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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.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. sid sandwich permalink
    May 21, 2016 3:23 pm

    F- PV

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