OnTheCouch: What’s Up, Lincecum?

Some don't see any problem.

Some don't see any problem.

En Español

Innings One Through Three: Summer of Love

Klezmer music on Mission Creek? Yes, it’s Jewish Heritage Night at the ballpark, one of the endless Giants promotions exploiting the Bay Area’s rich ethnic and cultural diversity. This one comes at a particularly appropriate time. Everyone knows that when you ask two Jews the same question, you get (at least) three answers. You find the same thing if you ask two Giants fans what they think about the woeful performance of ace pitcher Tim Lincecum.

What’s bothering him? Will he ever be the pitcher he was over the last two years? Will he snap out of it in time to lead the Giants into the playoffs? Will he ever emerge from his personal hell? Will he get a guy out on a 3-2 pitch?

Rookie Madison Bumgarner starts tonight against the Colorado Rockies. Bumgarner has his own recent tales of woe, but really, he’s a rookie. Lincecum is a two-time winner of the Cy Young Award for best pitcher in the league — he’s the one we’re worried about. Win or lose tonight, says Joe Karzon, “tomorrow is going to be huge.” And he’s not talking about the Dolores Park meeting at Mission High. He’s talking about Lincecum, who pitches Wednesday against the Rockie’s ace, the overpowering Ubaldo Jimenez.

Why has Tim been in trouble on the mound?

His hair style and pot bust tend to focus some minds on sex, drugs and parties. “It’s a woman,” says Kitty, the wife of Mother Mary Diva. “He’s clearly thinking about something else, and nine out of ten times that something else is a woman. Maybe more than one.” Mother Mary Diva thinks Tim may be tired, which, she hastens to add, doesn’t contradict Kitty’s point.

Some specifically fault the hair. At first I thought that was a joke, but Robert thinks it’s serious. “Oh, please,” says his friend Rachel, “how can it be the hair?” “You sweat a lot on the back of the neck,” says Robert, who has long hair. “That can be very distracting if you’re trying to pitch.” Rachel doesn’t think it’s that simple. But for Irene and Sheena, it really is that simple. “Try something new,” says Irene. “He has to break out of old habits.” “We’re not saying bald,” interjects Sheena, “we don’t want him to lose all his strength, like Samson. Just a trim.” “You need a trim to get your luck back, Timmy,” Irene calls out. “We love you.” They walk on to their seats, carrying a giant cardboard scissors with the word “Spa.”

At the end of three, the score is 1-1. Bumgarner has gotten himself into and out of trouble. On the other side, Esmil Rogers, a rookie from the Domincan Republic with a 5.66 ERA, mows the Giants down one after another.

Innings Four Through Six: Reefer Madness

One of the most popular theories of what’s ailing Lincecum has to do with too much partying. Gregory Shimada just thinks Lincecum is “caught up in his own brain.” Weed could be a problem, Shimada figures, but can’t decide whether the problem is smoking it or not smoking it. Like others, the same rabbi I met last month definitely thinks Lincecum would do better if he smoked to relieve the stress of the game and the enormous expectations. I think he was about to get into a Moses parallel, wandering for 40 years in the desert, but I’m saved by “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Rogers’ dominance continues into the fifth inning, getting two outs before Juan Uribe gets on base with a single. Bumgarner then takes matters into his own hands, doubling into the right centerfield gap, to score Uribe.

Jessie agrees there must be a lot of pressure on Lincecum to perform. He notes that the Giants use Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval all the time for promotional purposes, which must really mess with their minds. Jessie doesn’t believe weed will help, but if Lincecum thinks he needs it for whatever reason, then “get him a doctor’s prescription” and let him smoke.

No way Tim could be doing any of that now, says Jim P., who says he’s a doctor. “He’s probably got a half-dozen agencies, including the Giants, running for little paper cups every time he pees.”

Innings Seven Through Nine: Oedipus by the Bay

People usually preface their remarks by saying, “I don’t know, but….” Matt Cohen doesn’t play that game; he jumps right in. “Injury,” he says definitively. I listen to Matt because he’s still prepubescent; he could be close to The Freak.

David, Matt’s father, in fine Talmudic style both agrees and disagrees with his son. He says Lincecum could be covering for an injury on the one hand, but given the inconsistency of the pitching staff as a whole, he thinks a bigger problem lurks, namely Dave Righetti, the Giants’ pitching coach. He’s got a point. Righetti has been about as successful in identifying and correcting Lincecum’s problems as British Petroleum was in stopping oil from gushing into the Gulf.

And speaking of father-son relationships, not only are these relationships central to baseball mythology, they are essential to consider in this case, because Chris Lincecum, Tim’s dad, engineered his son’s unique pitching style. Sandy Wooten says Tim’s trying to be his own man; he’s tired of doing everything his father tells him to do; he wants to do it himself. Sandy’s mother Annie Lewis agrees that children can be like that, but she doesn’t want to say any more. I can’t tell if that is a comment on Sandy’s growing up. Probably. Should Tim postpone his maturation process for the good of the team? No comment.

In the top of the eighth inning, with Bumgarner gone, Melvin Mora ties the game with a home run to right field. Andres Torres responds with a home run off Matt Belisle to help finish off the Rockies, 5-2.

San Diego lost again, leaving the Giants four games behind the division leaders. The wild card race stays the same.

And Tim Lincecum takes the mound for the Giants Wednesday at 6:15.

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