Poems and songs. That’s what there was for Tim Lincecum. Well, a poem, anyway.
The poem, of course, came from Grant of McCovey Chronicles. As finely tuned and witty as Giants fans have come to expect from him, the poem was a pure representation of the expectations laid on the pitcher who is alternately known as “Franchise” and “The Enchanter.” Jokes about the second coming and certain other religious references are just those -- jokes.
But are they?
Giants fans hunger for young players, and they hunger ravenously. It becomes almost an obsession where it doesn’t even matter who it is or what position they play. His arrival on the field for pre-game warm-ups elicited a standing ovation from the third-base side of the grandstand. His name, his walk to the mound, even his first pitch (a strike), all got standing ovations from everyone capable of standing. He even got one leaving the field with four runs scored against him, and another runner on the bases.
That was the good side of Giants fans, supporting the kid while he was down. But he was only down from their high expectations.
What Lincecum needs to do is easy. Just as he commented last summer after his first professional promotion from Salem-Keizer to San Jose: “Like Reggie Jackson used to say, ‘the fence-high pitches, you know, [are] belt high.’” Well the pitches Lincecum were throwing on Sunday were deep-bleacher high pitches. At the belt, at the letters, and when he was missing, right in the grill of Pat Burrell once.
This should not be surprising. He is 22, and while some have made a big deal about his composure on the mound, and rightfully so, he can get rattled. It happened in San Jose, and it happened in his first game in major league Spring Training. How can someone not get rattled under the expectations fans have laid on him?
It was apparent in his velocity. The stadium gun had him hitting 97-99 mph and even breaking the 100 barrier once, in the first couple of innings. After that, and giving up his first home run, his velocity came down to its regular home of 94-96 mph. He still gave up the Ryan Howard home run, but he was more effective there.
Lincecum knows what he needs to do. Now the fans need to realize what they need to do, and actually do it.
It’s time to lay off. Stop getting so excited about the kid that anything less than a no-hitter is a bad thing. The poems and songs will come. In time, they will come. Because Tim Lincecum is legitimate. But fans need to hold it back. It’s easy to look at a four-man rotation of Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, and Noah Lowry and get hungry for it to arrive sooner. But it doesn’t have to arrive by May 15.
So let’s not worry yet about whether he’ll be sent down after his next start, or when Russ Ortiz comes back from the disabled list. For now the only thing coming is his next start. His job is to keep his pitches down. Our job is to keep our expectations that way as well.
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