Knoxville Smokies reliever Woody Flowers is fed up. He’s endured the ups and downs of pitching life, to be sure, but he’s endured more. He’s endured an endless stream of ridicule and gendered insults from his manager, and he’s endured a demotion that he felt was entirely unearned. Now he’s had enough of his manager and his team, and on Sunday reportedly asked the Smokies organization to trade him.
“I think I’ve been a pretty reliable pitcher for this team,” said Flowers. “I’ve served in whatever role the organization has asked me to perform and I haven’t complained. But when you don’t have the trust of your manager, and when you have to put up with your manager calling you ‘pansy’ and ‘fairy’ all the time, enough is enough.”
Flowers broke in with Knoxville last year as a rookie, displaying both considerable promise and a fair amount of rookie nerves. Flowers spoke openly with reporters about his issues with nerves and anxiety, and the breathing and meditation techniques he was learning to try and overcome. Flowers’ honesty about his struggles made him a sympathetic figure to many, but not to Smokies manager Snuff Wallace.
Wallace is known for his brash and abrasive style, and according to team sources, he is notorious for picking on players who he sees as weak. Flowers’ early jitters and his willingness to discuss them made him a target for the manager’s abuse. Both publicly and privately, Wallace regularly insulted Flowers and questioned his manhood, calling him “that scrawny little fairy” and regularly humiliating him in front of the team. Wallace apparently felt that the insults would toughen Flowers up, but the insults had the opposite effect on the sensitive lefty. Flowers reportedly asked the front office to deal him at last year’s trading deadline, but they declined.
Flowers finished the 2015 season with decent but not spectacular numbers (9-11, 4.36 ERA, .781 OPS against). “Not bad for a rookie,” said Flowers of his performance, “especially for one who was being bullied by his manager all season.”
Flowers came to camp this season expecting to start, but Wallace had other ideas. He told Flowers that he planned to use him in long relief, and that if he went “snitching” to reporters, Wallace would demote Flowers to mop-up duty. The lefty was unhappy with the decision, but accepted it without public comment. In fact, he has thrived in the role; he has yet to allow an earned run this season.
Despite his solid play, Wallace has refused to consider returning Flowers to the rotation. When left-hander Rick Tomblin was demoted after a poor start, Wallace bypassed his long man in favor of rookie Ben DeKok. When DeKok suffered a lat strain that is projected to keep him out for a month, Wallace again ignored Flowers and promoting hard-throwing but wild project Yamil Garizabalo. Garizabalo flamed out in his first appearance Saturday, allowing five runs in only 2 innings. Flowers followed him and tossed 4 scoreless frames in relief.
After the game, Flowers asked Wallace if he would be given a chance to start. According to Flowers, the manager told him, “I wouldn’t start a little [expletive] like you as long as I have hair on my [expletive].” This was the last straw for Flowers, who went public with his trade demand.
“I’m tired of being abused,” Flowers told reporters. “And I don’t want to play where I’m not respected.” Flowers said that he’d prefer to be dealt to a team that would allow him to start “but honestly, I’ll go anywhere if it gets me away from Snuff.”
Wallace’s response to the trade demand? “That’s the manliest thing he’s done his whole damn career,” the manager said. “Nice to see Woody showing some balls for once.” Asked his opinion of the demand, Wallace replied, “I don’t give a [expletive] if he stays or goes. That’s not my decision, anyway, it’s up to [owner/GM Jeremy] Mills. But I’m not gonna shed any tears if he’s gone. He’s right: I don’t respect him.”
The Smokies front office declined to comment on the matter.