Something familiar was in the air Monday night, opening night of a three-game series between the Philadelphia Phillies and “your” San Francisco Giants. Guess what?
The season is less than three weeks old and already the Giants are showing off their angst and ambiguity. Even with no Brian Wilson for the season, fans are advised to keep their seatbelts fastened and hold on to those paper bags: looks like a bumpy ride ahead.
Though commendably angst-ridden, Monday night’s game was more boring than bumpy. At the controls, Captain Anxiety himself, the Mission’s own prototypical hipster: Tim Lincecum. Billed as a “pitchers’ duel” between Timmy and Phillie Ace Roy Halliday, the game quickly dissolved into a pitcher skewered, as the Phillies took a 4-0 lead before Lincecum recorded the night’s second out.
He pitched that opening sequence like he was playing ‘shroom frisbee in Dolores Park: his fastball had no mustard, his changeup hung over the plate like a hot air balloon, his slider ejaculated prematurely, and his curveball … ha ha, his curveball. Ask Hunter Pence, half human/half horse, about that so-called curveball.
In the post-game there was talk, as there always is when Lincecum hits a slump, about velocity, movement, release point, nastiness factor, pfx and a lot of technical stuff that engineers in the neighborhood can get off on. Remember, Timmy was a creation of his father and grandfather, Boeing engineers, who were determined to build a better pitching machine. His movement, the way he uses his whole body, has always been unique, and since his body is always developing, his technique needs to keep changing as well. A challenge for us all.
But we know that technique is only half the battle with Lincecum, maybe less. Ever since he moved into the Mission in May of 2010, Giant fans have been entertained by one young man’s struggles with the pros and cons of growing up. Part ballet, part soap opera, and part psychological potboiler, the Travails of Timmy have consistently drawn high ratings. This season, renting under the radar, he’s gotten off to a real bang, hipster-style, by giving up runs at a double-digit rate — especially in the first inning.
All the questions we thought could wait until August now cascade down upon us. Is Lincecum succumbing to a Big Contract? Has he been shamed by a lawsuit alleging he trashed his Mission digs? Is there a woman? A man? A half human/half anime?
And then there’s that hipsterness. Lincecum has always been someone for whom the play ethic seemed to come more naturally than the work ethic. In his Freaky days, you could tell he was having fun. But after seasons that never end, awards, championships, strikeouts and millions of dollars, playing baseball must get to be less and less like play, more and more like work. It becomes what manager Bruce Bochy loves to call “grinding.” Now what self-doubting, pot-smoking, partygoing hipster wants to spend his life “grinding”? Especially a guy who is already unconscionably rich.
We can and should hang this loss on Lincecum, not that the lineup did anything heroic or worthy of note. Melky Cabrera continues to impress; Aubrey Huff continues to depress. The Brandons made some nice plays in the field, while newcomer Angel Pagan miss-played a fly ball to center field so badly, even Bochy had to struggle to keep his vaunted game face from flying off in a rage.
Like anxious parents, the crowd surged down the ramps after the game muttering stuff like “it’s early” and “he’ll settle down” and “I’m not worried.”
LOL. Especially when they tell you “I’m not worried.”
Tonight Madison Bumgarner, who also just landed a big contract, heads toward the mound. What’s he up to?