David Wells hasn’t watched baseball in four years, says today’s players are ‘pampered’

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By , Audacy

Once considered our national pastime, baseball now finds itself a distant third (perhaps fourth, if you consider college football) in America’s sports pecking order. A tug of war is being waged between stubborn purists and the spreadsheet generation hopelessly in love with analytics, waxing poetic about pitch counts and launch angle.

Born and raised on social media, where content is distilled into easily digestible 30-second clips, baseball’s popularity continues to wane among the millennial demographic with little hope of improvement even as commissioner Rob Manfred caters to younger fans, making the game more accessible with new extra innings rules, a universal DH and expanded playoffs. Speaking on baseball’s current existential crisis, torn between two vastly different identities, David Wells thinks the sport is headed in the wrong direction, lamenting entitled players who care more about making money than putting their bodies on the line night in and night out.

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“I don’t like it. I haven’t watched baseball in four years,” Wells told Jon “Stugotz” Weiner of The Dan Le Batard Show. “It’s a different breed right now. They’re pampered a little bit. They’re coddled.”

Workhorses in the mold of Wells, a three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champ, are fighting for survival. There are exceptions—snarling Mets ace Max Scherzer and his former teammate Justin Verlander, who, at 39, remains the gold standard among big-league hurlers. Pitchers are believed to be less effective going through the order a third time, a hypothesis supported by advanced metrics. With teams now subscribing to that theory, the average starter is lucky to make it five innings without getting tapped on the shoulder. It’s inevitable that sports evolve over time as technology uncovers more efficient paths to success, but aesthetically, Wells prefers the way the game was played in the 80s and 90s, when warriors like Orel Hershiser and Nolan Ryan reigned supreme.

“You got to have that bulldog mentality. You look at Orel Hershiser. He was the epitome of that. He didn’t care, he was just grinding, and look at what he did. Coach comes out, [he says] ‘Sit your ass right back in the dugout. I’m good out here, what are you going to tell me?’” said Wells, who was in town for the American Century Championship, a celebrity golf tournament held annually in Lake Tahoe. “They’re bitching and complaining about speeding the game up. You got so many changes. Umpires, review, it’s all eyewash.”

Wells’ former team, the New York Yankees, are having an historic season, but the left-hander doesn’t seem particularly compelled to follow along, swearing off a sport that bears little resemblance to the one he once dominated.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Paul Morigi, Getty Images