When you hear the name Brian Wilson, what are the first thoughts that come to mind?
I bet you did not think of his selection to the National League All-Star team two times or his league-leading 48 saves in 2010. Did you even know that his ERA has improved from 4.62 in 2008 to 2.74 in 2009 and a dominant 1.81 in 2010?
Wilson was flat-out dominant in 2010, yet most fans only know him for his eccentric personality, and Wilson undoubtedly is fine with this. Wilson accepts and embraces his role as baseball's most interesting personality, and he looks to entertain both on and off the field.
Wilson has mastered balancing the persona he represents in his daily life with the obsessed work ethic and dedication that have made him one of the elite closers in baseball today. Behind the famous beard and under the mohawk is an extremely dedicated athlete.
Wilson adheres to a workout regimen of stretching, lifting, sit-ups and running. He strives to workout with his heart rate at 140, the same heart rate he reaches while he is on the mound. His workouts are intense, but he never misses a workout or cuts one short.
Wilson accredits his late father with instilling him with his dedication. In a recent interview, Wilson says his father gave him this advice: "If you play a sport, go 100 percent; if you take a test, go 100 percent; if you're going to be mean, be mean 100 percent. I've always felt like if I haven't worked my hardest, I haven't accomplished anything."
Wilson's dedication is directly responsible for his success on the mound. When he enters the game in the ninth, he does not go out to simply set down the opponent and win the game. He enters the game looking to dominate and "murder souls."
"I'm not worried about what you do, I worry about what I do. Strike out the side? Well, I've been working my whole life at that. I'm happy because it's an accomplishment, but I'm there to dominate."
San Francisco Giants fans have been entertained and appreciated the contributions of Wilson since his return to "The Show" in August 2007 (Wilson debuted in 2006, but was sent back to AAA for the beginning of the 2007 season). Wilson's increasingly eccentric personality burst him into national consciousness during the 2010 season.
He eased us into his world gradually at first. Wilson was issued a pair of bright orange Nike cleats which he wore while pitching in the All-Star game. He continued to wear the cleats in regular season games and was fined by Major League Baseball.
Rather than wearing a different pair of cleats, he took out an indelible marker and colored in fifty percent of the cleats to remain in compliance with major league rules. When asked about the reasoning for the fine on the Jim Rome's The Jungle radio show, Wilson replied that he was fined for "having too much awesome on [his] feet."
In other media appearances, we learned more about Wilson. We learned that he is a certified ninja, something he accomplished during a dream. He claims to have an IQ of 188, and he likes Cholula Hot Sauce.
Then we were introduced to "The Machine"...
"The Machine" made his first appearance on The Cheap Seats with Chris Rose. Rose played a prank on Wilson, showing a TV image of scantily dressed women on a screen, meant to distract Wilson during an interview. Only Wilson could see the screen and he reacted repeatedly asking Rose: "What was that?"
In a follow-up interview, "The Machine" walked through the screen behind a seemingly unknowing Brian Wilson. Wilson was able to maintain an appearance of confusion throughout the remainder of the interview, seemingly not understanding Rose's reaction.
He referenced "The Machine" again in an interview with Rose following the Giants victory in the National League Championship Series.
"The Machine" was also referenced on Jim Rome's TV Show Rome is Burning. Towards the end of a guest appearance with Rome, Wilson pulled out a vintage cell phone and took an imaginary phone call from The Machine, he then pulled The Machine's leather mask out of his back pocket and showed it off to the camera.
The Machine later made another appearance on The Late Show.
Making Wilson more famous than his friend/roommate "The Machine" is the beard. Wilson says the beard started essentially out of laziness on a long road trip. He did not bring a razor and simply decided "let's see what happens" when the Giants returned from their road trip.
The beard grew and became thicker, and then mysteriously began to change color.
By the end of the World Series, the beard was jet black. Wilson always deferred questions as to whether or not the beard was dyed. When asked about the beard changing colors, he informed Rome in a follow-up interview that the beard was like a chameleon that adapts.
The World Series victory would not be the last we would see of the world famous beard. Wilson would show up on Lopez Tonight featuring a dyed gray beard and dressed like a seaman. Then things got weirder. If you haven't seen the video of the Lopez interview, click here.
Wilson talked about his recent trip to Thailand, where he stated he got a lot of massages, the sexual kind, the consensual kind and then he clarified "foot massages." He explained the term "dry humping" in regards to baseball, and he debuted a commercial in which he has a conversation with his own video game avatar.
Entering Spring Training, the beard now features a handlebar mustache. Wilson explains that he needed to add the handlebars to assure people he is not mean. The thickness of the beard after all had become menacing, but when you see the handlebars you instantly realize that this guy is not mean, rationalizes Wilson.
Whether genuine or an act, Wilson's eccentricities have made him baseball's most interesting personality. Many people have labeled him crazy, and lumped him in with other eccentric sports personalities.
While other athletes have taken their act too far and become distractions to their team (Gilbert Arenas, Terrell Owens, Dennis Rodman, Manny Ramirez to name a few), Wilson has not. His teammates refer to him as a "good guy", "great dude" and a "leader". His work ethic speaks for itself, and he has never proven to be a distraction for any of his teammates.
In fact, his actions could be described as having a positive effect on the Giants clubhouse during their stretch drive last season. Rather than feel the pressure of the task at hand, the Giants had a loose, laid back clubhouse. Wilson was largely responsible for creating this atmosphere.
So after dominating both the regular and postseason in 2010, and bursting onto the national scene with his own brand of entertainment, what does Brian Wilson do for an encore in 2011?
Spring Training has just begun and for the next eight months we will enjoy finding out what Brian Wilson has in store for us.
This much is for sure. On the field Wilson will anchor the Giants pitching unit yet again, and continue to improve on his quest for dominance on the mound. Off the field, it will be weird, but we will have fun. Fact.