In Major League Baseball, Tim Lincecum is still Filipino’s champ

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In the locker room after another rough outing—this time against the Colorado Rockies–San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum had just finished talking to the media.

Afterwards, I tell him in passing, for Filipino baseball fans, he is still  “the guy,” and that had the Philippines an entry in the World Baseball Classic last month, he’d have to play all nine positions.

“Yeah, but I’d have to hit too,” he joked.

Oddly, Lincecum, Filipino on the distaff side, had a base hit in that night’s game, a single just past the third base baseman’s reach.

“It was a lucky swing,” he smiled.

It’s one of the few light-hearted exchanges I’ve seen Lincecum have these days with a no-nonsense media that scrutinize his every move.

That’s what happens when you’re an ace who has fallen from grace.

Here’s the guy they called the “Franchise,” and for a time was the “Face,” adorning everything from soda cups to ducats.

But now, his freakishness has normalized, and his fastball no longer smokes, his change-up no longer fools.  It’s made it questionable whether Lincecum gets one of those long-term lockup deals recently awarded teammates Buster Posey, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner that make them forever Giants in their prime.

And after all Lincecum’s done for the Giants?

Two National League Cy Young Awards for best pitcher. Two whole World Series rings.  The third pitcher since 1893 to reach 1,300 trikeouts in six season?

And half-Filipino?

Is there another Asian American of Filipino descent who has had as much impact in Major League Baseball as Lincecum—ever?

Just Timmy.

This year, even with his long-hair cut off, Lincecum is worth watching even more.

After following the Giants all these years, I’m writing on Lincecum  (see my Linceblog at www.amok.com) a bit more regularly because of what Lincecum has meant for the Giants and to the Filipino baseball fans all over the world.

When there’s a dearth of high-profile, world-class Filipino Americans in anything, a star baseball player does more than you think to a global community’s self-esteem. His troubles on the mound make this a critical year for Lincecum watchers.

It’s hard to imagine him not being a Giant for life.

After his last pre-season start against Oakland at AT&T Park, I asked him about the start of the new season.

I didn’t ask if he regrets not taking the big payday when it was in front of him (reportedly a five-year $100 million dollar deal after 2011). Instead, Lincecum signed a two-year $40.5 million deal  (just imagine that in pesos) that still puts him in the top ten among all baseball stars, and makes him a free agent at the end of the year.

But he may not be in position to command $15 million, let alone $20 million a year, unless his performance dramatically improves.

So I asked him if this was a “make or break year” for him.

“Not really, that concern is the last worry, the last emotion on my mind,” Lincecum told me. “It’s more excitement and obviously. ..ah.. conviction. This year is going to be a big, big year for me, but I don’t look at it as a make or break year, I look at it as an opportunity to make myself better and come out at the end of the season on top.

“You never want to take a negative approach to anything in baseball or anything in this profession, so just to be able to stay positive after coming off a rough year last year is good for me. I’m carrying all the positives I can into this year.”

The positives?  His relief performances in the post-season come to mind. Coming out of the bullpen, he was dazzling. Five appearances, 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA,  along with 17 strikeouts in just 13 innings. That sort of performance line, make people think that the evolution for Lincecum, may be as a middle reliever.

But that’s not the kind of performer who gets the really big money.

And so, in this, his last year before free agency, there’s a natural motivation to do well.  He’s shown flashes of his brilliance in that last pre-season start at AT&T.  But then, opening week against the Dodgers he walked seven batters.

In his next start against Colorado, he walked five batters, including the pitcher twice. But his wildness led to giving up five runs in a nasty second inning that should have chased him out of the game . But Lincecum didn’t give up and battled like a Pacquiao  or a Donaire, until the 6th inning, and then the Giants, with timely hitting, ultimately won the game.

It’s that kind of season for the former ace.

But to take his cue, don’t call it a “make or break” year.

Lincecum’s out there setting an example for us all, staying optimistic, gutting it out when his talent fails, and not thinking about things like the deal that got away.

Call this season a true test of character.

Follow @emilamok,  @linceblog

Updates at www.amok.com

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  • GMGUERRERO

    I don’t think he wants to be reminded he is part Filipino. His Filipino mother abandoned him when he was a child. Unimaginable for a Filipino mother.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rodel-Rodis/100003082960053 Rodel Rodis

      Guy, I see nothing to support your contention that Lincecum’s FilAm mother, Rebecca, “abandoned” him as a child. In fact in jockbio,com, it reports:
      “Chris and Rebecca worked in tandem to help push along Tim’s
      career. His mother drove him to and from practice and games. His father
      focused on Tim’s
      performance on the hill. Chris videotaped his son’s games, and the
      two analyzed each outing together. Chris also developed a series of hand
      signals for Tim. During games, he would flash them to his son, letting
      him know when he was making mistakes in his mechanics.”

      • GMGUERRERO

        2 or 3 years ago he was interviewed by a female reporter from the SF Chronicle. The reporter asked about his mother. He replied that his mother had abandoned him as a young teen in somewhat agitated words. Look it up.

  • tra6Gpeche

    I am waiting for a 100% Filipino, born in the Philippines, who would be a superstar world class athlete. Except for the great Manny Pacquiao, I know of no one. I wonder what is missing from us, 100% Filipinos, to be great world class athletes in golf, tennis, swimming and baseball? Don’t we have discipline, commitment, money, talent and dedication to be a world superstar? Or is it because we are already satisfied with our laid-back way of life? By the way, I consider Tim Lim Lincecum and Jessica Sanchez as Americans and Jason Day, the professional golfer, as Australian.

    • GMGUERRERO

      What is a 100% Filipino? Not even you.

      • tra6Gpeche

        You should know what I mean! Manny Pacquiao is 100% Filipino. He was born in the Philippines and he has never acquired a citizenship of another country. That is my definition of 100% Filipino. I hope you will give me your definition of 100% Filipino. If there is none, as far as you are concerned, then you should explain your viewpoint.

      • GMGUERRERO

        Filipinos are a multi-racial people Chinese, Spanish, Americans(black and white), etc. Blood defines a 100% Filipino.

      • tra6Gpeche

        I will not disagree with your viewpoint kabayan. However, my definition of 100% Filipino is the place of birth and not having any citizenship changed. If you consider blood, then nobody is 100%. Why? Even before the Spaniards came to Cebu (Zugbu) in 1521, there was no Filipino in that country now called Philippines.

      • Drillon Recto

        Another “walang kwentang” argument.

      • tra6Gpeche

        But do you agree that there was no Filipino before 1521. Remember, the Spaniards baptized our ancestors as Filipinos. That is why Rajah Soliman, Rajah Lakandula, Lapu-lapu and others before 1521 were never Filipinos. Right? However, I definitely agree with you that this arguement is “walang kwenta.” My answer was really for GM.

      • Drillon Recto

        A tired argument. Shut up.

    • Drillon Recto

      All of the sports you ticked need tall people with long arms. Until the Filipino race improves upwards instead of downward as it is now (I read the average height of Filipinos have gone down), then you’re bound to wait longer. Maybe not even live long enough to see it happen.

      • tra6Gpeche

        You have a good point, kabayan! And you are correct that I might not see it happen. I am already super senior!

  • Jose Viduya

    Emil, what have you been smoking? Linsecum is not F/Pilipino.

  • CmdrAdobo

    If he will play for Philippines, then he is Filipino. Otherwise he is just american who happened to have Filipino parent(s).

  • CmdrAdobo

    I think the only Filipino that can be qualified as filipino that plays Major league is: Geno Espineli . He acknowledged it: “It’s really an honor — being the first [filipino] is an accomplishment,” said
    Espineli, who was selected by San Francisco in the 14th round of the
    2004 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. “Baseball is not
    the biggest sport in the Philippines, but maybe I can inspire some kids
    and spread the sport’s popularity there.”

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