Wednesday, July 02, 2008

MIA Wilson Has Had Far-Reaching Implications For Others

Vance Wilson hasn't played in a major league baseball game since 2006. Yet no one has had a greater effect on the careers of as many current big leaguers as he.

Wilson, the backup catcher extraordinaire, was as key of a cog for the Tigers as one can get, for playing in barely one-third of his team's games. Not only did he simply provide Pudge Rodriguez with rest, Wilson also was a terrific handler of pitchers, played tough, rugged defense, and even contributed the odd key hit. He was also a great teammate in the clubhouse.

But his right elbow has betrayed him, and there have been surgeries, and he still isn't close to returning. Another surgery recently has shelved him until spring training, 2009 -- at least.

Without Wilson, the following has happened as a direct result:

1. The Tigers gave Mike Rabelo his first significant big league action as a backup catcher, and because of it, he was packaged with Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin in order to get Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis

2. Brandon Inge has been shoved back into the catcher's gear as a backup, which caused quite a stir in spring training

3. The team has had to call up light-hitting Dane Sardinha because Inge is hurt. Sardinha had a game-winning triple on Sunday

4. The strategy in re-signing Rodriguez is influenced by how capable of a replacement the Tigers can get. If Wilson was active, Rodriguez may not have played as much in 2007 and this season, and thus might be be better equipped physically -- making him more attractive to re-sign

All this, because Vance Wilson cannot suit up and play.

The good news is that Wilson doesn't appear on the verge of retirement, which lesser players would likely be considering right about now. The injured elbow is on this throwing arm, of course, and this has stalled his recuperation at times.

Wilson hopes to return in 2009, which thrills everyone involved with the Tigers, and should thrill you, too -- if you're the type who appreciates a good backup catcher, which is more of a luxury in this day and age, as opposed to a God-given right for a ball club.

If Vance Wilson had been healthy all along, then you can go back to the aforementioned list and pretty much cross them all off as never would have happened. And then draw your own conclusions about how things would have turned out, instead.

Oh, and as far as re-signing Rodriguez goes, there really are no replacements in the minor leagues who are ready to fill his shoes -- not that they could, but you know what I mean. The Tigers' starting catcher in 2009, if it's not Pudge, is likely to be Inge or someone from outside of the organization.

But everyone hopes the backup in 2009 will be Vance Wilson. He's that good, and that valuable. Believe it or not.


Post a Comment

<< Home