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Tim Lincecum's No-Hitter and His Future With the Giants

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Welcome to the midsummer classic break, total amateur hour when it comes to baseball appreciation. It's bad taco advertisements and stupid home run derbies and Melky with a new Camaro, it's Fox planting its network stars in the stands, it's the worst baseball announcers in the world blathering on and an All-Star Game that rarely provides much to get excited about.

But we have Timmy. I'm not usually one to glorify macho sports exploits, but Tim Lincecum manly-man'd his way to a no-hitter Saturday night. Don't take this as a kiss-off to everyone who frets about pitch counts. They matter. But once in a while, heck, why not? And throwing current conventional wisdom out the window for the short-term gain was just about the best sports theater we could have hoped for in this otherwise glum run. Lincecum obliged, keeping his crackling good stuff until the end, and the Padres obliged, swinging, missing, or swinging and hitting baseballs within the reach of Giants fielders.

But other than affirming our affection for a guy who might not -- probably won't -- be a Giant come next February, what did the no-hitter mean? It meant momentum and renewed focus and a new clubhouse cohesiveness and... oh. Barry Zito did what the next day?

I loved the glow Saturday night. I loved the Posey bear hug, though as with all things Internet, the meme is about to get crushed by cuteness. But those 148 pitches weren't magic beans that will sprout winning streaks and chemistry and comebacks all by themselves. The Giants just took three or four from a wretched team, but to make a run at the NL West title, they still need a lot of hitters to get hot -- warm, even -- and a couple pitchers to prove themselves both healthy and effective (Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong). They also need three teams to falter.

I'm not even convinced that the no-hitter is a sign that Timmy's broken through to a place of maturity and wisdom, as some stories would have it. It's possible; all pitchers have to adjust and replace their youthful stuff with older guile if they want long careers. It's possible Lincecum's last several outings, capped by the no-hitter Saturday, are a sign of better things to come.

But let's not oversell the recent past. He's made eight starts since June 1; the four good ones have come against sub-.500 teams: Toronto, Miami, the Mets, and now the Padres. He couldn't escape the 5th inning in Pittsburgh, the Dodgers cuffed him around on June 26, he went six innings but allowed 11 baserunners in Atlanta, and he couldn't get out of the sixth in Cincy. I'd like to see him go deep against a good team, work his way out of a few sticky situations with the likes of Joey Votto, or Hanley Ramirez, or Paul Goldschmidt standing in his way. (OK, maybe Goldschmidt is too much to ask for.)

The question is, what do we want Lincecum to be? What do the Giants want him to be? And how will all this play into 2014? I still can't imagine the Giants signing him to a long term contract unless a rise from the ashes the next couple months is thorough and emphatic. A less-than-dominant but revitalized second-half Lincecum -- better than 2012, pretty darn good at times -- might persuade the Giants to extend a qualifying offer this off-season. Once that happens, he could either grab it and spend one more year as a Giant, or reject it and hope that another team would come forward with a multi-year deal (and potentially surrender a first-round draft pick).

Timmy's no-hitter adds to the story that we knew in February would be the most fascinating theme all year. But I don't think it fundamentally changes the calculus. When we look back a year from now, I think we'll see it as his Giant swan song, not the first milestone on his road to Giant redemption. I hope I'm wrong, because if I am, he's going to fun to watch in orange and black for a few more years.

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