Old Ironsides Finally Headed Ashore: John Smoltz Released by The Boston Red Sox

Smoltz will be remember as one of the best postseason pitchers of all time.

Smoltz will be remembered as one of the best postseason pitchers of all time.

When Boston cut ties with starting pitcher John Smoltz last week, the Red Sox likely brought the end to a memorable career for the 42-year-old right hander. Though probably best known for a bizarre incident in which he burned himself while ironing a shirt that was still on his body (at least he didn’t pull a Marty Cordova, baseball’s original metro-sexual, who burned himself tanning), Smoltz also managed to carve out a niche in baseball history as a member of the Atlanta Braves’ pitching troika of the 1990’s that featured Smoltz, Omar Daal Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Those three pitchers were the cornerstone of an Atlanta team that won 14 consecutive division crowns (not surprisingly, a record) and a World Series title in 1995. However, the greatest achievement of Smoltz’s career may have been his successful transition from starter to reliever back to starter (and possibly back to reliever if he signs with another team). Smoltz’s ability to thrive in any role, bulldog-like demeanor on the mound and clutch postseason pitching (15-4, 2.67 ERA in 40 career playoff games) make him a strong candidate to join his Braves’ teammates in Cooperstown one day.

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.

Many baseball experts blame the failing health of Smoltz's beloved pug, Scuzz, for his recent struggles.

Many baseball experts blame the failing health of Smoltz's beloved pug, Scuzz, for the star pitcher's struggles.

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.

Advertisements

One Response

  1. Baseballbriefs.com tracking back Old Ironsides Finally Headed Ashore: John Smoltz Released by The Boston Red Sox…

    Baseballbriefs.com tracking back Old Ironsides Finally Headed Ashore: John Smoltz Released by The Boston Red Sox…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: