Jack Wilson has never played in the playoffs. He's never been left off the playoff roster by a team for which he played during the regular season. He might've thought he had a chance in 2010, after the added Chone Figgins and traded for Cliff Lee. He probably never thought he had a chance before that. Before that, he played for the .
Lots of players throughout baseball history never got to play in the playoffs. Lots of very good players. Jack Wilson isn't unique. Ernie Banks never played in the playoffs. Joe Torre never played in the playoffs. Rocky Colavito, Ralph Kiner and George Sisler never played in the playoffs. More recently, Randy Winn never played in the playoffs. Jeromy Burnitz never played in the playoffs.
But while Wilson's poor fortune isn't historically exceptional, he is climbing up the leaderboard. Baseball-Reference provides a list of the players to have played the most games without seeing the postseason. Jack Wilson's at 1,308, third among active players behind Adam Dunn and Vernon Wells. Dunn stands a chance of getting there with the . Wells stands a chance of getting there with the . Wilson isn't getting there with the Mariners.
Perhaps more importantly, Dunn's going to be playing in 2012. Wells is going to be playing in 2012. Wilson? Who knows? He's a free agent after the year, he's in his mid-30s, and he has a considerable injury history. Maybe he gets a Major League contract. Maybe he gets a minor league contract. Maybe he hangs them up. He's talked about retirement before.
There's a chance, then, that 2011 is Jack Wilson's last shot. Either with the Mariners, or with somebody else. Things were looking okay for a while, as the Mariners hung in the race and Wilson remained on the bench, but then the Mariners dropped out, and Wilson didn't play. He wasn't getting an opportunity to make the playoffs with the team he was on, and he wasn't getting an opportunity to make himself look good to somebody else. Somebody in contention.
Some weeks ago, I was reading an article, and tucked in near the bottom was the note that, before a game, Jack Wilson and Jeff Gray were kicking a soccer ball to one another in the outfield. It was one of the saddest things I've read.
Wilson stayed glued to the bench, and the non-waiver trade deadline passed, and Wilson stayed glued to the bench. All hope wasn't lost, as Wilson could still be moved in an August waiver deal, but who would want him? Behind Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan, Wilson had nowhere to play, and what contender would want a fragile 33-year-old middle infielder who doesn't play?
Then, by some miracle, Ryan got hurt. He got hurt in a collision with another August trade candidate. Suddenly, the Mariners needed Wilson, because Wilson is a true shortstop. Suddenly, Wilson had a chance to play.
Wilson has started six consecutive games. Over those six games, he's batted 7-for-24 with four doubles. That's more doubles than he posted over the first four months combined. He's looked quick and agile in the field. He's attempted a steal. He's played with a lot of energy. In short, he hasn't looked how you might expect him to look.
It could be nothing. It could very well be nothing but noise. But me, my narrative of choice is that Wilson recognizes this as perhaps his last opportunity to play for a contender. Wilson can't afford to screw around. He needs to do everything he can while he can to make himself desirable, and he knows it.
Maybe they're both true. Maybe the performance is noise, but the desire is real. It stands to reason that Wilson is aware of his situation. He knows he's never been in the playoffs. He knows he doesn't have a role on this team once Ryan comes back. On some level, he has to be hoping for a trade.
And I'm hoping he gets it. I'm hoping he plays his way straight to a team in contention. The whole Jack Wilson period in Seattle has been frustrating, to be sure, but I've no reason to root against him. Certainly not to the extent where I hope he ends his career without a playoff berth. Wilson seems like a good dude with talent that can help, and I'd like to see him get a chance to do something he's never done.
This last week or so, Jack Wilson has looked rejuvenated. Hopefully that keeps up until someone takes notice.