Today is Brian Wilson’s 30th birthday. Today is the official release of the new iPad. Elite closers and tablet computing devices are both great to have but, ultimately, luxuries. And they’re expensive. And a new, better one comes along every year. And yet, it would be foolish to think that either is without merit and that the people who like them are silly. I won’t belabor the comparison here. If you think tablet computing devices are pointless, that’s fine. If you think closers, the closer mentality, and spending big bucks on a closer are all pointless or otherwise inefficient, that’s fine, too. But Brian Wilson, specifically, is a part of the Giants psyche, and there’s something to be said about that.
Q: Do you keep track of how other power pitchers take care of their arms?
WILSON: "No. I focus on the team I’m on and how I can better my teammates. I don’t follow anybody else in baseball. Everyone’s got their own thing and that’s fine."
That's from the latest Giants Extra blog post by Alex Pavlovic. He's a fan of his own team. He's a good guy overall. These traits are important. Loyalty is what we've given the Giants and to see a player give the same to the organization and its fans is great because players are so much their own brand now that the team they're playing for is almost an afterthought. Brian Wilson is a brand, but it's almost intentionally tied to the Giants. He is a crucial part of this team, however one might feel about the closer's role.
The blog post is all about Wilson. It's a very subdued, almost melancholy interview, too.
Q: How do you care for your arm?
WILSON: “It’s one of those things where you cannot control your arm. You can do everything you can to prevent things but sometimes you come across a situation where you can do nothing — you just wait for it to heal. This is one of those situations where you tell a guy who lives and breathes on working harder than anybody else in the world that he can’t lift for 20 weeks.
A roster and a team are separate things in an emotional sense. The players call each other teammates and stick up for one another in fights and in the press because they are all working towards the same goal. A roster is merely a piece of paper that lists the players acquired and developed from an experience standpoint, given the Giants’ level of spending. With Wilson's arm and back troubles and Heath Hembree seemingly poised to emerge as the next closer, the roster spot feels almost tenuous at best. The Giants should, of course, aim to field the best possible roster they can construct through drafting and free agency, but the best possible team is less tangible and more the product of good luck.
Emotion, luck, what am I talking about here? Brian Wilson has sold us chalupas, tortured us, proved himself to be an intense, focused fella through various machinations. He is the Giants unofficial official spokesman, as much the face of the franchise as Lincecum, Posey, Sandoval, and Cain. He is to be commended for being one of the top closers in baseball the past few seasons. While the Matt Cain contract talks bring us to the brink of freakout, let’s not forget that the Giants are going to have a decision to make concerning Wilson in each of the next two off-seasons. They could trade him a la Sanchez, not wanting to pay him in another year of arbitration, or keep him and let him walk in 2014 when he becomes a free agent. But there’s also the matter of what to do with him this year. It’s entirely possible Brian Wilson doesn’t make it through the entire season injury-free.
If this season is nothing more than six months of Gatorade dispenser assaults and Freddie Freeman knockout punches then I’ll be bummed. It will be that much more important to remember his positive contributions. It really is a kick in the face how fleeting fame and success can be, and for athletes it feels like it’s especially devastating to have it all and then lose it all in terms of performance, so single-minded and focused they are and need to be the best at what they do.
So let’s all hope like hell that Brian Wilson’s beard is the smart cover to a retina display of a season and we are totally blown away by his performance as closer for our San Francisco Giants.