Is Brian Wilson a Good Fit for the Dodgers?

Okay I admit it; I absolutely hated to see former Giants closer Brian Wilson enter any game against the Dodgers, because when he did, it usually meant two things: one – that the Dodgers were trailing because Wilson was usually only brought in for save situations; and two – he usually got the save.

Brian Wilson has tormented the Dodgers since his MLB debut in 2006. (Photo courtesy of thephatphilmz)

Brian Wilson has tormented the Dodgers since his MLB debut in 2006.
(Photo courtesy of Thephatphilmz)

I also admit that because of my life-long hatred of the Giants, I only have three baseballs autographed by Giants players and Brian Wilson is one of them. Now before you go on a “how could you” tirade, allow me to explain: it was four years ago and it was on a beat-up BP ball, not on a brand new $14 baseball. My line of thinking at the time was (and pretty much still is) that anyone who can throw a baseball at 100+ MPH is okay in my books, and Wilson did so on a regular basis back then. Now granted, he probably never will again, especially since he underwent his second Tommy John surgery this past season; but still, hitting 100 is pretty impressive. (By the way, the other two are Matt Cain and Pablo Sandoval, both of whom made baseball history in 2012 – in case you were wondering).

Wilson was born in Winchester, Massachusetts and raised in Londonderry, New Hampshire. He rarely talks about his childhood except about his father Mike Wilson, an Air Force veteran who Brian says was a demanding perfectionist.

“I think that’s how you need to be raised,” said Wilson during a 2011 interview. “It’s not your friend, it’s your dad and he’s going to be strict. And one day you’re going to understand why, and sometimes it’s a little too late. They might pass away and you might not get that chance to say thanks or understand why he did those things. But when you become a man, you understand why.”

This is some pretty heavy stuff coming from a guy who is considered a fun-loving jokester, but there is definitely a reason for it. When Brian was 12 years old his father was diagnosed with cancer and died a short five years later while Wilson was attending Londonderry High School. Wilson says that he was forced to become a man when his father was first diagnosed with the disease.

“It happened at probably the worst time anybody could lose your dad,” said Art Psaledas, an assistant principal at Londonderry High School. “Watching his dad deteriorate over the years was probably the singular thing that formed his personality.”

Although an honor roll student, Wilson sometimes clashed with authority figures who didn’t appreciate his occasional “lack of a filter,” as one of his former teachers put it; however, several Londonderry faculty members speculated that some teachers were simply unaware of Wilson’s family situation at the time.

Londonderry High School baseball coach Bob Napolitano was impressed with Wilson’s extreme focus on the game. Napolitano specifically recalled the first home game of Wilson’s senior year, which happened shortly after his father’s death. More than 30 scouts showed up to watch Brian pitch that day, all armed with radar guns. According to Napolitano, Wilson ate and drank in the dugout, warmed up, and pitched a two-hitter without even realizing that the scouts were there. After the game, a scout from the Cleveland Indians offered Wilson a contract right out of high school, but Wilson opted to go to Louisiana State University instead.

While at LSU, Wilson became the Tigers number 2 starter, but during his third season, he suffered an elbow injured that required Tommy John surgery. While recovering and in spite of his injury, Wilson was drafted by the Giants in the 24th round of the 2003 First Year Player Draft and made his major league debut on April 23, 2006. Wilson is a three-time All-Star and has 171 career saves through seven major league seasons. The Giants non-tendered Wilson last month rather than paying him a projected $8.5 million salary in 2013 through arbitration.

Like most Dodger fans, I have had more than enough of Wilson’s Shinola shoe polished “Fear the Beard” BS, which makes him look more like a homeless street bum than a professional baseball player (no offense intended to any homeless street bums); but you have to admit that Wilson is an absolute hoot and is undoubtedly a great teammate and a fun (and funny) guy to have in the clubhouse. He also just so happens to live in the Los Angeles area.

If Brian Wilson has any aspirations of pitching in L.A., the beard has got to go. (Photo courtesy of tumblr.com)

If Brian Wilson has any aspirations of pitching in L.A., the beard has got to go. (Photo courtesy of tumblr.com)

Although Wilson’s zaniness has been well documented (especially on the late night television scene), the actual thought of him becoming a Dodger was probably the farthest thing from the minds of most Dodger fans – until Ronald Belisario pulled yet another “Ronald being Ronald” stunt in Venezuela when he was kicked off of his winter league team. And though this latest Belisario incident has been quickly dismissed as a “simple miscommunication,” why is it that things like this seem to happen only to Ronald Belisario? In other words, you need to read between the lines here. And if you think that this latest incident isn’t at the forefront of Ned Colletti’s mind, you are only kidding yourself – especially with Belisario’s pending arbitration only a few weeks away.

Realistically, there aren’t very many late-innings relievers available on the free agent market right now and with Wilson’s history of being a dominate power pitcher, I honestly believe that Wilson would be a great acquisition for the Dodgers. I also believe that he would probably come relatively inexpensive (in money and years) because he is coming off of his second Tommy John surgery (with ‘relatively’ being a relative word for this Dodgers ownership group).

And here’s the real kicker – imagine how acquiring the soon-to-be 31-year-old Wilson would absolutely infuriate Giants fans, and you’ve got to love that!

I imagine that it would probably take Dodger fans a while to get used to seeing Brian Wilson in a Dodgers uniform, but if he were to pitch for the Dodgers as well as he used to pitch against them, it probably wouldn’t take long for him to become a fan-favorite. I know that it wouldn’t take me very long, that’s for sure.

Will it happen? Who knows. Is it worth the risk? I honestly believe that it would be. But I have to add that the Dodgers better not wait too long to make a decision on this because, in my opinion, Brian Wilson won’t be on the market much longer.

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15 Responses to “Is Brian Wilson a Good Fit for the Dodgers?”

  1. ebbetsfld says:

    I agree with you 100%, Ron. He is definitely worth taking a chance on regardless of Belisario and his problems, not only for his pitching, but also for his presence. Great post!

  2. OldBrooklynFan says:

    I would be surprised if the Dodgers would sign Brian Wilson, since they seem to be strong with League, Jansen and or Belisario in the closer roll.

  3. echavez2 says:

    I am one of those fans that it’s going to take a while before I warm up to the guy. It might be even sooner if he shaves! If he is cheap I say take a chance on the guy, but make him shave!

  4. lindav says:

    Definately not trying to “sound like a girl” but if he’s still got it, bring him on WITH THE CONDITION HE SHAVE. That beard is…uh…for lack of a better word…gross. Almost makes me sick wondering what is crawling around in there. Worse than Manny’s dreds.

  5. CRANBROOK MIKE says:

    ^^^ yeah what he said^^^ :)

  6. ebbetsfld says:

    If he can get ‘em out, I don’t care how long the beard is OR what may be living in it!

  7. Bluenose Dodger says:

    My answer to another reliever who can be a closer – ST. No, not Spring Training – Shawn Tolleson.

    Some express concern that Luis Cruz is questioned as a starting third baseman, others are concerned that AJ Ellis does not seem to get a vote of confidence. Now we are talking about Brian Wilson coming off his second TJ surgery and maybe not at full steam by mid season when we have Shawn Tolleson. Shawn will be at full steam long before then.

    How can Shawn match Brian Wilson? Quite well, I submit. First he is healthy. Secondly he is beginning a second season. Shawn struggled at the beginning of 2012 but finished strongly. He made it the majors quite quickly, being a 30th round pick in 2010. Wilson was a 24th round pick. Shawn (4.30 ERA – 1.32 WHIP) had a better first season as a 24 year old than Wilson (5.40 ERA – 1.76 WHIP)had in his first year, also at 24. The next season Wilson pitched only 23 innings with six saves.

    As a 26 year old Wilson saved 41 games with an ERA of 4.62 and a WHIP of 1.44. In 2011 (29) he had another good season, yet his WHIP was still high at 1.47, striking out 53 and walking 31. Shawn’s rookie WHIP (1.372) matches Wilson’s career WHIP (1.338}.

    So how could Shawn Tolleson step into a closer’s role? He has no experience as a closer at the MLB level. Shawn had 30 minor league
    saves in a a full season and part of another. Kenley Jansen had no minor league saves. Javy Guerra had 3. Brian Wilson had 21.

    Brian Wilson would be a good pick up, insurance, but a better bet is Shawn Tolleson, in my opinion.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Nowhere in my post did I ever suggest that Brian Wilson should be the Dodgers closer, Harold. In fact, in several instances I made specific reference to him as a late-innings guy, much as Ronald Belisario is/was.

      My thought on acquiring Wilson (and probably that of Ned and Stan as well) is that of a replacement for Belisario (who might not even make it to spring training again), not as a closer.

      Just as you were down on Brandon League when he was acquired by the Dodgers (for two favorite minor leaguers of both of us), so too it seems that you are down on Brian Wilson which, of course, is your prerogative.

      My point here is that the Dodgers cannot wait around to see if Belisario is going to make it to camp or not and they need to find a (relatively) comparable replacement for him – and there is no one who fits that bill better than Brian Wilson from among the available relievers out there right now. I certainly understand that Wilson most likely would not be ready until mid season, but if the Dodgers are in the midst of a pennant race (as I anticipate they will be), it sure would be nice to have a fresh (albeit bionic) arm in the bullpen heading into the stretch run.

      There is no doubt in my mind that Shawn Tolleson is up to stay with the Big club and I wouldn’t be at all surprised that he may even one day become the Dodgers closer. But the trend for closers today is fireball throwers that hover around the century mark, something that Tolleson has never done. This certainly does not mean that he cannot be a closer, but I see him more as a middle-innings/multiple-innings guy – and a very good one at that; in fact, probably the best on the team.

      • Bluenose Dodger says:

        You know how the song goes: “Trying to love two women is like a ball and chain.” Well trying to respond to two blog articles on the same topic with one response is also dangerous.

        I expect I read too much into your opening paragraph with Wilson’s closing success and also late inning guys which includes the ninth inning. My response was probably more appropriate on OKP as Evan is a bit concerned about the Dodgers closer situation.Unlike you guys I see Tolleson as a definite closer possibility. To me the success to closing is just not 100 mph (Broxton) but location and change of speed,(slider, change up). And yes, Tolleson has to grow some having been drafted in 2010. I also don’t see Tolleson as a middle reliever with multiple innings based on his history so far. Maybe he will be.I see guys like Jeff Weaver,Jamey Wright, Aaron Miller, Chris Withrow in that role. Maybe Ted Lilly. Wonder where Jamey will catch on this year?

        I am not down on Brian Wilson, certainly not in a role that would not impact Shawn Tolleson. Wilson a good pick up – insurance. I am also not down on Brandon League – just don’t have the confidence in him that you do, also based on his history. Perhaps he will continue his hot finish of last season. I certainly hope so. Broxton was better last year than League and you know how Mike feels about him. Folks have to see Broxton being consistent. I just want to see Brandon establish consistency.

        I kind of think a left handed reliever will be acquired. I do think long relief is a bit of an issue. I also expect Ronald(nine lives) Belisario will show up again. To me Matt Guerrier is a weak link in the pen possibly keeping Paco Rodriguez in the minors.

  8. KSparkuhl says:

    Dick, just sayin’ here; in my opinion, I care how long the beard is AND what color it is. This is the Dodgers we’re talking about and having a clean-cut, well-groomed beard is the only acceptable beard that should be allowed on the team. In fact, I’d like to see them go back to the old days when being clean-shaven was pre-requisite to being given the honor of wearing the Dodger uniform.

    Having Brian Wilson would round out the bullpen. It would also be a huge shot-in-the-arm for the clubhouse and morale of the team in the long run; intangibles that help a team move on to post-season greatness.

  9. MFGRREP says:

    If we can get him for cheap and he works out well in Spring Training then I’m good with it. But I expect him to go for more then a Minor League signing with an invite to major league camp. My guess is he opt’s to go back to SF

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