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The Sports Daily > Firebrand AL
Understudy!

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.

Comments

  1. I concur. David Wells, if traded, will be missed. The one thing that defined Wells was what Curt schilling said, "the one guy missing from the 2004 team was David Wells."
    They obviously didn't need the help in 2004, but he was the right fit with that party all the time, don't give a damn attitude.
    My favorite moments though, which were purely entertainment, were his post game interviews. I will defenitely miss those. Especially the one that followed his ejection for calling the ump a… yeah you know what he called him.

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  2. As far as atmosphere goes, Boston is a tempest in a teapot, but its no worse than New York.
    Now as far as Wells the pitcher goes, I'll certainly miss him. He's not what he was, but he's still better than the majority of starters in the American league. He's also no stranger to pressure – he's a big game pitcher. Also, when he was with the Orioles he was a Yankees killer though I'm not certain that that's still the case.
    So yes, if he goes, I doubt very much we'll get anything remotely close to equal value.

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  3. "As far as atmosphere goes, Boston is a tempest in a teapot, but its no worse than New York."
    Isn't it? Wells has spent plenty of time pitching in NY, and the attention never bothered him there. He wanted to go back: he signed with the Sox last winter, but reports said he really wanted to pitch for the Yankees again. But they didn't want to commit. They wanted to get younger.
    Wells never asked out of NY. Based on that, I've gotta say Boston is in fact worse. Or if you don't like my choice of wording, let's not say that Boston is worse than NY, but perhaps we should say more intense. And let's not forget, Wells isn't a guy who shies away from attention. He's not a Mike Mussina type.

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  4. Reports now say that Manny has decided to stay put with the Sox. Without Manny, what would you give up for Tejada now? (Do you think we can use hypnosis or something to convince the O's to dump salary and give us Tejada for Clement and maybe a Murphy?). Yeah, I know, insane and all. But these are the Orioles, after all….

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  5. Chris-
    With the way the Orioles are acting, if Jesus Christ returned, and put up an .850/.900/2.5 at Lowell, they'd still ask for Papelbon in the deal. The Orioles are fucking idiots, and that's why they're (deservedly) near the bottom of the AL.
    Even though I'd be happy to get some mad prospects out of Manny at this point, I'm thrilled he wants to stay. Just Manny being Manny, yet again. What a weird story he is.

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  6. I think I agree with both of you in more ways than not. I suspect that Manny is the real idiot of the clubhouse; and he really doesn't know what he wants. I have heard the tale of the 5000 lb gorilla over in the corner, which apparently is a well known gorilla to most, if not all, of the local media: the real reason for Manny's trade request. Manny apparently had a little extra-marital tryst with a woman from our fair city, and his wife's response was to demand a change of home city. Perhaps she realized that 1, available women exist in other cities as well; 2, Manny coming here on road trips might be even less desirable; 3, she can afford chaperones (lots of them); 4, no other team will take him anyway, the contract is just that ridiculous.
    Whatever the case, he's here, he'll pout and pull some stuff sometime in the middle of July, and he'll smash the ball all over the place.
    I don't think he's the diva that Pedro is, in fact I don't think he has an malevelent bone in his body. It's not his 'using' the media, I doubt that he is capable of such undertakings. It's his total lack of understanding of just how these things play out here in the great unwashed.
    And yeah, the O's are ridiculous, that's why I hope we can use some chicanery to get Tejada anyway. We dreamt of a World Serious victory and that came true…. why not?

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  7. Like I said: Manny doesn’t know what he wants.
    IMHO, I’ve seen enough. It’s time to run him outta town on a rail. This act is getting old, and so is Manny.
    I know there will be those here who disagree. And I respect their opinion because, truth be told, Manny is a uniquely gifted hitter, one of the 2 or 3 best of his generation. But we all know about his defensive shortcomings, and his media antics are becoming legendary. Or infamous, I should say.
    I’ve seen enough. Push this one through, bring me Tejada or Beltran or Lastings Milledge or Jesus Christ (if he is in fact available), but I don’t wanna see Manny in a Sox uni come next April.

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  8. "Isn't it? Wells has spent plenty of time pitching in NY, and the attention never bothered him there. He wanted to go back: he signed with the Sox last winter, but reports said he really wanted to pitch for the Yankees again. But they didn't want to commit. They wanted to get younger.
    Wells never asked out of NY. Based on that, I've gotta say Boston is in fact worse. Or if you don't like my choice of wording, let's not say that Boston is worse than NY, but perhaps we should say more intense. And let's not forget, Wells isn't a guy who shies away from attention. He's not a Mike Mussina type."
    Two comments. Wells is a little older now and maybe the attention bothers him more now or may he just prefers New York to Boston. But that's speculation.
    What isn't is the suggestion that everything was hunky dory with the Yankees. How quickly we forget the $100,000 fine and the argument with Steinbrenner in which he threatened to punch him out.
    And I don't think New York is any less intense about the Yankess in particular and sports in general. The spotlight burns pretty bright there.

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  9. Wells is a little older now? Man, he was pitching for the Yankees in the postseason only a little more than two years ago!
    I'm not saying that NY was one long honeymoon for Wells. The guy has a knack for stirring up trouble, wherever he goes. And what do you expect when you put two explosive personalities like Steinbrenner & Wells together? Of course they're going to spar once in a while.
    What matters is that the Yankees wanted Wells back for a second stint in NY (after his exile in Chicago), and Wells still wanted to be a Yankee beyond that. That speaks volumes to me.

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