Moment No. 1: Tim Lincecum, standing just inside the Giants’ bullpen fence, looking like a kid next in line for the greatest roller coaster ride ever invented.
Dying to get in to pitch against the Reds in the fourth inning of NLDS Game 4.
Just dying to make his second relief appearance of the playoffs after an uneventful outing in Game 2 “& and a terrible regular season in the starting rotation.
I watched Lincecum through binoculars from the Great American Ball Park press box that day-his eyes were wide and he looked ready to climb over the fence if the bullpen door didn’t open quickly enough.
He got in. He was loose and terrific. He was alive again.
So the Giants won Game 4, won Game 5 to clinch the NLDS comeback.
And everything kept rolling through Sunday, when they finished their World Series sweep of Detroit for the Giants’ second championship in three years. A hundred incredible things had to happen for the Giants to win these 11 playoff games, and yes, Lincecum started and lost one of them-the Giants’ last loss, Game 4 of the NLCS against St. Louis. Still, it was the sight of Lincecum, bumped from the rotation but somehow electrified by it, that gave me the first premonition of what would occur over the next few weeks.
Lincecum was, in manager Bruce Bochy’s words, “all-in” for whatever role necessary; in fact, Lincecum was better for it.
And if Lincecum-independent, occasionally insular-could take an earned demotion and turn it into his time to blend perfectly into the team mentality, then the Giants had to be incredibly dangerous.
On the eve of the World Series, Lincecum described the way he approached the spontaneity of the bullpen assignment, and you could hear the satisfaction and amusement in his words.
“I think that’s kind of the way I am as a human being,” Lincecum said. “I just kind of am oblivious to half the things going on and when I hear my name, I just go, ‘Hey, let’s go!’”?”
By all accounts, Lincecum will return to the Giants’ rotation at least to start 2013 because the economics and logic demand it. The Giants don’t want a $20 million long reliever; and Lincecum, in his last contract year, doesn’t want to ponder free agency as a starter/reliever question mark.
But what we saw in the playoffs was a revelation (physically and mentally, Lincecum is probably best suited for the bullpen) and an evolution (he’s mature enough to agree and adapt if it was best for the team).
Interestingly, Lincecum didn’t make himself available to reporters after the victory Sunday-he’s a different sort, no doubt. But in these playoffs, there was no more captivating figure or force than No. 55, free to fire one more time.
Moment No. 2: In the Giants’ raucous clubhouse celebration after Game 5 in Cincinnati, Buster Posey ducked some Champagne splashes and almost literally bumped into me.
He saw me, then said quietly: “You got a beer on you?” I did not, sadly, and Posey just chuckled. If Lincecum embodied the wild, unscripted side of the Giants’ playoff psyche, Posey was clearly the calm, cool, dependable central core.
When Hunter Pence, Sergio Romo, Lincecum and others dangled out over the emotional cliff, it was Posey (and Marco Scutaro, Brandon Crawford and others) who kept things balanced and focused and always driving forward.
By the way, Posey is the only position player to start in both 2010 and 2012 World Series runs, and the Giants have won championships in both seasons that Posey has been healthy.
Posey is the Giants’ Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench or Derek Jeter-and general manager Brian Sabean has shown he knows exactly how to build around that kind of stable superstar leader.
Moment No. 3: It was cramped and wet and somehow I ended up in the middle of the Giants’ clubhouse Monday exactly when Bochy bolted into the room carrying the World Series trophy.
He actually had to bump me aside (cordially) to get to the right spot and he bellowed for the room to quiet. It did.
Then Bochy lifted the trophy up and all I heard was screaming and all I felt was Champagne spraying everywhere-particularly toward Bochy.
And a cry went up, “Bar-rry! Bar-rry!” to salute Barry Zito, the man Bochy depended on to win Game 5 against St. Louis and Game 1 against Detroit.
There was no doubt, this was a Bochy triumphal coronation-for his deft handling of personalities, his unshakable confidence in his guys, his uncanny strategic maneuvers and his benevolent reign.
He’s the king of that clubhouse by unanimous consent, consecrated by a thousand dousings and maybe a thousand more in the years to come.