Ferguson: Wells dominates Jays in return to Toronto

Scott Ferguson
4/22/2013 11:46:17 AM
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It appears that Vernon Wells will be a polarizing individual in Toronto for the rest of his Major League days.

Over the weekend at Rogers Centre, Wells was the best player on the diamond for the Yankees as they won two out of the three games played in the series.

For his part, Wells went 7 for 15 with two homeruns and three runs batted in. On Sunday, he also made a great catch leaping high up against the fence in left to rob Edwin Encarnacion of a run scoring double.

At 34 he can still go get 'em.

The fans gave it to Vernon and then some all weekend long. But he took it all in stride and actually turned to the crowd after making that incredible catch, doffed his cap and waved.

For better or worse, the turning point in Wells' career with the Blue Jays came on December 15, 2006, when he signed his seven-year $126 million contract that was designed to keep him a Blue Jay for life.

Whether it was the added scrutiny of the contract, or the injuries he suffered, Vernon could never live up to that deal.  His offensive numbers dropped off considerably in 2007.

While he bounced back in 2008, 2009 was another let-down season by Wells' standards. In 2010, he had one last hurrah in a Toronto uniform hitting 31 homeruns while driving in 88 runs and batting .273.

On January 21 2011, with Vernon's blessing Alex Anthopoulos swapped him to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. The Jays relieved themselves of the burden of four more years on his contract and just over $84 million.

Though the Blue Jays flipped Napoli to Texas for reliever Frank Francisco and cash, the original deal with the Angels was a good one, because it got the club out from under that onerous contract.

The deal appeared to be even better when Wells was a shadow of his former self with the Angels and looked to be finished.

For a time, it actually looked as though Vernon was following in the footsteps of former Blue Jays, George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield, whose careers all ended in their early 30's in part because of the beatings their bodies took on the artificial turf in Toronto.

In Toronto Wells was a three time All-Star and won a silver slugger award in 2003. Four times during his stay in the city he had the best fielding percentage for a centerfielder.
I can still remember the day in spring training when the Blue Jays were playing Tampa Bay at Dunedin. Both teams had their top prospect centerfielders in the game. Josh Hamilton for the Rays and Vernon Wells for the Blue Jays. I wondered at the time how their careers would unfold, and which one would have the better career. Tough Hamilton commanded more attention in short bursts of time, Vernon has put together a fine career in his own right and at least deserves some consideration for the Blue Jays "Level of Excellence" when his career is over.

For my money, Devon White was and is the best centerfielder the Blue Jays have ever had. Vernon has to be No.2 and the fact that he did not win a World Series may keep him from getting the 'Level of Excellence' recognition from the organization.

Still, it's great to see him on the rebound with the Yankees.  Vernon said he intends to retire after his contract expires after next season, and the game will be poorer for it.

Enter Sandman

Another thrill over the weekend was getting the chance in person to see Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of them all nail down Saturday's game with his 613th career save. The Yankees have a couple of more trips into Toronto this season, but you never know if that might have been his last save in Toronto.

It's interesting to note, a couple of former Jays had great career numbers against Rivera, a feat only a select few can brag about.

Roberto Alomar went 5 for 11 against "Mo" with two doubles, while Vernon Wells hit over .340 against him including a walk-off homer against him in 2006.

The man who had the most success against Rivera, was the premier DH of his day, Edgar Martinez who went 10 for 16 with 3 doubles two homers and 6 runs batted in. One day Edgar and Mariano Rivera will be in Cooperstown together.


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