Wells' travails make for an intriguing test case in selective media overkill. When Red Sox DH David Ortiz was homer-less in mid-May, he was the target of incessant speculation in Boston and beyond. Did Ortiz's power outage stem from problems with his wrist, his knee, his eyes or his lack of a swagger? Did he miss Manny Ramirez, or was he really 36 years old instead of 33? Naturally, with no evidence other than Ortiz's statistical decline, the performance-enhancer freight train also chugged its way into the picture.
Wells, in comparison, has gotten a pass. His performance this season has been overshadowed in part by the ridiculous run of injuries to the Blue Jays' pitching staff. But he's Exhibit A that there's an advantage to playing in Toronto besides the terrific ethnic cuisine.
Blue Jays first baseman Kevin Millar, who spent three years in Boston, said a struggling star is bound to get more breathing room while tucked away in Canada. No surprise there.
"In this market, guys are very fortunate when they go through struggles, because it's not magnified by any means," Millar said. "You throw up a 1-for-10 in Philadelphia, New York or Boston, and it's the end of the world.
"I'm not saying any struggle is easy, because Vernon is definitely trying to cure his thing and get out of it. But you're definitely fortunate that you're in another country and you're playing for the Blue Jays and you've got three beat writers instead of 40."Translation: Come to Toronto where you can suck and no one will care.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Jays. Should someone tell Kevin Millar we have the internet up here?
Anyway, on to Part II of the Blue Jays report card...
Roy Halladay – At the time he went down (trying not to cry and shaking my head in disgust) with injury, Doc lead the majors in wins, innings pitched, walks allowed and awesomeness. If you’re a true Jays fan, you never miss a Roy Halladay start. The fact that there was even a little talk earlier in the season about Zack Greinke being the best pitcher in the AL is like saying the Jonas Brothers are a better than Pearl Jam. Yes, Greinke had a nice run...for nine or ten starts. Halladay has been lights out for eight years now. Grade: A+
Scott Downs – Downs has been truly amazing since the start of the 2007 season but I wonder if hurting himself while getting out of the batters box will somehow cause a seismic shift in his karma. I mean, when opposing major league hitters step into the box and say to themselves, "this guy got injured during the most basic play in baseball" they would have to be confident, right? Grade: A
Brett Cecil - The 38th overall pick from the 2007 draft has made five starts this year as a 22 year-old and they break down like this: one excellent outing, three very solid performances and a beatdown in Fenway. I'll take that. Grade: B+
Ricky Romero – Ok, so maybe J.P. didn't screw up this pick in the 2005 draft as bad as originally reported. Romero has looked good as a rookie, throwing seven quality starts in only nine appearances and sports a very respectable 3.59 ERA. Yes, the end of the steroid era has changed the pitching landscape, significantly altering and improving the stats for every average and below-average pitcher, but Romero isn't the next Gustavo Chacin. No he's not. He better not be. Please, don't let him be. Grade: B
Brian Tallet – I’ve always enjoyed his work, especially when he was playing Hyde on ‘That 70s show’. Pretty remarkable that an actor was able to change careers like that and I like how he downplayed it by using a stage name like Brian Tallet. And now, transitioning from relief to starting? That is impressive. Hyde struggles with his command at times and has had two horrendous starts (June 14 vs. Florida & April 29 @ KC) but overall he's been very valuable. Grade: B
Scott Richmond – I did not like the way Cito skipped Richmond’s turn in the rotation a few weeks back and apparently Richmond didn't either, because he threw up a dominating eight inning, five hit, 11 strikeout game in his return to a starting role. Also, it's pretty cool that he can perform at a major league level while mostly looking like he's 30 seconds away from falling asleep. Grade: B
Jason Fraser – Reason #9624 why bullpens can be slapped together in any way, shape or form: Frasor was absolutely ignored by previous manager John Gibbons but has reappeared in Cito Gaston’s bullpen and has been very good. I would trade high on every reliever I ever developed. You know, assuming I was a big league GM. Grade: B
Brandon League – Great when the score isn’t close. Grade: B-
Jesse Carlson – Reason #9625 why bullpens can be slapped together in any way, shape or form: For the most part, you never know what you're going to get from one year to next. Grade: C+
Shawn Camp - Before his brutal appearance in Tuesday's game against Cincinnati, Camp had been pitching well, allowing only four runs over his last 16 innings and just a single run in his last eight. Of course prior to that he had a horrific three game stretch in late April and early May that probably would've buried him if our entire pitching staff wasn't held together by band-aids. Grade: C+
B.J. Ryan – How Riccardi didn’t dump Ryan’s contract last November is unfathomable. B.J. came back last year after missing ’07 following Tommy John surgery and posted solid numbers (32 saves, 2.95 ERA & only 4 blown saves) that should have made him marketable on the trade front despite the fact Jays fans could see the cracks forming. His $10 million salary was cheaper than what Brian Fuentes received from Anaheim this past offseason when several contending clubs were looking for an established closer. Throw in the fact that with Downs, Carlson and Tallet, the Jays bullpen was flush with lefties, and righty Brandon League was continually thought of as a potential option to finish games, and you understand why I nearly hurl my remote through the TV everytime I see Ryan enter a game. Now, with 19 hits and 14 walks allowed in only 18 unforgettably terrible innings, the Jays might be forced to eat the remaining $15 million on his contract. Grade: D-
Casey Janssen – It’s beginning to look like the spectacular year he had in ’07 was the end of his career rather than the beginning. Grade: N/A