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.