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.

16 comments:

  1. Drew, you touch on a good point here. Some of us (myself) tend to romanticize the time that long-tenured players spent with the Blue Jays. Vernon was a great player, but I wouldn't necessarily say he qualifies as an "excellent player".

    Maybe if the Blue Jays install a ring below the Level of Excellence titled the "Level of Greatness", then VW would be one name to include on there.

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  2. Tumblr this so I can reblog it.

    In other demands, Matt Stairs should immediately be hoisted onto the "He Was Alright But We Loved Him" ring.

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  3. I'm assuming that the ring on which Stairs gets honoured will circle a beer station on the concourse.

    Well put, as always Drew, and I appreciate the allusion to the notion that in spite of his significant attendance record in the Jays lineup, Wells' career might be forgettable a few years down the road. It's something I thought about (because we are, after all, two guys sharing one brain), but set aside for the Level of Excellence debates.

    (Sneak Preview: SHAWN GREEN WAS BETTER THAN WELLS!)

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  4. "He was alright but we loved him" is Toronto distilled to one sentence.

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  5. Just a little food for thought, here is Vernon Wells compared to the two premium OF’s who signed this offseason:
    Full Name (Age): AVG/OBP/SLG HR and RBI (contract length, total value, AAV)

    Vernon Wells (32): .273/.331/.515 31HR and 88RBI (4 years, $86 million, $21.5 million/yr)
    Jayson Werth (31): .296/.388/.532 27HR and 85RBI (7 years, $126 million, $18million/yr)
    Carl Crawford (29): .307/.356/.495 19HR and 90RBI (7 years, $142million, $20.3million/yr)

    Considering what a premium offensive OF costs on the free agent market does paying a little more short term for Vernon, not having to give up two draft picks, and getting a guy who can play up the middle not make sense?

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  6. That's true, but it doesn't erase the other, shittier seasons in the past. From 2008-2010, Jayson Werth averaged a .387 wOBA and hit 82 home runs. Carl Crawford averaged .358 wOBA while saving more than 50 runs in the field.

    Each of those two average 5 Wins a year for 15 total.

    Vernon Wells totaled 5 Wins in that span. Total. With a .342 wOBA. Not really the same.

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  7. That's fair, and I think past analysis is indeed important. However, Wells' played the 2009 and 2008 seasons through injuries, and as those are the two years added to the analysis obviously his numbers look worse. I do not expect Wells to have another 2003-like season, but to repeat his 2010 or 2007 seasons a couple more times I think is a reasonable possibility.

    That said, there is a level of risk involved on the Angels' part. Is Vernon an injury prone player at the end of his prime? Or will being on a team that can win it's division, that he isn't forced to lead, and that plays on real grass rejuvenate his game?

    I think the trade is fine for the Blue Jays, as having salary flexibility is always important. But having a guy who can play CF (say whatever you want about his defence there) and hit 30HRs and isn't signed to a 7 year deal is a good pick up for the Angels. Especially considering the players they gave up, Napoli and Rivera, would not have got much playing time with Conger ready for prime time and Morales coming back from injury.

    All in all the Angels picked up a great player and a great person for only money. Personally, I think the Wells deal is better than Werth's and probably a little worse than Crawford's. Hopefully Vernon goes out there and proves me right.

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  8. As if I'm going to pass this post off as just one of the same. The whole banality of Vernon Wells as a Blue Jay in terms of on and off-field excellence perfectly captured.

    I was happy with Vernon Wells being an actual good guy. Honestly, that means more to me as a regular person, not as a sports fan.

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  9. "Affability is the new on base"

    Come for the nerdity, stay for the labels.

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  10. Bobo The Discount ClownJanuary 26, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    And now Sciocia will use Wells to block that Mike Trout kid, not too different from what happened with Mathis and Napoli.
    When was the last "good" deal made by LA again? (No, seriously. I can't remember)

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  11. Well, Mike Trout is only 19 so he isn't quite blocked yet. They do still have Peter Bourjos and Bobby Abreu on top of Vernon and Torii. And Reggie Wilits, of course.

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  12. Also, the Angels traded Casey Kotchman (and a few others) for half a season of Mark Teixeira, who netted them a first round pick when he walked. That pick? Mike Trout.

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  13. Bobo The Discount ClownJanuary 27, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    Ah thanks Drew. I had some memories about the deal, but I did not know that Trout was one of the compensation picks. Though Reagins really need to get rid of Mathis, or a certain manager will continue to be tempted to use Mathis as his starting catcher.
    Oh well, maybe Alex can go and trade for Conger after him being blocked by Mathis despite hitting 20 homers in 273 ABs.

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  14. It would be an okay pickup for the Angels if they hadn't had to give up two resources for it.

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