08/08 Blue Jays Library In a Box: Perfect I'm Not

Sunday, August 10 2008 @ 11:14 PM EDT

Contributed by: Matthew E

David Wells doesn't seem to know that the only reason his nickname was 'Boomer' was because:

a) the Jays already had had a player named Greg 'Boomer' Wells, and
b) baseball people will never give you an imaginative nickname if they can give you an unimaginative one.

Title: Perfect I'm Not
Published: Harper Collins, 2003
# Pages: 414
Availability: It seems to be out of print, but it's readily available used. Check Amazon or Indigo.

Authors: David Wells and Chris Kreski
Who Are: David Wells is a two-time Blue Jays pitcher. Lefthanded. In his first go-round with the team he was a key starter and reliever on the great 1987-1992 teams. Second stint, he was a veteran starter and twenty-game winner. Wells seems to be out of baseball now, after a good long career.

Chris Kreski, the ghostwriter, seems to have been an interesting sort of cat. He's written other books about celebrities and also written for TV: Jon Stewart, Beavis and Butt-head, the WWE, and I think he was a (co-?)creator of the show Remote Control (remember that?). Kreski has since died of cancer.

In books of this type, it's often hard to gauge just how much of the book is due to the ballplayer and how much is due to the ghostwriter. In any case, there's typically a consistent 'authorial persona', and we can discuss that without knowing who to credit it to. So if I say, in this article, 'Wells says', it can be assumed that I really mean 'Wells and Kreski say'.

What It's About: The trials and tribulations of David Wells, accomplished major league pitcher and trouble magnet.

What It's Really About: It's really an attempt to... well, not rehabilitate Wells's reputation, but to defuse it. Wells's wildass biker image has been a detriment to him over his career, and it's strong enough that he can't get rid of it. He doesn't try, but, in this book, he does try to convince us that there's quite a softy behind all the fights and immaturities and betrayals.

Secret Hero: Lots of guys come off well in this book, including Jimmy Key, Cecil Fielder, Dave LaRoche and Larry Hardy. But I think that David Cone is the leading nominee.

How's the Writing? Uh... No, it's good, really. It could have used a bit more editing in places; there's one passage that refers to Toronto infielders 'Nelson Larriano' and 'Alex Enfante'. Does Harper Collins not have factcheckers or copyeditors? Especially since Infante's name is spelled correctly a few pages later.

My major problem is with the way Wells portrays himself. Of course, he's just as self-centered as any ballplayer in his own book; they all think that they could have accomplished even more if only their dumb managers/GMs had used them right. That's not what I'm talking about. Wells doesn't avoid his share of the blame for the various controversies he encountered over the years, but he does, understandably, try to come off as the good guy nevertheless. The question is, do we buy it or not?

I mean, Wells is a guy who dislikes a lot of people. He couldn't stand Pat Gillick. He clashed with Cito Gaston. He hates Bobby Valentine. He's no soulmate of Mike Mussina. He didn't seem to think much of Jim Clancy. He clashed with Joe Torre. He had bad things to say about Gene Simmons and Jack Nicklaus and Fred Durst. Maybe it's not them; maybe it's him. (Of course, he also couldn't stand Marge Schott, so maybe it's not all him.) When you're reading this book, it's important to remember that we're only getting his side of the stories.

The most notorious parts of the book in these parts were Wells's shots at Toronto baseball fans. The phrase 'wool-hat wankers' was used. On the one hand, criticizing Wells for these references is fair game. On the other, I really don't care what he thinks of us. I bet there are quite a few current Jays who feel much the same, and I don't care about that either. I don't want to hang out with these guys; I just want to watch them play baseball.

Here's the strength of this book: it's long. Wells was involved in a lot of interesting stuff over the years, and Kreski makes it all very readable. This may be the thickest book in the whole Blue Jays library, and it's thick for a good reason.

I don't actually own a copy of Perfect I'm Not. Both times I've read it, I've borrowed it from the library. I'll hunt down a cheap copy one of these days, though; it's a cut above your standard as-told-to.

Sabremetric Corner: David Wells has no truck with sabremetrics. As far as he's concerned, Davey Johnson is a pencil-necked geek.

Anecdote: The one that stuck in my mind was his account of how, as a kid, he broke his sister's jaw.