There won’t be any postseason champagne popped, but Oracle Park will be a party on Sunday.
When Giants manager Bruce Bochy coaches his last major league game in the 2019 MLB regular-season finale, there will be mixed emotions. There will be tears of joy and tears of sadness. It’s the close of an unforgettable chapter in Giants history, and the beginning of a new one still without a name on the first page.
And there’s one player who has to be there to watch it all unfold: Tim Lincecum.
The former Giants ace needs to come back to San Francisco to watch Bochy get one final sendoff against the Dodgers. The two started their journey as Giants together back in 2007, and it’s only right he be there when it ends twelve years later.
When Lincecum became a Giant, he was less than a year removed from being selected by San Francisco with the No. 10 pick in the 2006 MLB Draft. He generously was listed at 170 pounds, contorted his body like a kinetic pretzel, could throw 98 mph and was 4-0 with a 0.29 ERA in five Triple-A starts when the front office called him up to the big leagues in May of 2007.
Bochy was 30 years older than Lincecum and in the middle of his first season on the other side of the NL West. He previously spent 12 years managing the Padres, the same team he suited up for in the final five years of his playing career as a catcher.
The two seemed opposite, yet created the perfect pairing. Lincecum was a baseball science project who turned into “The Freak” on the mound. Bochy was a 6-foot-3 old-school manager whose life as a former catcher could be seen with his decision-making running the show. And somehow, someway, Bochy seemed to always put the right fingers down during Lincecum’s career and stayed loyal to his player -- through many ups and downs.
In their nine years together as Giants, Bochy and Lincecum won three World Series together. Lincecum had a dominant start in the first Fall Classic in 2010, turned into a bullpen star in the second in 2012 and barely pitched in the third in 2014. But still, Bochy believed in him -- just like the rest of the Bay.
Even when Lincecum lost his velocity, could barely throw a strike and was getting bashed all around the yard, Giants fans had to tune in. They could mumble what they wanted under their breath, but there always was hope that he could find that spark that made him so special at the start of his career.
Through his first five seasons in the bigs, Lincecum went 69-41 with a 2.98 ERA. He struck out 1,127 batters in 1,028 innings, averaging 225 strikeouts and 206 innings per season. The Giants’ tiny tornado on the hill won back-to-back NL Cy Young awards in 2008 and ’09, was an All-Star in four straight seasons and led the league in strikeouts three years in a row.
But his body could only take so much. Lincecum had a 39-42 record with a 4.68 ERA and struck out just 577 batters in 615 2/3 innings the final four years of his Giants career before going 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA in nine starts as an Angel in 2016, his last year in the majors.
As Lincecum turned to a flickering light, growing dimmer with each year, Bochy still kept faith in the former star.
"He's somebody who's dear to all of our hearts,” Bochy told reporters last June when the Rangers released Lincecum before he even pitched for Texas in a comeback attempt.
Although the Giants front office made it clear they didn’t have room on their roster for the pitcher, Bochy reminded us all how much the former Cy Young winner means to him.
“I would always have a spot for Timmy somewhere, [though] we don't have a spot here. ... But as far as ever needing anything, he's someone pretty special.”
Only Warriors star Steph Curry has captivated Bay Area sports fans like Lincecum did with their "everyman" look. Both gave fans the illusion they were just like them, with their relatively normal builds yet extraordinary athletic feats. For every Curry heave from half court, there was a Lincecum heater followed by a baffling breaking ball. It never made sense but always was expected.
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The Freak might be small in stature, but he now lives among the myth and mysteries of Bigfoot. He’s impossible to track down, rarely seen and the last time he was publicly spotted, the internet lit up earlier this year from Lincecum’s frosted tips.
The beautiful unknown of Lincecum will live on, but he and Bochy need to link up one last time in San Francisco. After the game, Bochy can drink his wine and the Giants finally can let Timmy smo — well, you know the rest.
It’s time to come home, Timmy.