Oh, Vernon

Poor Vernon Wells, king of first world problems. If anything, he is actually the king of 1% problems – he is so maddeningly rich thanks to a crazy contract that it is impossible for anyone, his wife and kids included, to form an unbiased opinion of Vernon Wells.

Vernon Wells did himself no favours by putting together one of the very worst seasons in recent memory. A fantastically awful season. But Vernon vows to be better. How much better? Far better than he can possibly achieve.

One would think the kind of season Vernon Wells experienced in 2011 might have humbled him. You would be wrong. That simply isn’t the way professional athletes are wired.

Sam Miller of the Orange County Register wrote Tuesday about Vernon’s recent Twitter activity. Interacting with the fans is important for guys like Wells. Allowing them to bully you into crazed prediction is not.

Hardly a prediction but still, why take the bait?

Wells assures a return to form in 2012, citing an attempt to do too much in an interview with MLB.com

“I got away from what I need to do,” Wells said. “I was trying to hit the ball 500 feet, when you don’t have to do that. I never thought of myself as a home run hitter, but I got caught up in home runs. I never used to try to hit home runs. They came when I elevated line drives.”

Returning to his natural mindset as a line-drive hitter pounding the gaps for doubles, he feels, will enable him to return to his former production level.

“Next year,” Wells said, “you’re going to see the real me.”

In the interests of being fair to Vernon Wells, he made comments very similar to this after his disappointing 2005 season and responded with a career year in 2006. Not in a contract year, remember. He wanted to get better and did. Like magic!

If only the good people in charge of projections felt as good about Vernon’s ability to turn it all around as he does. Bill James, notable for their (usually laughably) positive projections, sees a .331 wOBA with 22 home runs from the highly-paid outfielder. ZiPS is even more sceptical of Wells’ ability to not be 33 years-old, projecting him for a .255/.298/.422 slash and only 19 home runs. Ouch.

To Vernon’s credit, he turned himself into a decent little left fielder, posting strong advanced numbers across the board. Which is nice, though an OBP in the neighbourhood of .300 while playing beside Peter Bourjos (and instead of Mike Trout?) doesn’t really mean a lot in the grand scheme of winning baseball games.

As has been said a million times, there isn’t very little woe in the world for Vernon Wells. Saddled by an unreasonable contract and a built-in determination to prove people wrong, it is hard to feel bad for a man unable to meet expectations. But that is what he is.

It is what he’s been for a long while, really. It is now his ultimate legacy, outstripping anything positive he ever did on or off the field. Such is the life of a man with nearly $150 million in career earnings.