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.