Ghost busting

ARLINGTON – The evolution of C.J. Wilson as a starter – abetted

by the presence of Cliff Lee – continues at an almost unprecedented


How fast?

“Before he came here,” Wilson said of the

Ranger ace’s impact on his

development, “I was a right-handed second baseman.”

We get it, C.J.

Wilson knows that Lee has been good for him, but he wants you to

know he wasn’t exactly Chan Ho Park, either.

He’s the best story of a historic

Ranger season, and now he finds

himself right where he wants: front and center, leading off the

ALCS against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia.

Everybody’s listening, and why not? How many former relievers

throw 200 innings while debuting as a starter? How many had the

nerve to push so hard for a shot in the first place?

How many end up the most consistent starter on an ALCS team?

Of course, if you ask Wilson, he isn’t surprised by any of the


Asked about matching up against Sabathia, baseball’s best

left-hander, he says, “I’m just hoping for a couple of runs to work


Give him three, apparently, and it’s overkill.

He can’t help himself in front of an audience. Once upon a time,

he had to throw bricks from his blog to get any attention. The

topic didn’t matter. He’s a vocal adherent of something called the

“Straight Edge lifestyle” – no drugs, no alcohol, no promiscuous

sex. Throw in “no dancing,” and we called them “Southern Baptists.”

He also talks politics, which most of us were taught to avoid in

polite society. Often he has juxtaposed his varied interests

against the more primal instincts of his teammates, who haven’t

always enjoyed the comparisons.

But when a guy puts together the kind of season Wilson has had,

teammates can be very forgiving.

“He’s a pretty smart guy,” said Tommy Hunter, who more closely

resembles the typical clubhouse profile.

“He knows his game plan, and he knows what he wants to do.”

What Wilson would really like to do is strike out everyone in

his path. He calls it a holdover from his days as a reliever. When

asked early on if he tried to imitate Lee, a fellow left-hander, he

countered that he was much more of a power pitcher. Lee, for one,

won’t argue.

“Stuff-wise,” Lee said, “he’s as good as anyone.”

If Wilson still has fields to conquer, then, it’s a tendency to

nibble. He led the league in walks with 93, a clear violation of

the pitch-to-contact philosophy preached by Mike Maddux.

But he’s getting closer. His first 19 starts, he averaged more

than five walks per nine innings. His last 15 of the regular

season, he was at 3.4.

What accounted for the difference? Could have been a big


Lee’s impact on the pitching staff since arriving in July has

been well-documented. But despite differences in style, no one

benefited more than Wilson.

In their frequent conversations, Lee’s message is as consistent

as his attack of the strike zone.

“He doesn’t get hit very much,” Lee said. “But he walks a lot of

people. He’s doing it less now, and I don’t know if that’s because

of me or not. But any time you’re walking ’em, you’re doing ’em a

favor. That’s what I tell him.

“When he’s not walking guys, they’re going to have a lot tougher


The advice is good, but don’t rule out the impact of a little

sibling rivalry, either. After Lee gave up just five hits and a run

in seven innings of Game 1 in the ALDS against the Rays, Wilson

came back the next day with two hits and no runs in 6 1/3.

Now, after a 5-1 gem in the ALDS finale that has cemented him as

the best postseason pitcher of this generation, Lee has upped the


From here on out in a season of unparalleled developments, the

stage only gets bigger. Fortunately for Wilson, his ego can

accommodate it. No use thinking small now.