Every now and again, certain fans like to remind the sports' landscape that the word is short for "fanatics," which comes to us from the Latin "fanaticus." The latter means "insanely but divinely inspired."

Yep, that about covers it.

Although I'm not sure Chicago Cub aficionados would agree with the "divine" bit.

Regardless, the San Francisco Giants and their faithful find ourselves caught in one of those moments right now.

By that, I'm referring to the ridiculous outpouring of criticism from the fanbase in the wake of manager Bruce Bochy's decision to hook Tim Lincecum in the ninth inning of the club's finale with the Philadelphia Phillies.

If you haven't heard, the Freak was working on a gem, but had just issued his first walk of the game with a three-run lead and one out. Rather than let the ace finish the game with the heart of the Philly lineup coming to the plate, Boch went to All-Star closer Brian Wilson, and the situation unraveled due to a heavy dose of bad luck.

Before tackling the devilish details of the manager's decision, let's handle the Franchise.

Some will tell you Lincecum was on his A-game as he mowed down 11 Phightin' Phils, and basically demoralized the National League's best nine.

I'm not so sure that's true—the two-time Cy Young certainly was on his game, but I wouldn't say it was Tim Lincecum at his best. That monster doesn't give up an opposite field bomb to Ryan Howard, nor does it surrender loud contact to Chase Utley twice.

Granted, that's more a testament to his exceptional ability rather than an indictment of his stuff on Wednesday. As phenomenal as those lefties are, Lincecum's A-game doesn't allow for solid contact to anyone.

Of course, if it wasn't the Freak at his freakiest, it was very, very close.

You watch a guy like the dominant yet diminutive right-hander, and you can tell he's special in any number of ways.

My favorite is to watch how batters change their approach—there are basically no hitters' counts because they know the once-in-a-blue-mooners never have to concede.

Usually, in 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, and 3-1 counts, a thumper can sit on a particular pitch (fastball) in the strike zone on a particular side of the plate. Consequently, you'll typically see LOUD contact on those swings.

With a fireballer like Lincecum, though, hitters can't (or don't) do that because they've got to be ready for anything that's hittable. Given how filthy his arsenal is, and how much command he has of it, the opposition can't afford to let a strike go by simply because it's not ideal.

They've got to take advantage of whatever minuscule leverage they're fortunate to get.

I wouldn't say the result is a defensive swing, but it certainly isn't the authoritative hack you'll see against 99 percent of the hurlers caught in that trap.

When an executioner like the Freak has a splinter at his mercy?

Oof, it can get ugly no matter the caliber of adversary.

Against Philly, I swear I saw both of Shane Victorino's feet leave the ground in mid-swing when he whiffed to lead off the fourth inning. Placido Polanco might've gotten the first hit, but it was no thing of beauty, and he looked grossly overwhelmed up to that point.

For good measure, Lincecum cut through Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez the first time around using 14 pitches to record three swinging strikeouts.

Only the aforementioned Utley and Howard looked good against him, but those are two future Hall-of-Famers, and each struck out against Timmy to go with their impressive trips to the plate.

So why, you ask, do I think the second-guessing of Bruce Bochy's decision to lift Lincecum in favor of Wilson is absurd?

After all, I just spent hundreds of words detailing how resplendent the Franchise is in general and on this particular occasion.

The answer is actually obvious if you give an objective retelling of the doomed half-inning.

There is no doubt that Tim Lincecum had been great up until the ninth, and even the improved version is still prone to a momentary bout of wildness, so the walk to the Flyin' Hawaiian wasn't, by definition, sinister.

Nor is there much doubt that the kid still had some fuel in his tank after 106 pitches notwithstanding, the 120 he'd thrown in his last outing.

He said he felt good, and while most warriors will tell you they can go despite a missing limb, I believe the Washington native has that streak of oddity that would own up to being gassed if that's how he felt.

However, the fact remains that the out he recorded was on a hanger. The only thing turning that baby into an out was the identity of the man holding the bat (Greg Dobbs). The fact remains that all of the four wayward pitches to Shane Victorino were up, which is not where you want to miss, and not where you do miss if everything is right.

Quite frankly, Victorino probably rakes one of 'em if he's not taking until he sees a strike (the modus operandi in the face of a three-run deficit).

So Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti—c'mon, you don't think he was in agreement?—had just watched a pitcher who'd been on fire for 24 outs look markedly different with Polanco, Utley, Howard, and Werth coming up.

Yikes.

Furthermore, the closer was warmed up, fresh, hadn't yet allowed a run in 7 1/3 IP, and had only suffered six baserunners (three hits and three walks) while whiffing nine.

Lastly, there is the undeniable yet unpleasant observation that having Brian Wilson blow that game was much, MUCH less debilitating than if the Franchise had thrown kerosene on it.

As brutal as the eventual defeat was, and as resolutely as Lincecum would've taken any eventual failure, such a scenario would've turned another example of his unparalleled magnificence into—at best—just another outing.

At worst, it would've torn away a layer of his invincibility.

Everyone—players, fans, coaches, owners, and analysts—are used to seeing the door-slammers go up in glorious flames. It happens to even the best of the best.

But to see the Freak's mortality proven in Technicolor?

No thanks.

As the manager said, "we need the kid..."

People assume he was talking about Tim Lincecum's physical health, but I'd say the necessity is deeper and more dispersed.

And I bet Bruce Bochy would, too.

 


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