a chapter in his life and move on.
He didn’t want to answer my question quite yet, he said as he turned to me in the press gaggle.
A free agent at the end of the year, he could still get an offer from the Giants. Or see what other teams might pay for a 7 year veteran with two Cy Youngs, two World Series rings, a no-hitter, and 1,500 plus career strikeouts.
The negotiations now begin in earnest.
“I’m just trying to be open minded about what’s coming up,” he said. “I keep repeating myself, not dismissing anything I haven’t seen yet. I’m a product of familiarity and I like this team. So we’ll see what happens.”
So he’s open.
And he likes this team, and wasn’t sullen or despondent after the game. Indeed, he talked warmly and smiled when asked about the first ovation of the night, when he played down a sacrifice bunt that led to the Giants’ first comeback run in the fifth.
“I thought that was one of the best sacrifice bunts I ever made in my life,” Lincecum said in a big smile that was a rare show of emotion in his after game remarks. No sigh,and routine answer. This was a big guffaw and grin. And glow. “That ovation was pretty special. I’ve always had an awkward way of acknowledging it, (but) I have an appreciation of how (the fans) accept me.”
And they do mostly because of what fans and the media have watched him grow with the team. From being the “Franchise” to the “Freak,” to his short-hair, then long-hair and back, visage. His bulldogs, his watch caps, and bowties.
And of course, the memories on the field. The highlight?
“It will always be the first World Series, that was the highlight,” Lincecum said of 2010. “I’m just one of the most fortunate pitchers in this organization to have been a part of so many things. Guys around me, Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, Buster Posey coming up. Pablo Sandoval. The names don’t end. And to witness the marvelous things they’ve done, and all the team things, has been pretty special for me.”
And then there were the Filipino Heritage Nights, from the night in 2009 when he caught the opening first pitch from Manny Pacquiao, to the fact that his Filipino American fans have been unwavering in their support for him.
When I began the Linceblog, mostly to follow Lincecum’s last contract year, he may have revealed a slight reluctance to talk about his “Filipinoness” due to a hard family divorce.
But I know he appreciates the Asian and Asian American connection he has with fans. He showed it to me when I told him how he’s mentioned in a new book on Filipino American history, “Little Manila is in the Heart,” by San Francisco State professor Dawn Mabalon.
It’s not easy getting info from Linceucm. From the first day I met him this year, he’s always been fairly close to the vest, but it all goes back to his performance on the field, when things started out bad and got worse. But he came back, with perhaps the no-hitter as the career highlight. He may not be the dominant pitcher he’s been, but the Lincecum of the last six weeks has shown the guy who can work things out. And is hopeful, his next employer, the Giants see he’s still got a long career ahead.
“I feel like I’ve got some upside just because I’ve been willing to make some changes,” he said.
This year has been the test. And through it all Lincecum has always very even keeled in his spirits. Never down after a loss. Never too up after a great performance. His comments about the ovation after the sacrifice bunt may have been his most ebullient reaction of the season, besides when I first met him and he cracked a joke about maybe being the only player for the Philippines in the World Baseball Classic.
I’ve always found Lincecum very introverted and insular. But he’s always thinking. And he remembers things. He doesn’t forget. He only forget the negatives. He doesn’t dwell on them. He feeds and learns from the positives.
“I always try to take the positive out of things,” he said of some of his tough times he’s faced this season. But it’s put him in a good place in the end. “I think the positive mindset is the biggest thing for me going forward.”
As the press gaggle breaks up, I tell him it’s too bad, there’s no post-season, and that he’s pitched his last game of the season.
He turned to me and said, “Next year,” like a man who doesn’t expect or want to be leaving anytime soon.
(When he’s not writing his news commentaries, Emil Guillermo takes a break and watches baseball. His Linceblog on AsAmNews.com followed all the MLB’ Filipino American baseball stars. He regularly writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education fund at http://www.aaldef.org/blog and at www.amok.com. Like him at http://www.facebook.com/emilguillermo.media; Follow at http://www.twitter.com/emilamok ).