On Tuesday, TBS introduced David Wells as its newest baseball analyst. Wells, a three-time All-Star and two-time world champion who last pitched in the bigs in 2007, won 239 games in 21 major league seasons with nine teams (Blue Jays, Tigers, Reds, Orioles, Yankees, White Sox, Padres, Red Sox and Dodgers). He also developed a reputation as one of baseball's most outspoken players and endured several battles with the media during his career. As part of TBS' team, Wells will do studio work and offer color analysis during games, starting with the Red Sox at Rays on May 3. Wells' second game will be Twins at Yankees on May 17, 11 years to the day after Wells threw a perfect game against Minnesota at Yankee Stadium. After his teleconference with the media, Wells joined SI.com for an exclusive Q&A to talk about why he never thought this day would come and the things he will -- and won't -- be saying on air and to offer some quick insight into some of the game's top stories.
SI.com: You've had several battles with the press over the years. Did you ever think you'd be on the other side?
David Wells: No, to be honest with you. My marketing guy for CAA, he said, 'Hey Dave this is a great opportunity' and he kind of talked me into it. I was just kind of hesitant about doing it because I didn't know what to expect. People always have this opinion of me as a loose cannon and I got a kick out of that. There's a good side of me, and like everybody, there's a bad side. I just didn't know if I was ready to be that opinionated.
But, on my mother's grave, I said this is a good opportunity, I think I'm gonna take it. They said just be you, we're not going to make you into something you're not. I interviewed with ESPN and they didn't give me the time of day afterward. They caught wind I was coming to TBS, and they sent me an e-mail that said you're not going to work out for us, but it was two months after [the interview] and all of a sudden I get an email from them? That's kind of lame and just goes to show what they're like. Just funny how those things work. When I went to do an interview with [ESPN] just to see what I was capable of doing, I was on the desk and the camera didn't really faze me. They wanted me to look right in the camera and almost be a robot. TBS said make it look like you're having a conversation, look at Ernie, look around. That was the clincher.
SI.com: A few former athletes and coaches, notably ESPN's Bobby Knight, don't like to refer to themselves as members of the media even now that they're working in television. How do you see yourself?
DW: I'm taking Bobby Knight's way. The thing is, I never had a problem with [the media]. I like to be fair, I don't like guys criticizing. I stuck up for the team, a guy named Richard Griffin in Toronto was just dogging us left and right. All he did was write derogatory things all the time. He came to interview me at my locker and I told him to take a hike. He wouldn't leave so I ended the interview and everybody got pissed.
I'm just an ex-athlete giving my two cents into the baseball world. I guess I'm "a member of the media." But I'm not afraid to say I'm sorry, not afraid to admit when I'm wrong. A lot of media are and that's what separates me from them.
SI.com: Did TBS give you any kind of instructions or guidelines about how to behave on the air?
DW: They say just don't take the George Carlin route and say the seven words you can't say on television. My mom had a pottymouth; every other word out of her mouth was a curse.
SI.com: I'm kind of surprised you made it through the conference call without cursing.
DW: All right, f*** it then! I'm not going to be a robot up there. They want me to be me, if I see something crazy I'll say so. I'm not going to be Charles [Barkley], I'll be me, but he's very good at speaking his mind. Charles, John McEnroe [with] tennis, there's only a few of us out there who aren't afraid to say something derogatory. I'm not out there to criticize players, but if they do stupid stuff, I'll key in on it.
SI.com: Sometimes former players have a hard time criticizing current players, but then they get criticized for not doing so. Where do you think you'll fall on that spectrum?
DW: You want to de-friend me, go ahead. If I look stupid, so what? People are going to probably get a kick out of it.
SI.com: Let's talk about a couple things that I'm sure we'll be hearing much more from you about. What are your thoughts on Alex Rodriguez?
DW: He's an incredible ballplayer, you can't take that away from him, but he cheated. It's a shame he had to do that. Everybody is going to say 'Well, he was injured.' I would agree if he had a legitimate injury and did it under prescription of a doctor, but guys are using it to benefit in different ways and staying in the game. A-Rod didn't need to [use steroids], he was incredible before he did it. I still think he's an incredible player, but he's put himself in his own situation, [and the drama is] not gonna leave. It's not gonna leave. Every time he hits a 500-foot hom run, [people will say] 'Yep, that's a steroid ball.' A-Rod might not like it, but he'll have to take the heat. He's a wonderful person, good for the game of baseball, but he cheated. I never stuck a needle in my body. Obviously, if I can do it, they can do it. That's how I'd cover it.
SI.com: What are your thoughts on the new Yankee Stadium?
DW: I was just there a couple weeks ago and it's phenomenal, a monstrosity of a building. The outside makes your mouth drop, but then you look over across the street and you go s***, why did you move? I prefer the old one, but the new one's pretty cool. They've outdone themselves. The Yankees are the No. 1 organization, draws the most attention, draws the most marketing from memorabilia. Everybody wants Yankees stuff. That place is just incredible, the amenities they have inside, and I'm a suite owner. David Cone and I bought a suite. Put it out there, we'll be more than happy to [rent it out]. He's working, I'm working. We've got to make some money.
SI.com: Some old pitchers, Tom Seaver among them, feel that young pitchers today are not being taught how to pitch properly anymore. What are your feelings on that?
DW: I totally agree with Tom, I really do, except for being taught. You can only teach so much. They didn't teach me how to pitch, but they explained certain things, like mechanics. I don't agree with the way they're using pitchers nowadays. One hundred pitches and they're out of the game? That's B.S., total B.S. There are just too many specialists in the game. I think they're changing the game of baseball for the worse. You see a lot of guys being hurt because they're not building their arms up. Me and Scott Erickson in Baltimore, every day we played long toss. He blew his arm out, but not from that. He was ready to pitch nine innings every day. Guys like to play toss for a few minutes and then they're done. Nowadays you only have to go five if you've got a great bullpen now, like the Mets. I'm old school.