Tim Lincecum has been very nearly resuscitated after a long time in the garage, and of course this has led to a number of loving analyses of his place in San Francisco baseball history -- to the point, remarkably, that he has been emotionally separated from the San Francisco Giants and treated as his own historical entity.
Example: There is almost no grumbling among his still-strong army of acolytes that the Giants didn’t do more than the Los Angeles Angels to find a place for him in their 2016 plans.
Not that there wasn’t need, mind you. The Peavy-Cain end of the starting rotation remains problematic despite promising recent results, and the Giants have always been suckers for the alumni wing. It’s why Lincecum was re-upped in San Francisco, and why the team’s history over the past decade-plus has been to err on the side of “you took care of us, now we’ll take care of you.”
But when Lincecum signs with the Los Angeles Angels (and please, let’s have no “but the Angels beat the Giants in the World Series” nonsense on this -- it was almost 15 years ago), the general mood will not be “the Giants screwed up,” but “Hurray for Timmy in his endless search for the echoes of yesteryear.”
And that is what we are speaking of here -- not a magically healed hip that will loose the stallions one more time, but another red carpet tour for a player the fan base loved well past his own apparent sell-by date.
In that way, Lincecum is no longer a Giant (obviously), or even an ex-Giant (clearly), but his own entity. And it does no good to argue against the notion, because a fan’s heart wants what a fan’s heart wants.
It is true, however, that Giants fans have come to be more attached to their past than most teams, at a time when many fan bases look more longingly toward their farm systems. Barry Bonds was a default position for disgruntled customers at times when the Giants wanted for offense, years past his 2007 non-retirement and even past his actual retirement.
And Lincecum’s newfound employment with the Angels seems to please the old fan base more than the new one. The Angels have already used eight starters (only Cincinnati and San Diego have used more) and rank in the bottom six in most meaningful metrics. There is a need for some live arm, any live arm, and in the modern pitching environment, an inexpensive Lincecum beats rushing a younger and more prized pitcher’s development.
That’s baseball stuff, though, and this is Lincecum-iana. He is a museum piece in this town, a statue without the bronze coating. He is loved with a passion that is perfectly Giant, and perfectly illogical.
The Giants somehow do this with players and their fan base -- and Lincecum may not be the egregious example of this phenomenon as long as Bonds is considered to be wronged by The Man. Either through marketing, word of mouth or the belief that anyone who has served is a member forever, Giant fans cling to their old heroes with a devotion that belies the fact that baseball in general has developed a fetish for the new, unseen and fresh-faced.
Put another way, it is hard to imagine any other franchise having a more visceral relationship with a player who was an elite performer for only four seasons. Most people will say that was unique to Lincecum, but I would suggest in rebuttal that while it was stronger with Lincecum because of his uberquirky charms, it is in the nature of the way the Giants market their players as icons from the planet Cutetron.
Or do we have to remind you how many people still refer to Pablo Sandoval as Panda, years since the nickname was bestowed and more than a year since he decided San Francisco was too mean to him?
So, back to Lincecum. If he signs (and we cannot imagine what the hell is keeping him unless Arte Moreno is trying to make him work on commission) and, even less probably, lasts in Anaheim until 2018 and gets a start at the old ballyard at Third y King, he will be worshiped as a god because he meets all the criteria listed above.
Because in these parts, with this team, once an icon, always an icon ... from the House Of Icons.