Knoxville Smokies left-hander Woody Flowers finally got his wish. After a season-plus of suffering torrents of insults and abuse from his manager, and two weeks after demanding a trade, Flowers finally got out of Knoxville as the Smokies shipped him to the rival Jackson Hammerheads in exchange for reliever Sam Drawdy.
“It’s a tremendous relief to me,” said Flowers. “I feel like I’m escaping a war zone.”
The trade closes the book on a long and contentious relationship between Flowers and manager Snuff Wallace. The southpaw began last season as an expected top starter for the Smokies, but scuffled somewhat in the early going while suffering anxiety attacks. Flowers’ struggles – and his openness in discussing his anxiety issues with the media – made him a target for Wallace, a defiantly old-school manager who believes in ridicule as a tool to inspire better performance.
Wallace repeatedly derided Flowers in public and private, questioning his masculinity and frequently describing him using homophobic slurs. The left-hander privately appealed to the front office to be traded at last year’s deadline, but the team opted to keep him.
This year, Flowers reported to camp and was shocked to find that Wallace had banished him to the bullpen. The pitcher performed well in limited action, but lost patience when Wallace repeatedly denied him spot-start opportunities. Earlier this month, Flowers went public with his unhappiness and his trade demand, saying that he had been “bullied” by Wallace. In response, the skipper acknowledged his lack of respect for Flowers and said “I’m not gonna shed any tears if he’s gone.”
Early this week – reportedly at the insistence of Knoxville owner/GM Jeremy Mills – Wallace finally gave Flowers his first start of the season. The left-hander struggled, giving up five runs in 6 innings and taking the loss. Wallace responded by calling Flowers a “whiny little baby” and adding, “He’ll be lucky if I let him on the mound again this year.”
At this point, Mills finally acknowledge that Flowers and Wallace could not co-exist on the same team and began shopping the southpaw actively. He found a willing taker in Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler, a frequent trading partner whose team has struggled to find reliable arms all season.
The fact that Drawdy was the only return in the deal suggested both how far Flowers’ stock had fallen in the Knoxville organization and how desperate Mills was to make a deal. The 25-year-old lefty reliever has turned in undistinguished results in his rookie campaign with Jackson, going 0-1 with 1 save and a 4.97 ERA over 12 2/3 innings. He is expected to figure in the late-inning picture for Knoxville, which has gotten underwhelming results from southpaw relievers Spencer Einhorn and Jason Landau.
“Flowers was a fan favorite in Knoxville and great teammate,” said Mills. “If the opportunity arises, Flowers would be welcome back to the Smokies at any time.”
Wallace did not share his owner’s sentiments. “I’m glad Mr. Mills finally stepped up and shipped that pansy out of town,” said the manager. “I was tired of changing his diapers and listening to him whine. [Hammerheads manager Bob] Henley might be happy now, but once he finds out what a weak whiny little pansy he’s got on his hands, he’ll change his tune. Welcome to your new nightmare, Bobby!”
For his part, Butler isn’t shy about declaring the deal a win for his team. “Chalk up another dynamite deal for the Sultan!” crowed the Jackson owner/whiz-kid GM. “See you in the playoffs, Mills.”
Sources close to the Hammerheads organization reported that Butler bonded with his new acquisition by throwing darts at pictures of Mills and Wallace. The owner/whiz-kid GM would not confirm or deny the rumor.