There’s nothing “tender” in the dispensing of major league contracts to baseball players. San Francisco last week declined to offer a contract to Brian Wilson, the fierce and funky closer who in 2010 helped the Giants win their first World Series since the franchise bolted New York for the West Coast.
Wilson has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He was grounded for the season after two early appearances in 2012, a year in which the Giants would again be champions. Although he wasn’t on the mound after April, he remained a spirited force in the dugout and clubhouse the entire season. His full bearded, goofy antics — playing organ on a teammate’s cap – were an integral part of the Giants’ personality for several seasons.
In the end, that meant bupkis.
Wilson reportedly is angry and ready to sign with another team, and who can blame him?
But is Wilson the most aggrieved athlete in the Bay Area? Consider Alex Smith, the 49ers quarterback who’s been benched after sustaining a concussion and having to watch Colin Kaepernick step in and lead the team to consecutive victories.
Wilson’s arm injury was serious and a second go-round, keeping him out of play essentially for a full season while Sergio Romo eventually took over as closer, was tested for weeks during the season and playoffs and was nearly flawless as the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
Not to diminish the impact of his injury, but Smith suffered a concussion and wasn’t able to play for just two games.
Kaepernick, in his second season, stepped in. He took the snaps in a game when the Rams and 49ers tied, then performed phenomenally as the 49ers stomped the Bears on Monday Night Football. He did well again last weekend against the Saints.
It’s Coach Jim Harbaugh’s call to make, but I think he owes Smith better treatment.
Under Harbaugh’s direction, Smith emerged as an excellent quarterback in the 2011 season, taking the team to the NFC championship game. The game was lost in overtime when an inexperienced 49ers player botched a punt return in overtime; the Giants got the ball and kicked the winning field goal.
The 49ers have treated Smith shabbily over the years, and demoting him is just another kick in the pants. I actually think he’s getting a rawer deal than Wilson is. Wilson’s situation evolved; Smith’s changed suddenly.
Either way, I wish both players nothing but success in 2013, when they’ll both be wearing new uniforms.