Tim Lincecum's Spirit Is Broken, and so Are the Giants

Manny Randhawa@@MannyBal9Correspondent IIIAugust 30, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 29: Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants looks on as Alfonso Soriano #12 of the Chicago Cubs trots around the bases after hitting a home run in the fifth inning during an MLB baseball game at AT&T Park August 29, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Even the stoic, poised, inward-looking Tim Lincecum couldn't mask his emotions on this night.

No matter how poorly his club has hit in games that he's pitched (and virtually every other game this season, for that matter) San Francisco's ace has admirably kept a straight face and has never, ever thrown anyone under the bus but himself.

For Lincecum, it's always been about how he could've been one pitch better. It's always how the shutout loss that particular night was a direct result of Lincecum not doing enough to win, no matter how impotent his club's offense was.

On Monday night at AT&T Park, Lincecum's spirit, which has been the driving, unquenchable force behind San Francisco's unprecedented success in his brief but brilliant career, appeared to have finally been broken.

Lincecum, as hard as he was trying, could not conceal his frustration and annoyance this time.

And who could blame him?

The Giants not only failed to score a run against the second-worst pitching staff in the National League, they mustered just two hits for the entire game.

And Lincecum extended his lead in the category of lowest run-support average of any pitcher in the National League.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 29: Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants gives the ball to manager Bruce Bochy #16 against the Chicago Cubs in the seventh inning during an MLB baseball game at AT&T Park August 29, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Lincecum has now lost nine games in which the Giants failed to score more than two runs. He has lost 11 games for the season.

Other than his win-loss record, Lincecum's numbers are among the best in baseball, and he has indeed made a name for himself as one of the best hurlers in the game. It could be argued that he is the greatest pitcher of all-time with such a degree of low run-support.

What is there left to say?

As the groundskeepers came out onto the playing surface following the final out of the Cubs' 7-0 drubbing of the defending world champs, there was nothing left to be said. And nothing needed to be said.

It has all proven to be too much, even for these Giants, whose intangible "magic" that captivated the baseball world less than a year ago as they claimed the World Series title has quietly bowed out of this production, exiting the stage under the crushing weight of a wave of injuries that devastated a lineup to the point of making it a synonym for futility.

When it came to the final straw that broke the camel's back, Lincecum was the measure.

The Giants begin and end with No. 55, and when he walked off the mound after hanging a changeup to Blake DeWitt in the seventh inning—a pitch he knew in his heart was meaningless anyway—his eyes betrayed his thoughts.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 24:  Starting pitcher Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants sits in the dugout during their game against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park on August 24, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It's over.

Not officially, of course. The Giants still have six games left against the team that now leads them by five games in the NL West, and 27 games remaining overall.

But that intangible essence, that chemistry, that light-hearted, care-free energy that once pulsated through the home dugout at AT&T Park, is gone.

Whether this club makes the postseason or not, Lincecum and the rest of the defending champions understand that this isn't 2010.

An outsider was brought in to plug a hole that was impossible to seal. And the outsider took the manager's jersey number.

Suddenly all-for-one and one-for-all felt like every man for himself, as Carlos Beltran was rented as a symbol of the belief that this "team," or what was left of it following several key injuries, was not good enough to get the job done.

The sum was no longer greater than its individual parts. The unity of a selfless team was shattered in favor of the placement on a pedestal of the individual: Jeff Keppinger, Carlos Beltran, and Orlando Cabrera being the poster boys for this drastic and sudden change in organizational philosophy.

Perhaps had nothing been done at the trade deadline, the Giants would've been better off. A club that proved the intrinsic strength of chemistry by winning it all with what was clearly not the best team in baseball on paper, surely could have produced as much, if not more, than what this current squad has haphazardly cobbled together.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 14:  Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants stretches before playing against the Milwaukee Brewers during the spring training baseball game at Scottsdale Stadium on March 14, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djan
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Even the most optimistic observer (and yes those of you who are veterans of the realist stance may now gloat; "I-told-you-so's" will be tolerated), after watching Lincecum's exit must come to grips with the reality of San Francisco's situation.

If nothing else, what has happened to the 2011 Giants proves just how important Buster Posey is to this franchise.

San Francisco's sensational young catcher, who suffered a season-ending injury in a home plate collision on May 25, along with Lincecum, is the heart and soul of this team and is irreplaceable.

The best news in an otherwise bleak phase for the Giants may be that Posey now walks unassisted without crutches.

He hopes to start catching bullpen sessions before the end of this season.


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