The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

May 30, 2011

Thoma: The rapid devaluation of Kevin Slowey

— Kevin Slowey went on the disabled list last week, delaying a resolution to one of the more disturbing developments of a disturbing Twins season.

Officially, Slowey has a strain of his rectis abdominis, which is a long muscle in the abdomen. The organization clearly believes the real injury is an inflamed ego, that Slowey’s feelings were hurt when Ron Gardenhire and Co. decided that he was the team’s sixth best starter and moved him to the bullpen.

Measured strictly by the results of his pitching over the years, Slowey was/is no worse than the fourth best starter on the roster, maybe the third best — behind Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker, ahead of Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn, on a par with Brian Duesning.

But durability matters, and Slowey has spent a lot of time on the shelf. His strikeout rate and walk-to-strikeout ratios are better than those of Blackburn and Pavano, but do little good if he can’t take the mound.

So the Twins weren’t necessarily wrong to bypass Slowey when settling on a rotation to open 2011.

But this distant observer was always skeptical of the spring training notion that Slowey would be an impact reliever. Slowey in the bullpen always seemed a square peg in a round hole proposition, and so it developed.

The Twins could probably have peddled Slowey in March to a team in search of a mid-rotation arm and gotten something of use — a shortstop, perhaps, certainly for an established quality middle reliever.

Today? Not likely. The Twins couldn’t have done a better job of wrecking Slowey’s trade value had they set out with that goal.

That wasn’t the goal, but the decision makers are looking for scapegoats for their failed decisions. Slowey represents a failed decision, and he is an official scapegoat for this failed season.

This disabled list stint is only a way station to a resolution.

I have little confidence that this will end in a way that makes the Twins better.

History lesson

There is bitter amusement to be found in Bert Blyleven’s ripping of Slowey on air last week.

Blyleven had more than his share of player-vs.-team episodes:

• In 1976, embroiled in a contract dispute with Calvin Griffith and repeatedly skewered in the media by Griffith’s boot-lickers (I mean you, Sid Hartman), Blyleven expedited his way out of town with an obscene gesture to the fans at Met Stadium.

• In 1980 — the season after the “We Are Fam-i-lee” Pirates won the World Series — Blyleven, unhappy with how manager Chuck Tanner was using him, jumped the team. Tanner dubbed him “Cryleven.” The Pirates traded him that winter.

In In 1985, his discontent with the Indians was less public, but as chronicled by Terry Pluto in his fine book “The Curse of Rocky Colavito,” Blyleven made it clear to Cleveland management that he wanted out and could be a problem if he wasn’t traded.

I’m not privy to Slowey’s behind-the scenes behavior, but so far as I know he’s done nothing as obnoxious or destructive as Blyleven did in ’76 or ’80.

One might expect a man with Blyleven’s track record to be more understanding of Slowey’s frustration. But self-awareness is likely not one of Blyleven’s virtues.

Edward Thoma is a Free Press staff writer. He is at 344-6377 or at ethoma@mankatofreepress.com. He also has a baseball blog.

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