It’s no secret that Tim Lincecum is a beloved San Francisco Giant. But being beloved and being effective have been two separate issues over the last few seasons. As most fans are aware, the team is filled with quality players. And with Chris Heston as effective as he is, there is no reason why Lincecum should leapfrog him into the next spot in the starting rotation.
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So what is Timmy to do?
That really depends on how long he expects to pitch. If he is looking at a career that extends to more than a few more seasons, then he should be focused on pitching out of the bullpen. If, however he is looking at a shorter-term time frame then he may be more focused on a starting role and the limelight that comes with it. The awesome thing about Lincecum pitching in long relief with the San Francisco Giants, is that he still will be revered even in that lesser role. But if he goes to another team and falters as a starter, he may risk a chance at pitching at the major league level moving forward.
Giants fans need to ask themselves; “How long has it been since Tim Lincecum was the freak?” Been awhile hasn’t it? It has been rumored that Tim Lincecum still wants and believes he can be a quality starter in the major leagues. And more power to him if he still wants to pursue the goal of continuing in that role. There have been many other players in the Bay Area who have thought that they still had value, and have had to move on to other cities in order to pursue that. If Lincecum had been effective over the past few seasons there would be no question about where he would be pitching right now. It isn’t lack of run support, or plain bad luck that he is not in the rotation right now. It is mainly the fact that his roster spot and rotation spot is better served with someone else. But if Lincecum is willing to work his way back to the big club after showing his effectiveness with a few appearances in Sacramento, perhaps a long reliever/6th starter role is in his future.
Admittedly the Yusmeiro Petit role is a hard one to get out of, nearly impossible. Once you show success in that role, you generally are stuck in it the rest of your career. That is because it is the hardest job on the pitching staff. Lincecum has shown that he is effective at that role previously in the postseason. Some believe that the reasons for wanting to stay in the starting rotation are financial. A starter has the potential to make more money than a long man. But I believe that it is more mental than money that drives Lincecum to want to be return to the starting role. If he can get over that mental hump and understand what he has in San Francisco he will put himself in a great position to finish his career with the team and fans that allow him to be himself.
Although the situations are not quite the same, Pablo Sandoval has noticed that fans are a little bit more forgiving when you slump when you are one of their own.
The pressure to perform, and win over a new group of fans is intense. Even if he is fully healthy, it may take just two bad starts to lose the trust of his new fans. In San Francisco, fans’ patience is a lot longer because of what he did for them, and what he means to the recent past.
As for the Giants, it is always best in sports to sell too early as opposed to too late when letting a great player leave. Joe Montana handing the reins to Steve Young turned out to be a good decision for the 49ers. And while there were many angry fans out there who disliked the Giants decision not to re-sign Barry Bonds after the 2007 season, the team was able to financially move forward and get started on their title runs. At that stage of his career, Bonds would not have had the impact on the field that his salary would have commanded. Sure, they may have gotten another two seasons of 30-40 home runs, but at what cost?
The team has stood its ground with Timmy, and at this point looks to have made the right decision by slow-playing the negotiations. If he wants a friendly place to rehab and try to get back his mojo, there isn’t a better place than the Giants organization. But truthfully, his persona and marquee personality may not allow him to be just another pitcher. Even as an effective long man, “The Freak” can still connect with his legions of fans in the bay area.
That is why Tim Lincecum should stay with the San Francisco Giants, but he probably won’t.