LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla -- At first blush, you might think that the Texas Rangers, because they were desperate to get some attention before flying home after four days at the winter meetings without signing any free agents or making any trades, selected Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the Rule 5 draft. And at the low, low price of $12,000.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels, a huge New York Giants fan, will now be on a variety of ESPN NFL shows the next few days talking about one of the NFL's most prominent players. But Daniels didn't do it for that reason. This wasn't simply a case of the Rangers wanting a little publicity or paying a decent price for a motivational speaker. (Though they'll get publicity now, and again in February or March, if Wilson does come to spring training.)
Daniels talked to Wilson this morning and made it a point to tell him the club isn't trying to distract him and won't be bothering him until after the football season. But Wilson is excited he was drafted and told Daniels he wants to come to spring training. If the QB does, I'd expect him to do more than walk around and chat with the players like some dignitary. He'll probably want to take grounders, go through workouts and attempt to improve. It just seems that this is in Wilson's nature. At least the Rangers think so. All the reports they did on him when they scouted him as an infielder in high school and college, and all the reports they are getting now, indicate he has all the intangibles you want in a player.
That's the point. The Rangers preach a "winning environment." They talk to players and staff about doing all the little things it takes to win. Manager Ron Washington has cultivated a clubhouse that is loose and fun, but also focused. The players work hard. The Rangers say they believe Wilson has all those traits and they want him around their team.
The Rangers don't harbor any real hopes that Wilson will eventually give up throwing a football for a living. They know the odds are long that he'll ever grab a glove and actually play in a game. But that's not what drafting Wilson was about.
It's an investment of attitude. If young players see someone like Wilson working hard in spring training even after he's played a grueling NFL season for one of the league's top teams, perhaps they'll want to emulate him. It's about the message that Wilson can help send to everyone within the organization. Isn't that worth $12,000?