No. 1 The Mike Sirotka debacle
David Wells has called the 1999 trade that sent him back to the Blue Jays the worst day of his career. His exit from Toronto may have been one of the worst days for the franchise.
Wells, the husky left-hander with the rubber arm and devastating curveball, debuted with the Blue Jays in 1987 and was a member of the 1992 World Series champions, pitching four games out of the bullpen without allowing a run as the Blue Jays defeated the Atlanta Braves.
He arrived for a second stint with the Blue Jays in 1999, part of a trade that sent reigning Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens to the Yankees, with another World Series ring and a perfect game on his resume. But he wasn’t happy. Wells loved being a Yankee. He loved the allure of wearing the iconic pinstripes. He idolized Babe Ruth, rubbing Ruth’s plaque in Monument Park before every start. He even wore Ruth’s cap during one game.
Wells gave the Blue Jays 37 wins over the next two years. He led the American League in complete games both years and started the All-Star Game in 2000, when he won 20 games for the only time in his career. But he wanted out, and Blue Jays General Manager Gord Ash obliged him.
Ash received two offers, from the New York Mets and the Chicago White Sox. The Mets offered left-hander Glendon Rusch and prospect Grant Roberts. But Ash decided to take the White Sox offer of pitchers Mike Sirotka and Kevin Beirne, outfielder Brian Simmons, and prospect Mike Williams.
The centrepiece of the deal was Sirotka. The left-hander was coming off his best season at the age of 29, winning 15 games for the White Sox in 2000 with a 3.79 ERA. He was about to join a Blue Jays rotation that already included rising stars Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay.
His physical with the Blue Jays went well. Then a follow-up visit with renowned Dr. James Andrews revealed the bad news: Sirotka had a partial tear of the rotator cuff in his left shoulder and a torn labrum. The Blue Jays sought compensation from the White Sox for failing to disclose Sirotka’s health status. They appealed to the league office. Finally, Commissioner Bud Selig delivered a scathing 14-page ruling against the Blue Jays.
“After careful consideration of all the information before me, I uphold the transaction and deny the Toronto club’s claim for relief,” Selig wrote. “Although there is a dispute about whether certain facts about Sirotka’s condition were disclosed before the clubs agreed to the trade, the Toronto club talked directly to Sirotka about his health on the day of the trade and believed it had the opportunity to make the trade conditional. The Blue Jays never elected to do so.”
Sirotka never left the dugout with the Blue Jays. He never appeared in another Major League game. Beirne appeared in just five games with the Blue Jays; Simmons played 60 in 2001, his last year in the Majors. Williams never made it to the big leagues.
Wells, meanwhile, after a year with the White Sox, got his wish: he returned to the Yankees in 2002.