I’m not worried about the San Francisco Giants’ ability to survive without Brian Wilson. At least, not too much.
It’s not like losing Wilson isn’t a blow. This guy is one of the top closers in baseball. For all the crap he takes, for all the torture he induces, he does go out there and get saves time after time. He has more saves than any other closer in baseball since he got the regular job, and that’s despite missing some time at the end of last year.
That said, the Giants have a bullpen that’s playoff tested. Sergio Romo was one of the best non-closer relievers in baseball last season. Santiago Casilla filled in admirably when Wilson went down last year. Jeremy Affeldt may brainfart like no one else can at times, but other times he comes in and shuts down the Phillies for innings in the NLCS when the starter gets himself taken out barely after he’s warmed up. And Javier Lopez can absolutely knock ‘em down.
These guys can do what Wilson does on the field. Maybe not as well, but close enough. It’s what Wilson does off the field that I’m worried about.
Wilson is the lightning rod of the Giants. Make no doubt about it. He wanted the role, and went out and took it like it was his birthright. And unlike almost anyone in any public field, he handles it with more grace and intelligence than I’ve ever seen. Forget baseball, he outclasses celebrities and political figures. He absolutely never responds to the haters. He never seems to be down. He also never gets himself in trouble off the field. No fights, no drugs, no gossip. None. It’s the most amazing thing about him, that with all he does, he’s not a self-destructing mess like Dennis Rodman.
These Giants succeed without the pressures many east coast players have. Sure, part of that is the lack of the east coast media mentality, but another part is that few Giants stars face the level of scrutiny that even other Giants players have faced. When the general media wants a quote, they want Wilson. When players need to deflect, they can deflect to Wilson. When the media needs to talk about anything Giants, you damn well bet they’ll start by talking about backup shortstops, and still somehow end up talking about Wilson. And that’s not Wilson stealing the spotlight, that’s the media doing it themselves.
Without Wilson, other players will get a bigger share of being the face of the team. That’s not an enviable position. Who knows how they might react? Some players take the pressure on the field. Others get into off-field issues. I’m not sure I trust Lincecum with that, especially the way things are right now.
No one can handle the media like Wilson. I hope he’s taught some of the guys a few of his tricks.
Oh, and as for Wilson’s on-the-field comeback? I have absolutely no doubt. Even if he comes back with less velocity, or the mandate to stop throwing sliders, or anything else, I feel confident the player can adapt. You may have heard this in the past, but I’ll say it again: Wilson is the smartest man in any room. Period. He understands a lot more than he lets on. If anyone can think his way out of limited stuff and find ways to continue hounding hitters, I believe he can.
PS – The roll call above goes like this from left to right: Lopez rocking the Captain’s outfit; Casilla with the wrong jersey coloring in his shoes (Why does he have the wrong jersey on? Because of this, obviously!); Affeldt, extending his mohawk from the chin to the top of his head; and Romo, preening his beard.
PPS – If the ‘Committee’ lasts more than three weeks before Bochy settles on a regular guy finishing games, I’ll be shocked. Committees suck.