Three-time All-Star David Wells still receives a lot of love in Toronto, and understandably so. He pitched eight seasons with the Blue Jays and was part of their inaugural World Series team in 1992.
For his part, Wells enjoyed some of his finest moments as a Major Leaguer in Southern Ontario. His single-season bests for wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched were all achieved with the Blue Jays.
Wells has also long been known for being a combative personality, who is not afraid to share exactly how he feels. One of the most recent examples of this, came during a lively appearance on The Dan La Batard Show.
Wells lets Manfred have it
It seems the Torrance, California native is not a fan of Rob Manfred, especially after several rule changes ahead of the 2023 season. Speaking about the MLB commissioner, he said:
"(Rob) Manfred – this guy is a tool. He's probably the biggest tool of all commissioners. So to me, for him to change the game, I think he hates baseball. He's trying to implement all these BS rules."
Certainly, there are a lot of people who would agree that Manfred is not a very good commissioner. Who can forget how he botched the fallout from the Astros' sign-stealing scandal, including calling the World Series trophy a piece of metal?
Has Manfred fixed baseball?
However, whether Manfred is popular or not, an argument can be made that he fixed baseball. Or, as the hosts of The Dan La Batard Show put it, made the game more exciting.
More specifically, that the elimination of the shift encourages hitters to spray the ball to different parts of the field. That this has resulted in more action, with people getting on base with singles, base runners, stolen bases, etc.
Wells wasn't having any of it however, effectively saying baseball didn't need fixing. He said:
"The game's the game. I guess if you want to, put it on a damn tee. Make the bases three times bigger than what they are, so they can get closer. Now they're putting on that glove, so that glove can be out to here (i.e. bigger), so you can get another four to five inches to get in there (on base). It's stupid. Babe Ruth's rolling over in his grave right now, I guarantee he is. If you don't pick them off by the third time, you get awarded second base. Stupid. It's a joke."
Fighting to remain relevant
It is often said that sport reflects society, with baseball being no different. Perhaps the biggest example of this was racial integration, which took hold after the late, great Jackie Robinson started a game for the then Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Of course we're not trying to compare rule changes to one of the most seminal moments, not just in baseball, but in all of professional sports. However, whether Wells likes it or not, the knock-on effect of societal changes has baseball fighting to remain relevant.
Objectively speaking, you can understand where Wells is coming from. At 60 years of age, baseball is looking less and less like the game he grew up loving.
However, we are at a point where it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep the attention of the younger generations. As such, going to watch a game which now lasts around two and a half hours rather than three, is going to be more appealing to a lot of fans.
Baseball has fallen behind the NFL and NBA in terms of popularity, and now has to worry about the continued growth of soccer in North America. As much as Wells hates what is happening to baseball he must surely, deep down, understand why the rule changes were necessary.