Time has not changed David Wells’ conservative philosophy on pitching. He does not want to warm up to advanced analytics. He can live without the league’s constant pampering and coddling of players. There is nothing a computer can tell him about baseball’s human element, and good luck trying to alter his stance.
Wells, 55, is typically blunt when it comes to discussing his old-school convictions and routines. And while his words are far from shocking, the irony is that it has only been 11 years since he made his final major league appearance.
But unlike most former players who are advocates of the game’s long-established unwritten rules, Wells is not blind to the dangers and consequences that can ensue.
For instance, he opposes the Marlins’ recent and controversial plunking of Braves’ star rookie Ronald Acuna Jr., who crushed four home runs in the first three games of their series in Atlanta.
“I don’t know the history behind that, but when a guy is doing that good, you don’t try to maliciously go after him. And that looked pretty malicious,” Wells told Bronx Pinstripes during an event in Manhattan on Thursday. “If you’re going to do it, make [the pitch] inside, knock him on his butt. Send him a message that way, because he’s very comfortable at the plate. But, some guys do it that way and some don’t. The way I saw it, it was done intentionally.”
Marlins’ starter Jose Urena drilled Acuna with a first-pitch 97 mph fastball on Wednesday, and as a result, Urena was ejected, Acuna was eventually removed from the game, and both teams were warned following a heated bench-clearing feud. On Thursday, Major League Baseball issued Urena a six-game suspension, which can be appealed.
Because this was an isolated incident and not something that festered, Wells says Urena could have handled the situation in a more effective way — akin to what Yankees’ starter Luis Severino did to Red Sox slugger Mookie Betts just two weeks ago in Boston.
“I believe in knocking a guy on his butt,” Wells said. “I never hit anybody. Very seldom did I hit guys. But I’d send him a message — especially a guy who’s hot. You want to make him feel uncomfortable. Throw one under his chin. Knock him on his back. Move his feet. Those are the types of things you do. You don’t have to hit a guy. Just let him know you’re out there.”
But, that approach was subject to certain exceptions, according to Wells’ career numbers. In his 21 seasons, Wells allowed a career-high nine homers to longtime American League slugger Mo Vaughn. And during one of their matchups, Wells told Vaughn the at-bat was going to end with a bean and a bruise.
“I love Mo Vaughn, but I couldn’t get the S.O.B. out. I threw the kitchen sink at him,” Wells said. “And just one day, I went up to him and said, ‘Mo, I love you buddy. But you know what, if there’s a base open, I’m just going to hit you.’ And he asked me why and I said, ‘Because I can’t get you out… and I don’t want to waste four pitches.’
“He had all that armour on, so it didn’t hurt him. The ball would just bounce off him and he’d just laugh at me and go to first base. And then I would laugh at him because we’d get the ground ball and double play.”
Wells and several other former Yankees will be in attendance at Yankee Stadium this weekend to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the franchise’s 1998 championship team. Exactly three months ago, Wells celebrated the 20th anniversary of his perfect game (May 17, 1998) against the Twins in the Bronx.