Leading Off

Should Giants bring back Tim Lincecum for 2016 season?

How are Giants fans supposed to remember Tim Lincecum if one of the franchise’s most beloved players has pitched his final game for San Francisco?

Lincecum’s season ended Thursday morning when he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left hip in Colorado to repair a torn labrum and shave bone buildup that will alleviate an impingement in the socket.

At 31 – good gracious, 31 already? – Lincecum is in the final year of a two-year contract, and if we can read the writing on the dugout wall at AT&T Park, it says the team is prepared to move on without him for the first time since 2007.

Nobody wants to see that happen. Not yet, at least.

Giants fans love their players. They backed Barry Bonds when the rest of the baseball world threw syringes at the all-time home run king. They cried the day Will Clark signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers. Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Willie McCovey are regarded as royalty.

But Lincecum was different. He identified with San Francisco fans more than any other player. He had the boyish looks of a skateboarder shredding on the Embarcadero. He didn’t look like a professional athlete; he looked like every 20-something in the bleachers. When he was cited for possession of marijuana after the 2009 season, fans wore “Let Timmy Toke” shirts.

And now it could be over.

Despite Lincecum’s two Cy Young Awards, three World Series rings and two no-hitters, his overall numbers – 108 wins, 83 losses, 3.61 ERA – are not good enough to get into the Hall of Fame.

There will be no statue of The Freak outside AT&T Park, and his jersey No. 55 will soon be worn by a parade of players. It’s still hard for Giants fans to watch others wear No. 22, made famous by Clark.

What will be most sad is that Giants fans won’t be able to say goodbye to Lincecum while he’s in uniform, and the pitcher won’t be able to express his gratitude.

But what if? What if this surgery relieves the pain and stiffness that has hindered Lincecum since last postseason? What if this surgery puts some velocity back in his fastball? What if he has more games to pitch, more games to win?

Do the Giants risk letting him go to another team or do they give him a two-year contract, loaded with performance incentives?

What’s most difficult for the Giants – or any interested team – is they won’t know what Lincecum can do until he begins throwing again next spring.

Let Timmy Pitch.

Victor Contreras: 916-326-5527, @SacBeeVictor

Playbook

  • WHAT TO WATCH: Arkansas State at USC, 8 p.m., PAC12: Cameron Smith likely will start for the Trojans as a true freshman.
  • QUOTABLE: “My door will always be open for Tim Lincecum. That’s how much I think of him.” – Giants manager Bruce Bochy
  • ON THIS DATE: On Sept. 5, 1994, 49ers WR Jerry Rice becomes the NFL’s all-time TD leader with 127.
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