Over the weekend, we found out that C.J. Wilson has bone spurs in his elbow, and is going to hang up the glove for the rest of 2015 so he can have surgery and get them removed. It came as somewhat of a surprise, although in hindsight, some of the recent results all of a sudden look more understandable in light of this injury announcement. C.J. Wilson is usually a gamer, a guy who will play through some pain and has gone to his breaking point with this recent ailment.
"There's no gray area," Wilson said. "You just run out of gas and then the tank's empty, and in this case, there's just no more elbow left to expire. The elbow is totally ground down at this point. I just have to get it cleaned out, rehab and I'll be fine again."
It's a tough pill to swallow for a tough competitor, but that's baseball. Another thing that is "baseball" is the time honored tradition of Questioning Toughness. Alden Gonzalez, of MLB.com, is the one who first reported this piece...not the part about Wilson's season coming to an unexpected end, but the Questioning Toughness and the supposed disdain brewing among players. According to Gonzalez:
"...several Angels players expressed frustration in Wilson's decision, with some believing he should've continued to try to pitch through the issue."
Uh oh. More discord and acrimony in the clubhouse, right? That would be the last thing the Angels need in a time when the race to the playoffs is heating up and the Angels have enough to worry about on the field. Not to mention it's just not how the game is played today. Reprimanding and shaming for succumbing to injury is questionable in itself, because it's putting a game above the physical health and future ability to play baseball and make a living for a fellow teammate. The idea that these rumblings are criss-crossing the locker room makes you feel that same uneasiness that filled the fanbase during the Jerry Dipoto or Josh Hamilton debacles. "Not again", we all collectively say after we've exhaled a sigh.
But are the rumblings and rumors about players' frustration with C.J. Wilson even true?
L.A. Times' Zach Helfand reported yesterday that, according to Wilson himself, he hasn't heard any of these negative and misplaced comments regarding his season-ending injury.
"Nobody said anything to me, so as far as I know — obviously I don't put a lot of stock into anonymous reports," Wilson said.
"We don't sit in here and gossip about what you guys are writing about us, you know what I mean?" Wilson said. "What we do is have one-on-one conversations."
Very interesting. So, you have some troubling comments from unnamed players in one piece, and you have a piece the next day that says nobody has said anything. Of course, that's if you believe players would go to C.J. Wilson and say something like this face-to-face, in the first place. Wilson may say that's how the clubhouse and team dynamic works, sure, but he could also be laying a thick smokescreen. I have to believe, though, that if there were some beef brewing over his elbow, that he'd be privy to at least some whispers, or at the very least he'd have a general barometer of the clubhouse animosity, if there is any. So what's going on?
I'm of the mind that thinks this is coming straight down from the front office, or maybe El Jefe himself, Arte Moreno. What C.J. Wilson is doing right now is setting himself up to be perfectly healthy for his walk year. Wilson is no dummy; quite the opposite, in fact, so of course he'd want to take extra care of himself when he's got another possible contract on the line next season. And that's ok! He seems legitimately ailing, and he's typically a guy that pitches through pain, much to the detriment of the team and the ire of the fans. This time, though, he's not throwing any caution to the wind, and he's going to take care of himself and look to be studly in 2016. This alone would probably not raise any eyebrows on C.J. Wilson haters, or bring any front office annoyance to a boil. But it's important to remember one other thing about Wilson: he's already fired some shots at the front office before.
Yep, when the Josh Hamilton debacle was at it's peak, Wilson(a former Hamilton teammate) was quick to stick up for him, while chiding the Angels organization and Arte Moreno. The crosshairs could have been put on him that very day he made those comments, but some good pitching kept the trigger from being pulled...but now that he's nursing an elbow that doesn't want to pitch any more? It could be open season on stirring up the anti-Wilson rabble.
Of course, you'd have to get word out there that there is a looming cloud over the situation, between the players, and one way to do that is the press. Alden Gonzalez reported the "frustration" from the players, but in the L.A. Times piece, there is NO frustration(outside of their losing streak and dropping in the standings) and any and all rumors are unattributed and unfounded. Is Arte Moreno using MLB.com and Alden Gonzalez to carry his water in turning players and fans against C.J. Wilson? Is Gonalez's source(s) on this alleged frustration coming from actual, living baseball players, or is it coming from someone in the Angels organization whose sole purpose is to get a jab in at a player that's been a bit of a gadfly in the past? It seems quite laughable to think that a beat writer is putting this misinformation out there, knowingly or unknowingly, but considering what we've been through this year alone with the Angels, i've come to believe that there is nothing too outlandish, childish or petty for the front office guys, and Arte Moreno.
These rumblings could be made up out of thin air, packaged and presented to a beat writer in the form of legitimate news, and sent out into the internet world for Wilson to then be inundated with in future interviews. Stirring the pot, ever so slowly. Playing the press and manipulating the clubhouse...out of the realm of possibility, you say? Nah...this is the 2015 Angels. Stranger things have happened.