Ed. Note: Introducing Getting Blanked’s newest feature, the Annotated Box Score. Every Monday morning, Sam Miller of the Orange County Register will present an annotated box score from Sunday night’s game. For his first installment, we take a look at the final game of the 2010 season.
I think most of us have probably known Brian Wilson is a little nuts since Jesse Spector got him to claim the ability to levitate, back in July 2008. And nearly all of us knew it when he busted out the Zack Morris cell phone on Rome’s show in September 2010. And even our moms have known it since the Machine debuted. But was this character created for Spector in 2008, or has he always been a little crazy, and we just didn’t know it? To the archives!
Childhood: “I’ve worn the mullet since I was 7 years old.” Ah, but no beard. Still not fully committed to the character.
Teenager: “Wilson also played basketball and had a routine before every game. He used to paint his legs the color of the opponent’s uniforms to psych them out.”
College: In this era, Wilson appeared increasingly normal, at least in media reports. His quotes are nearly always rote baseball responses. Like, asked about making his first Friday-night start for LSU, he said: “If you win the first game Friday, you’ve got a lot of momentum. It means you beat the other team’s ace and you’ve got a chance for a sweep.” If you asked Wilson that question today, I think you’d get something like:
Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday. Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’). We-we-we so excited We so excited We gonna have a ball today. Tomorrow is Saturday. And Sunday comes after…wards.”
The closest thing we get to Wilson being Wilson was when he was drafted by the Giants in the 24th round and surprised everybody by signing with them instead of returning to LSU. He said, simply, “I never wanted to go to college.”
Single-A Augusta: Wilson’s manager: “He’s around the strike zone, he keeps the ball down, he’s not rattled by a whole lot, he doesn’t say a whole lot, he just goes out and does his job.”
Triple-A Fresno: Asked his favorite baseball movie, Wilson comes up with The Scout. THE SCOUT. With an 18 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Featuring a cameo by Tim McCarver.
“The guy has a sweet mullet and throws extremely hard,” Grizzlies pitcher Brian Wilson says. “That’s a good combo.”
Second year in majors: Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News writes the first story hinting that Wilson might be a little weird, in February 2007.
“Was he joking? It’s often tough to tell. Wilson says everything with a deadpan and a serious tone. Even his bullpen mates have trouble reading him.
“‘We play this word game with movie titles, and he’d come up with these movies nobody’d heard of,’ right-hander Vinnie Chulk said. ‘He says they’re real, but you can’t tell. It could be from his own little wonderland.’”
I remember Vinnie Chulk being a little out there, so this is a telling endorsement.
The evidence suggests that Wilson’s act is not merely a vehicle for getting famous, but rather is quite intrinsic to his true personality. If anything, the relatively colorless Wilson that he presented to the public in college and the low minors was the act.
When I was 10, I made the last out of a playoff game, ending my team’s season. I was crushed, until my dad reminded me that even Brett Butler — my hero — had made the last out of a World Series game. It just happens. Even Brett Butler! So Nelson Cruz shouldn’t feel bad. He’s far from the best hitter to make the final out of the World Series. The five best:
5. Tony Gwynn
4. Carl Yastrzemski
3. Mike Piazza
2. Willie McCovey
1. Honus Wagner
Best hitter to make the final out of the World Series in the final at bat of his career:
1. Jackie Robinson
The best to make the last out of a World Series he was accused of throwing:
1. Shoeless Joe Jackson
The best to make the last out of a World Series he wasn’t accused of throwing, but c’mon let’s not rule anything out:
1. Pete Rose
The best (only) to make the last out of a World Series twice:
1. Boss Schmidt. Back-to-back years, 1907 and 1908.
And the only person who made the last out of a World Series who makes me wish for a time machine so I could go back and watch him do it:
1. Tim McCarver
Edgar Renteria also made the final out of a World Series, grounding out to Keith Foulke to end the 2004 series. Of course, much more memorably, he ended the 1997 series with a walk-off base hit off Charles Nagy. That makes him one of only two men in history — along with Hall of Famer Goose Goslin — to both win a World Series with a walk-off hit and end a World Series by making the final out. It shows just how uneven even the clutchiest careers can be. Renteria is a two-time World Series hero, and was the deserving MVP of this series. He’s also a career .252/.327/.339 hitter in 66 postseason games.
Baseball games on the radio are great for hearing ridiculous products advertising. Like, plumbers and pipefitters unions are constantly advertising on baseball radio broadcasts, and … nowhere else, ever. But that’s radio, where an ad costs almost nothing. (Somebody who would know once told me that you can sponsor one team’s post-game show for the entire season for $1,000.) These World Series ads they ran are actually expensive, and if Pistachios has enough money to advertise on the World Series it makes me really wonder whether Pistachios is being responsible with its finances. Anyway, here’s part of the press release behind the ads:
“The success of our humor-roasted ‘Get Crackin” campaign shows that we clearly resonate with consumers and the proof is in the pistachio,” said Dominic Engels, vice president, global marketing, Paramount Farms. “Last season, Wonderful Pistachios experienced a record-breaking year with both a 233 percent increase in brand sales year-over-year and a statement-making entrance into the $8 billion ‘salty snack’ category dominated by chips. We are confident that this year’s campaign will exceed expectations in consumer impressions and boost overall category sales.”
“Now in its second year, our campaign casts a wide net of talent – much like many of the reality shows seen on network television – with someone to appeal to everyone,” continued Engels. “This year, we’re including a younger audience in our communications plan, with Twitter-centric talent targeting the 20-25 year-old demographic, thus extending our potential for pistachio consumption growth.”
A statement-making entrance into the salty snack category.
Finally, let’s finish up with some quick Bleacher Report mockery, shall we? From May 15, 2010:
“Despite picking up 86 saves since 2008, Wilson will never be THE pitcher a fan base wants on the mound with the game on the line.”
I was going to demand more evidence, but the all-caps “THE” is very convincing. No need to go on.
“Since Wilson’s slider (his only secondary pitch) is tremendously inconsistent, most save opportunities see the Giants closer throw over 90 percent fastballs.”
If you insist. Brian Wilson threw 37 percent sliders in 2010, 31 percent in 2009, and 28 percent in 2008.
“While Wilson’s fastball does run anywhere from 96-99, his lack of faith in another pitch kills him.”
Truly, it kills him. The day this was published, he had a 1.88 ERA.
“If Wilson and the Giants don’t realize that, then San Francisco is just setting up their fans for a major disappointment.”
“Because at this rate, even if the Giants make the postseason, Wilson is bound to blow that crucial save which either puts them in a major hole or ends their season completely.”
Strike three on Nelson Cruz came on a slider. To be fair to this BR author, it did end the Giants’ season. Completely.