At times like these, I have to remind myself that I love Russell Wilson the football player. He’s a third-round draft choice who overcame the odds of being 5-foot-10 and 5/8ths inches tall, turning into the best quarterback in Seahawks history, one who could be a Hall of Famer someday.
I wouldn’t trade him for any other quarterback in the league, and that includes them all – from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers to anyone else. I can’t think of a player who would have been more effective playing behind that offensive line this year, getting no protection and next-to-no-help from a mostly non-existent running game. And then I tell myself that he’s also the guy who goes to Children’s Hospital to visit patients almost every Tuesday when he’s in town.
I’m throwing all of those asterisks out there because of what Wilson is doing this week, joining the New York Yankees at their spring training camp in Tampa. I’m guessing to many people it’s no big deal, and to others it might be viewed as pretty cool with a star player temporarily trading his football uniform for a baseball uniform, even if it’s just for fun.
Well, this is different. pic.twitter.com/HIxl2iZxuE
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 26, 2018
Wilson has hinted in the past that he might want to play football AND baseball. Maybe he would be the next Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders, two players who were successful at both sports. But everyone wondered where he would find the time, and it never happened even though he did pull it off at one point, playing in the Colorado Rockies’ minor-league system in 2010-11 while he was quarterbacking the Wisconsin Badgers.
Colorado picked him in the fourth round of the 2010 major league draft, and he played in 93 Class A games, 32 with the Tri-City Dust Devils and 61 with the Asheville Tourists.
He was no doubt a better-than-average defensive second baseman, and with some of his shovel passes, you can see that his baseball experience has helped him on the football field. But he has admitted he struggled with curveballs as a hitter, averaging .229 at the plate in his pro career.
The Rangers acquired Wilson from Colorado through the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft in 2012, and he went to Texas’ spring-training camp in Peoria in 2014 and 2015. I didn’t like those cameo appearances, not wanting Wilson in any way to help out a division rival of the Mariners.
It’s the same way I feel now as Wilson trots off to make headlines with the Yankees. On Instagram and Twitter, you can see how excited Wilson is in a selfie video, talking to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
“We’ll have some fun, baby,” Wilson says. “And, hey, let’s go win a World Series, why not?”
Why not? I’ll tell you why not, Russell. The Yankees have won a million World Series; the Mariners have not even been to a World Series let alone won one. Why not? Well, Russ, a lot of 12s are Mariner fans too. Do you really need someone to explain this to you? It’s a bad look – real bad look. Most Mariner fans can’t stand the Yankees.
The only part I would like to see is Wilson playing in a spring training game, but the Yankees said that’s not going to happen. That’s where I’ll say: “Why not?” I know the answer: risk of injury. Doesn’t matter, I think it would be worth the risk to watch him play baseball.
Here’s where the shallow me comes in. A bigger person would give Wilson a break – his dad was a big Yankees’ fan, and presumably Wilson was too. His dad died in 2010 from complications of diabetes. This is no doubt important to Wilson, imagining what his dad would think if he saw his son in pinstripes.
The Yankees are so thrilled to have him that they’ve given him a No. 73 jersey – because of Babe Ruth, No. 3 is retired – and a locker. It’s right next to the locker of another recent Yankees acquisition, Brandon Drury. Drury is from Grants Pass, Ore., and is a big Russell Wilson and Seahawks fan.
New manager Aaron Boone looks forward to the visit, saying: “He has developed a reputation as a tremendous leader. So anytime we can get people like that around our guys, it’s something we welcome.”
That’s where the shallow me has a problem with the bigger-person’s view. I’d rather see Wilson passing on his knowledge to the Mariners, his new hometown team, a team that could use it more than the Yankees.
As an example, maybe there’d be some nugget that might resonate with Kyle Seager and turn him into a more consistent hitter. Maybe Felix could learn something from Wilson about adapting, becoming the best you can be regardless of the circumstances.
Quite possibly, I’m making too much of Wilson’s week with the Yankees, but I don’t care – I still think it’s a poor move on his part. What if Judge gives credit to Wilson for something he said in March after the Yankees beat the Mariners in the American League Championship Series?
Again, I might be reaching with that thought, especially the part about the Mariners even making the playoffs. But if I were a 12 who is also a Mariner fan, I would hope this is just a publicity stunt by Wilson the quarterback. As for Wilson the second baseman, this one’s a grounder that’s gone between his legs.