Wilson much more than eccentric closer
'Cool cat' is big fan of chess, crossword puzzles, Halloween
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com | 10/26/10 9:50 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- Brian Wilson wants to be a vampire for Halloween. He has met the lumberjack mascot of Brawny paper towels. He doesn't believe his beard is capable of hitting a home run. And he loves Chunky bars because of the raisins.
Those are among the revelations of 15 minutes spent with Wilson, the hair-raising, facial hair-growing, fastball-pumping All-Star closer of the Giants. Spend an hour with him and you're bound to learn more. Spend a season with him and you're bound to learn too much.
"Brian Wilson is definitely a person that what you see is what you get," fellow Giants reliever Sergio Romo said.
So Wilson is a Mohawk haircut, a jet-black beard -- Is it natural? Could it possibly be natural? -- and a library of tattoos. Sure.
"The thing about Brian Wilson is he's intense," said another of his reliever buddies, Javier Lopez. "Everything you see is genuine, but you know what? He has that ability to be funny and be relaxed and be calm. Closers, they're in high-pressure situations and tough spots all the time. His ability to stay pretty light-hearted, but get focused is probably something a lot of people don't notice."
How could they notice it? How could they notice anything but his bluster? The average fan sees little more than Wilson's eccentricities on and off the mound, the attributes that resulted in 48 saves, five blown saves, a 1.81 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings this season. Over the first two rounds of the postseason, he has been even better, saving five of San Francisco's seven victories, winning another of them and not allowing a single earned run.
In large part because of him, the Giants are now set to kick off Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday (4:30 p.m. PT, FOX) against the Rangers.
Mostly, that is who Brian Wilson is.
"He's a fiery guy and you see it out there," Lopez said. "He's a two-pitch pitcher and he's going to come at you. He's not going to go out there and try to fool around."
No, Wilson saves that for the other 23 hours and 53 minutes of every day of his life.
San Francisco already knows about Wilson. But Tuesday's workout day at AT&T Park, a Super Bowl-style congregation of players and media, provided yet another forum for him to show the country and the world just exactly who he is.
Among the scores of media bouncing from player to player was a correspondent from "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," asking the types of questions that prompted most players to look up startled and say, "Wait, what?"
Then there was Wilson, who bantered with Leno's correspondent for the better part of five minutes, at one point hijacking the interview and asking the questions himself. That's when the conversation turned to lumberjacks.
"You just want to pay attention to what he's doing," Romo said. "Because you don't want to be that guy going, 'Wait -- what did he do?'"
At another turn in the interview, Leno's correspondent told Wilson that he was wearing a No. 22 Giants jersey because he was 22 years old.
"That's awesome," a skeptical Wilson said without missing a beat. "What year did you graduate?"
Silence. Seems Wilson is clever, too -- a chess whiz, a crossword puzzle aficionado, a man capable of discussing more than merely facial hair and Charleston Chews.
"He's very direct in the way he speaks to you," Romo said. "He's a guy that's not going to hold anything back. He may harass you every now and then with a good line or two, but actually he's one of the most intelligent dudes on our ballclub. Book smarts, street smarts, whatever you call it, there's a lot happening in that head of his."
It was that head of his that inspired San Francisco's bullpen into a show of beard solidarity, prompting Romo, Lopez and others to grow out their facial hair throughout the postseason. Amongst that bunch, only Wilson dyes his beard black -- but then again, only Wilson wears garishly bright orange cleats. Only Wilson publicly called the National League pennant "delicious."
Perhaps those eccentricities are catching on. In a town in which untold numbers of teenage boys sport "The Lincecum" haircut, plenty of others have begun tacking on fake black beards and mustaches for game nights. Wilson's facial hair has inspired everything from T-shirts to Jack-O-Lanterns, which, as Romo put it, "is so gnarly."
Mostly, it's gnarly because Wilson is also good. Real good. He's never before pitched in a World Series, and yet the Giants have nothing but complete confidence in their gnarly closer.
Romo swears that Wilson can also be mellow, though most people never see that side of him. They see the guy who owns a dog named Dubz, whose first choice of Halloween costume is a vampire, and whose second choice of Halloween costume is himself.
"That's just Brian Wilson," Romo said. "I don't even know how to describe it. He's just a cool cat."
Brian Wilson's beard is 100% unnatural. There's lots of footage/photos of him with scruff, it's so obvious. :P
Posey handling Series spotlight with poise
Giants rookie catcher displaying maturity beyond his 23 years
By Cash Kruth / MLB.com | 10/26/10 10:22 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- Every at-bat, the legend of Buster Posey continues to grow.
There was his Major League debut on May 29, where he went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. His scorching July, in which he had a 21-game hitting streak and earned National League Player of the Month honors. And, really, his entire first season, in which he hit .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBIs, numbers which allowed him to become one of the favorites -- along with Atlanta's Jason Heyward and St. Louis' Jaime Garcia -- to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Now, Posey is in a position that no other rookie catcher has been in: catching and batting cleanup for a World Series team. Not Dodgers great Roy Campanella. Nor Yankees legend Yogi Berra or even the Reds' Johnny Bench.
Bench -- whom Giants manager Bruce Bochy compared Posey to earlier this season -- played in his first Fall Classic in 1970, his third full season. Berra's Yankees were in the World Series during his second full season in '48, as were Campanella's Dodgers in '49.
"It's one of those experiences that I'm sure at some point in my life ... [if I was] in the backyard with friends and family thinking, 'This is the World Series,' and putting myself in that moment," Posey said Tuesday before the Giants' workout at AT&T Park. "I feel very fortunate to be here."
So, too, do the Giants. After all, it's not often a team makes the World Series with a rookie backstop. The last to do so was the 2004 Cardinals with Yadier Molina.
But unlike Molina, Posey has been a key cog in San Francisco's offense, spending much of the past two-plus months hitting cleanup. Aside from his hitting duties, Posey also replaced a well-liked veteran, Bengie Molina, and took over one of baseball's best rotations. Despite Posey's potential and his Minor League numbers, handing over the reins of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Co., to a rookie was a huge risk that could have backfired.
"If you were to ask people in the baseball world, if you're going to call up a catcher halfway through the year and he's not only going to take control of the staff, but he's going to hit cleanup, he's going to hit .300 and do all the things he's done, and get us to the World Series, it's tough to do," Giants outfielder Pat Burrell said. "I think he's handled everything better than anybody could imagine."
The reason for Posey's seamless transition into the big leagues, teammates say, is a maturity beyond his 23 years. As any Giants fan knows, Posey very rarely shows emotion. As second baseman Freddy Sanchez said, "Whether he was 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, just the way he went about his business, you didn't know."
As the stakes got higher later in the season, glimpses of Posey's competitiveness began to show through. The more baserunners Posey throws out -- 37 percent this season -- the more often TV cameras catch him doing a celebratory fist pump. By the same token, for every hit Posey knocks out -- 11-for-39 (.282) in the playoffs -- those same cameras catch Posey's emotionless face on base.
And fans wonder, "This kid is only 23?"
"Once you get to know him and see the kind of person he is, you realize he knows what he's doing, and if anybody can do it, it'd be him," Sanchez said of Posey's contributions as a rookie. "He's just such a great kid on and off the field.
"For a young kid, it's easy to try to come up here and do too much, but he didn't. ... He's going to be a superstar for years to come."
Posey has already had that label for quite some time. Growing up in the small town of Leesburg, Ga., Posey was popular not only because of his athletic prowess, but also due to his work ethic. In 2009, he received a ceremonial key to the city.
The fondness of those qualities also transferred to Florida State, where Posey starred for three years and was called the most popular player in program history by head coach Mike Martin. Seminoles fans also had a "Hail to the Buster" song they sang when he came up to bat:
"Hail to the Buster, the Buster, the Buster!
Hail to the Buster, the Buster Po-sey!
With singles and doubles and triples and homers!
Hail to the Buster, the Buster Po-sey!"
Although the Bay Area has yet to create a song for Posey, he has no doubt become a fan favorite in his first full season. Perhaps in Wednesday's Game 1, Posey's legend will continue to grow on a national scale.
"I think we're in a pretty cool position to watch him progress as we go," Burrell said. "Getting the chance to catch the World Series in your rookie year will open a lot of doors for him down the road."
See, this is why Buster Posey slash creeps me out. The guy is pretty much 45!
Lincecum off his game, but finds way to win
SAN FRANCISCO -- Mistakes loom larger in October, larger still against Cliff Lee, larger still beneath the weight of a city's expectations. So Tim Lincecum hated himself for what happened in the first inning of Wednesday's World Series Game 1. His mistake seemed so critical at the time.
With runners on the corners and one out in the inning, Lincecum induced the ground ball that he needed, a tapper off the bat of the Rangers' Nelson Cruz. Michael Young, who was on third base at the time, commenced an ill-advised dash toward home. And Lincecum cornered him.
Then the funny stuff happened. Instead of trapping Young in a rundown, Lincecum -- believing there were two men at the bag -- absentmindedly chased him back to third base. It was a mental lapse, a patch of fog, "a little bit of a brain fart," as Lincecum put it.
"I don't know what happened," Young said.
Here's what happened: instead of having two men on base, the Rangers had three. Instead of having two outs, the Giants had one.
It could have made for a long inning, a damaging loss and a demoralizing series hole. But then Lincecum climbed back onto the mound, induced an inning-ending double play and continued to limit the damage into the sixth.
"You put it behind you," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "And Timmy did."
An hour or so later, after an outing that saw him give up four runs in 5 2/3 innings, Lincecum left to a standing ovation.
"He got himself out of some jams," Giants outfielder Cody Ross said. "He did amazing just to get through [5 2/3 innings]. That shows what kind of character he has, just battling. He knew he didn't have his good stuff, either."
"That's what your ace does," closer Brian Wilson said. "On nights that he doesn't have his best stuff, he finds a way to win."
It wasn't simply that Lincecum lacked his best fastball. It was the play at third base, also. It was the two hot comebackers that struck his body, prompting concern from the San Francisco bench. It was the fact that Lincecum was facing one of the best offenses in baseball, opposite unquestionably the hottest pitcher on the planet.
But Lincecum trusted in his offense, as Wilson put it. He gutted out 5 2/3 innings and he won.
"When you get to the playoffs, you start to realize that it's not so much about your stats," Lincecum said. "It's just who comes out on top at the end of the day."
Lincecum was also lucky, of course. Had the Giants been unable to rally back from a 2-0 hole against Lee, his spotty outing would have looked far worse in context. But San Francisco did fight back, and Lincecum became the beneficiary of that offense because he kept the Giants within striking distance.
Some pitchers, without their best stuff, would not have been capable of doing that. Some pitchers would have unraveled.
"He's got guts," Ross said. "He's not going to back down. He's going to come right at them."
"When you have a guy like that on the ropes, you have to try to put him away," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "But you don't always put those kinds of guys away."
So it went for Lincecum in Game 1. The play at first base could have sunk him. It didn't. The comebackers could have rattled him. They didn't. The Rangers could have beaten him.
They have Lincecum to thank.
"It says a lot about his character to be able to maintain composure after getting hit twice and giving up two runs in the first two innings," Wilson said. "That's what you want out of your ace, and that's what he gave us. You're not going to have a dominant performance every time out -- it just can't happen. But for you to trust in your hitters and say I'm not going to let this get to me, that says a lot about our guy. That's our ace."
I kind of like him more when he struggles. Obviously I don't want him to go through every game like that, I like his "usual" dominant 8 inning 1 run 10 strikeout performances, but it's this kind of game where he struggles and then overcomes that makes me love him.