Boston signed the veteran free-agent in the off-season in hopes that Smoltz could bolster their pitching staff during baseball’s pennant race in the always competitive AL East. Smoltz was recovering from shoulder surgery, but the aging pitcher still flashed good velocity, and after a lengthy rehab program joined the Red Sox on June 26. Smoltz struggled from the get go as he fought to gain command of his secondary pitches and allowed homeruns at a career-worst rate. Things quickly went from bad to worse, and Boston finally decided to move on after Smoltz’s last start against the Yankees in which he gave up 8 runs and 9 hits in just 3 1/3 innings (or as they say in the biz, he “Ponson-ed” it). At the time of his release, Smoltz was 2-5 with a 8.33 ERA and 1.70 WHIP. Multiple teams have expressed interest in Smoltz and the Red Sox have considered moving him to the bullpen, but no decision has been made yet. Despite his struggles this season, Smoltz will be fondly remembered for his storied tenure with the Braves.
Smoltz spent 20 seasons in Atlanta, winning over 200 games and capturing the NL Cy Young award in 1996, a season in which he went 24-8 with a 2.95 ERA and 276 K’s. The talented hurler made the All-Star team in 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2007 as a starting pitcher and 2002-2003 as a closer, becoming Dennis Eckersley 2.0 in the process. Smoltz saved 154 games between 2001-04, and became only the second player in baseball history to win 20 games in one season and save 50 in another. Smoltz was converted back to a starter in 2005, and recorded his 3,000 career strikeout in an injury shortened 2008. With Maddux and Glavine both retired, Smoltz becomes the last of one of baseball’s most talented pitching trios to leave the game. The National League belonged to the Atlanta Braves in the 1990’s, and John Smoltz is a major reason why.
Even if he doesn’t sign with another team, Smoltz’s legacy as one of baseball’s fiercest competitors and clutch performers is safe. His ability to shift from the starting rotation to the bullpen and back again is truly a measure of Smoltz’s hard-work, determination and pitching prowess. Will it be enough to get him into the Hall-of-Fame? Only time will tell, but Smoltz will certainly be remembered as one of the best all-around pitchers of the 1990’s and 2000’s. Baseball lost a good one when Boston released Smoltz, but great hurlers never stop pitching…they just kind of, fade away.
Filed under: AL East, NL East | Tagged: 1995 world series, AL East, bizarre injury, Boston Red Sox, Cooperstown, cy young, dennis eckersley, greg maddux, john smoltz, kyle ritter, marty cordova, New York Yankees, NL East, omar daal, Pugs, sidney ponson, steve avery, tom glavine, world series |