Tim Lincecum gave a quote to Andrew Baggarly that still sticks with me over a month later.
He said he honestly cares about what the fans think and he doesn’t want to let them down. He doesn’t want them to reach the point where they expect him to fail or to boo him off the mound. Even after all he’s accomplished in his career, he isn’t taking any fan support for granted. "I don’t want them to start to hate me," he said.
I've had it down in my notes for a while. It's the idea of a Giants fan cupping his hands, bringing them up to his mouth, and pursing his lips as Lincecum comes off the field -- a multi-step, premeditated process to show disgust at Tim Freaking Lincecum. If Giants fans started to hate Lincecum, I'd get tranquilizer darts filled with weaponized Darwin-juice, find a blow gun, and spend my afternoons at the park making people sterile.
But Giants fans aren't booing Lincecum. I'm not even sure there's even a faction of rabid, nonsensical fans who are close. Giants fans are too busy babbling with fear and confusion to boo. There are people who pretend to have answers. There are people who pretend to know what's going on. But most of the fans are in the jeez-I-don't-know camp. It's a crowded, lonely camp. There's one Porta-Potty there, and the line's a mile long. It's miserable. But there isn't any booing.
This comes up now because Lincecum's dad gave some quasi-incendiary quotes to Bob Nightengale and the USA Today:
"It's like people forget what he's done. It's like, 'What the (expletive) do I have to do. What more do you want? I gave you two Cy Youngs. I was a major contributor to the World Series. And you crucify me now?' "
"You keep saying (expletive) like this, and he'll want to go away. This is the face of the franchise … and now that he's struggling, as all players do at some point, this is the (bleep) respect he gets? You're crucifying him."
And I really, really, really don't get this. Well, I do. It's a father reacting to what might be the first extended criticisms of his son's career. But I'm not seeing the crucifying. I'm not seeing a reactionary blowback to Lincecum's struggles. Bewilderment. Denial. Bargaining. Depression. But not anger. Really, if Lincecum had to go through something like this, he couldn't have picked a better area or time.
The local media aren't barbarians. The laid-back-Bay-Area media thing seems like a cliché, but it's mostly well-deserved. I think in the past five years, I can remember only one piece from an established columnist that made me flinch -- the Bruce Jenkins on Barry Zito kerfuffle. That's about the only one I remember thinking wasn't especially fair. There might have been others. But while I'll disagree strongly with some of the opinions put forth by local columnists, I rarely think, jeez, take it down a notch.
There's nothing like that. Nothing inflammatory for the sake of being inflammatory. Nothing like a Skip Bayless or even a T.J. Simers. Not even close.
And it's not like there's still a post-Series glow, but what Lincecum did still counts for a lot of folks. In retrospect, it was pretty ugly how quickly some fans turned on Aubrey Huff, but Lincecum is a homegrown fan-favorite. Huff was a tremendous surprise who disappeared as fast as he arrived. That makes a difference.
Another thing in Lincecum's favor is that the Giants are doing (relatively) well. Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong have made the rotation a bitey Cerberus. That takes a lot of the pressure away, I'd think.
After Lincecum was bombed out of his last home start, his ERA was 6.00. The Giants were on their way to losing their 10th game out of 12 Lincecum starts. Here's the reaction he got from the crowd:
And I'd like to think that's going to be the reaction for just about any bad Lincecum start for the rest of the year. Words of encouragement spoken aloud. Nasty thoughts and fears unspoken. Maybe some talk-radio callers saying crazy things, but that's because talk-radio callers are crazy. There's someone on hold right now, waiting to explain why Cody Ross was a horrible acquisition in 2010. That's not the majority. Not even close.
This isn't a rebuttal to Chris Lincecum. I can't even imagine what it's like to watch my kid struggle in front of the world, so it's silly to pass judgment on anything he said. But this is a reminder that things aren't even close to as ugly as they could be. Not even close. There's no sense naming the markets where this would be a much bigger ball of nonsense. You know the ones I'm writing about. This is not one of them.
There isn't a lot of crucifying going on around here. Just a whole lot of well-wishers and crossed fingers. And hopefully those are replaced by the happy-go-lucky Tim Lincecum fanboys and fangirls who never really left.