In the shock and awe of the trade on the weekend, we (or I, more appropriately) didn't spend much time saying goodbye to Vernon Wells.
Vernon has always been one of my favorite players. I have a shirt with his name on the back (first Doc then Vernon, maybe me wearing your name is a sign that you aren't going to be long for the team. Perhaps Travis Snider shouldn't be looking for a house in the Toronto area). He's one of those guys that plays the game the way I'd like to think I would if I, you know, had talent. He has fun. He is often seen smiling and happy and having fun with his teammates.
He hustles, I've never seen him go slow to first base. He is in gear every time. Some (most?) players seem to run hard to first if there is a shot at a hit but if not, they don't. Not Vernon. I like that. I always wonder how often a hit is lost because the batter took a moment to judge if it was likely to be a hit before turning on the jets.
You want a guy to go from first to third, there are few better than Vernon. He cuts the bags well and has good instincts. He's always been a good percentage base stealer. I always wanted him to steal more but it isn't my hamstrings and knees that are taking the pounding.
His defense isn't what it used to be, though it looked better to me this year than the last couple. I'm sure years of playing on thinly covered concrete hasn't helped. He still goes back on a ball as well as most outfielders. Everyone remembers the highlight film catch during Brandon Morrow's near no hitter.
People complain about him swinging at the first pitch, but many of the best batters of all time were first pitch, fastball hitters. Batters know pitchers want to get ahead in the count and that the first pitch might be the best pitch they see all at bat. Vernon hits very well on that first pitch with a .334 BA and .584 SA but course, hitting .300 means 7 times out of ten you'll make an out and fans notice those 7 outs. He hits best in fastball counts, but then most batters do. He knows he hits fastballs best, so he swings when he sees one.
And, of course, Vernon is one of those few athletes that understands how fortunate his is to get paid outrageous sums of money to play a kids game and he gives back. You can read about his Perfect 10 Foundation here (at least for the time being). He was this year's winner of the Branch Ricky Award for his charity work. If you were looking for someone to represent your team and your community, you couldn't do any better than Vernon Wells.
Richard Griffin may think this:
While Wells is surely a wonderful human being - running a charitable foundation in Texas, and helping to build homes for needy families - he's not exactly what the Jays need in terms of clubhouse presence.
But I can't imagine anyone spreading a bigger pile of manure. What an incredibly dumb thing to say. You have a guy that not only hustles and plays the game hard, but is a good person and a good teammate too and that isn't the type of person you want in your clubhouse? No Richard, he wasn't traded because he was too good a guy. (yeah I know, I should ignore stupidity, but it is so hard when it is printed in the paper and people consider the source an 'expert').
He's had good years and bad years (haven't we all, I'd hate someone to put a statistic line by each year of my life. I can just see my kids now: "Dad, last you were a -4.2 on Wins Against Replacement Fathers). The good years have been great fun to watch. The bad ones, he battled through as best he could. Maybe sometimes he shouldn't have tried to battle through injuries, but when you are paid to play ball, it must be hard to figure where the line is on that.
So, while I think it was one amazing trade that Alex Anthopoulos pulled off, I'll miss watching Vernon. He is a class act. I was proud that he was a Blue Jay. I wish him the best in the rest of his career.
Vernon was picked up in the 1st round of the 1997 draft. The only player picked after him, in the first round, to have a better career, to this point, is Lance Berkman, picked by the Astros with the 15th pick.
Vernon's numbers in 12 seasons as a Jay: 1393 games, 5963 at bats, 789 runs, 1529 hits, 339 doubles, 30 triples, 223 home runs, 813 RBI, 90 steals with a .280/.329/.475 line. He owns the 3rd best season ever by a Jays batter, by WAR figures, with a 6.7 in 2006.
His place among Jay franchise batting leaders:
WAR: 4th, 25.6.
Offensive WAR: 3rd, 28.0.
BA: 15th, .280.
OBP: 24th, .329.
Slugging: 7th, .475.
OPS: 12th, .804
Games Played: 3rd, 1393.
At Bats: 1st, 5470.
Runs Scored: 2nd, 789.
Hits: 2nd, 1529.
Total Bases: 2nd, 2597.
Doubles: 2nd, 339.
Home runs: 2nd, 223.
RBI: 2nd, 813.
Walks: 6th, 406.
Stolen Bases: 10th, 90.
Runs Created: 2nd, 839.
Sac Flies: 4th, 56.