Now if this was a boxing match, I think we’d all take Cuddyer. Come on, we’ve seen his high-fives; imagine what he could do with a punch. However, I’m thinking more of each person’s willingness to adapt to new roles, and it looks like Cuddyer still comes out ahead.
Much like the Vikings with Brett Favre over the past seasons, some demons and drama are starting to leave the team’s locker room once the wins turn into losses. All of which is disappointing to see, as Kevin Slowey is one of the unlikeliest players I’d ever see involved in the middle of a controversy.
Nick Nelson recapped some of the defining moments of Slowey’s tenure over the past 9 months, specifically looking at his exclusion from the playoff roster despite having an ERA a full run lower than Nick Blackburn and being groomed as a starter for all of the 2011 spring training, and then being told that he would be a reliever. Of course, these events may have been a result of the Twins’ lack of fondness for Slowey. Forget the Golden Rule, it’s a variation that I’m sure no person would ever teach but many of us follow anyway: Treat others as you have been treated by them.
As fans, we don’t know where this all started or which party is at fault. It sure seems like it’s Slowey who started it, but we’re also hearing mostly the Twins’ side of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that he’s not to blame at all. However, it’s clear that when the Twins have a player they don’t like, they purge him from the roster as soon as possible.
Two other players come to mind from recent teams. Luis Ayala was signed prior to the 2009 season when the Twins were in search of some setup relievers. With having some experience in the past setting up (then) Washington Nationals closer Chad Cordero, I’m sure Ayala had a feeling that he would be given a chance to continue his role. Yet once he got off to a poor start in a season after he posted a 5.63 ERA for the Nationals and Mets, the Twins started using him mainly in low-leverage situations. Ayala then complained about his role to Ron Gardenhire, and was shipped out the door three weeks later. From Joe Christensen, Gardy was quoted as saying:
When you walk into my office and tell me you don’t like your role, and he talked about his contract for next year, you lose me right there. I don’t deal with that. We’re talking about winning now. That’s why he’s out the door and another guy’s in there to pitch. And it’s not because he’s a bad guy. His theories are a little different.
Ayala will be remembered for his discontent and poor outings, but he did finish his short Twins tenure with a 4.14 ERA.
The other player that popped into my mind was Orlando Hudson. Brought to Minnesota because his asking price dropped, the Twins seemed to find an answer for the black hole that has become the middle infield and #2 spot in the batting order. He wasn’t spectacular, but Hudson did bring more offense than what we’ve seen from Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, and (for all of 6 games) Tsuyoshi Nishioka this season. Additionally, he had a resurgence defensively after four consecutive negative UZRs during his prior seasons. Yet when the season was up, Hudson and the Twins made a mutual agreement that he would be offered arbitration, but would turn it down, and us fans quickly learned that the Twins weren’t fond of his personality. From Aaron Gleeman:
Outwardly he has a reputation for being a chatty jokester who lightens up a clubhouse, but I’m told he rubbed some people the wrong way in Minnesota and is highly unlikely to be back in 2011 despite giving the Twins more or less the production they should have expected.
All of this jives with what we have known for years, and that is that the Twins certainly care about a player’s actions off the field as much as those on the field. Michael Cuddyer is given endless praise for being a “good guy” and his willingness to play all over the field for the betterment of the team, even though he’s had only two “very good” offensive seasons and doesn’t excel anywhere defensively, all while being paid like he’s one of the team’s cornerstones. I once called it “The Jeff Francoeur Effect” on Hardball Talk. Meanwhile, Slowey is ostracized because of his unwillingness to be a reliever and, well, his apparent personality issues that seemingly never surfaced until now.
Yet through it all, this isn’t as surprising as we may all think. The personality issues certainly are, but there have been plenty of pitchers that were insulted at the thought of relieving or being sent to the minor leagues. Oliver Perez during his Mets years is an example that jumps to mind immediately.
Add it all up, and I’m afraid that the Twins might make another mistake. I do admit that Slowey isn’t the ideal starting pitcher, as he has a tendency to be hurt and hasn’t pitched more than 160 1/3 innings in a season, despite only 2 of his 86 appearances prior to this season being in relief. It appears that these outweigh his positives, which is the excellent control and above-average career FIP.
On the other hand, I would not be surprised to see the Twins re-sign Cuddyer based on his “versatility,” public image, and the hope that he’ll have another year even remotely similar to 2009.
Just a word of caution to the Twins. I wouldn’t have gotten on Slowey’s bad side. He also has a history of wanting to kill people.
Ron Gardenhire, Bill Smith, et. al, you just awoke a sleeping giant.