The Yankees received some unexpected news as 2003 rolled over into 2004: David Wells, the sole southpaw on their starting staff, is not going to pitch for them at all this coming year; instead, he is returning to his home town to pitch for the Padres. Wells and his agent had a handshake deal with the Yankees, but just as Wells snaked his way out of a similar arrangement in Arizona several years ago, he is now spurning the Yankees.
What goes around comes around, am I right? Wells understands that he's probably burned his last bridge in the BX. Speaking about his old pal George Steinbrenner the other day, Wells said:
"I'm sure now I won't hear from him ever again," Wells told reporters during a conference call reported by The Associated Press. "He's been good to me in a lot of ways. And in other ways, he's been very stubborn. That's George Steinbrenner."
Along with Wells, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens are gone too:
"They lost a lot of guys at once, and I think they're in shock," [Wells] said.
It's true that Cashman must be burning over this one, but shocked? That's a reach because nothing's shocking when it comes to Wells. The question is why would Wells leave a playoff team—his beloved Yankees no less—for the Padres? Well, because he could, that's why. In New York, Wells would be fighting for a spot in the rotation and would by no means be a lock to pitch in the playoffs should the Yankees make it that far (He had agreed to a minor-league contract with the Yanks). He walks onto the Padres and is most likely the ace of their staff. The incentive-laden deal with the Pads is far more attractive to him as well.
Finally, Boomer understood that he could hurt Steinbrenner and the Yankees as he was the only lefty starter they had left. They were vulnerable. Why would he want to do that? Perhaps it's because he wanted to bite them before they bit him. I don't know the answer of course, but I'm also not the least bit surprised with what Wells has done anyhow.
Now, the Yankees are faced with a bigger problem than dealing with Wells: Having no left-handed starters at all. According to The New York Times:
"They need a left-handed starter," one major league advance scout said. "At Yankee Stadium, teams are just going to stack their lineups with left-handed hitters. I don't know who it would be, but you have to have a left-hander there."