Sam Killay covers the Devil Rays for MVN at Raystalk.
I just got done writing an article about one finesse lefty over at my MVN blog, and now I’m about to write a different article about a different finesse lefty here on Firebrand. Talk about deja vu.
Evan asked me to fill in today. Always glad to oblige. I don’t have any real analysis to present you, just an opinion piece. But it’s a noteworthy opinion. I wanted to write a little ’bout our pal David Wells. It’s no secret by now that he would like to be traded. It’s just a matter of whether the Front Office finds him to be more valuable to us in a trade or in the beautiful red, white, ‘n’ blue. But if they can swing a decent return for him in a trade, they’ll accomodate his wishes: he’ll go back home to the West Coast.
I find myself disappointed. For two reasons.
One reason is pretty simple: wounded pride. We Sox fans like to pride ourselves on the fervor with which we follow our team — the apple of New England’s eye. Especially these last few years, that fervor has indeed reached a fever pitch (which, by the way, somebody gave me for Christmas, not that I have any intentions of watching it).
That’s OK, right? We just take our baseball seriously, that’s all. Right?
Apparently not. Wells wants out of Boston for the same reason that Manny wants out of Boston. Which happens to be the same reason Nomar wanted out of Boston. They too complain(ed) that the Boston atmosphere is suffocating.
Yeah, but Manny always wants out. Manny wants … Manny wants a lot of things. Maybe Manny doesn’t know what he wants. He’s a flake. And Nomar? Nomar was just bitter.
Or maybe not. David Wells has pitched a lot places: he’s played for not less than 8 distinct franchises in his MLB tenure. He’s pitched in a lot of tough places. He’s pitched in front of a lot of disapproving crowds (especially since he published his book). He’s pitched in a lot of tough, big-game situations.
In other words, David Wells has seen it all. And if he says that Boston is a congested atmosphere, well … my inclination is to believe him. After all, he oughtta know.
That hurts. Is there such a thing as caring too much about the team you love? Well, clearly yes. There has to be a line somewhere, a point at which we begin to take the games too seriously. Have Boston fans crossed that line?
That’s the first reason for my disappointment about Wells’ stated desire to leave. It stings a little bit on the personal level. The second reason does as well. In plain English, I’ve come to like the guy.
Those are words I thought I would never say regarding David Wells. The man who was one of George Steinbrenner’s Yankee warriors. The man who declared that he wanted to be the one to push the button when Fenway Park was demolished. The man who openly idolized Babe Ruth.
When the Red Sox signed him last winter to that incentives-laden contract, I was thrilled. It was a win-win-win situation for us, I reasoned. If he stayed healthy & pitched well, then we had gotten ourselves a good pitcher. If he didn’t stay healthy, then the nature of his contract was such that the Red Sox would be obligated to pay him relatively little money. And if he didn’t pitch well, then he was our hostage: a Yankee trapped in a Red Sox uniform, to be heckled mercilessly.
It’s cruel, but it’s true. That was really how I looked at Wells coming into the season. I don’t know what changed my mind. Maybe it’s his frankness, his blunt honesty. Maybe it’s his willingness to speak his mind — and when proven wrong, to apologize for his words afterwards. Maybe it’s the way he wears his heart on his sleeve when he’s on the hill. Maybe it’s just his workmanlike way in which he pitches, pounding the strikezone with strike after strike after strike. Or maybe it’s that clean, efficient, repeatable, automatic, picture-perfect delivery.
I dunno. But somewhere along the line, I really came to like the man. It certainly wasn’t his numbers, per se, that won me over. It’s one thing to love a man like Pedro for the nonpareil excellence he brought to the Boston uniform. Pedro was Pedro: that was one thing. But Wells, this was something different. He didn’t dominate, by any means. He had a better year than I thought he might: as the questions about Curt Schilling piled up, I realized what a vulnerable position the Red Sox were in. Why had we backed ourselves into a corner with two aging starters in our rotation? Incentives-based contract or not, quite honestly, I thought Wells would come to hurt us. I worried about his health, his age, his flyball tendencies in a homerun park, even his willingness to perform in front of a fanbase to whom he had once been a chief nemesis. I worried about everything.
None of my worries about Wells turned out to have any substance, of course. Our rotation did fail us, but Wells had nothing to do with it. Instead, Wells was a league average pitcher for the Red Sox in 2005. He even pitched much better at Fenway than he did on the road. Hitters’ park? What hitters’ park?
There’s no guarantee that we trade Wells. As I said before, it’s becomes a question of which proves to be more valuable, keeping him or trading him. If we keep him, we know approximately what we’re going to get. If we trade him, on the other hand, how much can we realistically expect to get in return? The man will be 43 years old next year and … how to put this … isn’t a fitness fanatic. Not like a Roger Clemens, for example, who is a workout freak and is able to dominate in the regular season because he spends his offseason punishing himself, pushing his body to its limits. Wells … pronounced beer gut. Yeah. ‘Nuf said. Wells is an injury risk — not because he’s prone to arm troubles. Heck, as far as the elbow & shoulder problems that derail many pitchers, Wells has a clean bill of health. But he’s still an injury liability. Because sometimes he cuts his hand on a broken wineglass when he’s horsing around in his kitchen. Because sometimes he gets into barfights. Because sometimes he strains his groin climbing the steps to come out of the dugout.
Be honest now, how much are we going to get in return if we trade this guy?
The bottom line is that I don’t know what will happen this winter with regards to David Wells. Maybe we’ll trade him, maybe we won’t. But if we do, I’ve come to realize that I (for one) will be sad to see him go.
Sam Killay covers the Devil Rays for MVN at Raystalk.