By TED SILLANPAA
The San Francisco Giants did the right thing not offering Brian Wilson the $6.8 million deal that would’ve been the minimum necessary to retain rights to the closer who is coming back from his second Tommy John Surgery. We don’t know when Wilson will be full strength, so sending him into free agency was the only appropriate business decision.
The Giants didn’t need to do what general Brian Sabean did on Friday, however, when the famously bearded star was set free to sign with any team. Sabean said Wilson’s rehabilitation was coming along “at a snail’s pace” noting he’s throwing “60 feet on flat ground.” That intimates to the 99 percent of us who don’t know what Wilson’s rehab from elbow surgery entails that Wilson isn’t coming back according to plan. Sabean wanted fans to think Wilson was done, finished … never coming back.
Sabean’s comments, along with Wilson’s obvious desire to be offered the $6.8 million, will result in making it virtually impossible for the club to re-sign Wilson for a lesser amount now that he’s a free agent. Before Sabean explained that Wilson’s rehab has slowed, the Giants could’ve re-signed Wilson to an incentive-laden contract for 2013. Wilson wanted to stay in San Francisco, so he might’ve taken such a deal over offers closer to the $6.8 million that other clubs will offer him in a market lacking proven closers. After Sabean spoke out, word spread that Wilson would never return to San Francisco.
Wilson’s rehab is going fine. Just fine. He’s recovering from his second elbow reconstruction surgery. So, the fact that the maniacally hard-working relief pitcher is throwing on flat ground is more than acceptable in December 2012, when he doesn’t have to face a hitter until, at least, March 2013.
The Giants remind us that it’s a business. They weren’t going to pay, arguably, the most popular Giant in the last decade the $6.8 million on the hope that he would come all the way back from a second elbow reconstruction. The part that reminds us that it can be a dirty business is Sabean hinting that Wilson’s not coming back quickly enough, maybe not working hard enough. The guy busts his tail. He doesn’t do anything any way but full speed and all out. And, his throwing program is on pace. Setbacks are part of the rehabilitation process. The fact that Wilson’s throwing on flat ground, at 60 feet, in December is no indication of what he’ll be capable of when the 2013 season opens in April.
Sabean counts on the fact that there are few fans like me. I’ve had two sons undergo Tommy John surgery. My youngest son had the surgery shortly before Wilson did in spring 2012. That son is throwing full speed, off the mound, and could pitch in a game today. He could’ve pitched in a game in November. Sabean counted on us not bothering to think about the appropriate rehab program or the time it takes to come back from a second surgery. So, he showed Wilson the door and gave him a boot on his way out.
Brian Wilson won’t be back with the Giants. He’s wildly confident, as every successful closer must be. He’ll sign with one of the many teams willing to take the chance that he’ll return to being an All-Star closer once again. He’ll sign with a team whose fans aren’t under the mistaken impression that Sergio Romo closing games for 3 weeks in the postseason equates to Romo being an All-Star closer for 162 games. He’ll sign with a team that sees the value in Wilson’s work ethic and believes he’ll become the pitcher he was.,
Sabean and the Giants had to offer Wilson $6.8 million before he’d shown he’d be worth it. It’s a business, so the Giants opted to pass on Wilson.
There was no reason to remind us what a dirty business it can be and kick Wilson out the door questioning his rehab program and, thus, assuring the famously bearded reliever will never pitch for the Giants again.