David Wells. "Boomer." The human anachronism. The throwback. Whatever he is, only a few things are certain: his bulk, which fluctuates from beefy to outright corpulent; his affinity for alcohol, cholesterol, and motorcycles; and his unquestionable ability to pitch effectively.
At 6'4", 225 lbs, he's only slightly larger than the average professional baseball player, although he wears his size like a weapon. Every ounce of that 225 goes into each pitch he throws (although by and large he's not much of a power pitcher), and his long, distingushed career as a pitcher has been worth his weight in gold to most of the teams that decided to bank on him. Drafted out of high school by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1982 amateur draft, Wells tarried about the minor leagues for some years afterwards, finally earning a mid-season call-up by the Jays in 1987. His first few years in the Majors were spent as a middle reliever, a task at which he was particularly effective (his ERA from his three seasons spent in middle relief works out to a combined 3.67). He was converted to a starting pitcher halfway through his fourth season with the Jays, though he was still used as a reliever now and then through his entire run with the team. He had a down year in 1992, finishing with an ERA near 6.00 and a sub-.500 won-loss record. (However, he was perfect in four appearances in the Jays' victory over Philadelphia in the 1992 World Series, not giving up a run in 5 innings of relief work.) As a result, the Jays declined to re-sign him after the season, so he signed with the Detroit Tigers. He spent the next two and a half seasons as a starting pitcher, going 27-19 with a combined ERA of 3.79 during his time playing for future hall-of-famer Sparky Anderson in Detroit, which, given the teams the Tigers fielded in the mid-1990s, was excellent.
Movin' On Up
At the 1995 trade deadline, the Tigers were very aware of Wells' value (he'd been the lone Tigers representative at the All-Star Game that July), and since it was a statistical impossibility for them to make the playoffs that season, they traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for mediocre stopgap pitcher C.J. Nitkowski, error-prone second baseman Mark Lewis, and a minor leaguer that never amounted to anything in the Majors. The move turned out to be quite good for the Reds, as they finished in first place in the NL Central division for the second straight year. They finished off the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series in four games, one of which had Wells throwing seven innings of shutout ball for the win. The Reds were then, in turn, swept by the Atlanta Braves in the Championship Series in four games, with Wells starting one game. He ended up giving up three runs and taking the loss.
Over the 1995-96 winter, Wells was traded once again, this time to the Baltimore Orioles for a couple of no-names (neither of whom are still playing). He spent only the 1996 season in Baltimore, and was reliable (pitching over 200 innings for the second straight year), but ended up with a win-loss record of 11-14 and again, his ERA hovered above 5.00. The Orioles granted him free agency after the season.
Pride of the Yankees
After a layoff of a few months, he signed with the New York Yankees for the first time in late December, 1996, thus beginning his tumultuous relationship with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. He thrived in New York; he ate up the gritty atmosphere of Yankee Stadium and relished in the consistent run support as the #2 starter behind ace Andy Pettitte. He brought his ERA down to a respectable 4.19 that year, finishing 16-10 as the Yankees went to the Division Series against Cleveland, which they ended up losing despite Wells' complete game victory in game 3. Then came 1998, a breakout year for many members of the Yankees but especially for Wells. Along with David Cone, he formed a nearly unbeatable one-two punch for the Yankees' starting rotation, going a showstopping 18-4, over the course of which he posted a 3.49 ERA and tossed a league-leading five shutouts, one of which was a perfect game (one of only 17 ever pitched in the Majors) against Minnesota. (An incident which, as Wells claimed later, he was half-drunk for and that he was taking cigarette breaks between innings.) The Yankees, of course, went on to win it all that season. Wells was stellar during the Division Series against Texas and the AL Championship Series against Cleveland, but faltered during the World Series against San Diego, getting shelled for five runs in seven innings during his only Series appearance (although he did pick up the win in that game). The 1998 postseason ended up being arguably his personal best, as he went 4-0 with a 3.10 ERA, while getting 31 strikeouts in 30 innings over four games.
Despite all his achievements with the 1998 Yankees, he became the subject of Steinbrenner's scorn for (as is usual with Steinbrenner) some unspecified reason (thought to be his alcoholism). The result of that scorn was a trade back to Toronto after the season, although this trade was something of a blockbuster; it brought Roger Clemens to New York. Wells, along with second baseman Homer Bush and pitcher Graeme Lloyd, went to Toronto in exchange, just as spring training was beginning prior to the 1999 season.
Where It All Began
Back with Toronto again, Wells continued his impressive outings as the ace of a largely mediocre pitching staff. While doing his second tour of duty in Toronto, he set career highs in wins (20 in 2000), games started (35 in 2000), complete games (9 in 2000), innings pitched (232 in 1999), and strikeouts (169 in 1999), although he also gave up more hits (246 in 1999 and 266 in 2000) than anyone else. In 2000, his 20 wins, 35 starts, 1.21 BB/9, and 9 complete games all lead the American League, but ended up finishing third behind Boston's Pedro Martinez and Oakland's Tim Hudson in voting for the AL Cy Young award.
Pride of the Yankees (Redux)
After his impressive 2000 season, Toronto traded Wells, this time to the Chicago White Sox for four minor leaguers. He spent most of the 2001 season on the disabled list with a back injury, appearing in only 16 games that year and compiling a 5-7 win-loss record. The White Sox wasted little time in releasing him after the season, whereupon he signed with the Yankees for a second time, apparently making amends with Steinbrenner. Back in New York, he became the #3 starter behind Clemens and Pettitte, and performed much the same as when he was previously with the Yankees in the late 1990s, compiling an impressive 34-14 combined record in 2002 and 2003, with a 3.90 ERA.
By the early 2000s, Wells was getting old, and was becoming more prone to unpredictability (which is reportedly detrimental to public figures). Halfway through the 2003 season, he got into a fight with a fan at a New York City diner late one night after the fan insulted his mother. Wells lost a tooth in the incident, but didn't miss any playing time because of it. He was also feuding with Steinbrenner again, which resulted in a brief move to the Yankees' bullpen, a regular doghouse for starting pitchers that fail to appease him. This time the feud was over Wells' autobiography, entitled "Perfect I'm Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Baseball," written with the assistance of Chris Kreski, and released just prior to the 2003 season. In it, Wells detailed his more animalistic habits that were largely unknown as they were happening. The cover features Wells wearing a wifebeater while leaning menacingly over the handlebars of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, staring impassively at you from underneath a plain, blank baseball hat. The book delves into the "steroids in professional baseball" scandal, naming a few names (he keeps it mostly toned down, probably at the insistence of the MLBPA, though he does mention Ken Caminiti, whose steroid use during his active career is public knowledge). He goes into detail about his dislike for late Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott ("a thoroughly obnoxious, often intoxicated broad who pinched pennies so hard she gave Abe Lincoln headaches"), and former Major League baseball manager Bobby Valentine ("the least-liked manager in the game"), among others. It's not all fire and brimstone, though, as he often heaps praise on Clemens, Cal Ripken Jr., his idol Babe Ruth, and former manager Sparky Anderson. Often noted are instances of Wells' alcoholic tendencies and the plight of his hangovers after various events (playoff victories, TV guest appearances, etc.). He seems to play them up to more of an issue than they were during his playing days, as his alcoholism rarely caused him any issues with playing, although they often caused problems with his teammates over the years.
The End is Nigh
Wells signed a 1-year contract with the San Diego Padres prior to the 2004 season, intending to finish his career with his hometown team. (He's a native of Torrance, California, not far from San Diego.) The Padres weren't particularly favoured to win anything in 2004 (they finished dead last in their division in 2003), but Wells proclaimed his lifelong desire to play for his hometown team at least once in his career. "Don't expect a savior," he told Padres fans upon his signing.
His 2004 season, at age 41, was pretty good: he went 12-8/3.73 in 31 starts for the Padres.
For what seems like the umpteenth time in his career, Wells changed teams again after the 2004 season, signing a 1-year deal with the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox, then signed another 1-year deal to stay in Boston for 2006. Boston, however, traded Wells on September 1, 2006, back to the Padres where he will most likely end his career, after appearing in only 13 games combined due to injuries for Boston and San Diego.
In January 2007, Wells resigned with San Diego for one more year. He floundered, though, until they released him in early August. The Los Angeles Dodgers then picked him up.
After the 2007 season, Wells finally retired.
Wells launched his own website in early 2005, part blog and part general ramblings from everyone's favorite southpawed fatty.
David Wells' career regular season pitching statistics (through the end of the 2007 season):
W L G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA
239 157 660 489 65 54 12 13 3439.0 3635 1702 1578 407 719 2201 4.13
Birthdate: May 20, 1963, in Torrance, California
Major League debut: June 30, 1987