This afternoon I was afforded the privilege (thanks SB Nation!) of a working lunch with Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, Conan O'Brien, and Ellen DeGeneres. The purpose of this meeting was to spitball for an hour and come up with the greatest run of "Hunter Pence Looks Like A Bug, Freak, or Alien" jokes the world would ever see. It was to be the definitive collection of these notions, silencing all amateurs who'd dare tweet or drunkenly utter them from the bleachers. And as the server brought us the appetizers (avocado egg rolls and beef sliders) we all bonded over how absurd this all was. We were getting paid to make jokes about a human being's appearance.
There was some half-hearted defense of belittling a man's appearance (by Gervais, of course) because he was really, really good at his job. In that way, a "little poke at his jib" couldn't undermine the quality of his talent. And as Ellen DeGeneres danced with a family of tourists at the table next to us she added that part of the joke was that Hunter was in on the joke. He knows he's goofy-looking. Of course, Rock quickly dissed Louis C.K. and Conan via a counterargument: "So? C.K. and Coco know they are the pastiest, goofiest looking white boys to ever be on TV but it doesn't mean they like people reducing all that they are to that" (by the way, Rock somehow netted us all free pies afterward). Conan launched right in with, "Sure, but the difference between me and Hunter Pence is that when I see a flyswatter I don't have a panic attack" to which C.K. replied, "Only when you flip past NBC, right?"
I pitched my ten best bug jokes ("Hunter Pence always buys a box of Honeycomb cereal dinner first before taking her home") and stood up and let them all rip on my appearance and life failings so that we could really hammer out the best jokes on the subject. But you know what we all settled on: the Giants need Hunter Pence's bat more than they need Hunter Pence jokes.
LOUIS C.K.: "The funniest part, I think, is how they-they have this manager, this guy who's -- what, Bruce Bochy has been in baseball for 50 years, right? -- and he's playing first basemen at second base?"
CHRIS ROCK: "That's like Dr. J showing up for practice and being given a patient chart. 'What about the full court press?' 'Press is all you'll get if you don't get that cancer out of your patient!'"
CONAN: (old timey reporter voice) "What's the matter, Dr. J, couldn't execute a thoracic incision, hmmm?"
ELLEN: (coughs, weak-voiced) "It's... it's okay, Dr. J. You did the best that you could. And I'll... I'll miss my family, but I just... I just wanted you to know that I... really like your game."
RICKY GERVAIS: (laughs uncomfortably) "Right, well, in England, the patient would probably say, 'Oh, so you're a black surgeon, are you? Are you sure about that?' Right? Right?"
Of course, I was obligated to laugh at all their jokes (thanks SB Nation!) but the fact that we went way, way off on a tangent from the Hunter Pence Joke Objective helped me realize that the Giants' singular focus could very well be their undoing.
Hunter Pence will not be the answer to all the Giants' prayers. They are still a low run-scoring team despite being better at scoring runs than in previous years (the doctor says I'll go blind if I keep watching 2009 "highlights"), they have random platoon situations, some of which are unwarranted (anybody can play first base! It's a day off almost, like the DH!); and, as Grant said earlier today, Pence isn't *that* much of an upgrade over Schierholtz, but at the same time still kind of is. So, again, he's not *the* answer because there is probably, definitely more than one answer, but he is the "most correct answer" if we're getting all SAT-questiony up in here (which, come to think of it, we probably weren't, but whatever -- moving on). Melky Cabrera must still continue to hit .350, Buster Posey must continue his rise to becoming a world power, Gregor Blanco must somehow keep getting on base, Marco Scutaro has to be a decent contributor (like tonight), Pablo needs to come back, and Brandon Belt needs to cure what I think is an undiagnosed hemionopsia ... basically, the rest of the team still needs to, you know, produce.
Still, still, still, as much as I just crapped all over the notion of "one answer", I submit that there is one answer to the question, "Is Tim Lincecum back?" Click to see it (CLIIIICK IIIIT):
There it is. A curveball that catches so much of the plate all the Hairstons just homered off of it. but in this case, it totally worked. It fooled David Wright, who is the second best player by WAR (according to Fangraphs). It made me stand up in cheer. And I'm alone in a dingy studio apartment. He can't hear my cheers. But I can see something... or maybe I just *want* to see that thing: he's back!
But I don't think it's important that Tim Lincecum is *back*. I think it's just important that he establishes some sort of "new normal" (I kinda hate that term because it feels like it was cooked up by the same people who say "preggers", but it seems to fit what I'm driving at:) because it's unreasonable to expect and even anticipate that Tim Lincecum will revert to Cy Young Award-winning Tim Lincecum ever again. There are just too many points against that happening. He shows flashes of crispness, but he also appears to get tired during innings. His energy ebbs and flows throughout the course of the game. I don't think he's had command of his entire repertoire in any game or even any part of a game this entire season. And when it's not his command, it's his control from the stretch, or his situational awareness in terms of baserunners or defense. There seems to be one or two parts of his game that seem to be "off-line" on any given start, and not only is that something we're still not acclimated to, it's really, really harmful for a pitcher who is basically a fine-tuned sports car. Any imbalance kills the efficiency remarkably so.
But that doesn't mean he can't ever be good again, or consistently not terrible, and perhaps that's what this second half of the season will yield for us: positive pitching consistency. This is the most hopeful stretch of Tim Lincecum's 2012 season, so I'm going to cling to it, because it's hope and that's what you do with hope.
In the meantime, the Giants snapped a five-game losing streak and reclaimed first place. This was a fantastic day for the Giants from start to finish.