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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.

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Comments

18 Comments

  1. Sean P

    Great coverage, Ted. You’re spot on with Sabean’s comments, they were unnecessary and unfair for everything Brian has sacrificed.

    Again, it is a business…But, business does have ethics and the Giants franchise shouldn’t get too ahead of themselves just because of a couple of fresher wins under their belt.

    December 1st, 2012 7:05 pm

  2. overtime

    Sean…Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s a business. It’s a sometimes dirty business. And, of course, coming of a world championship season without Brian Wilson healthy makes it really easy to make the financial decision. It was pointless to use the particular language … about his rehab going at a “snail’s pace,” etc. to play into a really complicated fans most of us have no reason to understand. … There’s a market for Wilson. It seemed there would be wisdom in keeping in SF if financially feasible. Still, I’ve read fans and others writing things like, “I never liked Wilson’s WHIP anyway … Romo’s a lot better.” TED

    December 1st, 2012 7:11 pm

  3. B.P.

    Brian Wilson’s chance of coming back from a SECOND Tommy John surgery is only 20% (and this is a second TJ operation for Brian W., which the writer does not make clear), which means Wilson has at best only a mere one out of five chance of making it back to pitching with any ability. He may never be a closer again even if he does come back, and if he’s a middle reliever, he will never command much attention again because that’s not a rock star type of role. The Giants have a deep bullpen including Romo and Affeldt. They are all capable and have interesting personalities that the fans like. They deserve the money and respect, not Wilson. Wilson may not come back, and the Giants won a World Series last year without him. His act has gotten tired and all the tattoos and the beard remind people he’s all about Brian Wilson, not the team. Let him stay in LA and be a movie actor like Chuck Norris. I can’t see him pitching again and if he does, the Giants don’t need him and he can pitch elsewhere. And probably never again as well as he did in 2010. Brian Sabean was correct in being realistic. Other accounts say Brian will not be ready by opening day, or at least not at the peak ability of being able to pitch five or six days a week in the ninth inning throwing at over 90 mph.

    December 1st, 2012 7:23 pm

  4. overtime

    BP…First…I made it more clear that it’s his second surgery. You’re absolutely right about my not making it clear enough. After that …

    You cited Dr. James Andrews from a Chronicle story saying the return rate is “about 20%.” You don’t have any data to support that Wilson specifically has only a 20% chance of return.

    You’d have had to factor in medical advances in the surgical process…staggering advances in rehabilitation programs…and whatever level of work ethic Wilson has…and any ability Wilson’s body has to recover differently than others. Every body and pitcher is different. All the supporting ligaments and tendons play a role as does the pitcher’s emotional makeup. (I’ve been through it twice with sons who were/are pretty high level pitchers.)

    You don’t like Brian Wilson. You could’ve just said you didn’t like him, don’t need him, etc. I’m not a huge fan either. He’s a self-promoter. Lots of Giants fans love the guy, though.

    The Giants didn’t have to try to make folks who don’t know how recovery works and surely don’t know about advances in surgery and recovery — who love Wilson — think the situation is any different than it actually his. His rehab’s fine. It’s an understandable financial decision. The club could’ve saved Sabean’s comment and maybe kept a very, very, very popular Giant player around for a lesser salary.

    I appreciate you reading….you stick with those sources you’re getting your “other accounts” from and keep us posted. I’m always glad to hear from you .. and you were right about my not making it clear enough it’s his second go round. TED

    December 1st, 2012 7:33 pm

  5. Dale

    I’m not sure it was necessary to bring up Wilson’s progress level in rehab, but I think you are stretching Brian’s statement a bit. I see him having an opinion whether Wilson was going to be signed or not. As a fan his comments gave me no impression as to whether Wilson’s recovery was on schedule or not.

    December 1st, 2012 7:36 pm

  6. overtime

    Dale…Thanks for reading. That’s why we read things and hear things and experience them differently. The rehab process is a great deal about positive mental approach, patience, etc. So, Sabean pointing out it was going at “a snail’s pace” was clearly aimed at Wilson specifically and the fans. You experienced it differently. That’s cool. Wilson, reportedly, says he won’t return to the Giants regardless. … Seems like such a popular player could’ve been treated better. No reason to mention the rehab process Sabean likely only hears about second-hand at all, really. TED

    December 1st, 2012 7:41 pm

  7. Dale

    f your impression is correct than Brian was probably trying to hint that there would be no follow up to try and sign Wilson, and to expect him to go elsewhere.

    December 1st, 2012 7:46 pm

  8. overtime

    Dale… I suppose that’s what he’s saying, it just doesn’t make sense to say something to alienate a super-popular guy who might make it back and might’ve signed in SF for far less than $6.8 million. But…it is a dirty business. Ted

    December 1st, 2012 7:48 pm

  9. Evad Low

    The next time the Giants have an off season (and they will), give Sabean the same treatment that he gave to Brian Wilson, with the notation that he seems to have lost the heart to fight for a championship. Don’t just let him go, but a kick in the rear to speed the process would be appropriate. He is NOT a class act.

    December 2nd, 2012 9:42 am

  10. overtime

    Evad…Thanks for reading. Ted

    December 2nd, 2012 12:40 pm

  11. Jerry Burns

    Too be honest, I’m tired of Wilson’s shtick! And I have a feeling he pitched longer in pain than either he, or the team ever let on.

    I, for one, will be glad to see him go!

    December 2nd, 2012 12:51 pm

  12. overtime

    Jerry…I’m virtually sure he pitched in pain in late 2011…tried to comeback in 2012…and then came surgery. He showed all the symptoms of an elbow injury well before the surgery. I’m not a huge fan of his personality…but, I like workers treated fairly. TED

    December 2nd, 2012 2:11 pm

  13. Mark Siegel

    I love The Beard, and I hope that, in spite of all, he stays with the Giants somehow, some way.

    But Brian Sabean built two world championship teams.

    Maybe he could have handled the Wilson situation more tactfully than he did, though I’m not necessarily willing to take a reporter’s word for it.

    But Sabean built two world champion teams (and counting). That’s what he’s going to be remembered for.

    End of story. He’s not going tío ever be ridden out of town on a rail. Sorry.

    December 2nd, 2012 2:21 pm

  14. overtime

    Mark…You can go read the quotes in a variety of different places … reported on Friday. Thanks for reading. TED

    December 2nd, 2012 7:14 pm

  15. Mark Siegel

    It’s not a question of whether Sabean made the comments attributed to him.

    It just sounds to me as though it’s more accurate to say that you and Sabean have a difference of opinion on the pace of Wilson’s recovery than it is to say that Sabean gratuitously disrespected Wilson.

    December 2nd, 2012 10:45 pm

  16. overtime

    Mark … I didn’t say that he “gratuitously disrespected Wilson.” Sabean’s opinion of Wilson’s recovery played a role in, apparently, Wilson’s decision to look for work elsewhere. Ted

    December 2nd, 2012 11:41 pm

  17. Lee Williams

    I think you are making too much out of his comments, and to call his tactics or statements ‘dirty business’ is way out of line.

    Sabean made a business decision. He didn’t think Brian was worth $6M+ for next year. He was transparent about it, and let us know that he was removing some risk, opening up some payroll for good young pitchers in the rotation, and leaving open the opportunity to get Wilson secured for less.

    That’s not dirty. It’s forthright, smart business, and I am glad we have such a capable person making those types of calls.

    December 3rd, 2012 10:27 am

  18. overtime

    Lee…Pro sports are a dirty business because they are heartless. You missed my point. Wilson’s an SF hero. Beloved Giant. Very successful. Got hurt. Hit the road, pal! It’s a dirty business…NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. I wasn’t referring specifically to Sabean’s remarks being “dirty business.” They’re part and parcel of the reality of how the business operates. I like Sabean and he does a tremendous job. Just question how he handled things Friday with Wilson. TED

    December 3rd, 2012 1:01 pm

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