Amid a bevy of young stars and Cinderella hopefuls, a familiar beard emerges in the MLB postseason.
You either love him or hate him, but you certainly can't take your eyes off Brian Wilson or his beard that continues to build as big a legacy as the man hidden beneath it.
Last we saw of Wilson in the playoffs, he was tipping his hat to the Giants bullpen and giving them all the support he and his outrageous beard could muster.
It's all he could do as he came back from Tommy John surgery that April, a surgery he felt would help him return to the team he delivered 171 saves for from 2006-2012.
Before that, he was busy providing the menacing gaze and powerful arm that gave the Giants six saves during the 2010 postseason, helping the franchise eventually win their first World Series since 1954.
Fearing the beard was at an all-time high.
Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and a Tommy John procedure that is becoming as routine as a McDonald's drive-thru, Wilson is back—only he pitches for the enemy.
His arm is nearly as lively and his beard is iconic.
Proving that he is as confounding to hitters as well as fans, Wilson provided remarkable stats to close the 2013 season as well as one peculiar moment featuring his former team's CEO.
As CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly reports, Wilson confronted CEO Larry Baer after the Giants win over the Dodgers on Sept. 26.
While Wilson shrugged off the exchange as, "Just a conversation between me and him." Baggarly found from sources it centered on his World Series ring he was yet to receive from his former team.
The act didn't sit well with some, namely The San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins who offers an interesting insight into a man he believes has become more on an off-kilter character than the one who once pitched for San Francisco.
As Wilson crossed the field to lecture Larry Baer about not receiving his 2012 World Series ring (yo, Brian, they've been trying to give you that ring for seven months), I couldn't help but recall a scene in Philadelphia before the start of the 2010 NLCS.
Jenkins goes on to recall a forthcoming athlete who, in 2010, delved into an honest discussion of his personal history, sans wild beard and silly peripherals.
Jenkins continues with what he believes Wilson has become.
Now he's someone who was invited to the Giants' ring ceremony (in April) and refused. Someone who was offered a private ring presentation with the Dodgers in town this week, but turned it down.
If one were so inclined, you could draw a comparison to his neat beard that was trimmed and in control to the one that seems to have taken over his face. Can we possibly believe Wilson is now as wild as his facial hair because of one interaction in 2013?
That's what some might believe. Jenkins even points to The Chronicle's Henry Schulman who he quotes as saying, "Somewhere along the line, Wilson got angry. And he's been mistreating a lot of people who were awfully good to him over the years. Sad."
Once again, Wilson will hit the big stage, beard in tow. The fact that his velocity is up and his ball has movement means those outside the Los Angeles area will get to reintroduce themselves to the wacky antics of Wilson anew.
Fangraphs shows Wilson's fastball averages in at 92.6 miles per hour, faster than what we saw before he went down in 2012—their velocity chart illustrates his speed even approaches that of his 2011 totals.
In just over 13 innings pitched with the Dodgers, Wilson has posted a 0.66 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, striking out 13 batters.
So we assume the Dodgers will look to Wilson, a man with postseason experience, a few times in the coming weeks. It's then that most will have to ponder a question that has no real answer: Who is the real Brian Wilson?
Is he the candid pitcher who was just beginning to reach his potential with the Giants? Is the jokester who introduced a world to The Machine? Or is he just a great pitcher who is a genius at marketing his brand?
Perhaps he is all, or maybe none truly encapsulate someone so seemingly bizarre off the mound but calm and collected when he is on it.
The only thing we know for sure is he commands your attention, and will be a welcomed addition to an already star-studded MLB postseason.
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