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Bye-Bye Boomer?

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  August 9, 2007 06:01 PM

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David Wells was a better pitcher than you think.

Yeah, he's always had that high ERA (4.12 lifetime), but we might simply classify him as one of those Jack Morris guys who pitched to the situation.

OK, but do you realize that David Wells, whom the Padres designated for assignment on Wednesday, and who may very well be at the end of a fascinating 20-year major league career, has won 235 games while losing 156? That's a hefty .601 winning percentage, which is better than the lifetime marks of both Catfish Hunter (224-166) and Don Drysdale ( 209-166), to name two Hall of Famers people might automatically assume were in some more exalted category than the southpaw with the shaved head, the big belly and the goatee?

Then consider that both Catfish (1965-79) and Drysdale (1956-69) played in an era when offense was suppressed and pitching reigned supreme? Not to belittle Drysdale's eye-opening career ERA of 2.95, but his entire career was spent peering down at hitters from an elevated mound. The mound was lowered to its current height after the Ultra-Pitching year of 1968 and Drysdale retired a year later. It's just a fact.

David "Boomer" Wells spent his entire career --- I suppose someone might take a shot at a veteran lefty, but I doubt it --- in acknowledged offensive times. He pitched with the parks shrinking and all the advantages going to the hitters. It's just a fact.

David Wells tended to be where the real action was, and I can't believe it was an accident. He had an amazing 44 post-season decisions (27-17)for six different teams (Toronto, Cincinnati, Baltimore, San Diego, Boston and, of course, the Yankees). In those games his ERA was slightly over 3. It's just a fact.

You want to talk control, you'd better be ready to talk about David Wells. He led baseball in walks per nine innings four times. He was far from perfect, but he was not ordinarily into beating himself. He came after you, so it is no surprise he gave up 402 career homers.

He certainly had a great back story. He came from the non-glam side of San Diego and was raised by a woman who could legitimately be termed a biker mom. Consequently, David Wells put on no airs --- ever. You took him on his terms, and often they were coarse. I think we could very fairly label him as self-indulgent. Management would surely label him as High Maintenance.

But he had a sentimental side, too. I, for one, loved that whole business with the Babe Ruth hat. How many modern ballplayers would even give a you-know-what? And then there was his complete love affair with the Yankees. He was crushed when they traded him to Toronto in order to obtain Roger Clemens, and he was ecstatic when they brought him back. He loved everything about being a Yankee.

They had reason to like him, too. In four seasons with the Bombahs (1997-98, 2002-03) he was 58-28.

Oh, and don't forget the Perfect Game, or the fact that he went to the same high school as Don Larsen. Only baseball gives you this stuff.

I would go so far as to call him an American Original. I'm gonna miss him.

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About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
Bob is an award-winning columnist for the Globe and the host of "Globe 10.0" on Boston.com.

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