It seems like a good number of people are always supportive of athletes speaking their minds until they actually do it. Wednesday night, following the end of a series against the Mariners, Rangers starter C.J. Wilson was asked about his upcoming start against the A's in Oakland. Wilson took that opportunity to issue some critical remarks, and now those remarks are all the rage. I don't know about your Twitter feed, but my Twitter feed has been clogged up by people talking about Wilson, and I'm pretty important.
It's revealing when athletes open up. It gives us a rare glimpse of their actual opinions. Sometimes those opinions are bad, and a controversy is inevitable, but with Wilson here, I'm just not seeing it. For one thing, it's C.J. Wilson, who will talk about anything, at length, even when you don't want him to, like an irritating store clerk. Honesty from Wilson is nothing unusual. And for another thing, while he was uncommonly frank for a player, nothing he said was actually wrong. To review:
(1) "I hate pitching [in Oakland]."
All right. Pretty honest, but all right. Stands to reason nobody would be more familiar with what C.J. Wilson hates than C.J. Wilson. Care to explain?
(2) "The mound sucks"
This is kind of hard, but who would know a pitcher's mound better than a pitcher? The mound was the first thing Wilson mentioned. He seems to feel pretty strongly about it. Even if other people disagree, it's all subjective, and if Wilson doesn't like the mound, he doesn't like the mound. He's not wrong.
(3) "The fans suck"
This was, obviously, the big one. The Wilson remark likely to ruffle the most feathers. But if you look at what he actually said...well what better way to look at what he actually said than by reading a transcript?
There's no fans there. You know, there's not a lot of...you know, it's too bad, because like the fans that are there are really adamant, they're really stoked on the team, and they play drums and they wave flags and that's cool. But you know...there's like, some games you go there and there's like 6,000 people there. It's kind of sad, because it's a major league team and there's guys out there that are obviously pretty good players. Guys like Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, obviously they are All-Star pitchers - and I just wish that the fan base supported them a little more. It's kind of a downside of things the way they are right now, that...the team wants to move to a different location, the fans don't want them to move, there's an ownership/fan thing kind of going on there (etc).
Nothing in there is disagreeable. Had Wilson stopped after "the fans suck," that would've been one thing, but his explanation painted an accurate picture. A lot of the fans who do show up are loud and animated, but there's no denying that they show up in small numbers. It's been like this for years. Oakland was not able to build an environment even when successful, and now that the team has fallen on harder times, it's reflected in the atmosphere.
(4) "I don't like pitching in cold weather, it's always kind of cool there."
C.J. Wilson was born in Newport Beach, he went to school in Los Angeles, and he's spent his entire major league career with Texas. He's used to heat, and he prefers the heat. Not objectionable.
(5) "I'd rather pitch [in Texas] than in Oakland, regardless of the weather. I like the fans [in Texas] a lot better."
Texas gets fans, while Oakland, as we've established, does not get fans. This follows from point #3. Wilson likes to pitch in an enthusiastic environment, so of course he prefers what he prefers.
This is so not a controversy that I already think this is a worthless blog post, and I'm not even done writing it yet. The worst thing that Wilson said was that the A's don't get enough fan support, which is one of the least arguable statements that can be made, along with "red is red" and "Cheez-Its are better than Wheat Thins." Maybe players aren't supposed to point those kinds of things out, I don't know, but I like when they do. I like when players think what people think.
What's funny is that, during the same interview, Wilson said something else about another subject that's actually worthy of raised eyebrows. From the linked article:
Wilson said the A's series is key because the Rangers have sometimes approached games against teams with lesser records, like Oakland, "lackadaisically."
"I think sometimes we go into those things thinking our record is so much better than this team so whatever, and that's not the right way to do it," Wilson said. "You have to be like this is a major league team, we have to beat them, we have to outplay them every inning."
That is C.J. Wilson admitting that, at least in the past, the Rangers have been guilty of overlooking certain lesser opponents and playing down to their level. That seems to me like it's a much bigger deal than saying Oakland gets lousy fan support. I don't know if it's true, and I don't know what kind of effect it might have if it is, but it seems like a somewhat candid remark. Frustrated fans are always accusing their teams of playing down to weak opponents. Wilson says that the Rangers have done just that.
So it's a controversy! Behind the other controversy that isn't controversial! I'm glad we could get something out of this exercise after all.