C.J. Wilson’s future.
After C.J. Wilson dealt in Yankee Stadium two and a half weeks ago, a New York Post writer asked the lefty whether the fact that his girlfriend has a place in New York City would factor in when Wilson is deciding this winter where to pitch for the next however-many years of his career.
The writer stopped short of suggesting that it would behoove Wilson to sign with the Yankees, instead making the fair point that “it certainly would make sense for the Yankees to pursue him.” How would Wilson feel about that? What’s the most important thing going to be in the decision process? Money? Madison Avenue? Girlfriend’s address?
“Winning,” Wilson said when asked what’s important to him for the future. “The better the team is behind me. For instance, in Texas here, obviously we have great offense. You have Elvis [Andrus] and Adrian [Beltre] on the left side of the infield. You have [Ian] Kinsler at the right side of the infield. That’s always great. For me, that’s what gives me the best chance to win.
“And really when you’re 40 or 50 years old, you’re going to look back on your career and say, ‘This is why I did it and I’m cool with it.’ When I was eight years old, I wanted to win the World Series. When I was 12 years old, I wanted to win the World Series. It’s just always going to be that. It’s always going to be the deciding factor, one way or the other.”
I’ve known Wilson for almost 10 years now. I remember the guy who believed with 101 percent certainty that Tommy John surgery wasn’t going to threaten his ability to get past AA, but only delay his inevitable arrival in the big leagues. He wasn’t exactly the same guy at age 21 as he is at 31, but he’s probably changed less than you think.
The moment I thought about this morning when word broke that he’ll be going to his first All-Star Game in a week was back on August 5, 2008, when he was brought in to protect an 8-2 lead against the Yankees, and gave up a walk, hit a batter, got a strikeout, walked another, and served up a Richie Sexson grand slam to left center, prompting Ron Washington to come get the ball . . . and to physically yank Wilson back onto the mound after the closer casually flipped the ball his way as he was still walking in the pitcher’s direction.
It turned out to be Wilson’s final act on the field in 2008. He had surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow days later, but not before apologizing to his manager and teammates behind closed doors.
I thought about that striking moment on the mound and the fact that it was Washington who unilaterally chose Wilson this morning to go with him to Arizona next week as an American League All-Star. The man who – rightfully so – prompted what had to be Wilson’s most embarrassing moment as a ballplayer, the culmination of the most miserable year of Wilson’s big league career, that same man not only told Wilson this morning that he was an All-Star, but in fact was the man who made it happen.
That thought stuck with me for seven innings tonight. Washington’s night had ended before Wilson’s did, and Texas was nursing a 2-1 lead, but the game still felt in control the way Wilson had artistically pitched. I was sort of shocked that, with one out in the eighth and a Marlin on third, that he was lifted – having thrown 96 pitches, his lowest pitch count all year – for Mark Lowe, but OK.
Then, watching things unravel like they did that inning, my thoughts drifted from that August 2008 moment and toward the Post article.
I’m not suggesting that anything that happened tonight will have convinced C.J. Wilson that he can’t win in Texas, not after he pitched for this team in the ALDS and ALCS and World Series nine months ago. He’s going to pitch for this team in the playoffs again this year.
But I hate it when my team (whether I’m watching, coaching, or playing) loses games like tonight’s was lost.
I seriously hope that when C.J. takes the ball this Friday night, in Arlington against Oakland and Gio Gonzalez, that he pitches as well as he did tonight, that the defense is crisp, that the offense does big damage, that the building is sold out like it was tonight and that he nails down his ninth victory and that his club is still in first place as it has been every day since May 16.
That’s the buzz I want C.J. Wilson riding as he lands in Phoenix, basking in the vibe of the world’s best baseball players and all the national media, feeling like a winner on a winning team and wanting to be here the rest of his career, imagining that when he’s 40 or 50 years old, he’ll look back on his career and say Texas was the right decision, for the right reasons, and that he’s cool with it.
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