May 20 – Happy Birthday David Wells
His nickname was “Boomer,” he was partially raised by a morotcycle gang, he once was fined for wearing Babe Ruth’s baseball cap in an actual MLB game and he loved pitching for the New York Yankees. Wells was what you would call a “free spirit.” He didn’t normally respond well to authority figures and for the first ten years of his big league career, he pitched OK for four different teams, compiling a 90-75 record.
Then in December of 1996, the Yankees signed the rotund left-hander to a free agent contract and Wells was introduced to the pinstripes and the Big Apple. He thought he found heaven on earth. That first year in New York was the worst of his four Yankee seasons on the field, as he went 16-10 and tried to figure out his new manager, Joe Torre and the big boss, Steinbrenner. Off the field, however, Wells provided an instant boost to New York City’s night life.
Then in 1998, in my humble but very Yankee-centric opinion, I thought David Wells was the best pitcher in baseball. He went 18-4 in the regular season with five shutouts and then 5-0 in the postseason. His perfect game against the Twins in May of that year was a magical moment in franchise history. Simply put, that 1998 Yankee team would not have been the best Yankee team I ever saw if David Wells was not on its roster. But when the Blue Jays let it be known that their 1998 Cy Young Award winner, Roger Clemens was available, George Steinbrenner told his front office to do whatever it took to get him. “Whatever it took” included Wells and Boomer found himself pitching north of the border in 1999.
Wells was devastated by the deal. Best friend David Cone told reporters that the big southpaw cried like a baby when he got the news. Boomer knew Toronto well because he had come up with the Blue Jays and played his first six big league seasons with the team. He went back up north and won 37 games there during the next two seasons while Clemens won just 27 for the Yankees during that same span.
2001 was going to be the final year on Wells’ contract and the Blue Jays knew they’d have a tough time re-signing him, so in January of that year he was traded to the White Sox. He then injured his back and appeared in just 16 games for Chicago in 2001.
Wells’ return to the Yankees the following year was not without controversy. It was reported that he and his agent had already verbally committed to a contract with the Diamondbacks when the Yankees came up with their best but very late offer. Wells backed out of his deal with the Diamondbacks to return to pinstripes.
His 2002 season was outstanding. Wells remained injury free and went 19-7. His Yankee fortunes really began to turn when his autobiography was released right before the 2003 season began. In it, Boomer made some controversial statements and claims that didn’t sit well with the Yankee front office. Still, in 2003 he pitched 215 solid innings for the Yankees during the regular season, going 15-7, which brought his four season record in pinstripes to 68-28, for a gaudy .708 winning percentage.
In the 2003 postseason, Wells improved his Yankee postseason record to 7-1 with his victories in the ALDS and ALCS, before losing a tough 3-2 decision to the Marlins in Game 1 of that year’s World Series. With the two teams tied at two games apiece, Wells was scheduled to pitch Game 5. He told manager Joe Torre before the game that his back hurt too much to accept the challenge. That bad back combined with the ill will created by his book sealed Wells fate in New York. When he entered free agency following the Series, there were no last minute offers from the Yankees and Wells signed with his hometown Padres instead.
|TOR (8 yrs)||84||55||.604||4.06||306||138||65||18||2||13||1148.2||1171||566||518||126||294||28||784||1.275|
|NYY (4 yrs)||68||28||.708||3.90||124||123||0||19||9||0||851.2||886||396||369||98||139||2||557||1.204|
|SDP (3 yrs)||18||18||.500||4.33||58||58||0||0||0||0||342.2||392||170||165||41||57||5||178||1.310|
|DET (3 yrs)||26||19||.578||3.78||66||64||0||8||1||0||428.2||416||201||180||56||103||17||293||1.211|
|BOS (2 yrs)||17||10||.630||4.56||38||38||0||2||0||0||231.0||284||125||117||31||29||0||131||1.355|
|LAD (1 yr)||4||1||.800||5.12||7||7||0||0||0||0||38.2||45||23||22||5||9||1||19||1.397|
|CIN (1 yr)||6||5||.545||3.59||11||11||0||3||0||0||72.2||74||34||29||6||16||4||50||1.239|
|BAL (1 yr)||11||14||.440||5.14||34||34||0||3||0||0||224.1||247||132||128||32||51||7||130||1.328|
|CHW (1 yr)||5||7||.417||4.47||16||16||0||1||0||0||100.2||120||55||50||12||21||1||59||1.401|