SF's profound love for Lincecum won't die with Angels signing


SF's profound love for Lincecum won't die with Angels signing

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.

[NEWS: Reports: Lincecum finalizing deal with Angels, Giants out]

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.

Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in explaining new staff


Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in explaining new staff

SAN DIEGO -- When you hear the words "player development," you think of 19-year-olds learning on back fields at the minor league facility in Scottsdale, or a roving hitting instructor spending time making swing changes with prospects Joey Bart or Heliot Ramos, or a coach teaching a Logan Webb or Sean Hjelle a new pitch. 

But when Giants manager Gabe Kapler talks about player development -- and he does so often -- he's also thinking about guys like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Kapler said this week that there's "not much I feel more strongly about" than players continuing to develop at the big league level, and that played a huge role as he hired a young staff that will ideally bring an innovative approach.

"There's evidence all over the place in Major League Baseball about players who reinvent themselves or take major steps forward and reestablish their value at the Major League level," Kapler said this week at the MLB Winter Meetings. 

The Giants are building for the future, but they also believe they can squeeze much more out of the existing core. And when Bart and Ramos are veterans one day, they want those guys to continue to find new levels, too. As he talked about player development at the big league level, Kapler pivoted and told a story about Bryce Harper, who already had more than 900 games under his belt when he joined Kapler's Phillies last season. 

"Bryce Harper, I think, was influenced heavily by Paco Figueroa, our first base and outfield coach, mostly just because Paco was not concerned about approaching Bryce," Kapler said. "He recognized that Bryce Harper wanted to be coached and wanted to develop, and he was willing to approach. Bryce recognized that so much so that at the end of the year when we were doing our exit meetings, Bryce recognized that Paco had been influential in his career and helped him become a better outfielder and baserunner."

Harper was worth negative-26 Defensive Runs Saved in 2018 according to Fangraphs -- just about the only blemish on his résumé as a free agent -- but was plus-9 in his first season in Philadelphia, a massive improvement. The Giants were actually intent on going that path long before Kapler arrived. When they offered Harper $310 million last year, their existing analytics and coaching staffs had ideas about how they could get more out of Harper defensively with positioning changes. 

Harper's not the only example the Giants will use to sell their vision to veteran players. General manager Scott Harris mentioned Gerrit Cole as another who found new ways to add to his game. 

"Look at the strides he made the last two seasons and now he signed the largest free-agent contract (for a pitcher) in the history of the game," Harris said. "You look at the strides he made when he first burst onto the scene for the Pirates and what he did in Houston. Their coaching staff was largely responsible for the development he saw at the Major League level."

The Astros' staff has gotten a lot of credit for turning Cole into the pitcher the Pirates were expecting when they took him first overall in 2011. Cole had a 3.50 ERA in Pittsburgh and a 2.68 ERA in Houston, where his strikeout rate jumped from 8.4 per nine innings to 13.1. He was worth 15.4 WAR in five seasons with the Pirates and then skyrocketed to 13.4 in two seasons in Houston. 

[RELATED: Kershaw believes Dodgers signing MadBum would be 'great']

Kapler and Harris are not walking into an organization that has a Harper or Cole, but they believe their new coaching staff and player-development methods can get the most out of existing talent. That'll be a focus in spring training, and the conversations have already begun with some veterans. Kapler, who mentioned J.D. Martinez as another example of late-career adjustments, said he has spoken to Posey multiple times since getting hired. 

"I think that a lot of established successful Major Leaguers want to get better and sometimes they don't know how," Kapler said. "In some cases, it's because coaches haven't approached them because they don't want to break something that's working well, but I think those days are gone and I think players crave having coaches approach them and ask them to make changes."

Dodgers signing Madison Bumgarner would be 'great,' Clayton Kershaw says

Dodgers signing Madison Bumgarner would be 'great,' Clayton Kershaw says

Despite what Giants fans want to believe, Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw are friends.

Before many Giants-Dodgers games over the years, they could be seen talking on the field, in plain sight of everyone.

So it should come as any surprise that Kershaw would love to have Bumgarner on the Dodgers.

"I love Bum," Kershaw said Friday at a Dodgers holiday event according to Dodgers Nation. "If we signed him, that’d be great."

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Thursday, citing sources, that the Dodgers and Bumgarner have a mutual interest in a deal.

Bumgarner in Dodger blue is the worst nightmare for Giants fans. But it's a real possibility with Los Angeles missing out on top free agent Gerrit Cole.

[RELATED: Padres reportedly looking at Bumgarner]

Kershaw hasn't been able to bring a World Series to Los Angeles on his own, so of course, he would love for a postseason hero to come help him end the Dodgers' title drought.