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Why Is Tim Lincecum Wearing that Gross Red Hat?

May 21, 2016

Tim Lincecum is officially a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a professional baseball team located in Southern California.

The visual evidence:

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OK. Give me a minute.

***

This is going to be a post about Why Timmy Was Special. But first, a story from my own life, set at a time when Lincecum was still playing high school baseball in Renton, Washington. (Here’s some rare home-video footage of him getting rape-spanked by Ben Affleck.)

It was the autumn of 2002. I was a 20-year-old college student with a Navy peacoat and two years of political science classes under my belt studying abroad in the Netherlands, which is to say I was mostly completely insufferable.

I was also a rabid Giants fan going into my second decade of watching the team not win the World Series, as they had never done since moving west in the Triassic Period 1950s. They made the playoffs that year. I was unmoved; I’d seen this dance before, as recently as 2000. They were going to find a way to screw it up like they always did, usually with the Marlins getting involved.

Then they beat the Braves in the division series, the first postseason series they’d won since the Bronze Age 1989. Then they beat the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

That’s when I started making late-night trips to the Red Light District.

Wait! To watch baseball. I made trips to the Red Light District to watch baseball.

That, see, was the location of the only sports bar in all of Amsterdam, and possibly greater Holland, that deigned to play World Series games, on a big wall-mounted TV in the back. No one cared, except me and a drunken Scotsman who may or may not have believed he was watching Australian-rules football.

The Giants, you’ll recall, played the Angels. And if you don’t recall, lucky you.

1,000 words.

1,000 words.

It was a hard-fought, high-scoring series. Barry Bonds did Barry Bonds things, depositing baseballs into the stratosphere with extreme prejudice. It went seven games, though everything was actually decided in Game 6, when the Giants blew a large, late lead after Dusty Baker handed Russ Ortiz the game ball and there was a tire fire in the bullpen and a sea of dead-eyed Rally Monkeys and…

You know what? Give me another minute.

***

I walked home alone in the rain that night, past corner pushers and the late-shift prostitutes bathed in regret and pale pink neon. I collapsed into the single bed of my student apartment, pulled a pillow over my head and may or may not have wept a little. I had booze on hand. I still don’t know why I didn’t drink all of it.

I had dark thoughts. I won’t re-print them all here, but the underpinning feeling was: this is it. My favorite baseball club is never going to win that trophy that all the baseball clubs try to win. There will never be confetti, never be an overpriced commemorative DVD/ball set that I am compelled to purchase, never be grown men spraying each other with carbonated beverages while I vicariously dance around my living room in a state of ludicrous, unearned ecstasy.

Never, never, never.

I won’t say it crushed me. I was, after all, a 20-year-old man-person in Amsterdam with a healthy liver and an inflated sense of himself and the world. There was joy to be had.

But boy did that night suck.

***

Less than five years later, a shaggy right-hander made his San Francisco debut, slinging high-90s heat and a big loopy curveball.

The Giants were pretty dreadful at that point, stuck in the post-PED hangover phase of the Bonds Era, not quite rebuilding and not quite contending.

They’d also failed to develop a legitimate star from their farm system in what felt like forever. And while I’d been burned enough times by the William VanLandinghams and Jesse Fopperts of the world, this felt like a Moment. A turning point. A glimmer of hope. KNBR was all ablaze.

Lincecum and the Giants lost his first start, and his stat line was nothing special. I wish I could say I saw past that and believed in the Cy Youngs and World Series parades to come. And I suppose I could say that. But I’d be lying.

I was still cynical. Still trudging, metaphorically, through the Red Light district, crying into the collar of my Navy peacoat. We couldn’t have nice things.

Then it happened. First, in 2010, with Lincecum as the ace of the staff, defeating final postseason Boss Cliff Lee in the decisive Game 5.

America, fuck yeah.

America, fuck yeah.

Then again in 2012, with Lincecum as the resurrected bullpen hero. Then again in 2014, with…well, Timmy was there in spirit.

This isn’t a perfect narrative, because Lincecum’s best years, the Cy Young years, came before the trio of championships. When he was at his best, befuddling all comers with his whiplash delivery and stacking up strikeouts 200-high, the Giants were still climbing toward greatness. Buster Posey was a cherub-faced college kid in Florida. Madison Bumgarner was blowing snot rockets in Double-A.

But more than any other player (including Matt Cain, who technically preceded Lincecum) Timmy defined the Giants’ rebirth. He was the antithesis of Bonds, a spindly little pot smoker from the Pacific Northwest who weighed 150 pounds soaking wet. And he was ours.

There was confetti. There were overpriced commemorative DVD/ball sets that I was compelled to purchase. There were grown men spraying each other with carbonated beverages while I vicariously danced around my living room in a state of ludicrous, unearned ecstasy.

There was Timmy.

***

Now, he’s an Angel. There’s a joke here about how he might as well have died, but that’s going too far.

Lincecum’s deal with the Angels is only for one season. If he pitches well enough, if his surgically repaired hips and whatever mantra he was chanting in that secret bunker allow him to again frustrate big league hitters at an above-average clip, he will test the market next winter and sign somewhere.

And, wouldn’t you know it, the Giants will need at least one starter, with veteran squinter/Cubs batting-practice pitcher Jake Peavy coming off the books and Cain still an enigma.

There is a scenario where a reunion happens. Where Lincecum rips off that Angels uniform with one exaggerated yank, Magic Mike-style, and comes back to us.

Not today, though. Today he’s a member of the team formerly owned by Disney. The team that broke my heart once upon a time, and just sort of did it again for turds and chuckles.

I wish him well. I hope he throws seven no-hitters and enters Mike Trout’s mind, warg-style, to steal all his hitting secrets. I hope he never even once gets stuck in traffic, and that if he meets Al Pacino at a Jamba Juice, Pacino turns out to be way cooler than you’d expect and they ride around by the halcyon sea on a bicycle built for two.

How could I not? He’s Timmy. If you don’t appreciate what he meant to this franchise forever and ever and ever and ever no matter what, you are officially not allowed to call yourself a Giants fan. Hand in your membership card and allow Bam Bam Meulens to slap you twice across the face with a commemorative World Series towel.

But man almighty. It’s gonna be hard to watch him do things in that gross red hat.

Tim Lincecum is officially a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a professional baseball team located in Southern California.

Blech and phooey.

These Giants, Man. These Giants

October 21, 2014

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In which, for the third time in five years, you find yourself retroactively caring about the result of the MLB All-Star Game.

***

First off: don’t pretend any of this makes sense. It’s baseball; it laughs maniacally in the face of sense while chewing on a rusty piece of baling wire and fondling a taxidermied mink. The Giants don’t deserve to be here. We don’t deserve to be here, again, wrapping our hopes and hearts and other vital organs around a short series of athletic competitions that mean everything and nothing in equal measure.

Deserve, though, ain’t got nothing to do with it. It’s happening: another World Series at Third and King, by the shores of McCovey Cove. The bandwagon creaking under the weight of Panda Hats™. Take it, smell it, rub it on your chest. Taste it. Yeah…tastes good.

***

Travis Ishikawa, the sort-of prospect from the end of the Bonds years who the Pirates had no use for in April, is a postseason hero. Hit one of the, oh, top five home runs in franchise history, he did. Top three if you’re feeling generous. That’s the first thing.

Hunter Pence, the result of an experiment involving weapons-grade plutonium and an ill-fated praying mantis, starred in a YouTube video about how he’s “too shy to get a table at Costco.” You can’t make this stuff up.

Ryan Vogelsong is still here, doing things. Brandon Belt got hit in the face by an errant asteroid and had his thumb bitten off my a malamute, but he’s OK now. Marco Scutaro crumbled into a pile of vertebrae dust, but then this fella from Fresno came along and was like, “Don’t panic.” But he spelled it with a “k.”

There are conventional heroes, too, the names that are etched deep into the alabaster of each October run: Madison Bumgarner, slinger of cutters and snot rockets; Buster Posey, the cherubic embodiment of light and wonder. And, of course, Bruce Bochy, lurching manager savant who can dive you to distraction over a 162-game slog but damn if the guy doesn’t pull aces when the lights get real bright.

These Giants, man. These Giants.

***

America is rooting for the Royals, just so we’re clear. Small-market success story, decades-long playoff drought, heartland, blue-collar blah blah blah. It’s like Cinderella and Rocky Balboa got drunk on strawberry margaritas and Miller High Life and had a bouncing baby boy named Chet Freedom.

The Giants are spoiled. We’re spoiled. We don’t need this, not again. That’s what they’ll tell you.

Then I close my eyes and picture an 11-year-old boy, ears glued to a fuzzy radio in his parents’ living room, listening as a 103-win season goes up in flames on the right shoulder of Salomon Torres and the bats of the stupid, stupid Dodgers. That was my team; I’d pinned a whole summer of hopes on those knuckleheads, and it all evaporated in front of me. The next season, as Matt Williams was chasing down Roger Maris, every player on every team packed up their gloves and quit. They canceled the World Series.

That was two seasons of utter baseball-related agony. A kick in the balls of my prepubescent psyche. And that was mere prelude to the ’02 debacle in Anaheim at the hands of those Disney-owned mongrels and their cloth monkeys. Then the Fall of Bonds. And more losing.

Every sports fan has a sob story. There are dudes in Chicago right now with threadbare Andre Dawson jerseys who would sell a kidney and/or their soul for a tiny taste of what we’ve been guzzling. But there was a time when an adult me was pretty sure he’d never see the Giants soak themselves in sparkling wine and leap around like idiots.

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Then I saw it. And I saw it again. I started a blog about this stupid, wonderful team. I parlayed that into a gig writing about baseball for actual money.

Because everyone is the star of his own movie, I felt like I’d put a bow on things. Like the credits had rolled, the outtakes had played and now we could return to normal, with “normal” defined as the Giants not winning any more World Series for a while, maybe for a long while. I was cool with that.

Now…this. What is this? What are we doing? Where are my pants? What’s this funny taste in my mouth?

Guys…seriously.

***

The Giants are about to play for the championship of baseball to become baseball champions. Again. Four to seven contests to decide if there’s another parade down Market Street. My son, who I’ve successfully injected with the Orange and Black serum, will have seen more World Series wins in seven years on Earth than many long-suffering fans saw in an entire lifetime.

Is this the new normal? Will the even-year mojo continue into perpetuity, climaxing when Tim Lincecum Jr. pitches a perfect game to nail down the 2038 Fall Classic?

I dunno, man. Probably not. It’s got to end some time. Maybe it’ll end with the Royals doing the champagne happy dance while we sulk and absolutely no one feels sorry for us. That’s probably what we deserve.

Remember though: deserve ain’t got nothing to do with it. Pay the quarter, take the ride. Wee!

***

These Giants, man. These Giants.

Writing About Writing About Baseball

June 19, 2014

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When I started this blog in February 2011, I had been a working journalist for nearly a decade. But I rarely got to write about sports; my beat was generally less important stuff like elections and government meetings and profiles of supposedly powerful or interesting people, none of whom had the good sense to play baseball.

Oh, I managed to shoehorn in the odd athlete human-interest feature here or there, and even finagled a press pass to AT&T Park, conducted a two-minute interview with Tyler Walker then spent three-plus hours wandering around the clubhouse, field and press box trying with limited success to not look like a hyped-out-of-his-gourd 12-year-old.

I’m still a working journalist — which means I need to borrow some money — and I still generally write about not-baseball. Recently, however, I scored a gig writing for Bleacher Report, about the NL West, mostly.

This is cool because:

a) They pay me actual American dollars;

b) They attract thousands of eyeballs;

c) Did I mention the actual American dollars?

My wife is a patient woman; she married me, after all. But there are only so many hours in a day, and only so many of those hours that I can spend looking up George Kontos’s WHIP before divorce proceedings are initiated.

So…this isn’t a goodbye. I will continue to update this blog as time and my marital status allow, particularly if there are big things happening with the Giants that I can make stupid jokes about. But my already infrequent posts may become even more infrequent. For the literally dozen of you who have flattered me by reading this blog regularly, I say: many thanks, and please keep checking back.

You can also read my Bleacher Report stuff — which is less Giants-centric and will feature 8o percent fewer bad puns — here.

Thanks again for hanging out in this little slice of Giants fandom. This season — what with the Giants losing eight of ten and Clayton Kershaw being a superhuman ball-thrower from the planet Curve-Lankia — is looking an awful lot like it may go from a fun day at the county fair to a fire on the ferris wheel and crazed carnies running screaming into the night.

We need each other, is what I’m saying. Now more than ever.

Giants Win Is Apparently A Very Evergreen Headline

June 1, 2014
If you talk into it, it totally makes your voice sound weird.

If you talk into it, it totally makes your voice sound weird.

The Giants have the best record in baseball. The Giants just took three of four from the Cardinals in St. Louis. The Giants have a seven game lead on the Dodgers. Take a big sip of that. Swirl it around in your mouth. Spit it into the spit bucket. Buy a bottle.

You deserve it.

***

We are 57 games into the 2014 season, which means we are officially allowed to begin drawing conclusions. The main conclusion: the Giants have been really good. Way, way better than expected. Have they also been lucky, what with all those two-out RBI hits and such? Probably. Is there a chance — a good chance — we’ll see some regression and thus less sweet, sweet winning? Possibly.

But we don’t have to give these victories back. The Giants could cool off considerably and still coast to a 90-win season. Or they could crash and burn in a fiery ball and leave me weeping in September, re-reading this post like a love letter from a girl who cheated on me with a rodeo clown. Or they could carry on doing what they’ve been doing and win like 110 games. Time holds the answers, and time is a mysterious bitch.

For now, though, I’m celebratin.’ Even in my best-case-scenario moments of unbridled spring optimism, I never imagined this. And it’s not like everything has broken right for the Giants. A lot, including Brandon Belt’s hand and Marco Scutaro’s back and Matt Cain’s sandwich-making abilities, has broken wrong. Buster Posey is mired in a very slumpy slump (though three hits today!). Tim Lincecum still makes you wet the bed every fifth day. Still, the wins keep flowing.

Could turn to vinegar by mid-August. For now, it’s fine wine.

Buy a bottle.

Ryan Vogelsong Has A Magical Pitching Amulet Hidden Under His Bed That The Maid Accidentally Threw Away But He Dug Through The Garbage And Found It Again

May 25, 2014

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Good an explanation as any, man.

***

Here are some things I’ve written about Ryan Vogelsong:

Everyone is waiting for the coach to turn back into a pumpkin, for the other cleat to drop, for Vogelsong’s run of aces to dry up. And maybe it will. But also, maybe not. That’s what makes this such an insanely compelling story — every fifth day we get to watch a guy playing with house money and nothing to lose. And the crazy bastard just keeps winning.

You’ve heard the rags-to-Tommy John-to-Japan-to-riches story. You’re aware Vogelsong was a hot Giants pitching prospect once upon a time. You know these things, but do you really understand them? Have you fully absorbed the utter absurdity of this man’s career arc? The fact that he’s here, right before our eyes, becoming a part of franchise lore? Baseball is unpredictable. Ryan Vogelsong is proof that the universe is a chaotic, perfect place. Tomorrow is game seven of the NLCS.

The problem with Vogelsong is that there’s no comparison for his career arc. The “Jesus, The Missing Years” journey he took between Pittsburgh, Japan, AAA purgatory and San Francisco is, quite literally, unprecedented. So while it’s easy to look at a 35-year-old pitcher leaving fastballs up in the zone for Chase Headley to deposit into the stratosphere and slump your shoulders, remember: this is Ryan Vogelsong. He’s never made sense. Why should he start now?

Ryan Vogelsong ain’t your average jock with a tragic backstory. This is a guy who rebuilt an arm, a career and slogged through a river of shit…. Which is why, as the bad starts piled up, it looked like the mirage was fading.

The problem is that, logically, we shouldn’t believe in Vogelsong. His rise was so preposterous, so utterly far-fetched; when he went thud last year it felt less like a bump in the road, and more like the universe correcting a rounding error. Surgically repaired journeymen on the wrong side of 30 don’t suddenly morph into All-Star World Series heroes. And they certainly don’t do it twice.

There is a world where Ryan Vogelsong is not a piece of hot garbage who makes us all sad. I’m not sure it’s this world, though.

***

If Ryan Vogelsong made any sense — any sense whatsoever — he would be terrible. He would be out of the rotation, if not now then certainly by late June. But Ryan Vogelsong doesn’t make sense, silly. That’s why he’s Ryan Vogelsong.

And last night was pure, uncut, Columbian Vogelsong: pinpoint control, corner strikes, zip on the fastball. Scowl, scowl, scowl, best record in baseball. These Twins ain’t the ’27 or even ’98 Yankees, but they’re the type of team that would’ve knocked Bad Vogelsong out by the fourth inning: patient (annoyingly so) and willing to let a pitcher beat himself. Early in the year, Vogelsong was beating himself like Reverend Dimmesdale.* Now, not so much.

Look, we’re way past the house-money phase. At this point Vogelsong has won the whole damn casino, burned it to the ground, built a new one out of gold-plated fiberglass and is running naked in the fountain swinging a drugged mink over his head. I, for one, am going to stop writing eulogies for a career that never should have been, or shouldn’t have been. It just is, man.

Ryan. Vogelsong.

* Yeah, that was a Nathaniel Hawthorne reference in a blog post about Ryan Vogelsong. And?

Tyler Colvin Is Happy Brandon Belt Broke His Thumb, And Other Reasons Why Sports Are Weird

May 13, 2014

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Colvin would never admit it, of course. That would be sick. Also: honest.

It takes such a crazy combination of ability and luck to even whiff the big leagues. Sticking around on a 25-man roster is getting struck by lightening while piloting a submersible with James Cameron. Tyler Colvin hit 20 home runs in his first full season with the Cubs. The Cubs, who are begging the guy on Addison Street with the day-old Sun Times and Windex bottle to come take a few hacks in the cage. Four years later he was riding the bus in Fresno. That’s how it works.

Then, Paul Fucking Maholm threw a high tight one. An inch higher or an inch lower or an inch to the side and Colvin is still in Fresno. Dirty, stinky Fresno. Instead, he’s bellying up to the pre-game spread at AT&T and listening to the sound of 40,000 people screaming in unison as he hits a baseball into the ocean.

Sports are weird.

***

In related news: Tim Lincecum. I haven’t written about Timmy in a while because, really, what’s left to say? The velocity ain’t coming back, the command is erratic. No amount of analysis or handwringing is going to re-animate the good Tim, the Cy Young Tim. It’s over.

Or not. 

That was the same Lincecum we’ve seen all year, but this time he was missing bats. Braves were flailing. His mustache grew three sizes that day. There will be more erratic starts, more tire fires, more tears. But for one night, at least, we got to marvel at the new/old/new Lincecum, and lo it was grand. Add three RBI from Tyler Colvin, minor league free agent, and one RBI from Brandon Hicks, minor league free agent, and there’s your recipe.

Sports are weird.

In Appreciation Of Michael John Morse, Mighty Hitter Of Baseballs

April 24, 2014

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When the Giants signed Mike Morse in December, the universe yawned. Not an exaggerated, sarcastic yawn; just an honest, slightly restrained, post-lunch yawn, like a guy in a Five-Hour Energy commercial before he swallows the vial of caffeinated iguana semen. The Giants were shopping off the bottom shelf, bypassing the shiny Ellsburys and Choos and reaching for the generic brand. There was upside — 31 homers in 2011! — but there was also a 32-year-old clomper coming off an injury-plagued blech.

The clomper part is totally true. Watching Morse play left field is like watching a mime mud-wrestle an adolescent Golden Retriever in a kiddie pool filled with Vaseline. Except 30 percent less entertaining. This man was put on earth to be a designated hitter. Which brings us to this (via Giants Extra)…

“Our offense, like I’ve said, it’s such a good offense,” [Morse] said after his two-homer game. “Something was going to spark us, going to ignite us. Today, I think, was that day.” He provided the lighter, hitting two homers that went 458 and 450 feet…Morse now has as many homers (five) as nine Giants left fielders had last season in 599 at-bats.

There are many reasons why the Giants weren’t good last season, but the black hole in left field is an underrated one. Getting five home runs in 599 at-bats out of a position that’s supposed to generate power is like doing this… The Giants stumbled across the finish line of a 5k fun run and puked takeout fettucini is what I’m saying. Now we have a left fielder who hits baseballs very, very far. The wrist injury seems to be in the rearview. Did I mention the far hitting of baseballs? I’m thinking Aubrey Huff circa 2010 thoughts, and those thoughts make me happy.

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So, so happy.

I know…it’s April. Wacky things happen in April. Mirages appear and we grope at them, only to get a mouthful of cactus come September. Other times, though, the swell things that happen in April keep happening. There’s no way to tell which is which without the benefit of hindsight; all we have is blind conjecture. Here’s some blind conjecture, then, mixed with the patter of spring rain on my roof and a steaming cup of coffee and coconut oil (seriously — try it): Mike Morse is going to continue doing his thing. And by “his thing” I mean playing horrible defense and launching ill-fated pitches into the stratosphere. Oh, there will be slumps. There always are. But when the dust settles on 2014, the Giants will have a left fielder who smashes home runs in bunches. Who can change a game with one gigantic, mule-esque swing. And who, as a bonus, does that weird samurai cobra warmup swing, because the Giants’ outfield apparently wasn’t crazy enough. kjNFC

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