SAN DIEGO (AP) – Padres pitcher David Wells was suspended for seven games and fined $3,000 Thursday by the commissioner’s office for his animated argument with an umpire last weekend.
In handing down the punishment, Bob Watson, baseball’s discipline czar, cited Wells’ “violent and aggressive actions,” including throwing a baseball at the backstop as he left the field.
Not surprisingly, “Boomer” was as irritated with the punishment as he was on Saturday, when he was ejected by umpire Ed Hickox for questioning calls in the fourth inning of an 8-5 win over Atlanta after Jeff Francoeur hit a two-run homer.
The 44-year-old lefty criticized Watson and said the game is changing so much that “pretty soon we’ll all put skirts on and we’re all going to play softball.”
Wells asked the players’ union to appeal, so the penalty can’t start until after a hearing and a decision. The Padres open the second half with a one-game lead over Los Angeles in the NL West.
“To get a seven-game suspension I think is absolutely crazy,” Wells said before the Padres held a workout and flew to Phoenix for the start of the second half. “There have been worse situations like that and nobody’s ever gotten a seven-game suspension. That’s terrible.”
If the suspension is upheld, Wells would be the second Padres pitcher to be penalized this season, and he’d miss one start.
All-Star right-hander Chris Young is serving a five-game suspension for his role in a bench-clearing brawl at the Chicago Cubs on June 16. The Padres tweaked their rotation so that Young didn’t miss a start. He started Wednesday night, dropped his appeal the next day and sat out the final four games before the break. He’ll also sit out Friday’s game at Arizona.
Additionally, catcher Josh Bard is appealing his three-game suspension for a confrontation with umpires at Pittsburgh on May 31 after what appeared to be a home run was changed to a double.
Wells thinks Watson has something out for him, perhaps stemming from the days when Wells pitched for the New York Yankees and Watson was the general manager.
Before Thursday’s workout, Wells took the letter he received from Watson and taped it to a clubhouse wall.
“That’s for your amusement,” Wells told reporters. Minutes later, he walked by and called Watson “a henchman and a yes man for Bud Selig.”
In 2005 while with Boston, Wells was suspended for six games after an argument in which he was accused of making contact with two umpires.
After he lost his appeal, he lashed out at Selig for dragging his feet on steroids, which drew a quick response from the players’ union, the commissioner’s office and an apology issued by the Red Sox.
On Saturday, Hickox warned Wells to get back to the mound or he’d be tossed. Wells said he then asked Hickox if he was going to be fair to both teams, which is when he was ejected.
The portly pitcher had to be restrained by San Diego manager Bud Black, two coaches and Bard, and Wells fired a ball against the screen as he walked off the field.
Watson said in his letter that Wells sprayed Hickox with saliva, and that throwing the baseball was “extremely dangerous and showed a reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of the fans near the backstop.”
Wells didn’t think what he did merited more than a fine, or at worst, a one-game suspension.
“As a veteran player, I think I should get the benefit of the doubt for asking a question to an umpire,” Wells said. “I didn’t walk up to him mad, I wasn’t outraged. I just asked him a couple things. To get thrown out of a game that quick, there’s something wrong.
“Whether it’s coming from a higher power, or they’re tired of it, but they’re changing the game of baseball. We’re not allowed to do anything. Pretty soon we’ll all put skirts on and we’re all going to play softball. You’re going to have to throw underhand. If you throw overhand, you’re going to get a 20-game suspension. That’s kind of how I see this game going.”
Black doesn’t think the umps are out to get Wells, and he certainly knows there’s no way to rein in the lefty.
“David, to say the least, is a feisty competitor,” Black said.
Wells has been chirping at umpires frequently this season.
“Now my strike zone is probably going to be the size of a pea,” he said. “But I don’t think all umpires should take offense to this because it’s not about all the umpires. It’s about Ed Hickox and my situation with him.”