Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Ballad of Drew Smyly

Danville, Kentucky -- Arkansas is a down-to-earth, no nonsense kind of place. Folks root for their favorite team, the Razorbacks. They eat their favorite dish, Possum Pie. When corrupt politicians like the Clintons get caught in the act of conning the little guy, as they did in Whitewater-gate, the people of Arkansas demand accountability.

Drew Smyly -- a hardworking kid from Maumelle, Arkansas with a dream -- is a down-to-earth, no nonsense kind of pitcher. He doesn't light up the radar gun. He plies his trade with excellent location and crisp breaking pitches. When Smyly left his fellow hurlers, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Rick Porcello to start anew with the communist sympathizing Tampa Bay Rays, he was just a learner. Now, Drew is the master.

Since the blockbuster trade that brought David Price to the Detroit Tigers, Drew has the best ERA in the AL. His already impressive strikeout rate has climbed upward like my own credit card debt. Today, he'll square off against new Tigers pitching prospect Michael Fulmer. This isn't the first time Drew has faced his former team. Yet, the otherwise indomitable left-hander will nonetheless feel pangs in his heart as he revisits the team that give him his shot in the majors. He had some good times in the Olde English D. He got his first taste of the playoffs in the 2013, and also his first taste of the crushing bitterness of playoff elimination. He got to be the little brother and mentee of Cy Young winners like Verlander and Scherzer.

But it all came to an abrupt end one day, when he was traded mid-game to a franchise that was foreign and alien to him. When he takes the field at Comerica Park this evening, Drew will remember the emotions of that hot July afternoon almost two years ago:
Both on and off the field it was clear Smyly was emotional as he came to terms with the fact he'd been traded. While he's looking forward to this new part of his life, it's still a bittersweet moment. "Tampa is excited to have me, so I'm excited to be there. A team that wants you is always nice, but this is all I know, so it sucks leaving." [source:]
Would the Tigers take back that trade if they could? The win-now acquisition of David Price didn't net Pizza Mogul Mike Ilitch's long-desired World Series championship, but you could hardly blame Mr. Dombrowski for making the move. Nonetheless, Todd Andrew Smyly does not entertain such hindsight thinking. He's a man solely focused on missing bats and recording outs. He's a kid with a Cy Young award in his future, if he can get a gaudy win/loss record that matches his pedigree and work ethic. Drew's pitching mastery will continue against the Tigers today, in a simple yet brilliant manner that elite Arkansans like Crooked Hillary will never understand. The good people of Detroit will be understandably frustrated as a former-Tiger twirls a gem versus his former team, but all Drew can do is smile.