Welcome to Pirates Flashback, a weekly look back at some of the best players of the worst teams in Pirates’ history. Today’s player is Jack Wilson, who played shortstop for the Pirates from 2001 to 2009.
BEFORE THE BUCS
Wilson was drafted out of Oxnard College by the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth round of the 1998 draft. He rose all the way to AA before being dealt to the Pirates in 2000 for Jason Christiansen. He made his major league debut April 3, 2001.
TIME WITH THE PIRATES
Wilson was a fan favorite for most of his tenure in Pittsburgh, earning the nickname “Jack Flash” for his hustle and defensive efforts.
Wilson was not an offensive threat for most of his Pirates career, but he was always an elite defender. He saved 104 runs in his time with the Pirates, which was by far the most in the majors in that time span. His next closest competition was Jimmy Rollins at 71 DRS.
In his nine years with Pittsburgh, he combined to hit .265 with 1294 hits, 61 home runs and 426 RBI.
Wilson’s best year was in 2004, recording 201 hits, a .308 average and tying for leading the league in triples with 12. He became the first Pirates’ shortstop to collect 200 hits in a season since Honus Wagner in 1908.
He earned his only All-Star nod and Silver Slugger that year.
Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell were traded to the Seattle Mariners July 29, 2009 for shortstop Ronny Cedeño, minor league first baseman Jeff Clement and minor league pitchers Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nate Adcock.
Cedeño played three years with Pittsburgh, providing subpar offense and defense. Clement made appearances as a Pirate in 2010 and 2012. Adcock was taken in the 2010 Rule 5 Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Pribanic and Lorin failed to reach the majors.
Wilson spent three years with the Mariners but never played more than 62 games in a season for them. Concerns with his range forced him to move to second, where he continued to play at least above average defense.
He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in August of 2011. It was supposed to be a move to sure up the Braves’ bench before their postseason run, but Atlanta went 9-18 down the stretch and blew an 8.5 game lead for the wildcard. It was the closest Wilson ever came to reaching the postseason.
He returned to the Braves in 2012, but was released before the rosters expanded in September. He hit .169 over 40 games that year and retired September 25, 2012.
DID HE DESERVE BETTER
Absolutely. If nothing else, he was a slick fielding middle infielder with a streaky bat. Just about every team in baseball could benefit from having a guy like that, but he was not the type of guy clubs could build around.
He was probably robbed of a Gold Glove in 2005, saving 32 runs- the most in baseball that year- compared to winner Omar Vizquel’s one run. If he was born 10 years later, his contributions with the glove would probably be better recognized.
Wilson never got a chance to play for a winner, but he is easily one of the most popular players from the 2000s Pirates. There is something to be said for being the big fish in a small pond, and hopefully that is enough for him.