I was leaving AT&T Park yesterday, a day after Tim Lincecum's career-worst start (and a day after some fans booed the two-time Cy Young Award winner off the mound), when I heard a couple of guys discussing Lincecum's recent struggles.
Since their grammar was a tad on the rough side (there may have been alcohol involved), I'll present a sanitized version here:
Guy 1: "Dude, Lincecum sucked last night."
Guy 2: "Dude, you are being far too critical in your assessment of our beloved right-hander."
Guy 1: "Dude, are you blind? He sucked."
Guy 2: "Dude, that's not the point. Give him a break. He had a bad day."
Guy 1: "Dude, he doesn't get paid all that money to have bad days."
Guy 2: "Dude, you never had a bad day? Get real."
Guy 1: "Dude, maybe you're right. I remember when I was his age. I screwed up a bunch."
Guy 2: "Dude, you're still screwing up."
It went on from there in the same general vein. The point: while some are quick to panic when a ballplayer underperforms, others get it. And Tim Lincecum is our Timmy, our Freak, our Boy Wonder. You can see his frustration, his perfectionism, his discomfort with failure right there on his face.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy felt compelled to call a meeting with Lincecum. Surely there are technical and tactical things to discuss (for example, Lincecum needs to learn to hold base runners better), but you can be sure the gist of Bochy's message was this: everyone has a bad day (or two or three), and the measure of a man is how he puts it behind him.
The temptation among some is to panic, to assume the worst: "Lincecum's lost it." It's a free country; if you want to live in the panic zone, it's your right. But even a half-drunk fan stumbling out of the ballpark gets it right when he counsels patience.