The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Monday, August 27, 2007

 

For a Fat Man, He Didn't Sweat Much (Redux)

In the Hit List a couple weeks back, I suggested that the Padres' release of David Wells may have been premature, and that given their rotation woes, a couple teams were likely to target the big man:
Lowering the Boomer: a 5-1 run snaps the Pads out of their post-break funk, but the return of Chris Young prompts the team to release David Wells. The move may have been premature; though bombed for 26 runs in his last 16.2 innings, Wells had put up four quality starts in his previous five, and while the market for overweight 44-year-old hurlers with a history of gout may not be robust, the cost for a banged-up contender like the Dodgers or Phillies to bring him in after a couple weeks of rest and rehab is vanishingly small.
Last week, the Dodgers inked Wells, cutting bait on the struggling Brett Tomko (2-11, 5.80 ERA) and biting the bullet on a $176,000 per start incentive clause that I'd failed to account for but that didn't seem all that daunting given the possibility that the team may know after one start whether he has anything left.

Unsurprisingly, Wells made something less than a graceful entry:
In a surreal scene, Tomko talked to reporters about his fate while Wells, an unapologetic jokester, dressed not two feet away at the next locker.

Tomko: "I'm OK with it. Last night I saw it coming."

Wells: "Really? You saw it on the sports ticker?"

Tomko: "Funny."

The Dodgers have 10 days to trade Tomko or give him his unconditional release.

Tomko: "I hope the (general manager Ned Colletti) can get me to another team and not let me sit around and rot. I'll go home and start throwing at the local high school field. I don't know what to do first, it's uncharted territory."

Wells: "You've got to find a catcher."

The Dodgers kept Tomko on the roster through Thursday, allowing him to reach 10 years of major league service time and guaranteeing him the maximum pension.

Tomko: "That was important. It's a good time for me. I'm ready for a new opportunity. And it's not like they brought in a chump to replace me."

Wells: "Yeah, they did."
Ouch. As bad as Tomko has been at times, he's basically come off as an amenable guy while on the team, well aware of his limitations; there was little reason to add insult to injury. So much for the San Diegan staying classy, right?

Nonetheless, all is forgiven after Wells' debut in Dodger blue, on a Sunday night ESPN game against the NL's best team. What else would one expect from the biggest big-game pitcher around? Wells pitched five inning of two-run ball, not quite going Granny Gooden but hardly safe for the heart-attack prone. He was often one pitch away from disaster, puttin g10 men on base in his five innings but ultimately escaping jam after jam. He wound up his night on a high note, striking out Moises Alou with two outs and the bases load in the fifth on a classic hook. Boo-yah for Boomer!

The most surprising part of the night had already come and gone in the top of the inning, when Wells led off the frame by -- are you ready for this -- bunting for a base hit. If you had a 44-year-old 250-pounder with bad knees dropping one down and beating it out, you just hit the exacta, and if you had that sparking the go-ahead rally and scoring the tying run (just his seventh run of a 21-year career), we're talking trifecta; claim your winnings at the ticket window.

All in all, it was just one more memorable showing from a pitcher who's rarely failed to disappoint me no matter what uniform he's wearing. I've said it before and I'll say it again: "For a fat man, he doesn't sweat much."

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