By Ernie Palladino
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If nothing else, Russell Wilson knows now that if this NFL quarterback thing doesn’t work out, at least he’ll have a soft landing spot at second base in Yankee Stadium.
Well, maybe not. Wilson has had a pretty fair career as the Seattle Seahawks’ passer, having won a Super Bowl just a few miles and a bridge from the Bronx in 2014. And he came within an ill-advised throw of winning another a couple of years ago.
So it’s unlikely — make that totally impossible — that this week’s trade with the Texas Rangers for Wilson’s rights will result in anything more than a few weeks of spring training workouts, a lot of chit-chat with the real roster stars, and then a quiet return the Seahawks’ offseason workout program.
Bo Jackson he’s not.
But that’s sort of the point. In those few weeks, he’ll mingle with the Aaron Judges and Gary Sanchezes, imparting both advice and wisdom to younger players.
There’s nothing wrong with that. A kid like Sanchez, gifted a hitter as he is, has an attitude that can certainly benefit from some wise words out of the mouth of one whose success dwarfs his by a considerable margin. A super-charged group headed by an established home run monster Giancarlo Stanton and ascending cruncher Judge won’t suffer at all rubbing shoulders for a while with the biggest celebrity athlete in the Pacific Northwest. Especially when he talks about the peaks and valleys even the most successful athletes endure during a long season.
That’s what general manager Brian Cashman had in mind when he sent some future considerations to Texas for the four-time Pro Bowler, who actually bounced around the lower levels of the Colorado Rockies’ organization from 2010-11 before the Rangers picked him up in the 2013 Rule 5 draft.
He hit all of .229 with 72 hits, 26 RBIs and 19 steals in the 315 at-bats he accumulated before the Seahawks drafted him in the third round (75th overall) in 2012. So it was obvious then that the bruising world of pro football would be his best and only option at making a real living in sports.
Jackson needed just 78 games in the minors in 1986 to prove himself worthy of a respectable, eight-year baseball career in Kansas City that produced 141 homers and 415 RBIs. Those first four years were split between the Royals and Raiders, where Jackson’s service as a fast, powerful running back peaked with a Pro Bowl nod in 1990.
Wilson is not that. Nor is he Tim Tebow, who will get a second shot as a non-roster invitee in Mets camp despite last year’s unremarkable stint in the low minors. For them, he’s a publicity stunt who can attract the curious to Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The Yanks need neither a two-sport phenom nor an attendance gimmick. As it is, they’ll open George Steinbrenner Field three hours before game time so fans can watch Stanton, Judge, and their buddies mash batting practice pitches into the pavilion.
Their PR campaign requires no novelty acts.
Wilson will simply serve as a sports sage — a celebrity guest of sorts — once he gets to camp sometime in March. He’ll take a few BP swings, hang in the dugout with the guys.
For him, it’s an opportunity to stay close to a sport he loves.
For the Yanks, it’s even more valuable than that.
“We’re all looking forward to gaining insight into how he leads teammates toward a common goal, prepares on a daily basis for the rigors of his sport, and navigates the successes and failures of a season,” Cashman said.
And the best part is that young Gleyber Torres needn’t worry about protecting his spot at second base.
Wilson already has a job.
A pretty good one, too.
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