Smokies Send Flowers to Jackson for Drawdy

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.

Woody Flowers

“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.

Snuff Wallace

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.

Sam Drawdy

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.

Flowers Demands Trade from Knoxville

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.”

Woody Flowers

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.

Snuff Wallace

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.

“Hero’s Welcome” for Suarez Sparks Controversy in Jackson

In his role as owner/whiz-kid GM of the Jackson Hammerheads, Steven Butler has made two things clear: he loves putting on a show, and he hates the rival Knoxville Smokies.  Those two threads came together in spectacular fashion this weekend.  The Heads had their home opener against the Smokies on Saturday, and Butler marked the occasion by overseeing a wild, over-the-top opening ceremony that left some of the Smokies seeing red.

Santiago Suarez

The controversy began in fittingly strange fashion.  Shortly before the season began, Jackson acquired CF Santiago Suarez from the California Sharks.  The trade seemed to surprise Smokies owner Jeremy Mills, who had called Suarez a “hometown hero” and predicted that he would never be dealt.  Mills also appeared irked that Butler dubbed himself the “Sultan of Swap” in the wake of the Suarez trade; the Smokies owner is also known as a frequent trader.  Mills’ comments were innocuous enough, but Butler spied an opportunity to stoke the rivalry with his foes from Tennessee.

Butler announced that he would hold a “Hero’s Welcome” ceremony to greet Suarez during Jackson’s home opener, which just happened to be against Knoxville.  Asked what the ceremony would entail, the whiz-kid GM was tight-lipped on the details, but said that it was a ceremony that the Smokies and the fans “would never forget.”

On Saturday, everyone got to see what Butler had planned.  Just before the teams were due to be introduced, the lights at Cash Carter Downs went out.  The fans initially believed it was a blackout, but that suspicion was soon dispelled as colored searchlights began sweeping the field.  As the lights came back up, the strains of James Brown’s “Living in America” began to throb over the PA system.

As the fans began to clap along with the song, the center-field gate opened and a group of male dancers clad in sparkly bodysuits and hats paraded onto the field.  While the fans laughed and cheered, the visiting Smokies looked around in bewilderment.  The male dancers were then joined by a group of women dressed like old-fashioned Vegas showgirls, and the crowd erupted with delight.

The spectacle became even more spectacular as the Hammerheads’ ground crew ran onto the field waving giant American flags and a pair of WWI-era biplanes flew over the stadium.

Just when it seemed like the ceremony couldn’t get any crazier, the fans suddenly spotted Butler and Suarez descending from the roof of the stadium on a platform containing a golden shark head with glowing red eyes, with flames shooting upward from the corners.  As the pair came into view, the crowd saw that the owner/whiz-kid GM was clad in an Uncle Sam hat, an American-flag tailcoat, and star-spangled shorts.  Butler danced frantically along with the music while Suarez, wearing his uniform with an American flag draped over his shoulders, smiled and waved to the crowd.

The platform came to rest on the field, and Suarez jogged to his position in center field and acknowledged the roars of the fans.  Butler lit a pair of sparklers and sprinted along the warning track, high-fiving fans as he passed.  Meanwhile, a brass band wearing Hammerheads-blue tuxedos marched onto the field, adding to the general mayhem.

The Hammerheads’ in-game entertainment crew fired Jackson T-shirts with Suarez’s autograph out of a cannon and into the crowd.  Butler, meanwhile, ran to the mound and thrust up his arms, whereupon two bald eagles came screaming out of the sky and landed on his shoulders.

Finally, as the song came to an end, Butler collapsed to his knees, and a team employee ran out and threw a flag cape over his shoulders before escorting him off through the home dugout.  In the ensuing pandemonium, several fans rushed on the field; others threw beer cups, coins, and hot-dog wrappers at the Smokies.  Irate Knoxville manager Snuff Wallace raced after head umpire Trent Capps to demand a forfeit, a demand the umpire refused to grant.  It was almost 45 minutes before order could be restored and the game could begin.

After the game, a 6-3 Knoxville win, Wallace began his post-game press conference with a stream of obscenities directed at Butler, Suarez, and the Hammerheads.  “Damn fools can’t beat us, so they’re out here trying to start a [expletive] riot,” fumed the Smokies skipper.  “Is this a [expletive] ballgame or the [expletive] circus?  Well, you can [expletive] well believe that they sure as [expletive] fired us up to win this game and kick the [expletive] out of them.  And you [expletive] well believe this [expletive] ain’t [expletive] over.  Me and Mr. Mills both got a [expletive] memory like a [expletive] elephant, and we’re good and hell well going to get our [expletive] revenge for this [expletive] show.”

The league has not announced plans to discipline Butler or the Hammerheads for their actions.

When the whiz-kid GM was asked about the incident, he only smiled.  “I know I had a good time,” said Butler.  “Didn’t you?”

Wallace Fined For Remarks

Snuff Wallace
Snuff Wallace

The Knoxville Smokies have fined manager Snuff Wallace $50,000 in reaction to a series of comments he made insulting other teams and fans in the Patriot League’s preseason prediction article.

In the article, Wallace called Milwaukee Bear Claws pitching coach Zane Stafford “Loony Zane” and predicting that the Silver City Outlaws would win the west because “the fans will kill off the other team.”

Along with the fine, Smokies owner/GM Jeremiah Mills issued a press release stating, “The opinions of Snuff Wallace are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of the Smokies organization.”

Wallace reacted to the fine was indignation.  “Hell, I was just trying to have a little fun and start some rivalries,” Wallace said.  “But I guess the brownshirts in charge of this team don’t like fun.  Well, fine.  If they don’t want me to talk, I won’t.”

Wallace announced that he has taken a vow of silence until the team rescinds his fine.  According to team sources, the skipper has requested a “glance translator” who will speak on his behalf at all media sessions. It is rumored that the Knoxville front office has reached out to the agent for Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch for advice on how to proceed.  Anonymous sources close to Wallace expect the manager to keep up the silent treatment for “five hours, maybe six if we’re lucky.”

Knoxville, Jackson Complete PBL’s First Trade; Wallace Goes Wild

Butch Turnbull
Butch Turnbull
Ronnie Aceuedo
Ronnie Aceuedo

The Patriot League’s first trade was struck yesterday between the Jackson Hammerheads and Knoxville Smokies, rivals in the league’s Eastern Division.  The Hammerheads acquired middle reliever Butch Turnbull in exchange for third baseman Ronnie Aceuedo. The hard-throwing Turnbull, 26, compiled a 2.66 ERA to go with a 5-8 record with 7 saves last year, splitting time between two independent leagues.  Aceuedo, 33, played last season in for the Puebla Pericos of the Mexican League, where he compiled a .276/.336/.429 slash line.

The trade didn’t sit well with Smokies manager Snuff Wallace.  When notified of the deal, Wallace was overheard cursing out Smokies owner/GM Jeremiah Mills both for neglecting to consult him and for trading away one of his valuable bullpen arms in exchange for an “old as dirt” third baseman.  According to witnesses, Wallace’s tirade lasted over 15 minutes and was peppered with “extensive and highly imaginative cursing.”

Mills defended the trade, noting that Turnbull was slated for mop-up duty with Knoxville and that Aceuedo provided the Smokies with important depth and flexibility at the hot corner. He also pointed out that the trade saved Knoxville $600,000 against the salary cap. “We did our homework before making this deal,” Mills said.

By the time the team held a press conference announcing the deal, Wallace had changed his tune.  “We’ve now got three stellar third basemen in the organization,” Wallace remarks, noting that he believes any of them could start every game the team plays this year.  He stated that he had talked things over with Mills and that his relationship with his GM is fine.  “I trust him as far as I can throw him,” Wallace joked, “which I think is about 5 feet.”

Reached for comment about the deal, Hammerheads manager Lou Hayes had the following response:

 

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