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Originally published Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

UW grad Tim Lincecum doesn't fit Cy Young profile, but wins the award anyway

Tim Lincecum isn't from baseball's Central Casting. He doesn't fit the Cy Young mold. Doesn't look like John Wayne when he stands on the...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Tim Lincecum isn't from baseball's Central Casting. He doesn't fit the Cy Young mold. Doesn't look like John Wayne when he stands on the mound. He isn't an intimidating presence in the way Bob Gibson once was.

He looks made for Mayberry, not Cooperstown. Looks like he should be winning spelling bees, not big-league baseball games.

Lincecum is the guy who gets overlooked. The guy the scouts think is too small, or too frail. The baby-face who gets lost among baseball's beefcake.

At 5 feet 11, maybe 160 pounds, he is the kid the scouts figure can't stay together for an entire season, can't throw 200 innings, can't survive the wear and tear of a long major-league career.

"He doesn't look like one of those warriors from the movie '300,' " his father, Chris, said Tuesday, after the baseball writers had voted Lincecum the National League's Cy Young Award. "But you know what his body type is? He's built like a Greek god — lean, long, stringy, extremely strong and flexible."

Sometimes the scouts are wrong. Sometimes a pitcher doesn't play to type. Sometimes a flexible flyer like Tim Lincecum gives lie to the measurables.

He is a pint-size power pitcher. A little guy with giddy-up. The kid next door, who just happens to have a 97-miles-per-hour fastball.

"People have been doubting me my whole life," Lincecum said in an afternoon conference call. "It's nothing new. It's not one of those things where I'm going to hold it against them. If they're going to doubt me, then let them watch and see what the end result is. I don't let them bring me down any more than they used to."

A San Francisco Giants' right-hander, Lincecum, 24, won the Cy Young in a landslide. He got 23 of 32 first-place votes. He earned 137 points. Arizona's Brandon Webb was a distant second with 73.

On a team that finished fourth in the NL West and 13 games below .500, he was 18-5. Lincecum led the National League in winning percentage, was second in earned-run average (2.62) and third in innings pitched (227). He led the majors with 265 strikeouts.

And remember, this hometown arm from Renton's Liberty High School and the University of Washington could have been, should have been, a Mariner.

But for the wrongheaded decision of then-general manager Bill Bavasi and then-scouting director Bob Fontaine, this somber sports city could be celebrating a Cy Young this week.

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"Let me see if I can say this tactfully," Lincecum's father said. "The Mariners' guys, Bavasi and Fontaine, they were idiots. And they're where they should be now — gone. Is there a little retribution in this? There sure is. Am I a little excited? Yeahhhhh."

The Mariners drafted Brandon Morrow ahead of Lincecum in 2006 and, while Morrow is going to be a dependable arm, he still is a prospect. Lincecum is a Cy Young winner.

Two years ago, Morrow didn't have a big league-ready buffet of pitches. He couldn't throw 200-plus innings. He wasn't the answer in the way Lincecum could have been.

"It's that hindsight is 20-20 thing," Tim Lincecum said. "After the fact, yeah it shows [that teams made a mistake], But I have no bitter feelings toward any of the teams that passed up on me. I'm in a very positive position right now with the Giants."

Six pitchers — Kansas City's Luke Hochevar, Colorado's Greg Reynolds, Pittsburgh's Brad Lincoln, Florida's Andrew Miller, the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and Morrow — were chosen ahead of Lincecum, who went 10th in the 2006 draft.

In his conference call, Lincecum mentioned several of the players chosen ahead of him, including Reynolds, Kershaw and Tampa Bay's rookie of the year, Evan Longoria, but despite some prompting in the background, he didn't mention Morrow.

"Plenty of guys have proven themselves," Lincecum said.

It might have been different if new Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik had been in charge. In an organization that needs to develop players, he has an impeccable reputation for development.

But Lincecum's landslide win is just another reminder of the mistakes made by the past administration. A reminder of why the Mariners lost 101 games last season.

"I thought [the voting] was going to be a lot closer," Lincecum said. "I definitely didn't want to say that I had it in the bag, so I obviously was thinking that somebody else would have it, either Johan [Santana] or [CC] Sabathia, or Webb. I thought they had as good a shot as I had."

Lincecum has blown up baseball's pitching model. He has given hope to the little guys.

"Baseball's afraid to go outside the box," his father said. "They don't want to take a chance on somebody smaller, because they think that bigger lasts longer.

"But it has nothing to do with size. It's about strength and flexibility. Tim can throw all day and never get hurt. Do I think they'll change their approach? I certainly hope so. It's funny how success can change these people's minds."

Maybe, just maybe, the success of should-be Mariner Tim Lincecum can open baseball's many closed minds.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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