Monday, August 16, 2010

No Hitter Chance Wrongly Taken From Twins Pitcher Kevin Slowey

Kevin Slowey was pulled from last Sunday’s game against the Oakland A’s after pitching 7 innings of no-hit baseball. I know all the excuses for why he was pulled – he missed his last start due to elbow soreness; he was at 106 pitches at a time when 100 pitches is considered the limit for today’s pitchers; the Twins are in a pennant race and need him healthy. I also know he should never have been pulled.

Kevin Slowey had a chance at greatness snatched away from him. Slowey is a marginal, fly ball, pitcher who has been lucky enough to pitch in pitcher friendly home ballparks. Slowey has never made it through a whole season unjured. Slowey will not be a in the Twins post-season rotation. Had Slowey been hurt, Nick Blackburn would easily have replaced him. Soon prospects Kyle Gibosn and Dave Bromberg will be ready to replace Slowey permanently.

The last pitcher to be pulled after 7 innings of no-hit pitching was Atlanta Brave Damian Moss in 2002. His manager, Bobby Cox, said that he pulled Moss because Moss was over 100 pitches and he, Cox wanted to protect Moss’ arm. Cox said roughly the same thing Ron Gardenhire said about Slowey – “this young man has a bright future ahead of him, I won’t ruin it by letting him go 120-130 pitches.” Cox like Gardenhire was wrong. Moss had no bright future and after 2004, Moss was out of the majors having accomplished little or nothing.

Most major pitchers don’t last long in the big leagues. For every Greg Maddux who lasts 15-20 years there are hundreds of Damian Moss’s who seem to have bright futures only to disappear quickly and not be remembered.

Maybe Kevin Slowey gives up a hit in the eight or ninth inning, maybe he does not. Kevin Slowey deserved the right to try. Years from now Kevin Slowey will look back at August 15, 2010 and realize he had a chance at being immortalized. Instead he will be nothing more than a minor footnote rarely if ever mentioned.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have been in alumni autograph line at Twinsfest or the Twins Autograph party and some younger individual (and more people are getting younger than me all the time) asks me who the alumni player is. Most the time all I can answer was that the individual was a former Twin who played between such and such a year. The person almost always asks if that player ever doing anything great. My answer is usually no because most players were just average players, not Hall of Famers, MVP’s, CY Young winners, or people who achieved great feats.

On September 1999 another pitcher with a bright future threw 125 pitches in 9 inning game. His manager Tom Kelly did not pull him when he hit 100 pitches. Eric Milton’s career never panned out the way it was suppose to, but he did pitch a no-hitter for the Twins that day. Whenever he goes now Eric Milton can say when asked about his career – “I pitched a no-hitter in 1999” and people will likely respond – “Wow! That’s amazing! What was it like to be able to do something remembered for all-time?”

Kevin Slowey will never be able to answer that question. He had the chance to do something that will be remembered for all-time. It was snatched away from him in the name of protecting a bright future he likely does not have.