Thursday, December 08, 2011

An Ugly Break-Up

On June 1, 2007, Kevin Slowey made his major-league debut for the Twins, pitching six innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Athletics. It looked to be the start of a long and fruitful career in Minnesota. As a polished, college-drafted pitcher who made up for his lack of pure stuff with precise control and a willingness to attack the strike zone, the right-hander fit right into the Twins' preferred mold.

Slowey shared many traits with Brad Radke, a local legend who had retired the previous offseason. Unfortunately, Slowey would prove to lack two qualities that endeared Radke to fans and coaches in Minnesota: durability and a willingness to put the organization before himself.

Ultimately, these two factors were likely the greatest contributors in the deterioration of a once promising relationship, which came to an end this week when the Twins traded Slowey to Colorado for a player to be named later.

Without question, 2011 was the most tumultuous season of Slowey's career. He quibbled with coaches over an assignment to the bullpen at the beginning of the year, dictated when he was willing to pitch, shuttled back and forth between the minors, spoke to reporters about a desire to be traded and then performed poorly when plugged into the big-league rotation out of absolute necessity.

In the end, Slowey logged only 59 1/3 innings for the Twins, finishing with an 0-8 record and 6.67 ERA. By the end of the season, his stock had bottomed out, making this yet another instance in which the Twins traded a talented player with his value at its absolute nadir.

Regardless of Slowey's attitude issues, that reflects poorly on the Twins. If he turned into a malcontent -- a label that has been attached to him by numerous reporters -- the club played its own part in pushing him to that point.

They left him off the postseason roster in 2010 after a 13-win season. They made a mockery of the "three-man competition" for the final two spots in the rotation this spring, forcing Slowey to prepare for the season as a starter despite the fact that it was clear they had him pegged for a bullpen job all along.

And while Slowey's attitude might have been unbearable, that doesn't really affect fans, who simply want to see a winning product. While removing an alleged clubhouse cancer might make life easier for teammates and reporters, it doesn't make the Twins a better team from a competitive standpoint.

Slowey is still only 27 years old, and for his major-league career he owns a stellar 4.70 K/BB ratio. That's better than the mark Radke retired with, and in fact it would rank among the best in the majors any given year.

Yes, Slowey's been extremely hittable at times, and homer-prone, and he's no one's idea of an ace-caliber pitcher. But the bottom line is that, if healthy, he's got the talent to be a very solid rotation staple in this league. And he'll be cheap next year. And the Twins are very, very short on depth in their starting rotation right now.

Perhaps the situation between the two sides had become untenable and a parting of ways was all but necessary. But it's a damn shame that it had to come to this point, and Slowey is not the only one deserving of blame, regardless of how he's been portrayed by certain irritated media members that have abandoned any semblance of objectivity in smearing his name on the way out (I'm looking at you, Jim Souhan).

I wish Slowey the best going forward. Smug prick or not, he's a gifted pitcher and could easily end up getting the last laugh in this sad, sad saga.


jellofellow said...

I feel like the MN sports scene would be enhanced by Jim Souhan's retirement effective immediately. He lost all credibility as a baseball opinion last year when he was using Michael Cuddyer as the posterboy for consistency when Mauer's season was spiralling out of control. I'm sure he's an alright guy in-person, but you're right when you say he has abandoned objectivity in any form. As for the Slowey thing, I would be sadder by the whole ordeal, but it seems like Kevin Slowey had it in his mind that he was not going to reach his incredible potential while he was here. I guess I agree with the Twins on this one, there's not a whole lot of reasons to keep someone who has it in his head that he doesn't want to be successful here, and Slowey's track record suggests that the issue was almost entirely attitude related. All that's left now is to hope the Twins try and get return for him. Best not to keep our hopes up, I fear..

mgraves said...

Another quality Radke had that Slowey lacks (although this may flow from your list of two) is that Radke had "stones": he challenged hitters and proved at least moderately successful even when his fastball was topping out in the low to mid 80s. Radke was not pitch-counting out in the fifth inning.

cy1time said...

Just a couple of years ago, Glen Perkins was the one being pegged as a self-centered clubhouse cancer. I was SURE that he was going to be given his walking papers, but instead, the Twins showed patience and restraint. They were rewarded last year when he was our best reliever.

I'm disappointed that they didn't show similar patience with Slowey. Even pitching in Coors Field, I expect that Slowey will end up being better than the Twins fourth or fifth starters.

TT said...

Slowey has not been very durable and has pitched badly two years in a row. He is eligible for arbitration. Those two things, rather than "his attitude" are the likely reasons he was traded.

There is a quip from Mark Twain that is especially appropriate to newspaper sports pages:

"If you don't read a newspaper you are uninformed ... if you do read a newspaper you are misinformed."

Taking the sports writers version of what is happening in the clubhouse as gospel is a huge mistake. They have deadlines and stories to write.

Slowey is gone because, whatever his ability, he wasn't producing. The Twins clearly are looking outside the organization for a fifth starter. Slowey likely wasn't going to win the job just by pitching well in spring training.

Anonymous said...

Slowey didn't deserve to be on the 2010 postseason roster. The team gave him every chance to grab a spot but instead in Aug/Sept in 7 starts, he was horrible. He managed a mere 35 innings with a 4.63 ERA. Blackburn, by contrast, finished Aug/Sept with 8 starts, going 56 innings with a 3.16 ERA.

Indeed, it's hard to find any reason to think Slowey is a better pitcher than the much maligned Blackburn. Blackburn has the better ERA, ERA+, IP, WAR, WPA. And is a better fit for the Twins.

JB_Iowa said...

My respect for Gardenhire and Anderson had been dwindling anyway but the alleged "competition" in the spring of 2011 wiped it away completely.

I can take many things but I hate it when they boldly and blatantly lie -- and then, with Gardenhire, try to cover it up by being a "good ole boy". There was clearly no competition -- at least not one that was in any way intended to be fair.

That isn't to say that Slowey didn't bring a lot of this on himself. But Gardenhire's actions and persona have fallen so far below the level of "professional" that I have 0 respect for him. His act has grown very thin.

birdofprey said...

I'm finally reading a few more rational and balanced comments here. Thank you!

My favorites come from the clowns (who seem to always find fault with the team) that contend that the Twins organization just can't deal with educated, smart, thoughtful players. You know, like Slowey. Or Garza. Or Bartlett. Or Valencia. No chance whatsoever that any of these players are flawed, performance-wise or personality-wise. Nope, the Twins caused the attitude problems. Yep, the players would have performed optimally under different management.

Josh said...

Souhan is a crap columnist and a total hack, but I still think the Twins made a reasonable decision in moving Slowey out of here.

He is who he is at this point: a back of the rotation starter at best. When pitching well, he can give you games that make you think he's better than he is, and his overall stats keep you thinking that he could be a nice rotation guy, if never an ace. But the reality is, it's highly doubtful he'll ever be a 200 inning a year guy in AL. He just can't pitch deep into games consistently and the second and third trips through the order have consistently gotten him wiped out.

He's just not that good. Especially at $3M or more. Toss in being an idiot and a pain in the ass, and it's time to move on. I'm just glad the Twins are getting a prospect and didn't just non-tender him. Sure, it won't be a high-leverage guy, it'll be someone not on the Rockies 40-man roster, but it doesn't mean it won't be a guy without upside.

birdofprey said...

JB, I see your viewpoint, that it appeared to be an unfair competition. A couple thoughts: 1. maybe it was a fair competition and you don't know it because you aren't knowledgable about all the factors involved, and 2. maybe you fall into the camp of unfair and impartial observers. Your shots at Gardy are over the top, my friend.

JB_Iowa said...

Wow, if you think that's much of a shot, I should go on a rampage.

I know that we aren't privy to everything ... but we were privy to the TIMING. And the decisions -- particularly on Blackburn -- came way too fast to be in any way fair.

USAFChief said...

I was happy when Bill Smith was canned, more than glad to see Terry Ryan return.

Moves like this remind me Ryan is not without his warts, too. The Twins will end up spending more than Slowey's salary for a starter in 2012, and he will likely perform worse than Slowey would have.

Very uninspiring Rule 5 pick too, BTW.

Mike said...

I don't have any particular affinity for Kevin Slowey, but I do wonder who the Twins will get to replace him. I doubt they'll get a replacement for less than the $2.7 million they paid Slowey, but I suppose if he can give the Twins even 160 IP to lessen the burden on the bullpen, it would probably be worth it.

I appreciate Nick calling out Souhan. I'm really sick of that pretentious, condescending prick.

I think the Twins have been trying to move him for a long time now and just finally gave up hoping to get good value. The spring training "competition" was likely just an attempt to showcase him to trade. Otherwise, he would have won, IMO, since he put up the best performances overall.

Nick N. said...

My favorites come from the clowns (who seem to always find fault with the team) that contend that the Twins organization just can't deal with educated, smart, thoughtful players. You know, like Slowey. Or Garza. Or Bartlett. Or Valencia. No chance whatsoever that any of these players are flawed, performance-wise or personality-wise. Nope, the Twins caused the attitude problems. Yep, the players would have performed optimally under different management.

One could certainly argue that it's the responsibility of the organization to deal with tricky personalities. We all have co-workers that are hard to get along with.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that it is fair to put any shame on the Twins for creating a competition going into the postseason. What should they do? Let everyone play so they can all have a playoff story? No, they should absolutely have the hottest pitchers on the card as they go into the postseason. Survival of the fittest.

Mike said...

I know a lot of people dislike Slowey, but I think it's hard to get behind Daniel Turpen. I think that the best case scenario is if Turpen turns into as mediocre of a relief pitcher for the Twins as Slowey was a starter...

cy1time said...

Daniel Turpen for Slowey? I guess it is better than non-tendering him and getting nothing, but I'm not sure by how much. I look forward to the day when the Twins make a trade that might actually make our team better.

Anonymous said...

There was no good way to end this at all, but we will have to see what Turpen can do. Maybe this is the year we can see Gibson break through to the majors.

As far as Ryan, Gardy, and Anderson, I give them at most 2 years if they don't have more success. I just think there are so many guys that could use a different voice to listen to and a manager who will get fiery, in your face, kick you in the butt kind of guy. Oh, and someone who can manage any type of Ego's on these players would be nice.

birdofprey said...

You're right, Nick. We've all worked with people with tricky personalities. I've run a few businesses in my day. We coached tricky people all the time to adjust their behavior, and coached others to be tolerant of tricky personalities. BUT, that was ONLY when the tricky one was a producer. If not, we replaced them, sometimes with someone like Turpen I suppose.

birdofprey said...

And the appropriate comparisons for a relevant future evaluation of the decision? Not Turpen. It's Swarzak, Diamond, Manship, and Duensing. I know very little, but I'd put up a $20 bill on all of these guys, although no single one of these guys, that they will be more productive in 2012 than Slowey by whatever measurements you want to use on the other side of the bet. Might be a breakeven bet, but an interesting one.

Brittani Burnham said...

I feel bad for Slowey. You never heard bad things about his personality in the club house until the Twins treated him like shit last year. Sure he could've kept his mouth shut, but then he would've rotted in Rochester. I don't blame him for being a lousy reliver when he was essentially told he was going to be a starter all through spring training.

I hope he flourishes in Colorado, I really do.

Mike said...

"And the appropriate comparisons for a relevant future evaluation of the decision? Not Turpen. It's Swarzak, Diamond, Manship, and Duensing."

Not entirely, since the Twins have those players on their team already. They gave up Slowey and got Turpen instead. You measure a trade by what you give up compared to what you get back. It will be a balance between productivity, cost, and tenure with the team, IMO. Turpen should be cheaper and under team control for longer than Slowey, but I doubt he performs as well. Part of that will be who becomes the fifth starter, but I don't think the comparison is as narrow as that.

I get that you're looking at this as though it's a decision to take one of those other pseudo-starters instead of Slowey, but that isn't an entirely accurate comparison either.

Ed Bast said...

"I look forward to the day when the Twins make a trade that might actually make our team better."

Yep. I'm not convinced the front office really understands what a "trade" is designed to do. The Twins seem to believe it's a one-ended system to dump players - maybe they have this confused with "releasing" players.

Let's have some fun with this and combine the "trades" the Twins have made the last 2 offseasons.

TWINS: We've got some guys that we really don't like.
OTHER TEAM: Why not?
TWINS: Well, either they have bad attitudes or they're slow.
OTHER TEAM: Well are they any good?
TWINS: Why does that matter? We don't like them.
OTHER TEAM: What are we talking about here?
TWINS: Well, we've got an above-average starting shortstop with pop, a future hall-of-famer, a former #1 overall draft pick, a young starting pitcher, and a backup catcher.
OTHER TEAM: We can't possibly afford that.
TWINS: Afford? No, we don't like them, we said.
OTHER TEAM: Well, geez, we guess we've got five low-minor league reliev -
TWINS: Great!
OTHER TEAM: Don't you want to know who they are? They're not even prospects, really -
TWINS: Oh we'll figure that stuff out later. Where do we sign up?

Mike said...

While I would love to see the Twins make a trade that brought back some value, there is some hypocrisy to all the people who have been saying for months how much they dislike Slowey and think the Twins should just cut him, but now are upset that the team didn't get enough in return for him.

As far as the recent trades, they aren't getting value back for a variety of reasons.

(1) The team is cutting payroll. People can whine and complain about it all they want, but it doesn't change the fact that they are reducing payroll from $112 million last year to $100-102 million this year. The trade off in shedding payroll is not getting as much talent in return (typically).

(2) Nobody they traded is worth a top prospect. Maybe Hardy, if he hadn't been hurt for much of 2010 or had he performed better. Coming into his trade, he put up pretty good numbers, but he had a significant injury early in his pro career, had injury issues last year, and was so bad in 2009 that he was demoted. Maybe Young as well, but he was so awful in the field and was a sketchy hitter that stands to see a significant pay increase next year. Considering the cost in simply keeping Young, teams weren't going to give up a ton to get him as a rental.

(3) They are trading these guys when their values are about at their lowest and aren't shy about their desire to move them. This is the most frustrating part of watching the FO operate, IMO. Everyone knew the Twins wanted to move Young and move Slowey. And Thome, after he hit #600, for that matter. This isn't a Cliff Lee we're talking about- teams' aren't going to get into a bidding war to get Slowey or Young.

I'm certainly not saying the FO has made competent trades recently, but I'm not shocked by the value they're getting in return. I think the FO really missed the boat on Hardy and I fully blame them for not looking farther ahead and keeping a backup catcher besides Butera and advertising that they really didn't want these players. Even though Slowey isn't going to get a big haul right now, MN should have been able to receive a player that has a chance to make a positive impact on the team.

Anonymous said...

Ed Bast...maybe your dialogue is a more accurate indicator of your limited intelligence than that of the Twins.

In this dialogue you run through a list of players the Twins have dealt away...let's break down your players...above average ss with pop must be hardy, a former number one draft pick must be delmon, a young starting pitcher must be slowey, a backup catcher is either ramos or morales...but who is your future hall of famer? you can't seriously think that is ramos...future hall of famer...give me a break. the capps/ramos looked one sided in 2011 but there is no indication that ramos is hall of fame bound after a good season, not a great season behind the plate. You can actually find a couple of comparable seasons of hitting in Doumit's career resume. You are jumping off the deep end yet again.

Ed Bast said...


May want to shy away from those "limited intelligence" jabs, my good man.

Anonymous said...

Ed..why would I want to shy away from a comment that is accurate. If you really believe the Twins could have got more for Thome then you do have limited intelligence. Thome was a sentimental resign in 2011 and clearly was behind pitches he hit over the fence in 2010. The trade to Cleveland was to give the old man a shot at the postseason. No one would have given up any decent prospect for a 40 yr old dh/ph they could have signed in the offseason. To think that writing Thome. was a decent comeback seals it, you do have limited intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Gardy hates players he can't control. He thought Gomez was too wild, Slowey too smarty-pants, Garza too mouthy etc etc etc. He feels more comfortable with players built in his own image; fat guys (welcome back Mr. Capps) and utility infielders (Tolbert, Gardy Jr.). Gardy needs to go, and go now. It was Gardy who created the "I have an owie and can't play" culture by babying Thome (yes, I said it) and is terrible with younger players. Hire a transitional manager (Newman?) who works well with kids, and lets lose for 2-3 years while having watching the kids develop. Justin and Baby J. can either stay and play or we can trade them for more kids. Personally, I'd rather have a team of Go-Gos who are DYING to play, than a crap .535 team that loses in the first round each year. Gardy must go.