Flashback Friday: David Wellsby John Lepore April 29, 2022 0 comments
The next Flashback Friday article is covering David Wells. Boomer pitched in the major leagues for 21 years and was probably better than most fans think. The fact that he played for nine different teams and had a 4.13 career ERA sells him a bit short as to how good he was. Wells was a reliable pitcher for a long time in the steroid era and showed up in the postseason. Let’s take a look at the career of the kid from California.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @jball0202 and vote as there will be a poll each week allowing you to select who the next Flashback Friday article will be about. Hopefully, these pieces will bring back some memories for those of us who saw them play while also educating the newer generation of fans on some of the impact players of the past.
Be sure to check out all of the other Flashback Friday articles.
David Lee Wells was born on May 20, 1963. He grew up in Torrance, California, and went to High School at nearby Point Loma HS in San Diego. Before that, though, Wells was raised by a single mother and had four siblings. The stories about Boomer are abundant and the fact that his mom would come to his Little League games with a crowd of bikers gives you a picture of how those games were in Southern California.
He pitched for a good High School team and went to back-to-back championships, winning in 1982. That was the year the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the second round. He made his way through their minor-league system as a starter until being the third pitcher to have Tommy John Surgery in 1985. When he came back in 1986, the Blue Jays used him in both relief and as a starter as Wells moved up through three levels. In 1987, Boomer made 12 starts and 31 relief appearances for Triple-A Syracuse before getting the call to the big leagues. He threw 29.1 innings for Toronto that season and showed he could be valuable at 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA.
The following season did not go particularly well. Wells was sent down, brought up, and sent down again toward the end of the year finishing 3-5 with a 4.62 ERA. He bounced back in 1989 out of the bullpen with a 2.40 ERA and started a theme while walking only 28 in 86.1 innings. In 1990, he would get a shot at the starting rotation, and it would change his career trajectory.
Staying in the Majors
In 23 starts to finish out the campaign, Wells was 9-5 with a 3.20 ERA and allowed just 11 home runs in 157.2 innings while walking just 39 batters. Over the next two years, he would be shuttled between the bullpen and the rotation, and it took a toll on Wells, although it didn’t affect him in the playoffs as he pitched 4.1 shutout innings in the World Series, and he got his first ring as the Blue Jays won their first as well.
Right before spring training in 1993, the Blue Jays released Wells and the Detroit Tigers picked him up immediately. He spent two full years in Detroit and pitched well. In 1995, Wells started the season 10-3 with a 3.04 ERA, but with the Tigers not competing, they traded Wells to the Cincinnati Reds. He was important to them making it to the playoffs and had two quality starts in the postseason ultimately being outdueled by Greg Maddux in Game Three of the NLCS.
Cincinnati turned around and traded Wells to the Baltimore Orioles, and he had one of his worst seasons with a 5.14 ERA in 34 starts. After the 1996 season, Wells finally hit free agency and the New York Yankees signed the robust left-hander to a three-year/$13.5 million contract. Over the next two seasons, Wells rewarded the Yankees with a 34-14 record and a 3.85 ERA. He finished third in Cy Young voting in 1998 and was 4-0 in the playoffs including the ALCS MVP as Wells helped the Yankees win the World Series. There was also the perfect game against the Minnesota Twins on May 17, 1998. Wells famously said he was “half-drunk, with bloodshot eyes, monster breath, and a raging, skull-rattling hangover”.
Back to Toronto, New York, and Home
George Steinbrenner wanted Roger Clemens however and Wells was shipped back to the team who drafted him along with Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush. Boomer spent two years in Toronto and finished third again in CYA voting in 2000 winning a career-high 20 games. His second stint with the Blue Jays didn’t end happily as Wells was frustrated with Toronto’s lack of effort to compete. He was traded to the White Sox. After beginning the year 5-7 with a 4.47 ERA, Wells had season-ending surgery on his back. It would be the first time in seven years he didn’t throw 200+ innings.
Steinbrenner and the Yankees welcomed the 39-year-old Wells back in 2002. He again had another solid two-year stint going 34-14 again with a 3.95 ERA. Boomer still had impeccable control and walked just 20 batters in 213.1 innings in 2003. He also excelled in the postseason going 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA. Unfortunately, the Yankees would fall in the World Series to the Florida Marlins.
The California native went back home and signed with the San Diego Padres for the 2004 season and pitched well. He was signed by the Boston Red Sox for the following season and was 15-7. He finished his career after one more stint with the Padres and a seven-game run with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wells retired at the age of 44 after the 2007 season.
After His Playing Days
Wells lives in California with his wife, Nina, and their two sons, Brandon and Lars. He is the coach of his High School baseball team and has the field named after him. Wells also does color commentary for the YES network and started his broadcasting career with TBS back in 2009.
Hall of Fame Case
Wells was a good pitcher for a long time and may have had even better counting stats had he not begun his career in the bullpen. In fact, he only became a full-time starter once he got to Detroit at 30 years old. While the southpaw wasn’t a big strikeout guy, his career-high is 169 in 1999, he also didn’t walk anybody. His career walk percentage is a hair below five percent and he does have a better than three-to-one K/BB rate. The 4.13 ERA doesn’t help and while it was the steroid era, Boomer’s ERA+ is just 108. Wells was an excellent playoff performer going 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA. He also pitched in the postseason for six different teams which is a record for a pitcher as Kenny Lofton also matched it as a position player.
After a tough upbringing, Wells did his own thing. He liked to blare heavy metal in the clubhouse, was often not in shape, and has a love for Babe Ruth. That is what endeared him to a lot of fans. He was always just another kid who loved to play baseball. The fact that he could do so at a high level while still drinking and eating whatever he wanted was even more amazing. David Wells has two World Series rings, 239 wins, a perfect game, and made nearly $60 million playing baseball. Not bad for a biker dude with a good left arm.
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