Category: Wilson

Done with Brian Wilson

After Robb Nen blew out his arm trying to win the Giants the World Series in 2002, it was hell trying to find a replacement.  Tim Worrell was adequate in 03, but it went downhill after that.  The Giants let Worrell go to free agency thinking Nen would be back for the 2004 season.  When that didn’t happen, Matt Herges was promoted and failed.  He was replaced sometime in August by Dustin Hermanson, who was good for a minute before blowing a few crucial saves over the last couple weeks that cost the Giants the division.
Then the Giants thought they found the answer when they signed Armando Benitez, who had come off a career year with the Marlins in which he pitched better than any closer in baseball,  to a three year, $21 million contract.  That turned out to be one of the worst signings the Giants have made.  He got injured one week into the season in 2005, the first year of his contract, missing most of the season.  In the interim, Tyler Walker filled in, poorly.  Benitez returned in mid August, and was complete garbage from that time, until he was given away, while the Giants ate the rest of his contract, to the Marlins, for a worthless nobody reliever in Randy Messenger early in the 2007 season.   Brad Hennessey filled in with less than satisfactory results until Wilson took over the role near the end of the season.
During Wilson’s first full year as closer in 2008, he was mediocre, but reliable.  After filtering through Herges, Hermanson, Benitez, Walker, and Hennessey, mediocre but reliable felt like a godsend, and Wilson was Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera combined into one compared to those guys.   In 2009, Wilson showed vast improvement, developing into one of baseball’s better closers, and began to show signs of his off-beat, colorful personality that he became known for, and was even given his reality show on Comcast Sports Bay Area.
However, it was 2010 that Wilson became a star.  He had become one of baseball’s elite closer’s, and became more well known for his personality thanks to appearances on Rome is Burning and Jim Rose’s The Cheap Seats.  Every time he was subject to an interview, he’d provide entertaining soundbites and moments that would leave you howling with laughter.  Every time he took the mound to finish the game, he would make you sweat a little, but always got the job done and was lights out.  He grew out a beard, dyed in black, and became one of, if not the, key players in the World Series run.  His strikeouts of Ryan Howard to end the NLCS and Nelson Cruz to end the World Series will always remain two of the most iconic and memorable images in Giants history.  
After that, it was all downhill.  At some point, the attention sprung onto him and his quirky antics during the post-season run had gone to his head.  Amidst the endorsements, merchandise sales, and media attention, he had changed.
As the beard grew, his act became more stale, annoying, and over the top.  The funny, off-beat, and goofy Wilson became a cartoonish, annoying, attention whore.  What previously seemed like off the cuff, funny moments became lame, planned out publicity stunts.  From his insipid George Lopez appearance to his spandex tuxedo at the ESPYs, to rehashing tired bits, everybody became sick of his acts.
It would be fine if he continued to pitch like he did in 2010, but he didn’t.  It almost seemed like his drive for attention outweighed his drive on the field.  He started 2011 with an oblique injury, ended it with an elbow injury.  In between, he returned to the mediocre closer he was in 2008.
A young closer on a rebuilding team with no playoff hopes pitching the way he did is fine.  A now veteran closer pitching for the defending World Series champions looking to repeat is not, especially with all his antics.
Then came 2011.  After two shaky starts, Wilson had to have Tommy John surgery for the second time, thus missing the rest of the season, while making $8.5 million.  Meanwhile, his antics went from annoying to pathetic.  He went from a guy that was milking his time in the limelight to a guy who had fallen out of the limelight desperate to get back in.  From returning to the ESPYs to Chewbacca, to re-appearing during the Giants playoff run just to get camera time.  All the while the Giants were on the path to another World Series, this time without him.
So now, in his final arbitration year, the Giants are caught in a dilemma.  Since he made $8.5 million, he cannot receive more than a 20% pay-cut, making it a minimum $6.8 million in arbitration if the Giants tender him a contract.  Obviously not wanting to pay someone coming off a surgery that few do successfully a second time, and with the superior Sergio Romo having proved that he can handle being the closer, the Giants are hoping to simply sign him to a much lower base contract, possible laden with incentives.
Wilson says no way.  He feels like the Giants owe him for what he’s done for the team, and he deserves to be tendered a contract and make at least that $6.8 million.
I guess making $8.5 million for doing nothing wasn’t enough.
If Wilson doesn’t accept a low end contract, I say goodbye and good riddance.  Would I have liked to bring him back for a low end contract?  No doubt, at least before this little entitlement ego trip.   The fact is, the Giants don’t need him.  They have Sergio Romo, who previously was always far more dominating than Wilson, but the Giants were skeptical about him making the transition to closer.  Now that he has proven he can get the job done in the ninth (and pitched even better this year after making the transition), it’s his job for the long haul.  They have three guys (Affeldt, Casilla, and Kontos) who I would much rather have in the game than Wilson in a non-save situation.  Then there’s the two lefty specialists (Lopez and Mijares).  That leaves the last bullpen spot open, and when you have that deep of a bullpen, it’s not a pressing need.  If anything, he should be crawling back on his knees for the Giants to give him any sort of major league contract, not demanding big money because it’s owed to him.
Let’s suppose Wilson signs a one year deal, with the Giants, or some other team, and he does have a phenomenal year.  As a result, he cashes in on a big money, multi-year contract with another team.  And on this team, he pitches horribly.  Would he ever offer to give back some of that contract?  So why should he get a lot more money that he is worth based on what he did three years prior?
If Wilson is as confident as he claims to be that he’ll be back to form by opening day, he needs to back it up and prove he’s not all talk.  If he was truly that sure, he would glady take a one year, heavily incentive laden contract.  He could pick up millions in incentives, and then cash in on a long term deal.  Let him earn it.  Of course, deep down he knows it’s unlikely he will ever return to his 2010 form, and is grasping at his final chance of a huge payday.
Perhaps Wilson is being petty.  Perhaps this goes back to 2007, in which Wilson, who entered Spring Training as a strong possibility to take Benitez’ closer job, wound up struggling in Spring Training and as a result spent four and a half months in the minor leagues.  The time spent in Fresno pushed back each of Wilson’s arbitration years, and ultimately his free agency, back one year.  So yeah, perhaps it did cost him some cash.
But how much really?  He probably would have received an extra million or two in 2009, but about the same amount in the three years that followed.  Perhaps had this been his first free agent year rather than next, he could have gotten the Giants to lock him down to a long term deal prior to his Tommy John surgery.  So is Wilson, the supposed “team player”, mad that he didn’t get the chance to fleece the Giants?
I will always appreciate Wilson for what he did for the Giants in 2010, but I am pretty much tired of him.  From his overrated pitching on the field, to his stupid antics off the field, to his popularity among bandwagoners, I am over it.  And now that he feels the Giants owe him after getting paid $8.5 million this year for nothing?  He can go fuck himself. 
Ultimately, when Wilson needs the Giants a hell of a lot more than the Giants need him, he really has no leverage.  And if he goes elsewhere, the fans won’t be as patient or forgiving with him, or tolerant of his antics as the Giants fans would be.  Offering a Major League contract at any amount is doing him a favor.  After all this, he’ll probably be crawling back for a couple million dollars when the Giants are the only team offering him a major league contract (or at least more than any other team).  If he does, cool, the Giants get a little possible extra depth to the already deep bullpen.  If he leaves, all I got to say at this point is good riddance.  The team has already moved on without him and proved they don’t need him. 
I just hope he lands on a team with a no facial hair policy.