The return of Vernon
Vernon Wells is set to make his return to Rogers Centre on Friday night with the Angels. It will mark the first time Wells has been back in Toronto since an offseason trade that sent Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays.
Wells’ return isn’t coming with nearly the same amount of fan fare that accompanied Roy Halladay on the Canada Day long weekend but I’m still very interested to see what the crowd reaction is going to be like. In conversations with other reporters in the press box the general consensus seems to be that there will be at least an equal number of boos to cheers, and to be honest, I would find that a little disappointing.
As a journalist I always aim to be as impartial as possible and remove any emotional aspect to my line of thinking. Perhaps that’s why I struggle to understand why on earth fans would hold a grudge against Wells and give him the rough treatment this weekend. This is a guy that spent parts of 12 seasons in Toronto and is among the franchise all-time leaders in virtually every offensive category.
Did he deserve the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed earlier in his career? Obviously not — but Rogers Communications, along with general manager J.P. Ricciardi and president Paul Godfrey were the ones who offered that amount. It’s not Wells’ fault he didn’t live up to the lofty — and overhyped — expectations.
The fact is Wells ranks second in club history in runs (789), hits (1529), doubles (343), home runs (223) and RBIs (813). He ranks first in at-bats (5470) and second in games played with 1393. He won Gold Gloves and was named to All-Star teams during his time here and was a leader in the clubhouse.
The native of Texas never quite lived up to the hype but he clearly still enjoyed a lot of success. He also seemed to enjoy his time in the city and with the fans. Wells came to the defense of his former teammates during the sign stealing controversy earlier this week and during his goodbye conference call he teared up on more than one occasion looking back on his time in Toronto. Say what you want, but the guy cared.
Wells said earlier this year that he would expect a mixed reaction upon his return and that’s probably what it will be. But deep down I’m willing to bet he’s hoping for a warm reception.
Here are some leftovers from the Blue Jays series vs. Oakland:
On the recent near collisions in the outfield between Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista…
“The more familiar they get in games played that communication will (improve). But it’s the second time in about four days that we’ve had that convergence in the outfield and fortunately the out has been made both times but we have to continue to stress the communication there.
“I think that’s where the familiarity of them playing together, because Jose is a dominant type of player. He’s a vocal player and he’s a take charge guy. They’ve got a little bit better rhythm and communication in the moment.”
Whether Brett Lawrie’s swagger is an attitude a lot of winning teams have…
“No question about it. One, there’s an overriding expectation to win. But I think a lot of veterans can be supported by young athletic players that are talented, that bring energy every day and not only do teams draw from the energy in the building but it works hand in hand. We have to draw people in here because it’s a fun team to watch, it’s a talented team and it’s one that’s going to play a hard-nosed brand of baseball.”
On his recent struggles..
“It’s still a work in progress, trying to do it consistency. I’ve had a few moments of good timing this series.”
“It’s just something that kind of snowballed. Started off small and then just carried through Baltimore. I just tried to slow the game down and get ready earlier and that’s helped.”
Improved lineup make it easier not to press?
“No, not really but I think our lineup is really great right now. We have youth and excitement and speed and power so I think it will be a tough lineup to pitch to.”
Impressive work defensively at first base…
“I didn’t really expect it to be an issue, personally. I knew it was a question that had to be answered but I was always a good first baseman when I was young. I wasn’t an outfielder and they threw me out there and we all saw how that was for a few years. Now I’m back at the position I grew up.”
On Blue Jays poor record during day games…
“I don’t really know. Maybe look at the starting pitchers we face during the day. Maybe our sign stealer takes weekends off.”
On his rough outing versus Oakland…
“I was just trying to stay back as much as I can. Sometimes I make an adjustment. It was just one of those days where it wasn’t clicking. On days where you have it you don’t have to think too much and it just kind of happens. Today was one of those days where it just wasn’t there and I really had to try to focus as hard as I could to do it and ewasn’t able to.”
“I felt like I didn’t have it and knew I had to concentrate a lot. The ones (pitches) I got guys out in the first couple of innings I was locating down but it caught up to me and again, it was just one of those days. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t happening today.”