Lincecum's losses make future uncertain


Lincecum's losses make future uncertain

PHOENIX -- Tim Lincecum was far from at his best in his final start of the season Sunday, and the Giants' offense did what it typically does when Lincecum is on the mound: virtually nothing.The Diamondbacks closed out a three-game sweep of the defending champs with a 5-2 victory, and Lincecum ends his year on a losing note.
Can you blame the guy for not wanting to sign a long-term deal?The man threw more than 200 innings, struck out more than 220 hitters and posted a 2.74 ERA. That's a career year for most pitchers.For Lincecum, it was the first losing season of his career, 13-14.

Ten times the Giants didn't score behind him. Three runs was an explosion. The lack of run support he received was ridiculous.And it's not like this year was an anomaly. Lincecum has been pitching without a safety net for most of his career. It's impossible to explain, but the Giants just don't get it done at the plate when he's on the mound.With decent run support, he could have won between 17 and 20 games this year. The offense cost him a handful of wins in 2009 and 2010, too.And while most baseball people are coming around to the notion that wins and losses don't accurately reflect a pitcher's performance, they still matter. Losing a game in which you pitched a gem stings, and Lincecum has felt that sting time and again.Why, then, would he willingly commit to three or four more years of it? He won't, based on his recent comment to the San Francisco Chronicle, and it's difficult to blame him.This isn't about money at all. It's about winning. Always has been for Lincecum, who already is ungodly rich and will become moreso no matter what happens this winter, when he's up for arbitration.He's arb-eligible next winter, too, so unless the Giants do the unthinkable and trade him, he's a Giant through 2013 at the very least.Beyond that? It's anyone's guess.The Giants would love to sign Lincecum to a deal that locks him down beyond his arbitration years, but they'd be fine with another two-year deal.Lincecum's camp, however, is taking a wait-and-see approach. And what they're waiting to see is what the Giants do to make sure not just that another 2.74 ERA doesn't lead to a losing record, but that all of the club's many gifted pitchers don't have to throw a shutout to win, that the offense will be able to carry the club for stretches instead of leaning so heavily on the pitching staff.That doesn't make Lincecum selfish. Heck, he's taking a big risk in not wanting to sign for more than one year at a time. A long-term deal brings guaranteed glue. An injury stops the gravy train cold.Look, anyone involved with Bay Area sports wants to see Lincecum in Orange and Black forever. He's an all-timer, an icon after just four years.But if you take a step back, don't you see where he's coming from?

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez Wednesday. Here's what they and their peers are saying.

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.