SI.com's Jimmy Traina spoke with Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson last week about a variety of on-field and off-field subjects.
SI.com: You've made the transition this season from reliever to starter? What's been the biggest difference?
Wilson: The cool thing about being a starter is that you have more of a routine on a day-to-day basis. So the days you know you're not going to pitch, you're a little bit more free mentally to pursue some creative stuff. I can explore the city more on the road. I can walk around in the morning knowing that I have to be able to physically do my workouts, but not necessarily play in the game later that today.
SI.com: Has it been an easy transition for you?
Wilson: No part of baseball is easy. To get to the point where I'm at now, I've played baseball for 20 years and up until the last four or five, I was a starting pitcher. More often than not, it's just me drawing on previous experience. But a lot of the success I've had is in relation to how open I've been to go up to people and ask them questions and get advice from previous relievers-turned-starters, or just other pitchers around the league and guys we have in our organization.
SI.com: What's the best advice someone has given you?
Wilson: It's hard to distil everything into one comment. My mentor growing up was Bud Black, who now manages the Padres. He and I met when I was 15. He's seen me develop the whole way and I asked him straight up if he had any reservations about me starting and he told me to try that if I believed I could do it because it's what I'd be better at. I took that pretty heavily and continued to pursue the starting thing.
SI.com: The Rangers are off to a strong start. How you like the team's chances to get the postseason?
Wilson: The ultimate thing in baseball is the length the season. We have 162 games to play, there's a long way to go. But we feel like we haven't played our best baseball yet, so for us to have a lead in the division is a good thing. A lot of guys are performing on an adequate level for their skill level and I think that's going to increase and I think a lot of guys, including myself, are going to take that next step. Ultimately it's going to come down to how healthy we stay, but I feel better about our team now than I ever have.
SI.com: If you were commissioner, what would you change about the sport?
Wilson: I think the game is really good, especially the way we've expanded over the past couple of years. The MLB Network has been really helpful. Fans have more access to baseball. Not just stories about baseball, not just highlights, but real baseball. The only thing I don't like is the schedule. The schedule sucks. For instance, the Royals had a two-game homestand last week. So they're on the road, come home for two games. Go back on the road. Doesn't make any sense. A couple of weeks ago, we went to Toronto for three games and we had no off days before or after and that didn't make any sense either. We could go to Toronto and then Boston, etc. The schedule makers try to make everything too tricky. A standard schedule would work. The warm weather teams and dome teams play at home the first couple of weeks. No reason to play with that.
SI.com: Do you like interleague play?
Wilson: I love interleague play. I think it's great. But I think what I would change about interleague is I'd make the American League parks the ones where pitchers hit and have the DH in the National League parks so the fans get to see something different. Why make the fans sit through the same thing all the time?
SI.com: What do you think about people who complain about the pace of the game?
Wilson: Pace of the game is 100 percent related to the size of the strikezone. The smaller the strike zone, whether it's real or implied, the more walks are going to happen. When there are a ton of walks, the coaches get pissed and they bring in new pitchers and that takes time. Also, when you have high-scoring games, that takes time. You're gonna have long games once in a while. And you can't complain about that because there's no timeouts in baseball, which is great. In other sports, you have teams winning because they hold the ball longer, which, for me, is a totally lame way to play a sport. I like baseball because it's played between the players and it goes on as long as it has to. It's not cricket. It's not going on for three days. If I have to step off and call the catcher out and I don't want to throw a pitch he's calling, I'm gonna do that and take my time to throw the pitch I need to. It's really easy for anyone not involved in the pitcher-catcher relationship to say "Oh, well, they don't need to talk so much," but it's really crucial, especially at the beginning of the season when you're just getting established with that stuff.
SI.com: You were one of the first baseball players on Twitter and you seem to be big fan of the service. Why do you like it so much?
Wilson: I've always been into social media. I did the MySpace thing and then Facebook and now Twitter. And there's going to be something after Twitter. I think people really enjoy the interaction they have with whoever they're looking for. Personally, I've been able to meet the producers of Lost because I Tweeted them and that opened the door. So I can relate to fans who want to have a connection with me because we like the same things or even because they hate something I like or maybe because they think I stink. The real world is not fair. It's kind of it's own, I don't know, organic motion. And you see waves of that in Twitter, as well, where someone who is completely pointless will have a million followers and they say completely pointless things and it's not even them writing. There's plenty of celebrities that don't even write their own stuff, and I think that's lame. I think that's the only crime people commit on Twitter, when they milk what they have and don't make any effort themselves. In stark opposition to that, I have way less followers but I've written everything that's been on there. That being said, I've made some mistakes and said things that people were offended by.
SI.com: Such as?
Wilson: One time, I sent what I thought was a direct message to a friend, but it went to everybody by accident. It was my buddy asking for something and I said "Oh, blank I don't know." But I didn't say "blank." I said something else. The thing is, my image is really clean and G-rated, for better or worse, so in order to uphold that, I have to filter a lot of stuff, and I can't reply to everybody. I get a lot of replies, especially when I was a reliever and pitched in so many games, so if I gave up a run, it was like "you suck, blah, blah, blah." You know, it's all these people after the game, and they've been tuned up, they've had a couple of brewskis and they're gonna say "Hey, I can legit reach this person and there's a pretty good chance they're gonna read it and I'm gonna go for it and talk crap." But we're all kind of watching this happen at the same time. Twitter has been around for two or three years, but now, all of the sudden, it's a big volcano of activity and millions of people are on it. I think it's great because it provides that accessibility to people. I've had people hit me up on Twitter and something comes of it. Whether it's "Hey, I want to help you with this" or "Hey I want you to go to this restaurant, it'll be good," or what I did with the Lost guys, "I like your TV show." That's the beauty of it. You don't have to go through anyone's agent, so if you really have something to say, it'll get out there. The other thing is that it shows you how pointless everyone's opinions are because anyone can have a page and it doesn't matter or change anything. An opinion doesn't change anything. Action is the only thing that is worth anything.
SI.com: Do you have any Twitter follow recommendations?
Wilson: Oatmeal is great, very funny. But I mostly follow people I know or want to know. For instance the Lost guys, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, were pretty cool and they had funny jokes about each episode throughout the season going on on Twitter. But I mostly follow people I know except for a couple of babes, swimsuit models, that I don't know but I wish I did.
SI.com: We'll get to that a little later, but even though it ended a couple of weeks and you've already blogged about it, I have to ask if you were happy with the Lost finale?
Wilson: Yeah. I'm a sci-fi guy, literally science -- biology, physics, chemistry, etc. I'm kinda guilty of trying to science-fictionalize the whole thing, so when I watched the finale it honestly was a big analytical moment for me because I realized the love factor and community factor and the power of people as a group. This was a humanity story. It's not a sci-fi story. Although it has elements of Indiana Jones and Star Wars-type adventure stuff, it really is about what people have in common and what people share together. So it's not very often I can watch a single episode of a TV show and be moved, but I was moved.
SI.com: Is Lost your all-time favorite TV show?
Wilson: Absolutely. I used to be really into X-Files when I was younger. And the first season of The OC I liked a lot.
SI.com: Now you're talking my language.
Wilson: When it was on, I was 22 years old and I'm from Newport Beach, so my friends and I would get together and have viewing parties. We were only a couple of years older than the characters on the show and we lived in the same area, so it was something we identified with in a comedic sense.
SI.com: Were you a Marisa guy or a Summer guy?
Wilson: Summer. Not in Season 1, but Season 2 and Season 3 Summer I liked a lot better.
SI.com: You live a "Straight Edge" lifestyle. Truth be told, I didn't know what that even meant until I started following you on Twitter and looked it up.
Wilson: I'm changing the world one Tweep at a time.
SI.com: Yes. The power of Twitter. Anyway, is it hard to maintain that lifestyle when you're a Major League Baseball player?
Wilson: No. You make a decision and you stick with it and that's it. It's something I've been my whole life.
SI.com: Do you remember consciously making that decision? At what age did you decide to live your life that way?
Wilson: I had some family members that had substance abuse problems. I wanted to be a baseball player my whole life, and I knew drugs were never going to help me. I was never going to drink my way to the big leagues. It was illogical. It was a straight rational decision I made as a kid. The first thing I remember wanting to do was be a fighter pilot. The second thing I wanted to do was be a race car driver and the third thing I wanted to do was be a baseball player. I started playing baseball when I was 8. My logic kicked in early when I was a kid, so I was able to avoid 97 percent of the pitfalls that most people encounter because they get misled down the wrong path.
SI.com: Is it ever difficult for you to see other athletes who partake in those things?
Wilson: My business is my business and they can do whatever they want to do as long as their not getting DUIs and running people over. Realistically, most of the world lives life in moderation. Most people don't live an extreme lifestyle. For me, I go out. I DJ. When the time is right, when it's appropriate, I enjoy staying up late, I enjoy music. I don't need anything else. I'll drink a Red Bull and I'll be wired all night and I'm good to go. And my memory is phenomenal and that's the best part. I remember everything cool that's ever happened to me. I enjoy that part. The only downside is that with teammates when I was younger, I was more judgmental. Now I've gotten to the point where I'm more laissez-faire. I get upset if I know a teammate plays poorly because he's hungover or something, but if the other team is partying and team's are getting trouble, that's fine, go ahead. It's sad that they're wasting their money and ruining their life, but that's their life to live, not mine.
SI.com: Do teammates or other players ever get on you about living the Straight Edge lifestyle?
Wilson: In high school and college they did, but now people say it's cool. I kinda crossed over when people saw I was successful, and that might be an element of my success and they might say it's cool that I made this choice and I'm prioritizing your job.
SI.com: Do you think athletes are getting in trouble more than ever now? Or do you think it's because we live in such a media world right now?
Wilson: There's a lot of doom and gloom out there because that's easy to report. And news is more accessible now. You can open your phone and post something. You can post videos online from your phone. News is everywhere. Reporters are everywhere. But I think there's a morbid fascination with failure. And that's why there are all these hater types in the media, without naming names on specific reporters or TV pundits.
SI.com: You can name names.
Wilson: No, but there's a lot of intellectual snobbery that takes place, so many people think they're better than other people. But looking for something to stamp somebody a failure on to me is pointless. It's not a zen way to live your life. But it sells. So if that's your job and it's putting food on your table and money in your retirement account, our society rewards you for that. I mean, there are some people, if they're on TV I have to turn it off because I can't stand how negative they are.
SI.com: Are you dating anyone right now?
Wilson: No. My dream girl, Irina Shayk, was recently spotted withCristian Ronaldo. So I'm bummed about that.
SI.com: I'm sure you'll recover. The perception is that athletes can basically walk into a bar and get any girl they want.
Wilson: Well, I know that I pursue a certain type of girl. And the girls that I want aren't in a bar.
SI.com: What about a Barnes & Noble?
Wilson: If I'm gonna pick up on somebody, it's gonna have to do more with my personality than my job because I don't wear my jersey around and I'm not recognized. Maybe locally in Dallas or Fort Worth, but realistically, I grew up in Southern California. I know what real celebrites are. Tom Cruise is a real celebrity. Shaq is a real celebrity. Someone who walks into a room and every single person knows who that is. That's a celebrity. Me? I don't see myself like that. So for me, I'll open up SI's Swimsuit edition and I'll be like, "Yo, Irina Shayk, what up? You're the hottest girl in the world." But that doesn't get me anywhere. She's not hanging out at the Fort Worth Barnes & Noble.
SI.com: Is it hard to date someone during the season?
Wilson: You meet people all the time. But it's harder for me to socialize and go out during the season. And all my friends live in L.A. or New York, so during the season, I'm mostly kicking it by myself. My team is pretty PG. I think there are only two or three single guys on my team, so nobody goes out. If I meet somebody, it's through somebody else.
SI.com: Would you ever date someone who pursued you via the Internet?
Wilson: Depends on who they are. The Internet is out there. There's what? Six billion people on earth? There's probably two billion on the Internet. Maybe my dream girl is out there somewhere? So I wouldn't say no.
SI.com: That's sort of how Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker got together. He saw her in these videos on SI.com and he had his people contact her people.
Wilson: Brooklyn Decker is hot. I don't blame Andy Roddick at all.
SI.com: Since you've made it known you're a fan of the SI Swimsuit section, give me your top three models from the 2010 issue.
Wilson: Obviously, Irina is No. 1. I saw Irina picture in 2007 and I was like, "Oh my God, if I built a girl on the computer, this is her." I generally go for brunette's and I like girls that have dark features and light eyes. Dominique Piek is cute. She looks like Rachel Bilson. And Bar Refaeli is great. I've always been a fan of Bar.