Brian Wilson Attempting Comeback As a Knuckleballer, And It’s So Cute

Brian Wilson

File this under hilarious but remember former Dodger and Giant reliever Brian Wilson? Sure you do. Wilson was part of two San Francisco World Championship clubs before blowing out his elbow and having Tommy John surgery. He had two Tommy John surgeries during his career, probably from throwing so hard. Before that Wilson was a pretty damn good closer for the most part. He saved 48 games for the Giants in 2010 helping them win a World Series. He then saved 36 games for San Francisco in 2011. All total he saved 161 games for the Giants between 2008 and 2011 and was a three-time all-star.

The Dodgers signed him on July 30, 2013 and he was pretty awesome for the boys in blue that season allowing just one earned run in 13.2 innings pitched and posting a 0.66 ERA in 18 appearances. Then his arm fell apart as he posted a 4.66 ERA while tossing 48.1 innings pitched for the Dodgers in 2014. That year he allowed over 9 hits per nine innings and was eventually released in December of 2014.

Wilson threw a great cut fastball, slider and lived on the outside part of the plate. His trademark was to cross his arms after every save. He also had a nasty scraggily beard that he never cut or cleaned and was quite the character. His antics normally annoyed everyone in the clubhouse. His Shtick got old real fast. Oh how could we forget him? Those were the days of Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe. That was right in the midst of the Don Mattingly era. Those were fun times.

He’s 34-years old and hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2014. However according to Yahoo sport’s Tim Brown he is interested in attempting a comeback as a knuckleballer. Apparently Wilson learned to throw the pitch when he was 12-years old. Wilson says he has several different arm angles and speeds for the knuckler. According to Brown he has already worked out with a couple of different clubs.

Can Wilson make the comeback at his age and with his injury history? He certainly seems to think so, but then again he was always a bit delusional wasn’t he? Wilson wants to be a starter, a knuckleball starter and thinks he can do it successfully. The knuckleball is one of the hardest pitches to master, catch, and hit. Very few pitchers have done it with varying degrees of success. I have a hard time believing that Wilson can make it work. If you remember Wilson experimented with the knuckleball a couple of times during spring training when he was with the Dodgers.

I tell you what, if he does make it that would be extremely entertaining to watch. I’m rooting for this to happen just for the pure entertainment value. As long as that’s not with the Dodgers. Good luck Brian, but just in case don’t quit your day job. Whatever that has been these days.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Former Co-editor of Lasorda’s Lair. Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

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45 thoughts on “Brian Wilson Attempting Comeback As a Knuckleballer, And It’s So Cute

  1. First of all I think he or his agent is very smart. The SABR GMs want “different looks” so why not add a knuckleballer? That’s certainly a different look.

    Take it to Another Level, why not just add ME? I will be a totally different look, the likes of which the MLB has never seen! And I’m willing to sign a team friendly incentives laden contract.

    (Anxiously waiting by my phone … heck with it I’m going to the pub, why anyone would be waiting by their mobile phone at home instead of a local watering hole is beyond me ….)

    1. Yueh_Fei: “(Anxiously waiting by my phone … heck with it I’m going to the pub, why anyone would be waiting by their mobile phone at home instead of a local watering hole is beyond me ….)”

      Good idea! I was just about to say put the crack pipe down and step away from the phone! While knuckleballs do give a “different look” and might be effective, 75 MPH fastballs are rarely effective.

      Yeah, I guess “he or his agent is very smart”, after all, who wouldn’t like a $10M/yr salary, I pass on both him and you. While you might be a good clubhouse guy, Wilson isn’t! Been there, done that, PASS!

      1. I agree with Boxout about Wilson.

        I don’t want to see his act, even if he isn’t on the Dodgers.

        Mattingly allowed Wilson to continue to pitch, even though Wilson, wasn’t pitching well at all, and his velocity was way down.

        That was because Mattingly was afraid to confront Wilson.

        I remember Wilson telling the people in the press, that he was saving his best stuff, for the post season, any time, they asked about his fastball, velocity.

        And guess what, he didn’t have any better stuff, in the post season.

        And Mattingly still used him in the post season.

        This guy practically stoled ten million dollars, from the Dodgers..

        He thinks he is all that, and he isn’t all that.

        1. Actually MJ, the problem was not Mattingly not wanting to confront Wilson, it was Wilson not letting the team know his elbow was hurting. As far as stealing the money, that’s not true. They re-signed him. It is the risk you take and he had a guaranteed contract. That’s on the front office not Wilson. And they felt he was worth the money based on what he did the year before. You cannot blame the player for the FO’s foibles. Now it takes a lot of dedication to attempt a comeback not having the kind of tools you used to have. I admire his guts and willingness to commit to that. All that said, would I want him as a Dodger? No, but not because of who he is. It is because he is older, and not the Wilson of his prime and we have plenty of young guns in the pipeline who deserve a chance to show what they have. He might fit with a non contender like the Padres, or even the Braves who have a knuckle ball starter, R.A. Dickey he could tandem up with.

          1. Michael

            Mattingly never confronted Wilson, about his obvious issue.

            He continued to use him, even though it was apparent, Wilson didn’t have it.

            And Mattingly continued to use him, even in the post season.

            Mattingly was being paid, to manage the players!

            If Wilson wasn’t going to come clean to Mattingly, it is Mattingly’s job, to talk to Wilson, and find out what his issue was, not continue to use Wilson, when it was so apparent, he didn’t have it!

            And Mattingly continued this charade, in the post season!

            And I know that it is on the front office, about giving Wilson that contract.

            But Wilson, should have told someone, but when he didn’t, it was Mattingly’s job, to manage his pitcher!

            Wilson wasn’t being a team player, when he wasn’t being honest, about his problem.

          2. The onus is still on DM. And it is on Wilson too. But a lot of players have not told the front office or the manager that they are hurt. Wilson was not the first and certainly not the last. I understand you do not like the guy and that is ok. But you have to respect the mans talent. He was one of the best, and it is hard to admit when you do not have the stuff to be the best any more, and he underwent 2 TJ surgery’s. The re-hab on those is brutal. I do not really care for him either, but I respect the talent he had, and I respect the fact that he has the dedication to try a comeback. What happened when he was a Dodger no longer matters. He is gone and has been gone for 2 years. Mattingly is Miami’s problem now, not ours. And the chances of Wilson becoming a Dodger again are pretty slim. On another front there was a story in Dodger Blue today about the owners trying to sell part of the team….Mattingly’s style was to play favorites and he did it a lot. It cost him a couple of shot’s at going to the World Series. His biggest mistake was leaving Kershaw in when he was obviously gassed against the Cardinals in the playoff’s. But he had no confidence in his bull pen, which was by the way , lousy that year.

      2. Boxout, you got me pegged straight and dead to rights. I’m a great clubhouse guy and full of “intangibles”!!

        In fact if Fangraph were to come up with a intangibles to tangibles ratio, I would be tied for first!

        1. Michael

          Yes and Mattingly certainly didn’t handle Kemp, right either.

          Kemp wasn’t to far removed, from almost winning the MVP, of the league.

          And Kemp hurt his shoulder, playing for this team, against a wall, in Colorado, like you know.

          And Mattingly should have been more understanding with Kemp, instead of trying to force him, to play left, or sit on the bench.

  2. The weird thing is, he shaved off his beard. There is a picture of him working out at USC and he is clean shaven. Hardly recognized the guy. My opinion, more power to him. If he wants to play again that bad and is willing to work that hard to get back to the majors, he has my vote. We have seen a lot of knuckle ball pitchers who were pretty effective, including a few who pitched in the blue, Hoyt Wilhelm, Charlie Hough and Tom Candiotti.

    1. Michael

      Wilson isn’t a team player!

      Wilson continued to pitch even with an injury, and the team would have been better off, with another pitcher, that wasn’t injured, and was able to pitch much more effectively, then Wilson did.

  3. Well here is an example, in my opinion, of the bigger fool theory (although Loria is no fool for selling):

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2017/02/marlins-sale-rumors-handshake-agreement.html

    While I would love to own a MLB team, if I had $1.6B available to buy a business the Marlins wouldn’t be it. Lots of problems, the Stanton contract is a potential anchor of epic proportions.

    The potential buyer sounds like it could be McCourt trying to strike gold again.

    1. Badger

      I think we are in pretty good shape, but who is going to be our number four starting pitcher, if we make it to the post season, and play for the National League Pennant?

      I think Urias will be better, but Maeda really wasn’t equipped, to pitch in the post season.

      That is what I think the Cubs have, and we don’t.

      1. With the robust farm system, don’t you think the Dodgers may make a move for another top of rotation piece – if that need for an October arm is abundantly clear ?

        Can’t say who’d be available outside of Jose Quintana, but I look at strong farm systems as giving teams like the Dodgers an advantage over 162.

        1. Unfortunately, that is not this FO’s modus operandi. They have traded for pitchers at the deadline, but albeit, marginal ones. Case in point, Alex Wood and Matt Latos. Wood has talent and promise but is far from a front line hurler, Latos was past his best years. Last year they traded early out of need and brought in the ultimately forgettable, Bud Norris, no relation. They have done better getting useable bullpen pieces, Liberatore, Avilan, Fields, Chavez, than starters, so I would not hold my breath….

      2. MJ, you can get by with 3 starters. The Dodgers have 10 starting pitchers on the 40 man roster. They have both young and old to choose from, plus, the trade deadline in July will bring them an opportunity to get a solid guy should they need one. Do not count out Ryu. I think both he and Urias stay in extended spring training to save their innings. Urias is 20, I do not expect that kid to pitch a lot of innings. I think they will be very careful with him. I think both Stripling and Stewart will get real shots at the rotation should the big money guys, McCarthy and Kazmir blow out again.

        1. Michael

          Won’t Stewart be on an innings limit?

          I know he isn’t as young as Urias, but he has only been a starter, for a few years.

          I think Wood would start before these two guys, if the usual happens, with McCarthy, and Kazmir, isn’t effective.

          But if Ryu is healthy, and has his normal fastball, he would probably be the best option, as our number five guy.

          1. I think right now, Wood is the long man out of the pen and spot starter. Now if he excels in spring he might win the #4 spot in the rotation. I think Stewart is at the point in his career where he is stretched out as Stripling is. Stripling had surgery, but Stewart has always been healthy. And right behind those guys comes Trevor Oaks, John Sborz, and Alvarez. We are stacked with RH arms in the minors. That’s why trading Deleon did not bother me.

  4. We will need and will use more than 10 starters.

    Some say using 12+ starters suggests depth. I would use a different word. The Cubs lead the league in pitching last year. Their starters were ranked #1. They had 11 players start games, but 5 of those started just 1 game. They had 5 guys that started 29 or more. SF finished 5th in starting pitching, just ahead of the Dodgers, and they did it with 8 starters. The Cubs and giants finished second and third in innings pitched by starters. As you know, the Dodgers finished 29th. The bullpen saved our bacon. Had SF a strong closing pair, we would have looking up their ass all year. They didn’t. We took advantage. Have they fixed their leak?

  5. I agree with Badger mostly. We have a lot of starters and I think guys like Stripling and Stewart will soak up innings during the year while Kershaw, Rich Hill, Urias and Maeda go on occasional 10 day DL stints after the All Star break, unless we fall behind in the standing and must catch up. At least that’s how I’d play it. I don’t like putting Urias in extended spring training, I prefer having him go on a couple of DL stints in August and September instead.

    As for the Giants, I think we will do better over 162 games but I do think they have better pitching for the playoffs. They just have to stay afloat in the regular season (Before the all star break last year they had the best record, remember)

    1. I think Badger is saying because we don’t have three or four starters, who can pitch deep into games, we are going to need a lot more starters, and a lot of help from the bullpen, to make it through the long season.

      And this is unlike the Giants, and the Cubs, who can depend on there horses, to pitch deeper into games, so our depth is a little deceiving.

    2. Putting players who are not injured on the DL is against the rules, and keeping Urias in extended spring makes a lot of sense since there are so many off days in April, and the kid is 20. No need wearing him out. Kershaw is a horse, if you think he would let the team put him on the DL when he was not hurt, you are crazy.

    1. Bluto

      He sure had a problem picking the right pitchers for the bullpen, in his last couple years.

      But I think League, had to be the worst, since he was given, that three year contract.

      And remember Chris Perez?

      The funny thing about these pitchers, and Wilson, is that they were out of baseball, after they were let go.

      1. Well, Jason Schmidt was the worst, but you are talking bullpen. Yeah, League had to be the worst.

        Oh wait. Didn’t he give Broxton a silly deal?
        Remember Roberto Hernandez as a deadline deal?
        How about Jamey Wright?

        1. Bluto

          I said in the last couple of years, but no biggie.

          I think Hernandez came after the owners, didn’t want Ned to spend anymore, money.

          And when I saw Jamie Wright come to spring training last year, I wasn’t happy.

  6. I think managing the bullpen is grossly underrated and we have a good duo in Roberts and Honeycutt. Funny how Mattinglyband Honeycutt didn’t seem to work. A lot of times is how the you use the combinations and matchups, and just knowing your guys and what type of workload or situation they can take.

    Objectively speaking I think Mattingly had a better pitching staff and Roberts was given a raw deal when he started, with Blanton as his set up guy and a bunch of questions marks aside from Kershaw, but he and Honeycutt made lemonade.

    I’d love to read Honeycutt’s memoir in the Torre-Mattingly-Roberts years.

      1. Well, he is who we thought he was. He’s not precious with prospects, and I guess that doesn’t sit well with me.

        My biggest issue with him is I don’t get his philosophy. With the Dodgers front office, their thinking seems to revolve around value. Properly valuations and maximizing.

        With Dombrowski, it seems to be win now. I worry that’s overly short-sighted.

        Can’t argue with the talent he’s bringing in though. Very excited to see the youth develop and Sale pitch.

    1. YF

      That would be one interesting memoir.

      Mattingly actually wrote a letter to his players this year, before spring training.

      And it was about why he may make different moves, that players may not understand, or like.

      That is how bad he hates to confront players.

      I too, think Roberts, and Honeycutt, did a good job with the bullpen last year.

      Roberts and Honeycutt, didn’t continue to use the same guys, if they were not doing there job.

      That is how Blanton became the set up guy.

    2. Mattingly had better starters, but his bullpens were a mess for the most part. One of the reason’s the Cardinals beat Kershaw was because DM did not trust the bullpen to hole a 2 run lead.

      1. My view is that MattIngly had an equal or even better bullpen, but he and Honeycutt couldn’t make it work. Whereas Honeycutt and Roberts did better. I think Mattingly was an insecure leader and overused a few relievers, whereas Roberts is much more accountable and also gets everyone to be the same, and that forces all of the bullpen guys to step up.

  7. You better check on Leagues stats there Bluto. In 2012 and 14 he had ERA’s below 3. In 2013 he won 6 lost 4 and his ERA was 5.30, but he saved 13 games that year. he had some bad stretches but for the most part he was pretty effective. It just seems like he was that bad. Hernandez was a late pickup, but he was a starter. Jamie Wright had some pretty good games in the blue. Colletti made some pretty good deadline moves too. He got Manny Ramirez for roster fodder and that produced 2 of the best months by any player in Dodger history. And a lot of excitement came with that. He traded for Steve Finley who hit and unforgettable grand slam to win the division. Colletti was far from perfect, but he also was far from the worst GM to lead this team. McCourt was the bigger problem. He almost singlehandedly ruined the franchise. Kevin Malone to me was a much worse GM. Fred Claire was undermined when FOX bought the franchise and had no clue they were trading Piazza. And I think one of the worst relief pitchers to ever put on the uniform for the Dodgers was Don Stanhouse, or as we called him when he was here……Outhouse……

    1. I believe I heard Colletti say that the Manny deal was one of his best deals, but I believe he said, the Ethier deal, was his best deal.

      1. Manny was a mid season trade. Ethier was picked up at the winter meetings. I think as far as what they gave up, they are both close, but since they have gotten 10 seasons out of Ethier, that is definitely a better deal. Manny was great for 2 months…..then became a huge distraction.

        1. Michael

          I actually like seeing, and listening to Colletti, on the Dodger pregame shows, and on there weekly shows.

          Because he can really give the viewers some inside stuff, and there are not to many former GMs, working for the same team, they were a GM for, not to long ago.

          And he is responsible for quite a few players, on the team right now.

    2. I know Wilson had some good periods with the Dodgers, Michael, but after signing the deal he was abysmal. That was my point.

      Colletti did make some good deal and was definitely shackled by the McCourts (then again, he knew what the circumstances were when he took the job), but the preponderance were awful. Remember Andruw Jones/

      ejg

      1. In 2013 Wilson pitched great for the Dodgers, in 2014 after he signed his 10 million dollar contract, not so much. League for most of his time as a Dodger was a very reliable piece out of the pen. He had some bad moments, but he was pretty good sometimes too. I think Colletti’s free agent signings were more suspect than his trades. Jones and Schmidt being the 2 biggest examples. But the Dodgers have whiffed on a few of those and not just Colletti. Strawberry, 4 year contract, 1 1/2 years decent numbers before going into re-hab for a drug problem. And FAZ’s record with free agents is pretty bad too. Especially pitchers.

        1. Eh. FAZ (where does that come from? Why can’t we just say Friedman) signed Blanton and Maeda for very favorable contracts.

          That’s at the heart of my issues with Colletti, even with your defense (which is VERY fair.) Wilson and League did have good moments, but those moments are totally out of whack with regard to the compensation Colletti awarded.

          1. FAZ is a combination of Friedman and Zaidi. Yes, he did ok with Blanton and Maeda, but he sure whiffed on McCarthy, and Kazmir. Of course Kaz has a chance to redeem himself. I think Leagues contract was a bit much. But it was pretty much market value at the time, Wilson on the other hand was the same kind of signing that Ethier was, it was a knee jerk reaction because they did not think he would fall off as much as he did. If he had pitched anywhere close to what he did in 13, he too would have been a bargain. Friedman and Zaidi’s moves have been pretty much hit and miss. Some good, some so so and a couple of real bad ones. The constant bull pen turn over and the waiver wire dumpster diving are distracting. They value depth and I can understand that, but I would think they would want a little quality too. Colletti was not afraid of trading for a big name. That has yet to happen with Friedman.

  8. Personally I think Colletti was not bad and he’s unfairly maligned. He could not recover from his “mistake” signings because we were under a much lower budget then. I mean look at the McCarthy and Kazmir contracts, or the busted Cuban signings, what if those had occurred in the McCourt years?!? Yikes. League? That is peanuts compared to signings like Oliviera.

    I am not complaining about the FAZ, I’m just saying that Colleti did pretty well with his gut signings and trades. And I think the Trade was ordered from the top, and it worked out well fit Guggenheim.

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