To get an idea, how disappointing the Vernon Wells era was in Anaheim …
When news broke Sunday that the outfielder was headed to the New York Yankees, Angels fans were generally thrilled about the trade despite not knowing any names or details relating to who or what might be sent west in return.
“A can of Sprite Zero?” Sure, we’ll consider it.
“It’s opened, we drank most of it. Yeah, what the hell. We’ll take it.
Slated to be a ridiculously overpaid bench player, it’s said the Angels got the best of this deal mainly by shedding the contract. Additional details are pointless.
Why the big poo party on V?
Vernon Wells is the truth. Vernon Wells is what’s real.
Wells made $21 million last year (.230, 11 HRs, 29 RBIs), missing half the season after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. Now add another $21 million this year and again in 2014. According to January’s inaugural address, Vernon is one of the lucky ones the president keeps talking about.
He’s having a solid spring, hitting .361 (13 for 36) with four homers and 11 RBIs, but with the Angels committed to a starting outfield of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Peter Bourjos and Mark Trombo at designated hitter, Wells would have been a reserve, a reduced role he was willing to accept — Los Angeles Times
Three-time All-Star, three Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger award and second all time for the Toronto Blue Jays in career hits, home runs, doubles, runs, RBI and total bases — enabling a 7-year/$126 million deal you can either blame Toronto for offering or credit its front office for knowing to trade him once they’d received the best of his years.
Still, Vernon Wells is everything that’s right with Major League Baseball.
The Angels had no luck shopping him this winter, forced to cover the bulk of the $42 million bath in hopes to lubricate an opposing general manager into accepting the phone call from Orange County. A no-trade clause further complicated courtship, and no other team could possibly absorb that kind of excess; take that steep a risk; grip so tightly such a hot potato.
Enter the Yankees, seemingly a collector of 34-year olds with bloated contracts and some of their best years behind them. Injuries to a growing number of highly-compensated position players and Vernon — swinging a hot bat in the Cactus League — finally found a lover in the Bronx.
Wells agreed to waive his no-trade clause Sunday and is expected to be the Yankees’ Opening Day left fielder. Reports have the Angels eating $29 million, the Yankees on the hook for the remaining $13 million over the next two years. Not bad, considering the Halos had been considering releasing Wells as recently as last week.
For New York, a dependence on aging players and reluctance to promote from within only punctuated criticism over the deal:
- Yankees’ grab at $126M bust Vernon Wells makes little sense, a sign of desperation
- If this were 2006, Yanks would be in great shape
The same panic which drew Wells to Anaheim from Toronto — two winters ago, when the Angels landed none of the key free agents it had targeted — now finds him in pinstripes.
A free agent in 2015, Wells will be 36. Although he’s considering retiring, the market for Wells should be exactly what you’d expect for players nine years beyond their prime. This is biology, the objective will be to keep playing. He eventually retires with a shot at 300 home runs and over 1000 RBIs, a nice career that he’s clearly on the tail end of.
No offense, Vernon. You’re mortal. This is what happens to the human body over time. It’s natural. If you’ve got anything left in the tank, something to prove, that’s inside you. Here’s your opportunity.
That said, at 36, Wells is not expected to monumentally improve as a ballplayer. Odds are, he won’t rise to prominence and break some of the most sacred records in professional sports, like, say, Barry Bonds did at that age.
In January, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America elected no player for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, for just the eighth time ever and first time since 1996.
Craig Biggio was the leading vote-getter with 68.2 percent of the vote, short of the 75 percent necessary. Biggio finished his career with 3,060 career hits and was never suspected of using performance enhancing drugs.
Bonds owns the record for most home runs in a career (762) and a season (73), yet was denied election in his first year of eligibility — along with Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, each with Cooperstown-worthy numbers but stained with suspicion of PED use. Clemens earned 37.6 percent of the vote, Bonds 36.2 percent and Sosa 12.5 percent.
The failure of the writers to pick Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens was not a surprise given the low vote totals received in the past by Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, other players associated with the use performance-enhancing drugs. But the vote totals for Bonds and Clemens were lower than expected — Nate Silver
Vernon Wells may have a late-career bloom like Rafael Palmeiro — 12th all time in HRs and 16th in RBIs — falling from 12.6% to 8.8% in the ballot. By age 35, Palmeiro had 400 HRs, then tacked another 42% onto that total in his final five seasons, when players naturally lose effectiveness. At 36, he exploded with 47 HRs and 123 RBIs. Blamo!
Mark McGwire, at 16.9% his lowest vote in the seven years he’s been eligible — 10th all time in career home runs. Mac hit 24 home runs in 1997 and 70 the year after. Bang! Kapow! McGwire actually hit 28 more home runs in his final four seasons (196) than he did in the four seasons preceding them (168). Holy insanity, Batman.
Roger Clemens won four Cy Young awards after the age of 34.
The human body doesn’t naturally behave like this. Just ask Lance Armstrong, stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won from 1999 to 2005.
To understand the monumental level of crap we were expected to believe, during the first two centuries of Major League Baseball: Babe Ruth hit 60 HRs in 1927, Roger Maris 61 in 1961 — records chased but challenged rarely throughout the rich history of the game.
Wham! Thwack! Zowie! The 61-HR threshold is exceeded six times between 1998 and 2001. Sammy Sosa, with 609 career homers, obscured it three times in four years. Odd, he’s not gaining more Hall of Fame support. Those are great numbers.
At age 36, Barry Bonds slugged his record 73 HRs, on way to winning NL MVP four years in a row. Retiring at 42, Bonds hit 268 home runs in those final seven seasons — that’s nine more than an entire Vernon Wells 14-year career.
“I feel like I’m a kid again,” Wells said, excited for a new start in the Big Apple. “I got goosebumps driving down the road a couple hours after they told me about the trade.”
Are we about to witness the second-coming of Vernon Wells? Will his career transcend in New York, exploding with Bonds-like rejuvenation? Does he have another nine seasons left in him?
It would be asking a lot, and advanced MLB drug testing only assures that he and others remain honest. There are many things wrong with Major League Baseball but playing the game with virtue and integrity is not one of them.
Oh, and New York sent minor leaguers Exircardo Cayones and Kramer Sneed to the Halos in exchange for Wells. It still doesn’t matter.
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