David Wells and Joe Torre Misremember Baseball History

Former New York Yankees pitcher David Wells recently made headlines when he called his old manager Joe Torre a “coward”. The reason for this accusation? He claimed Torre had pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre inform Wells he wasn’t going to pitch in the 1997 American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, instead of the manager telling Wells himself. But it turns out that he didn’t correctly remember what happened. What’s more, neither did Torre.

Here’s what the hefty lefty told Yahoo! Sports:

“I had [Yankees pitching coach] Mel Stottlemyre come up to me in ’97 and tell me they were going to sit me out in the first round against Cleveland,” Wells told us. “I said, ‘If you’re going to sit me out the first round, you might as well just send me home.’ That pissed me off because I won like 15, 16 games for them. [...] That’s pretty degrading when you have your manager tell your pitching coach to tell you, ‘Hey, you’re going to sit out,’ rather than telling you himself. That’s what Joe Torre is to me, a coward.

“I don’t like him at all. As a manager, I think he’s terrible. He wasn’t a fair manager. He didn’t treat people the same. He definitely didn’t treat me the same. [...] If he tells you anything else, he’s a liar.”

Here’s where the story gets strange. Wells seems to have forgotten that he pitched in the 1997 ALDS! He started Game 3, and won the game for the Yanks, 6-1. So what the heck is Wells talking about how “degrading” it was to be sat down when he pitched in the series? It’s like he created this whole alternative playoff scenario that never happened.

I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out what the heck Wells is talking about here. Maybe he’s peeved that David Cone and Andy Pettitte got to pitch Games 1 and 2 over him? Or getting back at Torre for making him take off his $35,000 Babe Ruth baseball cap that he once wore in a game?

There certainly was no love lost between Wells and Torre. (And I’m not exactly thrilled with Torre myself!) But in the four years Wells pitched for the Yankees, in 1997-1998 and 2002-2003, there was never a time he was benched for a playoff series. So his story, while colorful, doesn’t hold up.

Granted, Torre did his own revisionist history in “The Yankee Years,” accusing Wells of being a bad influence on Sidney Ponson even though they were never teammates. So why didn’t Wells just complain about that, instead of accusing Torre of stuff that never happened?

But here’s where an already strange story gets even weirder. Not only did apparently nobody in the media call Wells out for “misremembering,” as his old teammate Roger Clemens would say, what really happened in 1997, but Joe Torre apparently didn’t remember the real story, either. Here’s what Torre said when questioned on it:

“I don’t even remember that,” Torre said. “I feel badly David think he was picked on or not treated fairly. That was not our intent. When he could have left after ’98, he chose to come back. It must not have been too bad. I saw David in New York [at Monday's tribute to George Steinbrenner]. We shook hands. I thought everything was OK.”

No wonder Torre doesn’t remember it! It never happened.

But Torre messed up his own account as well, saying that when Wells “could have left after ’98, he chose to come back. It must not have been too bad.” Wells did leave the Yankees after 1998, although not on his own accord. The Yankees traded him, Graeme Lloyd, and Homer Bush to the Toronto Blue Jays in the spring of 1999 for Roger Clemens. He returned in 2002, after Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, not Torre, wooed him back.

Maybe Clemens, not exactly known for truth telling himself, was on to something with his nickname for Wells, coined when the two were teammates in Wells’ second stint on the time. He called Wells “Eli,” as in “he lies.” Harsh, but maybe a little accurate, too.

Lisa Swan, a lifelong Yankee fan, grew up in Passaic, N.J., where her favorite player was the talented but insecure Reggie Jackson. Today she lives on Staten Island, where her favorite player is the t ...read more

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