Seven days after Barack Obama dominated his rival, Tim Lincecum won a landslide election of his own.
Like the first-ever African American U.S. president-elect, the San Francisco Giants ace also made history — becoming the first pitcher of APA bloodlines to capture the most votes in the balloting for baseball’s most coveted individual pitching prize, the Cy Young Award.
With a vote-count disparity that paralleled the quest for commander in chief, the 24-year-old ace pitcher boat-raced the National League competition, becoming the first Giants pitcher in 41 years to capture the award named for the legendary hurler who won 511 MLB games from 1890 to 1911.
The back-to-back victories had more in common than just a lopsided vote tally. Like the White House, the exclusive Cy Young Award winners circle became considerably more inclusive last week.
Lincecum, who is of Filipino heritage, garnered 23 of a possible 32 first place votes, finishing with a grand total of 137 points to win the prize.
Second-place finisher and former award winner Bandon Webb, of the Arizona Diamondbacks, totaled 73 points. Also in the running were past winners Johan Santana of the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers’ CC Sabathia.
“I was shocked more than anything,” said the boyish-looking Lincecum, wearing his trademark skater garb, including a black Van’s skully. “With the competition, I was just hoping to be in the mix. I was thinking Webb or Santana or even CC had it. My reaction was, ‘Woo hoo!’ I literally yelled a couple of times after I got off the phone.”
The 5-foot-11-inch, 170-pound pitcher’s relationship with his father Chris — who devised his son’s unique sling-shot-like windup that creates unbelievable velocity for a pitcher with a smallish frame — has been well documented.
At the press conference announcing his Cy Young victory, Lincecum spoke about the Filipino heritage that comes from his mother’s side.
“I’m Filipino. I have Filipino heritage. It’s not uncommon where I run into someone who’s Filipino in the community or just, I hate to say this, at a bar. Or at McDonald’s or Safeway,” added the fresh-faced Lincecum with a smile, not want-ing to be perceived as someone who hangs out at waterholes.
“It’s great, we also had [fellow Filipino pitcher] Geno Espinelli on the team this year. The game is getting followed with more and more worldwide exposure. It’s good to have [Filipino backing] in your own city,” Lincecum said.
Lincecum, a native of Bellevue, Wash., joined the Giants as a No. 1 draft choice out of the University of Washington in 2006. He made his MLB debut in mid-2007.
Lincecum became just the fourth pitcher in history to win the Cy Young Award in his first full season of big league action, joining past iconic phenoms like the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela (1981), the Royals’ Bret Saberhagen (1985, AL) and Mets’ Dwight Gooden (1985, NL).
Lincecum finished 2008 with a scintillating record of 18-5, an outrageous 2.65 ERA and a very Cy Young-like, league-topping 265 strikeouts. He was one of the few bright lights in a fog-shrouded Giants season that saw them finish with a flossing record for the fourth straight year.
“Timmy was certainly the focus of everything that was good about the Giants this year,” Giants general manager Brian Sabean said.
“The organization has a lot to be proud of because of your individual accolade,” Sabean said, turning to the pitcher on the press conference dais. “Your age of innocence is over. A lot is going to be expected of you now.”
Lincecum may also expect a little something back from the Giants, too: Last season, seven other pitchers on the staff received a high salary.
Right now, however, Lincecum is content to relish his place in history.
“As far as living up to that name, Cy Young, it’s something I’ve talked to [past Giants winner] Mike McCormick about,” Lincecum said. “He said forever I’ll be known as a Cy Young winner no matter how bad I [do.] I guess if I get 20 years down the road and look back on it, I can’t say that’s a bad thing.”