|David Wells, traded by the Yankees last week, talks to reports on his first day with his new team, the Blue Jays, in Dunedin. [Times photo: Douglas R. Clifford]
By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 1999
DUNEDIN -- It's good to see David Wells is back to his old self.
Initially shaken at the news he had been traded from the Yankees to the Blue Jays in the Roger Clemens deal Thursday, Wells disappeared for several days to collect his thoughts.
When he showed Monday up for Toronto's first workout, he quickly displayed the irreverence that made him a hero to thousands of New York fans.
With nearly a dozen television cameras rolling, a Blue Jays official asked Wells if he would like to open with a few words.
"For starters," Wells said, "I'd like to tell MSG, the Daily News and Bay News 9 to ... ," and he proceeded to invite those news organizations to perform a sexually graphic act.
All righty, any questions?
Wells was angry with, respectively, the New York-based cable television network, the New York tabloid and the Tampa Bay news channel for going to his north Pinellas home Thursday after he left Legends Field without commenting on the trade.
That he would defend his privacy while making a spectacle of himself was vintage Wells.
It's the kind of image the Blue Jays have to look forward to: a pitcher in a rumpled uniform with a fondness for heavy metal music, tattoos and good times. If the Jays are lucky, they'll also get 16-18 wins and the best left-hander in the American League.
Not to mention a few laughs and obscenities along the way.
"That's David Wells," Blue Jays assistant general manager Dave Stewart said. "You take him for what he is."
Until a few days ago, Wells had been the toast of New York, a gregarious big-game pitcher who connected with common folks by speaking his mind and occasionally behaving like a lout.
Former Yankees teammate David Cone suggested that more than one New York pub would soon be out of business because Wells, 35, would no longer be gracing their bar stools.
"I'm not getting any younger," Wells jokingly said of missing the New York night life. "I think (leaving) might benefit me a little bit more."
Though he was able to joke, Wells said he was emotionally spent by the trade.
"I can't say I've ever seen him down like that," Cone said. "He's always so upbeat. To see him so clearly and visibly upset was a tough thing. He didn't take it well at all."
Wells wound up hopping a flight to Miami to spend the weekend playing golf with friends and clearing his head. He said there were too many distractions, too many calls (including one from rock star friend Eddie Van Halen), too much havoc for him to stay home.
Eventually, he said, he came to grips with the business aspect of the game and is ready for his second stint with Toronto.
"It's just tough to leave that group we had last year. I loved every one of those guys. They were my brothers," Wells said. "When you get close and feel comfortable, and all of the sudden there's a change ... .
"Obviously you need a couple of days to get over it. I've done that. I can move on. Forgive and forget ... forgive and forget may take a little longer."
Yankees fans apparently feel the same way. There is still some resentment over losing a crowd favorite, a player who embraced the team and the city. Polls in New York show fans have mixed feelings about the deal, despite acquiring the only five-time Cy Young Award winner.
"The tough thing is the fans," Wells said. "They were very generous, very kind and very crazy. They loved everything about me. A lot of people don't like going to New York ... but I wanted that."
This isn't the first time Wells has moved on. He has been in Toronto, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit and New York in the past seven years. And it wouldn't be a shock if he moved again.
There are rumors the Indians and Mets would be interested in acquiring Wells, although Blue Jays GM Gord Ash emphatically said he is not shopping Wells.
Somehow, Wells knows better.
"No one," Wells said, "is untouchable."