Thursday, December 08, 2011

See ya, CJ

It's official. Texas Rangers ace C.J. Wilson is going home to Southern California, signing with AL West Division rival Anaheim -- oops, I mean the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- this morning. The Rangers home-grown ace inked a five year, $77.5 million deal to stay in the AL West after leading Texas to consecutive World Series.

Rangers fans need to realize a few different things on this note:

First and foremost, this is a significant loss. Don't talk about how "he choked in the postseason" or mention the hit batter with the bases loaded against the Cardinals. It's simply not relevant. The Rangers wouldn't have been in the World Series, let alone the post season without CJ Wilson's contributions. In 2011, he went 16-7 in 34 starts with a 2.94 ERA in the American League. He made 34 starts. Seriously, 34. Wilson worked 223.1 innings. Forget the fact that his numbers were outstanding, but who is going to eat up those innings for Texas in 2012? Martin Perez will likely debut out of the bullpen. Neftali Feliz needs to be stretched out from his role as a closer. Scott Feldman needs to stay healthy, and the Amish Assassin and 2010 Opening Day starter could move back into the rotation. But for now, nothing is certain except that Wilson won't be back.

Secondly, all the ill-will toward C.J. Wilson seems a little misguided. Who did he sign with here? He didn't take the Miami Marlins money -- money that I'm still not sure isn't being funneled through some Sheik overseeing an oil field in the MIddle East. He went home. He's a SoCal guy, and he'll now get to ply his craft at home. He's from Newport Beach, California, which is 20 minutes from the Big A. He went to Loyola Marymount University before the Rangers drafted and developed him.

The dream of every little leaguer is to grow up and play in the big leagues. And 99 times out of 100, that little leaguer dreams of playing at home for the nearest big league team. Well, that's exactly what C.J. Wilson is doing.

Hey, I want to be a baseball broadcaster. Right now, I call games for the Kannapolis Intimidators in North Carolina. If the opportunity presented itself to call games in my home state of Texas, I'd be hard pressed to ignore that (granted, I do get my Metroplex fix broadcasting high school football each fall).

C.J. Wilson comes off as incredibly cocky, arrogant, and a braggart. But there are plenty of worse personalities in clubhouses across MLB. Fans shouldn't be booing him for that. The same way that any Rangers fan would be wrong to boo Cliff Lee, they would be equally wrong to treat C.J. with anything but respect and an appreciation for taking our Rangers to the promised land.

Cliff Lee was a hired gun who spent a half-season in Texas, a magical half-season that saw the Rangers win their first ever playoff series as Lee beat the Tampa Bay Rays on the road in Games 1 and 5. Well after he left, the pressure well to fellow lefty C.J. Wilson to get the Rangers back. Last time I checked, the Rangers went back to the Fall Classic, and Wilson was a big part of that. This is not a back of the rotation starter (although he might be in Anaheim behind all the arms they've stockpiled), but for the Rangers, he was the ace this past season. There is absolutely no denying that.

I still hate the Angels. I still don't want them to win. I hope C.J. and the Halos are not as successful as the Rangers next year, because that's where my loyalties as a fan lie. But I certainly have no ill-will toward a player who wants to spend his career playing in front of friends and family in Orange County.

Anyone Rangers fan who criticizes C.J. for wanting to play at home isn't thinking rationally. They're thinking like a spurned fan, which this morning we are. C.J. left us. The options were Texas, Miami and Anaheim: a current power in the AL, the new kid with all the cash, and going home. Texas may be the current top dog of the American League, but it's not the Angels are too far removed from success. They owned this division for the better part of the 2000s. And with Wilson (and let's not forget Albert Pujols), they must be considered a favorite to get back on top of the AL West in 2012. To claim Wilson is leaving a winner for Anaheim is asinine. The Angels are and will continue to be a successful franchise. Wilson only helps solidify their positioning.

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