Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Stuck Between Stations
Pinning down exactly what Vernon Wells is and means is, as it turns out, quite difficult. Writing about the Vernon Wells trade without mention money is nearly impossible. Writing about the Vernon Wells trade more than four days after it went down is pretty much impossible.
What possible angle remains uncovered? What flavour of payroll flexibility-tinged glee is as yet unsampled? Is there room to be wistful over a guy who, frankly, no one will actually miss?
Vernon Wells is a lot like this blog post. Two days too late, instantly forgotten. There is no great epiphany coming in the next few paragraphs. Don't read on if you expect some grand analogy and ultimate tribute to one of the greatest compilers of achievements this team has ever known.
Vernon Wells — by virtue of his contract and the era in which he played — is just a rich guy who played baseball in Toronto for a long time. Not once during his tenure as a Blue Jay was he the best player on his team. They might elect him to Ring of Honour one day, but then again who cares. Will you buy a ticket to cheer his accomplishments?
Off the field - he did more than his share. Beyond his admirable charity work he was nice enough to the media guys and respected as a teammate. All things no fans actually give two hot shits about. He made too much money and took too much abuse. He got hurt diving for balls despite constant whining from fans claiming he didn't dive enough.
By signing an insanely lucrative contract, which stands to set his children's children for life, Vernon Wells became a victim. He was a victim in 2007 just as he is now: victim of a guy with way too much money to spend and a pressing need to justify his existence by spending it.
Which births anew Vernon Wells - Opulent Victim. Wells is damaged goods to far too many Angels fans already, though he's yet to pull a Halo "A" low over his eyes.
They'll boo him because the Tony Reagins doesn't wear a uniform. They'll boo him because their team is aging and the manager's a jackass and because Torii Hunter is just too damn smiley. Vernon Wells will hear boos from Seth Cohen and Gwen Stefani's third cousin unless he goes Tuffy Rhodes on Opening Day. Even then, he'll hear it.
Not nearly as loud as he'll inexplicably hear it from Jays fans. Despite serving as a casualty in the ongoing deification of Alex Anthopoulos (pictured above) Vernon Wells will hear many boos on his return to Toronto.
Boos he has heard before. They booed him when he walked with his family on doggie day and they booed him at nearly every turn. All because he agreed to take more money than he may have been worth, then got hurt, then got better but played crappy.
Vernon Wells isn't much different from Roy Halladay or Carlos Delgado. They all presided over middling times for a middling club. Except those two players are better than Vernon Wells. They hit better or pitched better and smiled bigger and became the thing we desperately want athletes to be, each in their own way. Vernon Wells just played and went home.
He did the thing too many people claim to want but actually detest from professional athletes. A certain segment of the fanbase loves railing against hot dogs one minute then bemoaning boring cliche machines the next. Vernon Wells was affable and frank and available and nobody gives a shit because of what he wasn't, not who he was.
Ultimately, I think this town will forget Vernon Wells in a hurry. Despite logging thousands of innings in the middle of Rogers Centre, his legacy will not last. Other insane contracts will shove his from the memory, other affable & well-adjusted athletes will attract our undeserving scorn.
Blue Jays fans will quickly learn 30 home runs for a center fielder is a three year running total, not a baseline for acceptable production. They'll wake up tomorrow and realize Jason Frasor is the longest tenured Blue Jay (and even he's on the outs.) The now-annual New Blue Jays Epoch begins, in earnest, today.