The San Francisco Giants may have said goodbye to closer Brian Wilson Friday night after non-tendering the 30-year-old making him a free agent after spending the last seven years with the club. AT&T Park might have heard the last of "Jump Around" by House of Pain, the entrance music played when Wilson ran to the mound looking to save a win for the Giants.
The Giants drafted Wilson in the 24th round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Louisiana State. Wilson compiled a 18-10 record in 51 contests at LSU starting 22 games. He produced a 3.95 ERA allowing 212 hits, 81 earned runs, striking out 128 and saved five games in 184.1 innings. On March 28, 2003, Wilson sustained an elbow injury and underwent his first Tommy John surgery the next month.
The Massachusetts native recovered from the injury making his Major League Debut on April 23, 2006 in Colorado against the Rockies. Wilson pitched two innings striking out three without yielding an earned run. Wilson showed his competitive juices in the outing pitching through pain after tearing his oblique muscle during the first inning letting everyone know he is one tough son of a gun. He didn't tell anyone about the tear refusing to let the injury derail him.
After a few years in the minors, Wilson rose to prominence in 2008 with the Giants saving 41 games as the full-time closer earning his first All-Star selection. He continued to make great strides in 2009 recording 38 saves helping the Giants finish with a winning record for the first time since 2004. To this point, 2010 was Wilson's best season as a pro transforming himself into a known commodity with his performance and personality. He finished the season with a 3-3 record displaying a 1.81 ERA in 70 games surrendering 62 hits, 15 earned runs, three homers and 93 strikeouts holding the opposition to a .220 batting average in 74.2 innings. Wilson led all of baseball with 48 saves tying the Giants franchise record with former great Rod Beck back in 1993. He made his second trip to the All-Star game that summer.
The Giants needed every one of those saves in 2010 winning the National League West on the final day of the season as Wilson ended the regular season with a strikeout. During the Giants run to the postseason, Wilson began growing a beard that caught on with the fans at AT&T Park. "Fear the Beard" was the nickname bestowed upon giving that Giants team an edge and different look to a team that was already unique.
Wilson was untouchable in the postseason going 1-0 showcasing a 0.00 ERA allowing five hits, 16 strikeouts, six saves and holding the opposition to a .135 batting average in 11.2 innings. Wilson threw the final pitch in each three rounds of the postseason proving he was one of the best closers in all of baseball helping the Giants garner their first World Series championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
During the 2011 season, Wilson was brilliant owning a 6-4 record with a 3.11 ERA saving 36 games yielding 50 hits, 19 earned runs and 54 strikeouts in 55 innings with opponents batting .240. He made his third All-Star appearance, but didn't look like the dominant pitcher from previous years experiencing some shoulder pain during the second half of the season. The Giants shut Wilson down as a precaution in September looking to preserve him for 2012.
Wilson felt pain and discomfort in his elbow beginning the 2012 season on April 13 after throwing 32 pitches the day before in Colorado. An MRI revealed Wilson needed a second Tommy John surgery and would be lost for the season. He appeared in just two games with the Giants last season and his future with the team is in jeopardy.
If Wilson's time with the Giants is over, he finished his tenure with a 20-20 record owning a 3.21 ERA in 315 games. He gave up 286 hits, 114 earned runs and struck out 340 in 320 innings as the opposition batted .238. His 171 saves rank him third in franchise history behind Beck (199) and Robb Nen (206). From 2008 to 2011, Wilson saved the most games in baseball during that spam collecting 103 making himself into an elite closer.
Whether Wilson wears a Giants uniform again or not, his legacy with this franchise is cemented forever proving to be one hell of a closer with his strong work ethic, determined mindset and captivating personality. Giants fans loved Wilson and he loved them right back developing a special relationship over the years ending with a magical ride in 2010. Fear the Beard will never be forgotten, but rather appreciated for a lifetime.
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