Joe Torre may have led the Yankees to six American League pennants and four World Series titles, but don’t tell that to David Wells.
Appearing on the Post’s Pinstripe Pod, Wells did not sugarcoat his feelings about his former manager.
“I never liked Joe as a manager,” Wells said. “He did stuff to me that he shouldn’t have done to anybody. But, you know, we all knew he treated certain guys different ways. But it was alright, we didn’t care if he talked to us or not. Joe and I are friends now, I respect him. Just the playing days. You don’t want nobody telling you what you can and can’t do. That’s just how we work.”
Wells played under Torre for four seasons — first from 1997-98 and again from 2002-03.
The three-time All-Star expressed discontent for the treatment he endured for large portions of his career. Starting during Wells’ tenure in Toronto, coaches and trainers would often approach him with scales to monitor his weight. At one point, the Blue Jays implemented a policy that fined Wells $100 for each day he weighed in above the desired limit.
Once he established himself in the major leagues, Wells learned to stop tolerating that sort of behavior – including from Torre.
“I just said, ‘You know what, I’m doing it my way,’ ” Wells said. “I don’t care. I’m a grown man … You can’t tell me anything I don’t already know about there on the mound. I know how to do my job. Just don’t try to manage me. But they would try to manage me off the field, too. I’m like, ‘Do you want to win? Then leave me alone.’ That’s what I did. Joe Torre, he would always do that to me. He would always give me grief.
“I hated Torre. I really did.”
In one particular incident, Wells purchased an authentic Babe Ruth hat and desired to wear the cap during a start against the Cleveland Indians. After Wells donned the cap during the first inning, Torre forced him to take it off, reasoning that it did not comply with uniform standards. Following the game, Torre fined Wells for the incident.
“He calls me in the office afterwards and he goes, ‘twenty-five hundred bucks,’ and I go, ‘That’s all?’ I’m like, ‘You’re shallow.’ Next day, I went and got a bunch of 1s, 5s and 10s and I threw it at him in the office. Money went flying. I was like, ‘Go buy some stuff for your car, a–hole.’ He never talked to me for the rest of the year.”
Wells not only clashed with Torre, but former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, as well. In one start, Wells surrendered a home run after a fan reached over the wall and precluded Paul O’Neill from attempting to make the catch.
After the game, Wells pleaded with Steinbrenner to raise the height of the fences to prevent further interference.
“So George goes, ‘You ain’t the pitcher I signed,’ ” Wells said. “I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He said, ‘You ain’t the pitcher I signed.’ I said, ‘Well, if you don’t like the way I pitch, why don’t you trade me?’ He goes, ‘I tried to, nobody wants you.’
“Well, that pissed me off. So I got in George’s face and I started calling him every name in the book and he’s in my face as well and he goes, ‘I’m not afraid of you.’ And I said, ‘I’ll tell you what old man. I’m gonna go put some ice on and if I come back here and you’re still here I’m gonna beat the s–t out of you. That’s how it’s gonna be.’ And he goes, ‘I’m not afraid of you.’ I said, ‘We’ll see.’
“… I came out there and there was George sitting there. He looked at me, and I started ripping off that eye, and his eyes got bigger than the moon. And he ran out of there. He tore off running, I chased him. ‘Go back up in your suite, goddamnit and watch the game.’ I was all over him.”
Wells said that he and Steinbrenner quickly made amends the following day.
“He gave me a big ‘ol hug and a kiss on the cheek and we were good ever since,” he said.