Monday, July 27, 2009

Our new, most favorite player ever: Vernon Wells

In Glengarry Glen Ross, Ricky Roma says: "I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion... If everyone thinks one thing, then I say, bet the other way..." After a weekend of listening to Blue Jays fans patrons heartily boo Vernon Wells at every turn, on virtually every at bat, we're really seeing the merit in Roma's worldview.

So screw it: We love Vernon Wells. Vernon is the best, and you chuckleheads don't even realize it. You're way too focused on his contract, and how much he gets paid, and not nearly focused enough on what a standout player he can be. It's not to say that we haven't had our frustrations with him, and we've probably torn into him a few dozen times this season. But that was before we saw the light.

Our Road to Damascus moment probably happened in the sixth inning of Sunday's game, when Wells hit into a double play. Jays fans were so overwhelmed by the need to once again show their displeasure with his performance that they barely noticed Adam Lind scoring from third on the play. The Jays go up 4-1, and the crowd goes wild with self-indulgent outrage that Wells failed.

But here's the thing, and it's the very essence of baseball that you have to understand before you get on your high horse and tear these players to shreds on each and every homestand: Baseball is a game of failure.

The best offensive players in baseball are going to fail more often than they succeed. Albert Pujols leads the Majors with a .455 on base percentage. That means that more than half the time, the Greatest Player in the Game Today heads back to the bench with nothing to show for his efforts. If you're only failing six times out of ten, you're still an All-Star. Six and a half times, and you're still a hero to your hometown fans.

As for Vernon, he's posting a .305 OBP, which is pretty lousy by his standards. But the difference between him being a bum and hometown hero is essentially one extra positive outcome every two games. That's it.

But even if Vernon were to manage that extra positive outcome, we're not sure that the patrons at the Rogers Centre would even notice. On Saturday, after he started the game with a single, a double and a run scored, the mob rained down boos after he popped up in the fifth for the first out of the inning. What the what?! Were you expecting that Wells should have a five for five day? Maybe hit for the cycle? Can't you lay off a guy for a few innings if he's done some good early in the game?

Wells didn't have a stellar week last week (5-26, one homer, two runs scored and a .577 OPS). But you know what? Even the greatest players in the game have weeks where they don't tear the cover off the ball. Albert Pujols, the same aforementioned Greatest Player in the Game Today, posted a .477 OPS and went 5-24 last week. Do you think they'd boo him out of Busch Stadium if he posted the same line next week?

It's not him, it's YOU
And for those of you who haven't been paying attention, Vernon Wells' numbers on the road this year are actually pretty impressive. When he gets away from Garbagetown, the Dome and the Larry Murphy Expulsion Through Incessant Booing Society Glee Club, Vernon puts up an .868 OPS.

And since you didn't ask, we'll tell you: That's a better number than either Lind (.865), Rolen (.818) or Hill (.782), and trails only Marco Scutaro (.873) among Jays regulars. So, you know, he's actually kinda good when he can't see or hear or smell you.

Why the difference? We couldn't tell you. Maybe it's because he hates you and your booing more than you hate him. Whatever the case, we recommend the following course of action for you Vernon Booers: Sit down, have a drink, shut the fuck up and accept that Vernon isn't going to have a positive outcome in every at bat. It will make everyone's life that much happier.


Anonymous said...

Well said, Tao. The booing is getting to be a bit much. My friend and I cheered and clapped for Vernon this weekend in an attempt to counteract the boos. I doubt he noticed us from our perches in the 500 level, but we made an effort, damn it.

eyebleaf said...

The booage of Vernon has reached fucking ridiculous levels. Where's the love? Where's rallying behind our guy? Makes me sick. The fans at the fucking Rogers Centre are more concerned with doing the wave, and cheering the loudest when the Jays record 7 Ks, so they can go to Pizza Pizza and get a $3 slice of fucking pizza, that's been sitting there for God knows how many hours, for free.

I believe in Vernon Wells.

JB said...

I was at all three games this weekend and the fans were in very bad moods. I was b/w first and right where Overbay was reminded that he was "Overpay", while Rios took "You are a bum, Rios" all game long. These fans are letting their frustrations out, but they do it in the most annoying sense. I would prefer constructive criticism, like when I scream at Barajas "take a pitch for once! Your .277 OBP is killing me!".

Johnny G said...

The fans booing Wells while he walked his dog with his family during a CHARITY FRIGGIN EVENT! was the last straw for me.

I hate Toronto Fans almost worse then I do the Toronto Media now...

LJ said...

I knew it was going to be that kind of crowd when there were guys heckling him during the dog parade. Who f*cking does that in front of a guy's young kids?!

Mattt said...

I think you said it all. It's too bad that the majority of fans think a 126 million contract equals at least 1 home run and multiple hits per game.

So is Vernon now the Greatest Blue Jay Of All Time?

Anonymous said...

I want to get seats right by the on deck circle so i can shout encouragements at them all.

Mark said...

Wells has the 2nd lowest trade value of any player in MLB

eyebleaf said...

Mark, that's neither here nor there, b/c Vernon ain't going anywhere. I've said it before: he's got unfinished business here in Toronto.


Tao of Stieb said...

Vernon's not the GBOAT. The GBOAT is the GBOAT.

VW is our favorite Jay of the moment. Or the FJOTM. If you will.


Just because some ESPN writer who relies heavily on batting average as a metric says that Vernon has no value doesn't mean that he has no value.

Also, Vernon's going on a tear on this road trip. An angry tear.

Ian H. said...

Tao, it's funny you posted this because during the game on Saturday my ladyfriend said "you boo Vernon so much that I'm going to start cheering for him just to piss you off". Given, I didn't heckle V-Dub till he struck out in the 11th, but all his hatred is not warranted.

I still love the VWHAS though, maybe it's because all the colours look pretty.

Anonymous said...

So, wait. The Rogers Centre, full of morons ? Obvious enough ?

Anonymous said...

eyebleaf nailed all the truly disgraceful things about many of the Jays fans that show up at the dome, and the booing might be a little over the top (didn't see him being booed with his family, but that's a little bit much), but can you really blame them? Unlike Pujols or Ortiz (another slugger who was slumoing badly, but did not get booed), Wells hasn't had any moments of heroics that would give him some leeway from the fans...Ortiz has had countless clutch hits - what's the last time Wells has ever come through in the clutch? (I think he once hit a homer off Rivera, and I remember one game he took the Red Sox apart in Fenway, but that's it for 7 years)...

if it's over the top, the reason is simple - Wells' salary, or his complete inability to earn even half of it, is the #1 reason this team cannot build a winner around Doc, and the #1 reason he is likely gone after this season...

Tao of Stieb said...

So let's just all be a bunch of class warriors and boo Wells until his contract is up.

Fuck that shit.

And fuck clutch.

bkblades said...

The only thing I disagree about this post was that the booing of Larry Murphy was wholly justified. He was horrible when he was on the Leafs and noticeably buckled playing for his hometown before the boos even began.

Other than that, I'm cool with Vernon being booed when it's justified. Otherwise, people are just jerks - seriously, booing and yelling obscenities at him in front of his family on a non-baseball related function? That's weak.

Paul said...

Hear-Freakin-Hear. As an Aussie accustomed to cricket players scoring 50 runs an inning, the incredulity of being an hall of famer when you fail 7 out of ten times in a career leaves me in awe of the players and their patience. Or to quote Mickey Mantle:
"During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at-bats a season. That means I played 7 years without ever hitting the ball."

Anonymous said...

I agree that Torontonians smell, so yeah, you have to feel for Vernon a bit.

eyebleaf said...

Paul, that quote was FUCKING BEAUTIFUL. Thanks for that, man. You're a rudey.

Will said...

After a little time on B-R, some stats for your perusal:

Vernon's play from 2003-2006, averaged per 162 games-

.292 - .344 - .509 - .853
41 doubles, 31 homers, 104 RBI

2007 was an injury plagued write-off I think even his critics agree.

In 2008, his stats pro-rated to 162 games are -

.300 - .343 - .496 - .840
33 doubles, 30 homers, 117 RBI

And on the road this year he's hitting-
.332 - .364 - .505 - .868

So "normal Vernon" is a 30 (or close to it) homer, .850ish OPS guy. that may or may not have been worth an $18 mill AAV even before the crash...but that's sunk cost.

The thing is, there is no reason to think Mystery Vernon (i.e. the 2009 home edition) is more likely to appear during 2010-2014 than Normal Vernon.

Quite the reverse, actually.

People may argue academically about the drag his salary puts on the team in the future years...but to argue we'll be paying over $20 million for a guy who can't get his OPS over .800 is just myopic.

Renaissance Man said...

OK, so I agree that booing Wells isn't going to help him, but it's not like Wells doesn't have an obligation to take much better quality at bats. He's a veteran, supposedly a "star'" player, making more money than God, and how many 12 pitch at bats does he have? I'd suspect none.
He swings at chump cheese way outside of the zone on a regular basis, way worse than stuff the rookie Snider would swing at, takes more 'perfect to crush pitches,' right down the middle than anyone in the league, and seems to give the impression, that he doesn't really care. Compare any at bat of Wells' to one of Pedroia's and you'll see a world of difference in attitude.
All the fans really want is for a guy making $M126 to give them a decent effort.

Tao of Stieb said...

Great work Will. Very interesting breakdown.

Two things (that are actually one thing) that I would say about those numbers.

1) There have been a number of injuries adding up on Vernon, and he's not physically going to be the same guy that he was in 2003-2006.

Nobody's talking about his wrist, in which he got cortisone shots at the end of spring training...but that happened, and it's very possible that it is still bugging him.

2) I wouldn't exactly say that Vintage Vernon is as likely or more likely to reappear, given some of the trending and the injury history. But something somewhere between the 30-120-.850 guy and the 18-70-.715 guy we see now...hopefully closer to the former.

Tao of Stieb said...

@Renaissance Man

1) God makes a lot of money. Like, people think that Bill Gates or the Shah or whoever has more money than God, and God just kinda goes "yeah, not so much."

So what if Vernon has a big contract. The Jays gave it him to reward him for past performance, so blame them (and possibly Paul Godfrey) for making a dumb mistake in paying what an overblown market was calling for at that point.

2) I'd have to call in a hit FX expert to back me up on this, but I don't actually think that Vernon is taking worse swings than Snider did in the last few weeks that he was here. I think you're exaggerating to make your argument stronger.

3) Vernon was still doing the "SONOFABITCH" howls when he was having trouble early in the season. Now, and especially at home, I get the sense that he's shut down emotionally and doesn't want the crowd to see that he's frustrated or struggling.

Seriously, I see that. In his body language and how quickly he gets his head down and gets off the field after a bad at bat.

And by the way...EVERY GREAT PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE HAS BAD AT BATS. Even Pujols, and Manny and Berkman, and Hanley...all of 'em.

It's just that when they have one or six bad at bats in a game, the fans in their town tend not to harbour it like it's a fucking character flaw. They understand that the guys on the mound - you know, the one's who are paid to get guys out - are actually pretty good sometimes, and can find ways to get good hitters and great hitters and mediocre hitters to get themselves out.

This isn't MLB '09 the Show on the Easy setting. It's the Big Leagues, and these are guys who are hitting a round ball coming at them at 90-odd miles per hour with a round bat. That shit is not easy.

Pedroia's a douchebag.

And to sum it all up, I don't think that Vernon is failing because he doesn't care or he's not trying hard enough. I think he's failing at home this year because he's trying TOO HARD, and is going to the plate with a head filled with too many thoughts and emotions. He's got to calm down, relax, focus on his swing, loosen up on the bat and just "see ball, hit ball."

So there you go. It's all your fault. Vernon rules!

Anonymous said...


Eric said...

Christ, you guys go on accepting that mediocrity. I'm sure Rogers loves you.

No need to put a product worth giving a damn about on the field if all the fans wanna do is sing Kumbaya to their grossly overpaid 'stars'.

Darren Priest said...

I like this post. It's very much inline with what I wanted to write about my Rogers Centre experience. I bought decent seats in the 200s for my wife and I because seeing a Jays game live is a very rare treat. Roy was on the mound that night.

Anyways, a few rows down from us, there was a group of guys who barely paid attention other than to sarcastically chant "MVP" every time Vernon Wells failed to reach base.

One guy in particular spent at least 8 of the 9 innings turned around in his seat and yakking to his buds. I didn't notice until my wife pointed it out -- which is weird because usually she doesn't give a shit about this stuff. (Tao can vouch for the fact that my wife is waaayyyy nicer than me.) But after I noticed, I just had to take a pic of him. Here's the link. He spent 90% of the game in this position and walked out before the final out. Welcome to Toronto, kids!

Point being, I felt kinda sorry for Vernon. He gets nothing but grief from the home crowd. I can't help but imagine him begging Doc to take him with him.

Woefully Irrelevant White Guy said...

GUys, I live down in the NYC AND they heckled, booed ,ripped Arod mercilessly at Yankee Stadium EVEN after he won an MVP with them. I don't feel any sympathy for Wells. He's underperforming and quite frankly the fans are fed up with his BS. What should they do? Act like they do in Happy Dick St Louis and clap everytime that overpaid loser comes up to bat? IT might be getting to be too much but Yankee fans ripped Arod to shreds and he was performing at a high level. BTW, Arod didn't leave when he had a chance, he took the Yankee mega money when it came time, so his psyche wasn't ruined. Yes, he's fucked up anyway but making 27 mill a year makes you forget a lot of booing.

How can Vernon make it stop? Be better at home. That's what that headcase Arod did. People really resent Vernon stealing money from the Jays, he either puts up OR shuts up. He's not opting out when he has a chance to save them money is he? He deserves all the derision he gets.......

Anonymous said...

When will Blue Jays fans realize that Vernon Wells was on Steroids. It is so blatantly obvious it's not even funny. A supposed list of the 104 steroid users in 2003 has been leaked. Vernon is right on there.

eyebleaf said...

Steroids? NO!!!1

Forget steroids, man. You've clearly learned nothing from Alex Rios this season: "WHO GIVES A FUCK?!?!?"

Anonymous said...

Was at the seattle game 20rows behind home...cheered the whole damn game for the jays no matter the outcome, and every other jay fan followed suit. My voice hurts but I'm doing it again tonight! GO JAYS!!!

Torgen said...

It's been over a month since Wells got an RBI that wasn't himself.

Tao of Stieb said...

So I guess Vernon shouldn't hit home runs if we're going to judge him on that level.

Anonymous said...

Is it just my imagination or is there a large contingent of Jays fans at Seattle games?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Blair's got some good points about his compatriots in the Toronto sports reporting business:

Mike D said...

Nice post Tao. Vernon's wells have not run dry, or something.

As for those who complain about his contract.... it is what it is. This is the best breakdown I've seen of the infamous extension, based on the year it was signed:

Was it bad timing by the Jays? Yes. Was it egregiously out of whack with market value? Almost, but not really, considering the pressure to sign a home-town, franchise player. Of course, the size of his pay-cheque wouldn't matter if Rogers had a clue about how to market the team - when was the last time we've seen an advertisement for the team that wasn't on Sportsnet/not during the game we're watching? I can't remember one. The horrible turnout for the 20 year Skydome anniversary is exhibit A. Wells's contract isn't the problem - lack of sports-business acumen and business ownership is. Wells's contract is such a big slice because Rogers has no clue about how to bake a bigger pie.

Anonymous said...

I personally dislike Rios more than Wells. IMO, Rios shows me someone who is lazy on the basepaths and on the field. He also looks pretty lost at the plate, which is quite annoying.

He's not as overpaid as Wells, and isn't hitting as badly either, but I find his play really annoying. What makes it more annoying is that Rios does have talent, he just doesn't seem to know how to harness it consistently.

eyebleaf said...

Kevin Nealon needs to have a talk with Alex Rios.

"Harness energy, block bad. Harness energy, block bad."

I wonder what Rios' happy place looks like? There's probably Latino beats blasting in the background, and lots and lots of model helicopters.

Torgen said...

When he hits a single to the outfield with a runner on second we can start treating his home runs like they mean he's not as terrible as he looks. On our 10 game road trip, 6 of Wells' 18 hits were infield singles. There's your one positive outcome every two games, except that they're just the same ground balls to third or short that he always hits getting slowed down by the grass, and they only count when nobody's on base.

Darren Priest said...

@eyebleaf: this footage was taken from Rios' happy place.

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Robertremf said...

Steroids? NO!!!1 Forget steroids, man. You've clearly learned nothing from Alex Rios this season: "WHO GIVES A FUCK?!?!?"

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