Lincecum is Giants’ second Cy Young winner
By Andrew Baggarly
Tim Lincecum captivated Giants fans like nobody since Barry Bonds. The baseball world noticed his remarkable season, too.
Lincecum became the second pitcher in Giants history to win the National League Cy Young Award and the first in 41 years, running away with what was expected to be a tight race in balloting released by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Tuesday.
"In Obama-like fashion," Giants General Manager Brian Sabean said. "It wasn’t close."
Lincecum captured 23 of 32 first-place votes and collected 137 points. Arizona’s Brandon Webb was second with four first-place votes and 73 points; the Mets’ Johan Santana was third with four first-place votes and 55 points.
Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge was fourth and CC Sabathia, who had a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts following a midseason trade to the Milwaukee Brewers, received the other first-place vote and finished fifth. It was a surprisingly low finish for Sabathia, who was penalized for only spending half the season in the National League.
And it was a surprisingly decisive tally for a pitcher who overwhelmed the competition in his first full season.
"I was just hoping I’d be in the mix," Lincecum said. "I was thinking Webb or Santana or even CC had it. My reaction was, Woo hoo! I actually yelled a couple times after I hung up the phone."
Lincecum was named on 31 of 32 ballots; the lone dissenter was Chicago Sun-Times writer Chris DeLuca, who listed Webb, Lidge and Santana on his ballot.
Lincecum (18-5) finished distantly behind Webb’s league-best 22 victories and narrowly lost the ERA title to Santana (2.62 to 2.53), but his 265 strikeouts were the most in the major leagues and his winning percentage was the best in the N.L., despite his pitching for a fourth-place team.
The Cy Young electorate acknowledged that the Giants were a different team with Lincecum on the mound. They were 22-12 in the games he pitched, and 50-78 otherwise.
"You certainly were the focus of everything that was good about the Giants this year," Sabean said to Lincecum. "This was an incredible, incredible run, and to think, it could have been even better because we were challenged to hold leads or score runs."
Pitching coach Dave Righetti said he sensed Lincecum was on the verge of a special season when fans began cheering him in places such as Chicago and New York. Righetti noted that as Lincecum’s pied-piper phenomenon bloomed, Giants officials had to post extra security to monitor the crowds that formed when he would warm up in the bullpen.
"So Timmy could concentrate at least a little bit," Righetti said. "ESPN obviously wasn’t following us this year with (Bonds) not with us. But boy, oh, boy, it got pretty electric."
Lincecum was named to the N.L. All-Star team and was the only player who didn’t appear in the 15-inning marathon at Yankee Stadium. He had the flu and was hospitalized because of dehydration.
Asked if the Cy Young Award made up for his wasted trip to New York, Lincecum smiled. "And then some," he said.
Lincecum finally gives company to Mike McCormick, who went from spot starter to Giants ace while becoming the surprise winner in 1967. Several other Giants pitchers had been runner-up for the award, most recently Jason Schmidt to Dodgers closer Eric Gagne in 2003.
The greatest pitcher in San Francisco Giants history, Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, only received one Cy Young vote in his career — a third-place vote in 1971.
"I just think of myself as luckier than he was," Lincecum said. "He was going up against Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. Those are names every baseball fan knows, and even people who aren’t (fans). It’s such a tremendous honor."
McCormick, 70, spoke briefly over the phone with Lincecum after the announcement, telling him the award will stay with him for life.
"Unless he’s blessed to be a Hall of Famer, that’s probably the way he’ll be remembered," said McCormick, who plans to attend when Lincecum receives the award on the team’s opening homestand.
Lincecum spoke on the phone with one other former Cy Young winner: teammate Barry Zito. Lincecum spent a week hanging out with Zito and his housemate, Giants closer Brian Wilson, in the Hollywood hills earlier this off-season.
"He was, I think, a little more pumped than I was," Lincecum said.
Zito has struggled to live up to his career dossier and $126 million contract in two seasons with the Giants, but club officials don’t expect the award to change Lincecum’s low-key approach. The 24-year-old showed up to Tuesday’s news conference in a T-shirt and black knit cap.
"He’s already had to live up to all kinds of hype since he got here," Righetti said. "This is a new hype, and my guess is he’ll handle it the same way. "I can’t explain it, but just watching him, he seems to handle things a little bit differently than some folks."
And besides, Lincecum still has goals for the team — and some personal goals remain, too.
"He still needs to pitch in an All-Star Game," Sabean said.