Saturday, February 9, 2013

Will the real Tim Lincecum please stand up?

Next week that annual harbinger of spring being right around the corner gets underway as baseball players from near and far gather in Florida or Arizona and go through their annual team tune-ups, more commonly known as Spring Training. I don’t imagine that it’s as big a deal in those places that really don’t experience the low temperatures and snow of the northern part of the continent, but up here in the frozen north, let me tell you that ball fans really count the days, because we can vicariously enjoy that warm sun shining down on the ballplayers every day as they stretch, do drills, even just play catch on the green ball diamonds that only very seldom feel the kiss of the dreaded white stuff.

With not that much news in the early going, coverage is limited to clips as outlined above, plus player interviews and pontifications of talking head, well, pontificators.

It’s all lovely stuff for us baseball-deprived fanatics, but the warm glow wears off pretty quickly, at least until the grapefruit and cactus league games get underway.

So what I look out for and enjoy are those quirky stories that begin to spring up like so many daffodils once the festivities are underway.

As is my usual practice if I haven’t settled on a topic for my weekly offering here at Late Innings, I glanced at the mlb.com website first thing this morning. Amazingly, something sprang out immediately, one of those great quirky stories that add a lot of colour to spring training.

Tim Lincecum has decided on a new look.

2012 was not kind to him. Like Ricky Romero of the Jays, he seemed to battle himself for most of the season, so much so that he wound up pitching out of the bullpen in the post season. The former first round draft pick, who’d barely played a year in the minors, had previously been a two-time Cy Young winner and led the NL in many categories. It had to have hurt and puzzled him a lot to never get his 2012 season off the ground. Obviously, changes had to be made. There’s the pride factor in the need to have a much different 2013, sure, but another small item also on the agenda is that Timmy’s contract is up at the end of the season. A pitcher, no matter how good he can be, who isn’t doing the job is not going to get that big payday.

So during the off-season, since there didn’t seem to be anything physically wrong, Lincecum has worked very hard to improve his mechanics and the strength of various body parts. He feels that it’s paid off, and we’ll all know for sure when he toes the rubber during spring training. A lot is on the line so you know he’ll be trying his utmost in hopes of a return to form – and a healthier bank account in 2014.

The interesting sidebar is the extreme makeover someone has suggested to him. The photo above shows Tim “The Freak” Lincecum in his early career prime. Yes, he did stand out in a baseball crowd. However, now Tim looks like this. One of his teammates, Ryan Vogelsong (love that name. It means “Bird song” in German) joked that Lincecum now looks “12 instead of 15”. You know what? He’s right. In this photo he could pass for half his age (he’s currently 29).

I don’t know who suggested the glasses, since from what I’ve read, they’re non-prescription. He only needs the plastic pocket protector, a buttoned-up shirt and Star Trek decals on his locker to fit perfectly into the persona of a high school dweeb. Bet Tim could sit down in a 10th Grade chemistry class and not look out of place.

Is this intentional, or is this just his attempt to look more serious-minded and worth a big investment at the end of the season, either by the Giants or some other team if he becomes a free agent? If so, it’s a complete failure.

Personally, I would have had him grow a beard and encourage him to squint nastily from the mound, ala Dave Stewart. The way Tim appears now, he looks more like a ball boy than one of the dominant pitchers in the game. Physically, he’s not going to dominate anyone.

Lincecum is one of the great pitchers currently in the game. I sincerely hope his control returns and overpowering stuff again dominates hitters in the NL. The result of a great 2013 could even lead to a third Cy Young Award.

From the way he looks now, Timmy’s certainly well on his way to winning the Cy Strange Award...

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