August 09, 2007
Good news for the San Diego Padres might mean the end of a career for one of baseball's great characters.
Chris Young, a frontrunner for the National League Cy Young, will come off the disabled list and start today. And to create roster space, the Padres whacked 44-year-old David Wells, whose career with his mouth overshadowed a truly excellent one on the mound.
If no team picks up Wells – the Padres can trade him in the next 10 days, or he becomes a free agent – he plans on staying at his Michigan ranch, where he can presumably kill as many animals as he pleases.
Wells' penchant for the outlandish and ridiculous endeared him to plenty and enraged plenty more. He threw a perfect game while hung over, ripped opponents and teammates alike and tried to start a feud with commissioner Bud Selig like he was in the WWE. He persevered in spite of gout and Type 2 diabetes.
Age finally caught him this season. Over his last four starts, Wells allowed 26 earned runs and 34 hits in 16 2/3 innings. No longer was his 84-mph fastball effective; it was just slow.
And so Wells' incredible career – he didn't start full-time until he turned 30 – may finish with 235 victories, the 14th-most for a left-hander, and a nearly 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He won two World Series, wore his idol Babe Ruth's hat on the mound one game in 1997 and placed one of the great 911 calls of all time.
Yes, Young is a pleasure to watch, and the Padres, who wasted an excellent Greg Maddux start Wednesday the day after a five-hit shutout, could use him, having fallen two games behind first place Arizona.
Yet we'd be remiss not to mourn what could be the end of Wells' career the way he'd want.
Raise one to Boomer. Hear, hear.
• Every starter on a rehabilitation assignment will say he's just trying to get a feel for his pitches, and Pedro Martinez was no different in explaining the shelling he took at Class-A St. Lucie on Wednesday in his first live outing since last September.
"I'm ready to go back to New York,", Martinez claimed, though he didn't look it. Coming off right rotator cuff surgery, Martinez gave up five earned runs in three innings, including two home runs. Outfielder Justin Justice (.694 OPS) hit the first, and leadoff hitter Deik Scram knocked his fourth homer in 333 at-bats this season.
The positives: Martinez struck out five and walked none, and he threw just 19 balls among 63 pitches. The Mets still haven't determined when his next start will be, though he could return to the rotation toward the end of the month.
• When Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti opted against trading prospects for a bat at the July 31 deadline, he put their season's success on a lineup with the depth of a kiddie pool.
Though it's simply fortuitous timing that Dodgers hitters have now gone into their deepest slump this season – they suffered their third consecutive shutout Wednesday, their fourth in five games and dropped their sixth straight game to fall deeper into fourth place – it was bound to happen.
The most fearsome hitter in the Dodgers' lineup is 39-year-old Jeff Kent. In seven August games, they have five doubles, one triple, three home runs and have drawn 16 walks while batting .215 (49 for 228). James Loney, the rookie at first base – where Mark Teixeira would have looked rather nice – is in a 3-for-21 funk.
Meanwhile, the old Blake Street Bombers showed up for the team that passed the Dodgers in the standings.
• The Yankees blew their first chance to sneak into the wild-card lead, as Chien-Ming Wang was done in by Toronto's turf. As Pete Abraham writes in his great Yankees blog, Wang's career ERA on grass is 3.64 and on turf it's 5.17.
Ground balls – Wang's 2.46-to-1 ground-to-fly ratio is ninth-best in the big leagues – and artificial surfaces just don't mix, and the eight runs Wang surrendered in 2 2/3 innings were the most in his career.
• Sending out an APB on teams that want to win the NL Central. Please report all signs of teams with a pulse to base.
Suspect No. 1 named Brewers, Milwaukee. Gets off to a fast start, so be wary. Big man is about the only good thing going. On the whole, can be belligerent. Currently lost four straight after their latest shellacking.
Suspect No. 2 named Cubs, Chicago. Do not mistake with other miscreants who claimed 1060 W. Addison as their address. These guys just can't score, crossing eight runs in their last four games. Lost them all, putting them one game behind the first suspect.
• While Gary Sheffield's return after missing five games was a welcome sign for the Tigers, Joel Zumaya is scheduled to go on a rehab assignment Monday should his live batting practice session Friday go well. Detroit's 4.66 bullpen ERA ranks 25th in the major leagues, more than a run higher than last season, when they were fifth overall.
… AND FLY