It seems absurd, but Lincecum's worthy of Cooperstown talk at 25
It should be ridiculous. To raise the possibility that a 25-year-old -- a "veteran" of just three major league seasons, with only 40 career wins and a look so youthful that he almost certainly still gets carded -- is worthy of serious Hall of Fame discussion, ought to, by all rights and common sense, be ridiculous.
It should be, but it isn't. Certainly no more so than the fact that Lincecum, a man of boyish features and a violent windup, is not only in the major leagues but dominating opposing hitters at all. In fact, the only thing ridiculous about Tiny Tim is the giant amount of talent that he has displayed in his brief and marvelous career in San Francisco. It is that ability that he uses to overpower opposing teams with a mid-90s fastball and ferocious off-speed pitches and has resulted in his winning consecutive National League Cy Young Awards. That achievement alone is doing as much as the testimonials from frustrated hitters, amazed teammates and breathless scouts in amplifying an increasingly strong case that Lincecum is on his way to Cooperstown.
To be sure, he is still a long ways off. The graveyard of baseball history is littered with pitchers who burst onto the scene only to flame out far short of their expected landing point (see
Of course, Lincecum came awfully close to ending Thursday with the same number of Cy Young trophies as he had when the day began. Both
In the end, Lincecum's overall domination was enough to overcome not only the impressive years of Wainwright and Carpenter but his own modest victory total of 15 -- the fewest ever by a Cy Young-winning starter in a non-strike-shortened season. (Stat heads of the world rejoice: With
Having already trumped Carpenter and Wainwright with a resume that many felt was inferior this year, Lincecum now has to be considered a heavy favorite to start making this honor a near-annual occurrence. It might be telling that Lincecum is the only pitcher in the league to even receive a single Cy Young vote each of the past two years. In other words, while the list of contenders may differ from year to year, Lincecum figures to remain a consistent factor. There are plenty of other high-quality pitchers in the National League with Cy Young potential, of course. Philadelphia's
Lincecum is the only premier pitcher without serious question marks. Besides, even if Lincecum's Triple Crown stats, like wins and ERA, aren't the best in the league, it seems highly unlikely that he'll slip dramatically enough in any of the other categories at which he is so consistently near the top. And that means that he's always likely to be in the Cy Young discussion every year. Put it this way: Who else could be considered a Cy Young favorite next year other than Lincecum?
All this would seem to suggest that winning a third Cy Young is a matter of when, not if, and that would all but cement Lincecum's place in Cooperstown. As it is, his candidacy looks a lot more interesting now than it did on Wednesday. Of the 14 previous pitchers to win multiple Cy Young Awards, six are already in the Hall of Fame (
That leaves only two players who have won multiple Cy's and are not in the Hall of Fame:
Moreover, McLain is the only pitcher to win consecutive Cy Youngs who is either not yet in Cooperstown or will not be (it's unclear which direction Clemens' case will go). This alone puts Lincecum in the discussion. What elevates his chances is his youth. Only Clemens, McLain and Saberhagen have won at least two Cy Youngs by age 25. If he remains healthy, that burdensome caveat that hangs over all players' careers and their potential legacies, Lincecum seems to have an excellent chance to win a third. If he does that, engravers can start working on his Hall of Fame plaque, crooked smile, flowing hair and all. Perhaps as soon as next year? That isn't ridiculous either.