Every Giants fan has a favorite Brian Wilson memory. For me it is Opening day, 2011. For the pre-game ceremony, Wilson walked out to the field holding the game ball from his last pitch in the 2010 World Series victory. Unlike 2004 Red Sox first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who kept the final out game ball for himself and then went to the court with the Red Sox over who owned it, Wilson presented the ball to a group of elder long-term Giants fans. Wilson explained over the loud speaker that these fans represented all the many loyal Giants fans who had kept supporting the Giants throughout the tough losses of the past. Wilson then declared that this ball belonged to all the fans of San Francisco and that he wanted them to have it. After handing the ball over, Wilson was just getting started.
No sooner was the ball out of his hand, the stadium sound system blasted his signature game entry song, “Jump Around” by House of Pain. Wilson broke into a sprint towards center field and the crowd went crazy. Wilson did not stop running, and when he reached the warning track, I remember hearing someone next to me yell, “He’s going to climb over the wall!” Wilson did scale the fence, and on the other side he found himself enveloped by the center field crowd. Without any security guards around him, he navigated through the bleachers– while being mobbed!– and made his way to the flag pole, where he hoisted the first World Series Championship banner in the history of the Giants in San Francisco.
Since 1958, when the Giants arrived in San Francisco, every October had basically been a house of pain. This flag raising represented the end of that. As Wilson tugged on the flag string, the fans surrounding him were literally jumping around to his song. Suffice to say, the crowd was going insane for this home-grown Giant—drafted by the Giants and making minor league stops along the way to this moment. Everyone could see how much this victory meant to him.
Flash forward two years, and now the only insanity lies in the Giants management for not rolling out the black and orange carpet and trying to bring Wilson back to San Francisco.
Whether he comes back as closer, setup man, 7th inning guy, who cares! Bullpen depth appears to be the currency of this era, and I did not see a better relief pitcher than Wilson in the post season last year. Not only is Brian Wilson a home grown Giant, he showed in this past year that he is fully back from his injury.
During the 2013 regular season, Wilson was back to his high octane 95 mph fast ball. He made 18 appearances and pitched 13.2 innings. He allowed only one run and had a .66 ERA! For someone with numbers like that—someone who is only 31!– you’d think the Giants would be breaking speed limits on Route 66 trying to get in front of Wilson.
But no. Despite even his ridiculous WHP of .88, the Giants do not appear to be whipped on getting Wilson back. This just does not make sense. Maybe if it could be argued that Wilson’s 2013 stats were based on too small a sample size, or that they came in meaningless games after a pennant had been clinched. But what about the fact that in the 2013 post season Wilson did pitch six high pressure innings in which he allowed zero runs and had eight strike outs? Could he have done any better?
And the Giants don’t want Wilson why?
Wilson literally threw his arm out for the Giants and helped them break a dry spell in San Francisco that had the most optimistic Giants fans wondering if the misery would ever end. But after his injury, the Giants did not offer him a contract. It’s true that nostalgia and loyalty to players for past services can lead to fatal mistakes in professional sports franchises. Baseball, after all, is a business. But now that Wilson has worked hard to return, his numbers alone warrant a contract offer, even ignoring the fact that Wilson sacrificed himself for the Giants.
In any business transaction, emotions matter more than the principles like to believe. I think that hurt feelings are getting in the way of a contract right now. Wilson probably felt hurt when the Giants did not want to invest in him and his future after he was injured. Giants CEO Larry Baer may still be smarting from Wilson’s yelling at him after a game, and also from Wilson’s signing with the rival Dodgers. But over time, hurt feelings subside, and even if they don’t, it’s bad practice to let them get in the way of doing what is best for the business. If it seems like the ship has sailed and Wilson could never be a Giant again, don’t forget that Willie McCovey started and ended his career as a Giant, but that he also spent three forgettable years with the Padres and even the rival A’s. That didn’t stop a statue of McCovey being built and a Cove being named in his honor.
Yes, the Giants already have a stacked bullpen. Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, and Javier Lopez appear to represent a bright future for the late innings. But when can you have too many great arms in a bullpen? And what about the sentimental value of what Wilson did for the Giants? I’ll bet if you ask the group of Giants fans who accepted that historic ball from Wilson, they would be disappointed that Giants are not presenting Wilson with a contract offer today.