It is officially time to retire the "Is C.J. Wilson an ace?" discussion.
He's proven he has all the ability you could possibly want from the front man in a rotation in both the regular season and in the playoffs. He's proven that he can snap a losing streak and right a reeling team when he comes on the mound. He's proven that he can handle the baggage that comes along with the job and seems to relish the chance to do his business in the spotlight.
It has gotten to the point that you don't just think Wilson will win his starts, but expect nothing less than a gem. Starts like the one he turned in on Sunday are a big reason for that change.
Wilson struck out 11 in eight shutout innings against the A's, his second straight start without allowing a run and his third straight win overall. All three of those wins have come after Rangers losses, a habit that comes in awfully handy when the Angels are breathing down your neck and a losing streak could well spell the difference between October baseball and October golf.
All of this suits the Rangers quite fine right now, but every time Wilson goes out there and dominates an opposing lineup there's a little twinge of melancholy to the scene. A big September from Wilson will likely get the Rangers into the playoffs where there's a pretty good chance that he will slay the dragons from Boston and New York often enough to push the Rangers back into the World Series. The way he's going, there's no reason to expect anything less than a marvelous performance from him in that setting and Wilson will have gone from relatively obscure relief pitcher to national figure in two short years.
And there's the rub. Wilson's rise has been perfectly timed to his free agency and he will hit the market this offseason as everything a team could want in a starting pitcher. That's troubling for the Rangers because the two biggest kids on the block -- the Red Sox and Yankees -- are both desperately in need of pitching after spending this season trying to manage rotations with more leaks than the Titanic post-iceberg.
There will likely be other bidders too and each one that enters will add more money and more years to the contract it will take for the Rangers to keep Wilson. Nolan Ryan has made it clear that he doesn't like contracts of more than five years for starting pitchers, a sensible line that might wind up coming back to haunt him if Wilson walks away and leaves the team without the kind of top-shelf talent they need at the front of the rotation.
It would be nice to simply savor Wilson's work now and worry about everything else in the future. It's hard to do that when Wilson keeps showing that there are depths to his game that we haven't seen yet. You want to be around when he uncovers the next level, but the only thing rising faster than Wilson is the fear that he'll uncover it in another uniform.