Brian Wilson, the bearded, All-Star closer for the San Francisco Giants’ pitching prowess is to be admired. In 2010 (his last full season) he lead the league in saves, finished 7th in Cy Young Award voting, and 13th in the MVP race. He also lead his team to a World Series victory.
In 2011 his season was cut short due to an elbow injury. 2012 seemed promising as he participated in Spring Training, but after only two games he was forced to have Tommy John surgery.
While fans mourned the loss of Wilson, another bearded reliever took the lead- Sergio Romo. While the Giants maintained a quasi-closer by committee role at first, Romo eventually seemed to best Casilla and the other contenders for the position. Now, with Romo at the back of the bullpen, and Wilson arbitration eligible, the question becomes where will Wilson end up.
To my mind, the answer is simple. The Giants should keep Wilson, allow him to recover, and keep him in the bullpen. Wilson’s leadership qualities and quirkiness have helped define the 2010 and 2012 World Series Champions San Francisco Giants.
But, more important than his pitching statistics or his leadership ability, is Brian Wilson’s ability to market himself, and his franchise.
Wilson is outlandish, his off the field antics often overwhelm his on field performance, and yet it is somehow not distracting from the Giants’ organization. Over the past few years Wilson has pulled the following stunts- The Machine on Chris Rose’s The Cheap Seats, the speedo tuxedo at the 2011 ESPYs, the Sasquatch at the 2012 ESPYS, driving around San Francisco on a motorized scooter, Uncaged with Sasquatch, his Nike shoes, and countless others. Wilson has also stared in a number of commercials- Taco Bell, MLB2K11, NBA2K12, SportsCenter, and that isn’t all of them. Wilson also does advertising for Nike. In short, wherever Wilson is, San Francisco fans, and MLB fans alike are watching- he is a marketing machine.
Why, then, would you propose sending Wilson to the ONE PLACE in the league where these antics will be frowned upon and entirely shut down- the Yankees? Yes, the Yakees who made Johnny Damon shave his beard. The Yankees have a storied history of not allowing facial hair on the team. And their manager, Joe Girardi doesn’t like it either.
Can you really trade a player affectionately nicknamed, The Beard, to a team that doesn’t allow beards? Isn’t this the opposite of every basic marketing principle? Wilson, and his antics, are incongruent with the Yankees brand- so don’t try to mesh the two.
So Giants, if you do decide to trade Wilson, please do yourself a favor and market him for what he is, and excellent closer, coming back from Tommy John surgery who is a risk, but focus on the additional upside of his marketing value. Wilson will fill seats- if he is playing or not.
There are 28 clubs outside of the Giants and the Yankees. So send him somewhere we can keep the beard.
Dear Brian Wilson,
On the eve of one of the saddest days of the year, the last day of the Major League Baseball Season, I wanted to take the time to thank you.
As a twenty-three year old baseball fan I spent the majority of my formative baseball years adoring players who, during the majority of my (albeit few) adult years were not inducted into the Hall of Fame, but rather spent their time sitting in front of congress and being persecuted in the court of public opinion. Yes, as a twenty-three year old baseball fan the majority of my baseball years have been marred with asterisks and fallen heroes.
There were guys who were all but certainly using steroids, there were guys who were never suspected, and there were guys who I just couldn’t bring myself to believe could have tarnished the game (perhaps more appropriately, tarnished my pure image of the game). Those in the last category fell the hardest. Those in the last category broke my heart.
As a fan of pitchers, pitching duels, pitching idiosyncrasies, pitching records, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that Roger Clemens had used steroids. These accusations, the idea that everything I had cherished for years might somehow be false, or tainted caused me to question the validity of the only thing I had ever truly loved; the game of baseball. When it was revealed that A-Rod, a player I had never suspected, and always defended, had used steroids my heart could no longer take it. When I realized that the perfect embodiment of the so-called “American Dream,” the idea of a level playing field, of hard work, and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps had failed, I became disenchanted with game.
More importantly, when I turned on a game and was bombarded with news of who was found to be in this report. Who was now being deposed. Who may or may not have taken steroids. When I could no longer listen to a game or news broadcast to learn the updated stats of my favorite players, I became disenchanted.
This isn’t to say I didn’t love baseball, but rather that baseball had broken my heart in a way no boy ever could. But still, as someone still so in love (an unrequited love) I remained friends with baseball. Always there to support it, but hurting inside knowing that everything I had ever thought to be true was false. Realizing that the numbers and statistics I had adoringly memorized as fact were somehow fiction.
Last season as you, Brian, decided to grow out your beard, as your Giants made an improbable run to the World Series championed by Weez and your fastball, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the game again. The 2010 Giants embodied baseball, 25 guys working together on a level playing field to accomplish a goal, and not letting anything in the way of that goal.
But, perhaps more than the team, more than the championship, more than anything, it is your carefree, passionate, and often hilarious persona that has reconnected myself (and many others) with the game I grew up loving. Despite a few stints on the disabled list, through a series of interviews, commercials, outstanding pitching performances, and the maintenance of Weez, you have refocused baseball on baseball and fun (and away from steroids and negativity).
The Sports Pickle ran an article earlier this year entitled “Brian Wilson’s Beard Apparently MLB’s Entire 2011 Marketing Campaign”, and with good reason- The Beard was in a plethora of commercials. The Beard, The Machine, whatever else you want to throw at us remind us that baseball is a game to be enjoyed on and off the field.
This season I went to 17 regular season games and 3 spring training games. I saw you in your spring training debut, and on Brian Wilson Jersey day against the Phillies in August as you closed out a game for Lincecum. As you warmed up in the Giants’ bullpen, your face, beard and pitching highlights were displayed on the big screen while the crowd went wild. An otherwise stressful outing with playoff implications was turned into a joyous event as the AT&T faithful were assured you would bring home the win.
A Giants’ fan or not, it is impossible not to love what you have done for the game of baseball over the past year. Fans of every team must agree that the positive exposure you have given the game in a post steroid era (especially after the year of the pitcher) is incredible for the game as a whole. You have earned yourself a rare place in the baseball history books, one based not only on stats or rings, but overall impact on baseball.
Thank you, Brian Wilson, for The Machine, The Beard, The Speedo Tuxedo, the impressive pitching, the commercials, the flair, and the passionate, positive attitude. Thank you for reminding me what baseball is about.
I’m already counting down the days to next season, I’ll be wearing my “Fear the Beard” shirt, as long as you continue to inspire.
P.S. I would love to see Weez break another bat in the dugout while you wear your Marty McFly Nikes.